Monday, 26 May 2008

Irish Champions

When the alarm sounded at 5am on Friday morning (23th May) I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed, with a flight to catch at 7.35 I didn’t have a choice, other than the early start, the journey to Cork went without a hitch, by 9am we had checked into the beautiful Carlton hotel just outside Kinsale. You may recall that the flights and hotel reservations were a Christmas gift for me from KGB.

Following breakfast we drove the hire car into Kinsale town where we met up with 2009 Channel Aspirant Lisa Cummins, after intros chat and coffee we headed off, following her to Sandycove itself. It became obvious that thanks to KGBs planning we were absolutely ideally situated, with the venue for the swim being no more than fifteen minutes from the hotel.

However as we rounded the corner Sandycove Island came into view and my immediate thoughts which I voiced aloud were, along the lines of “Good grief, look at the size of that!” the Island looked massive, way larger than I anticipated it would be.

The tide was almost at its lowest and as such the visible area of the island was at his greatest. After a bit of a safety brief by Lisa, we decided to get in and swim despite the low water levels. It was sunny and the wind was moderate. So nothing too severe ...I thought. Entering the water it felt a little warmer than at home, though due to the shallows we were forced to walk through patches of dense seaweed which under normal circumstances would be well below the surface, when we turned the corner to swim the back side of Island we were met with large swells and white water, we stopped regularly to check each others welfare and for Lisa to give advice on the route to follow as she pointed out various hazards as we got battered by the waves. Turning the next corner we were pushed nicely along before the home stretch where again the water levels eventually dropped to the point that we walked to shore.

My watch had been reading 60F, the lap took in the region of 35 mins for around 1700-1900 metres. Making our way to the slipway, Kelly was waiting with our towels as always, she took the opportunity to tell us off for chatting too much instead of swimming! I made an excellent recovery due to the good temperature and the fact that it had been a brief swim. Lisa showed no signs of being cold whatsoever either in the water or afterwards. I was over the moon that we had took the opportunity to scout the area and felt confident for the following day, though I prayed that the conditions would improve on the other side of the cove.

Back to The Carlton to shower away the salt and take a ‘power nap’ after which we had probably the best meal ever in the hotel restaurant. We then returned to Sandycove to view the scene at high tide, a completely different picture greeted us with all of the rocky outcrops now under water. A drop of the black stuff then off to bed had been a long day.

Breakfast didn’t start til 7am so we were more or less waiting for the staff to open in order to eat and get to the swim, to be in time for the safety brief from Ned Denison and to get a suitable parking place. Having forced down some porridge we arrived in plenty of time, got parked and said a few hellos before a thorough group brief and welcome from Ned. Kelly immediately struck up conversation with Jane Murphy (Kevin’s wife) and they were virtually inseparable for most of the day. Ned briefs the swimmers before the start of play/battle.

Swim no.1 started around 9:15am, a mass start at high water, we all made our way, some in Speedos, some in wetsuits, to corner one and then it hit us, it was incredible, the roughest water I had ever swam in, I was finding it almost impossible to sight, breath or get into a rhythm, I was being tossed around and dropped from peak to trough constantly…this was not funny nor was it anything like I had imagined.

After three laps, I approached the feed boat, I was gutted to find my drink was icy, the wind was blowing and I began to feel cold, I had to get moving but I really did not want to face the abuse from the sea again. I headed off around the corner and eventually managed four laps of the Island in what my watch was showing as 58F, I got to the slipway after 2hours and 20 minutes, I wasn’t too cold but did not feel I could manage another lap at this stage. I was paranoid that I was in last place and worried about my performance. Greeted on the slipway again by Kelly I swore to her that I was not getting back into the water under any circumstances, I felt like I needed to throw up and couldn’t believe how rough it had been.

After some soup and a good talking to by Ned, and Kelly and others I decided that I would swim one more lap at the two o’clock start. I dreaded the prospect of turning the corner as did many others, a number of swimmers didn’t face the start and opted to end the day there and then. So at what was now almost low tide we set of for the second swim, I swam the agreed lap, experienced some mild pain in the left shoulder and forearm and returned to shore. I was already devastated that I hadn’t swam the full five laps and my head was not in the right place. I was lifted slighted by the virtue of having gotten back into the water after feeling so low earlier. A number of individuals managed partial swims with a shrinking number completing.

