I have a new obsession. It’s not running, swimming or cycling – it’s not even strength and conditioning. It is frequently and feverishly checking the weather forecast.
The Ben Nevis Braveheart Triathlon is just five days away and, as autumnal as it feels in Oxfordshire, I am aware that autumnal in the north of Scotland is likely to feel a whole lot chillier.
So, here I am [CLICK] on the BBC Weather app [CLICK] on the newly discovered seatemperature.org website [CLICK] onto a well-known retailer to ‘window-shop’ warmer clothes.
The forecast is not great. Not cold – hovering around 13C, but with a lot of rain and winds of around 14mph. That’s ok. I mean, I’d rather bike and run in sunshine and blue skies but it is what it is and you get on with it while dreaming of chips and hot chocolate.
The sea temperature is another thing. Loch Linnhe was 12.8C on Friday, is 13.4C today and is likely to be around 13C when the starter sets us off at 8am on Saturday.
Ben Nevis and Loch Linnhe in all their glory
It’s not exactly ice swimming but that is on the chilly side. It’s approximately the temperature my local lake was at in early April when I thought jumping in and blasting two 500m laps made me brave. This is a deep water start and a course of 1900m so plenty of chance to get cold before a stroke is swum and a total swim of between 40 and 50 minutes, depending on how I fare in the sea loch.
I’ve never swum in neoprene gloves and booties and, as I believe in the maxim ‘try nothing new on race day’, I don’t think I can start on Saturday. As the event draws closer, I’ve been pulling together tips and advice from the great swimmers I have met over the years.
They’re not my favourite thing but just getting my body used to that feeling is likely to help on the day as it will prepare me for the physical and psychological shock.
Swim hats are not just to keep the hair out of the filters at pools and to help you be seen in open water, they stop a lot of heat escaping. I am packing my thickest hats and putting two on. I’m sure plenty of people will have neoprene hats as well.
Sound obvious but getting my heart rate up and the blood pumping while I’m on dry land will get me going much better at the start.
When the hooter sounds the temptation will be to sprint hard. Giving into that temptation will reduce my stroke length, decrease the efficiency of my ‘catch’ and is likely to increase any feeling of concern or discomfort when I look up exhausted and realise I have only moved about 20m. I will count my strokes for the first 100m and concentrate on reaching far and pulling long.
The great thing about swim, bike, run is that each discipline gives more opportunity for warmth. I will pack hat, gloves and jackets for the bike and baselayers and overlayers for the run, and I will look forward to them in the darker moments. There also the small matter of reaching the top of the highest mountain in the UK – if that doesn’t motivate me, nothing will.
Anyway, I think five tips is enough for now; I have another [CLICK] to get done.
13.3C? Oh no!