November Challenge #2: More Charity Work

Last year I became one of the Trustees of a newly created charity, Highland Openwater Swim.

It's aim is to run small, friendly and challenging wild swimming events that are affordable to everyone while raising money for a nominated charity.

I had been taking photos or swimming at most of the 2016 and 2017 events and I live near two of the other trustees.  We're very much and Ardnamurchan based group.

However, in 2018 we were late in publishing our swims because we were waiting for our charitable status to be approved.  Consequently I was booked for filming work on almost every weekend that a swim was subsequently planned.  I was disappointed not to be at the Falls of Lora swim Saturday just gone.


A few weeks ago I sat down the two other Trustees and worked out which swims we wanted to offer and in what order.  I feel the order is important, because we should be offering a ladder, a series of progressively harder challenges, so people can grow in confidence with the swims they undertake.

Then I pick weekends which are closest to Neap Tides when smaller volumes of water are moving.  At neaps the tidal streams are almost always less powerful so slower swimmers are less affected.


When there are two possible weekends in a month, I go for the one with the best slack water.  Our proposed Corran Narrows swim in January 2019 is a perfect example.  Two Sundays. the 13th and the 20th, are each 3 days off neaps.  The relevant slack water at Corran is 10:10 and 11:20, which are both good times of day around which to base a swim.  However, the 11:20 slack comes before the flood i.e. the water will be pushing north through the narrows, so slower swimmers would be carried towards the Corran Ferry - not good.  Slack water on the 13th is better because it comes before an ebb, so slower swimmers are carried away from the ferry.

It's not confirmed, but I suspect we'll pick 13th January for our first swim.  I've done calculations for ten swims in 2019 all of which will be coming to the HighlandOpenwaterSwim.com website in due course.

November Challenge #1: Stay Motivated



It's the time of year when most sporty-folk in the northern hemisphere start to take things a little easier.

The 'off season' has rolled around.  With it came the stark realisation that I haven't even had an 'on-season', and that hurts.  It would be easy to give up.

I haven't moaned in writing (much) but this year has been dogged by long-term injury.

Specifically, my right knee, which suddenly started hurting on 9th September 2017, and my right shoulder which was damaged in February in a mountain bike fall.  While attempting one of these daft challenges!

I have made lots of visit to FASIC, the Edinburgh University Sports Injury clinic, trips which have taken a whole day by public transport.

Most mornings now start with one hour in our gym area performing the exercises I've been set.  These change every few months with each new visit.

My shoulder improved for our Montenegro swim trip, then relapsed.  Now it's improving again and I hope to keep it on that trajectory.
Short reminders of current knee exercises

My knee is a different matter.  I've given up running completely.  I've had special orthotics built for my cycling shoes and another custom bike fit.

I'm seeing the podiatrist who helped my colleague Cameron McNeish and getting extra work from his physio.  Four months into that treatment and my knee still hurts after walking the dog for two hours.

And yet I feel it's improving.  Am I just kidding myself, clutching at straws?

For someone who partly defined himself by his ability in the mountains, losing the ability to hike longer distances is crushing.

Many other people go through much, much worse.  I can walk, I can see, I can hear and I'm generally healthy.  Stop moaning.

And generally I don't moan, but sometimes it's hard to push through.  To keep doing the exercises, to believe it will all come right in the end.

Open Water Swimming on TV (Again)

It was a wet day when we shot this!  As you'll see on the lens.  Stewart Bailey is 'Loch Bagging', trying to swim in each of Scotland's largest 103 freshwater lochs.mmWhy 103 not 100?  You'll have to watch to find out.

Stewart features in The Adventure Show this coming Sunday.  That's the second programme in a row which features open water swimming that I've shot, the previous one being Colleen Blair's record setting swim across The Minch.

You can see Stewart on BBC-2 Scotland on Sunday at 7pm.  If you're elsewhere in the UK, then BBC-2 Scotland is on the higher channels of Sky and Freesat.  Within 24 hours it will also be on the BBC iPlayer and i'll aim to add the link here.

I haven't seen the final edit of this feature, but I'm told it made a good piece.  The video below is just something I quickly cut together form the rushes.

We shot this close to where I live, in a place we sometimes swim in Loch Shiel.  We had great safety support from Source2Sea Canoe who also provided the craft from which I could shoot.


October Challenge #2: Declutter

For me, this is the Autumn equivalent of Spring cleaning.  This seems to be my season for a good clear-out.

It happens when I put the cycling shirts and shirts away for another winter and get out the long tights and warm jackets.

When I see kit I haven't used for a year or two I think, "will I ever use that again"?  If the answer is no, it goes on eBay.

Sometimes it sells, sometimes it doesn't.  There's always a charity shop.  In the last two months I've sold 19 items.  They've been a mix of old sports kit, bags, rucksacks and camera equipment.  I have substantially decluttered my kit boxes.  And on eBay I've made a few quid.

October Challenge #1: Resurrect Kit

This is utterly amazing stuff.  Nikwax TX.Direct wash in re-waterproofing.  I know the internet is full of "unbelievable, brilliant products", but this one really is.

Remember how your waterproof jacket shed showers when it was new?  The rain 'beaded' on the surface and rolled off.

However, now the garment probably 'wets-out' because the DWR, Durable Water Repellent finish has gone.

This is the way to put it back.  It has to be done every year or so but it hugely extends the life of waterproofs.

Flattery, Ironman. Now Spend Money.

It appears the business called "Ironman" is trying to flatter me into entering more of their competitions.

Their All World Athlete programme is awarded to competitors who clock up the most points in a year.  Or at their letter puts it, "the top 10% of your age group".

Except I'm not.  Their own online records show it.  So what's going on?

I only finished two races in 2017 (the season on which it's based) and I did not do well at either, Staffordshire and Edinburgh.  At Pula, Croatia I ditched the run due to injury and recorded a DNF.  I am absolutely not in the top 10% of my age group.  There's more.


"I hope your 2018 season brings you excitement in your training and competing...", says a letter dated 30 August 2018.  Which just arrived, in October, when the Northern Hemisphere 2018 season is finished!

The facts are wrong. The timing is wrong.  Unless I've missed something, this seems an attempt to flatter me into buying AWA branded gear or entering Ironman branded races, which are good but relatively expensive.  Not this time, thanks.  The flattery has backfired.  In fact, it all seems a bit naff.

I've done it, I've got that t-shirt.  But I don't wear it.

Filming The Historic First Swim Across The Minch

On the 8th July 2018 Colleen Blair swam into history.

You can watch it sixteen minutes into this episode of The Adventure Show on the BBC iPlayer.

Others had tried and failed to swim The Minch, from the Isle of Lewis to the Scottish mainland.

The 'Little Minch' between Harris and Skye had been swam, but the 'Big Minch' had proven too far (further than the English Channel), too cold, and too full of stinging lions mane jellyfish.