Jane Murphy completed all three laps for her first swim of the day, I was well impressed, Kelly was there to meet her with a towel as she raced and beat Kevin to shore.

Kelly and Jane Murphy

As far as I was concerned I was done for the day, until I was summoned to Head Master Ned who was sat baking in a blisteringly hot car, we chatted for some time about many aspects of the day and my Channel swim, at the end of which I thought I might as well do the final lap at 5pm, this I did together with 8 others in our group (some swam earlier due to the start of the Heineken Cup Final) Ned raced home in 29 minutes, I sprinted the whole way, got battered again of the reverse side of the Island and landed at the slip second behind Ned in 34 minutes, I was pleased but my shoulder was paying the price.
Kevin Murphy (no introduction needed!)
A short time later we said our goodbyes and thank you’s before heading off for food, Guinness and rest.

It was, from the outset meant to be a information gathering exercise, I swam for longer than I have done before in open water, in conditions the like of which I have never experienced, I took some positives from getting back into the sea three times and was chuffed to have silenced the mental demons who were telling me not to bother. Overall I finished in ninth place, only four non wetsuit swimmers completed all nine lap: Ned Denison, Kevin Murphy, Enda Kennedy and Ed Jeffries. It was excellent training. We met some wonderful people and made some friends who we are sure to see again. The weather was on our side, the sun shone and Kinsale Town together with the hotel was a delight.

I learnt a lot about myself and know that with the right support crew I can do more than I think is possible, still disappointed in 6 laps not 9 but am determined to take the positives and build on anything else.
My shoulder is suffering now, I have some treatment booked for Wednesday, I am flapping a bit about the injury but fingers crossed it will repair before too long.

A big thank you to Kelly for organising (and paying) for the trip, to Ned, Lisa and Enda for your help and support, to Jane for looking after Kelly whilst I was away for the first swim. Irish hospitality never fails to impress me, thanks to you all for a memorable weekend…we will be back.

Together with Enda Kennedy 2008 Channel Aspirant before the final swim.


Bruce Stewart said...

I very much appreciated receiving your comment. One of my US friends not long ago posted a clip of a lady who swam the channel for 14hrs 35mins or so but had to give up due to the conditions about 1.5 miles from the French shore. My hero, if there ever was one. As for me, I am hoping to be back in Hawai'i summer 2009 and there will be a few warm water swim events I can join in depending on how long I stay. Taiwan has some pretty strong currents, so I'd better not think too much of doing anything here - I don't know where I might end up!

Bruce Stewart said...

I notice you did a swim at Seaton Carew. Did you purposely go missing when there?

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Hey there - just found your blog! Thanks for the comment... now I'll have the pleasure of going throgh your blog! Due to my injury, I'm curretnly in search of open wter swims throughout the SE Region of the US. As a quick side note, one of the best books I've read was by Lyndie Cox.... about her open water swimming adventures. The one that stuck with me the most was her swimming the 7 mile channel between the srtraits of New Zeland. WOW! She in incredible. I also saw her referenced on your blog about the little whale she named Grayson... :) Keep up the great work! I look forward tofollowing your adventures!

Cagri said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! But I wouldn't walk on the seaweed, you never know what lives underneath. Aren't you scared of the jelly fish and all those kind of revolting sea life??

Lisa Cummins said...

Hiya...hope that you're all recovered from the weekend! I still need to finish my post about Saturday, today's the first day that I've had any decent chunk of free time all week!
How's the shoulder doing after the treatment yesterday?

Enda Kennedy said...




Mark said...

Thanks for the commments everyone,

Bruce..THATS FUNNY, you obviously keep abreast of news in the UK whilst living Taiwan

Marit..I sure know how you feel being injured, its no fun and now I am really worried about how and when and if this shoulder will heal.

Cagri..thanks again for all those hits from Ankara, yes the seaweed was a bit weird, too cold for jellies, but Lisa said the crabs would be in there ! no nips this time thankfully

Lisa...thanks for all your help, the shoulder..well, read the new post, am checking your blog daily waiting for the post re saturday

Enda..what a top man you are, you have a massive inner strength, great ability to withstand anything nature throws at you, am sure we will meet uo again, ironic that u joni and me are on the same tides...see you soon

keep the comments coming folks
thanks again