Having pulled up last September around half way through my attempted swim from Sandycove to Myrtleville, a decision had to be made – was that it, or as Cpt Tom McCarthy advised “I’d lived to fight another day”. Damian had completed the swim in his wetsuit and was enthusiastic about the Marathon in his togs for 2013. Feeling a bit down after my attempt, Damian said with a grin “the only way to fix it is to do it again”. He had a plan and before I had realised it, I’d agreed to four open water swims every week, in addition to pool sessions at Source. Damian means what he agrees (hope you’re never 1 min late for a swim with him 🙂 ). I also went back to my friend and best coach in Ireland, Eilis, for some swim stroke lessons ( “slide and glide!!!”), which helped a lot.
Damian and I did the training, not missing any week in the sea since last September. I clocked up over 600km on my log from January to the swim date, including 2,3,4,5 and 6 hour sessions in the sea. I also got a handle on the feeding plans (thanks Carol). The date was set for 20th -24th August with our support and safety crew of Tom McCarthy, Billy Kelleher, Frank Lynch and Tom Lynch. Thanks guys, for all your help and giving us the chance to attempt this.
We watched the weather closely with Tom McCarthy and on the eve of the 22nd, all weather reports said good – but Tom wanted to see for himself. He brought me on a trek out to Roberts Head, where one can see the whole length of the swim and actually get down to sea level. East of the Head was flat, but West on to Kinsale was white horses and lumpy (a good lesson). We had a green light for the 26th and I tried to keep the whole thing low key ( in case I got pulled out again :-))
Damian started at 13:20 hrs in Sandycove and as I watched him swim away, I wished I was in the water too. It was certainly a mood of “just get the job over and done with”. I had 30 mins to waste and to my surprise two open water legends and friends came down to see us off. Rob Bohane and Finbar Hedderman’s humour soon had me laughing and feeling much better as they enquired “was I lost?” and “sure its only a 7.5 hr swim home”. Many Thanks, Guys.
I started the swim at 13.55, anti-clockwise around Sandycove and across Kinsale Harbour into a tide. In hindsight, maybe an hour later would have been better. Around Frower Point and towards the Sovereign islands and all going well – I felt relaxed, warm and very confident I would complete the swim. However, I was working too hard at that point. I passed Damian at the Sovereigns and he seemed to be swimming well. I wondered how I had caught up so quickly, to later find out he had gone off too far South and added a distance to his swim. It took ages to pass the big Sovereign with tides and eddies from Oysterhaven etc.
From here across Newfoundland Bay and onto Barry’s Head and all going well. Swimming across Reanies Bay, half way into the swim, the cold started to kick in. Tom and Frank were doing a great job with feeds from the boat, but I noticed they kept pointing me to swim in closer to the land. I made the same mistake as last year and decided my swim line by sight, rather than by the boat. At one point, I was about 2km offshore – which lengthened the swim.
At Reanies Point the cold really started to kick in and I told Tom and Frank I was thinking of stopping. I said the feed was s**t and just took a small sip which turned out to be the one with Ibuprofen in it. I needed to drink that one! I said I would swim on to Roberts Cove and that would be it. I was asking myself “What’s it all about? ” and was frozen. In my mind, I said at least Sandycove to Roberts Cove would be a respectable swim. I swam on, not enjoying one moment, as Tom and Frank put extra hot water in my feeds – which really helped.
At Roberts Cove, my boat went back to Damian’s boat, who sent back a message about not wanting to hear any crap of finishing at Roberts Cove. Ned had me visualise this feeling in the pool, as I chased him up and down on a set of 100 x 100 x 100 ( I skipped one or two laps 🙂 ) As arranged, our good friend and swim partner and Open Water champ, Carol, came out to swim in from Roberts Cove. I could hardly say “Sorry about that Carol, but I’m jacking-in” after all the trouble she went to. “Come on”, she said, “It’s only 5k ,90 mins left”. My mind switched and I thought “sure you would have that done before work in the morning” and off we went. I was going ok for another 3.5k.
With 1,500m to go, I was finding it hard to get my landing bearings in a place I know so well, as this is our training ground.
My stroke rate slowed from a constant 60 pm to 45pm and I was finding it hard to focus on the job in hand. I knew things were not going well when I could see Carol was keeping up with me doing Doggie paddle and breaststroke!!
I landed on the beach in 7 hours 47 min, to be met by Ann and Abby and a crowd of well-wishers and friends.
To be honest, I do not remember much at all of this or my journey home. I wished I could have stayed to cheer Damian home, but this was not possible. After showering for about 40 minutes and donning 3 layers in front of a fire, I came back to life and had a bottle of beer to celebrate. Went to bed and had zero sleep and loads of sweats which Damian told me he suffered also. Writing this today, I am starting to feel somewhat normal again.
This swim was originally a dream about swimming between two great swim areas in Ireland – Sandycove and Myrtleville. Or, as some would say “escaping from Sandycove” 🙂 It was a great experience and looking back each and every pain was worth it; completed with a great friend and a horse of a man. 9hrs 7 min in 14c water is no mean feat. Two years ago, Damian did his longest and first open water swim with me – to the Dutchman. Another 50 laps and he gets a special Centra hat!
The most enjoyable part of it all has been the whole experience. From nothing, we now have over 200 swimmers regularly on the beach in Myrtleville. The early morning swims, the feel-good factor after each swim; the advice and slagging from great marathon swimmers who now regularly swim in Myrtleville and others with years of open water experience behind them. Our early morning friends, Tom Birmingham, Pat Higgins, Brian O’Connor and Peter Rooney. James Slowey who swam with us in all weather; Jimmy Long who looks out for us all from his home by the beach and all my own family who support me, but at times wonder 🙂
Who knows where to from here…