On Monday 19 September, Alice Goodridge successfully completed her solo swim of the length of Loch Awe, Scotland’s longest freshwater loch, in a time of 15 hours and 53 minutes.
Only four people have ever completed a length of Loch Awe under British Long Distance Association rules (standard swimming costume, one hat and goggles, no neoprene allowed).
In finishing her swim on Monday 19 September, Alice Goodridge became not only the second female to ever do so, she also set the new female record time (subject to ratification by the BLDSA).
The swim marks 10 years since Alice’s first challenge, the English Channel.
“I successfully completed my English Channel solo swim on 7 September 2012. At that point, I thought that was the longest swim I would ever attempt,” Alice told us. “Since then I have completed multiple English Channel and loch relay swims, including a four-person two-way English Channel crossing and solo swims of Lake Annecy, Lake Zurich and Loch Lomond. I have also swum an IISA Ice Mile (2018) and competed at the IWSA Winter Swimming World Championships in Slovenia (2020).”
Her Loch Awe solo swim was meant to go ahead in 2020, and then 2021. However, both events were cancelled due to the pandemic. “Although it was delayed by two years, getting to complete my longest ever swim in 2022 – 10 years after my first big challenge – felt like it was meant to be.”
Helping people take their first steps into open water
Even with such impressive swim events under her belt, Alice says her biggest challenge in the past 10 years has been setting up her own swimming business. SwimWild organises wild swimming holiday and adventures, open water events and coaching around Scotland.
“I started SwimWild in 2018. I love helping people take their first steps into open water swimming, getting the cold water swimming community together and taking people to amazing places.”
Alice also organises the Scottish Winter Swimming Championships, which has proved to be a hugely popular event. “It sold out in 30 minutes last year! We get swimmers from all over the world wanting to compete. I am really proud to have created such a great event that people keep coming back to year after year,” she said.
The cold water buzz
Alice has always swam (in the pool). It wasn’t until 2010, when she signed up for a 5km open water charity challenge, that she got the cold water buzz. “I enjoyed it so much that someone managed to persuade me to sign up for an English Channel solo (two years down the line). The rest is history!”
“I love the cold water swimming community, the challenge of swimming long distances (or in very cold water) and the mental break that it gives me from normal life.”
This has been an exceptionally busy year for Alice. As well as her work for SwimWild, she has been researching and writing a book (due to be published in spring 2023). Finding time for training has been a real challenge.
“I don’t have good access to a pool over the winter, so I wasn’t able to swim much distance over the colder months. I did almost all of my winter training in the gym as well as some early season swim training in warmer water while visiting family in Greece. I also had a long distance training camp in June, a few six-hour swims over the summer, and a final eight-hour training swim a few weeks before to prove to myself that I could still swim long distance! I live in the Highlands and I swim at least every day, so cold water acclimatisation wasn’t a problem.”
Finding the end of Loch Awe
Alice said her biggest challenge was the distance (the official BLDSA swim distance is 38.1km). As with all her long distance swims, she decided to break the distance up in her head into more manageable sections.
“I had predicted that the swim would take me around 16 hours, so I have that time in my head. Each feed (every hour for the first six hours, then half hourly after that) was a mini milestone. All I had to do was swim to the next feed.”
“I stared in the dark (just after 5am), and so I knew that by the time it got dark again I should be nearly there.” Having said that, finishing the dark proved to be a challenge in itself. Alice had to swim up a river to a railway bridge. The river was so shallow in places that she had to pull herself over rocks.
“I had no idea where the finish point was until I was meters away from it. Even when I got to it, I had to check that this was the end as it was so dark I didn’t really know where on earth I was!”
Alice says she has been so busy ever since her swim, the news hasn’t really sunk in yet. Eventually, though, she has ambitions to swim two other ‘big lochs’.
“I’ve already swam Loch Lomond (biggest by surface area), and now Loch Awe (the longest). But there is still Loch Ness (biggest by volume) and Loch Morar (deepest) to go. Before that though, I’d like to swim another Ice Mile and explore some of the more remote mountain lochs around Scotland.”