Location : Maryhill Locks, Glasgow
Distance : 420m
Water temperature : 4 oC
Organised by : Red Bull
As one of the toughest open water events I have done, I have to share my Neptune Steps journey. One I can highly recommend.
In tears as the cold water thudded on my head and asking myself "why am I putting myself through this?"
I had seen a few clips on YouTube but when I entered in 2017 there was not a lot of media coverage about the race. It was just a completely different challenge, one that excited me. It tested all elements of fitness and open water; cold water, strength and mental toughness.
The entry info gave a brief overview of the obstacles to expect, but nothing, and I mean nothing prepared me for what I did face. I completed a pretty gruelling training schedule in the lead up to the event, including cold water rope climbs in the garden, early morning swim sets with water exits, push ups etc. Non-wetsuit sea swim reps consisting of a couple of minutes swimming, then press ups on the beach. Cold water showers after early training sets. I remember so distinctly. Standing in the cold water shower at Splashpoint leisure centre in Worthing after a hard morning training, in tears as the cold water thudded on my head and asking myself "why am I putting myself through this?"
There were so many elements I did not consider or did not prepare for enough. The weather: cold Glasgow and it poured down with rain. The water: I knew it would be cold, they said around 7-8 degrees, but it was colder at 4!! The power of the water off the top of the lock: it was so strong and exhausting.
At one point on the ladder climb, the force of the water coming down was so strong. I remember thinking "I have to clear this water, make it to the next rung in the next 5 seconds or let go, otherwise I will drown". At this moment in time, I realised what "pushing your limits" really meant. The point at which you think you need to give up, but actually you can push further to reach the point where you physically have to give up. I understand the difference now.
I made it through each heat to reach the final. I reluctantly accepted the wrist band to the next round each time and sat there in the cafe with my mum in silence trying to warm up for the final. I questioned so many times whether I was going to go again, the shear hell it felt like each time.
I did, and I finished 5th overall, beating some of the females who had competed before and who won our previous heats. It was a fantastic test and I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to safely push my mind and body to those limits.
However, there are two reasons why I will not have another go at the Red Bull Neptune steps!! Firstly, why would I put myself through it all again (haha) but more importantly, I will never subject my mum to anything like that again. She witnessed me at the lowest of lows physically and mentally after the swim. She spectated and stood in the freezing cold and Glasgow rain whilst watching her daughter get, effectively, waterboarded at each obstacle. But that is why she is my mum, and that is probably why I am like I am. Because of her determination and persistence, I too am just as stubborn!