Well, I got through the week and managed to cram in 115K in total. Tough going, but got there in the end. It’s designed to wear you down and then hit you with two big swims at the end, just when you’re at your weakest. However, it’s probably the most fun I had swimming in a long time.
- Swimming through thousands of jellyfish, mostly non stingers, between Tragumna and Lough Hyne. I did get a few stings, but nothing of any consequence. I described it at the time as like swimming in a nature documentary, great visibility, fantastic array of jellies, wonderful.
- The River Lee descent from the Inniscarra dam. Swimming with the flow of the river and whizzing along.
- And given my origins as a competitive pool swimmer, completing a 5.1K sea swim in 1:08.33. In open water I would have anticipated about 1:14 – 1:15, so coming in about 7 minutes ahead of schedule was a great feeling. I must have done something right over winter training.
However it wasn’t all roses, there were low points too. Our last swim was a 6 hour English Channel qualifier swim. I had done an 8 hour swim in Inniscarra (freshwater) at the start of the month, so was hoping to extend this to either an 8 hour or even 10 hour sea swim. As it turned out, I “only” made it as far as 6 hours. Once we started the swim, I knew after a few minutes that I would have difficulty making it. I was cold and tired, after the full week I had just put in, arms were heavy and no real strength in my pull. The arms were going round, but there was no one at home.
After an hour, I wanted out. I can’t recall how many were doing the swim, maybe 20, but I was damned if I was going to be the first out of the water. So I stuck it out for another hour, still tired, colder, shivering, heavy arms, not in a happy place. So, two hours done. Will I, won’t I stop? Too tired to go fast to warm up, but not so tired as to be unable to continue. Teetering…. I decided to do another bit thinking maybe I’ll feel a bit better in a while (but knowing I was kidding myself). Two hours then became three and I started thinking of all the other swimmers who had suffered long cold swims, swimming at the Farallon Islands, North Channel etc, how they must have felt in significantly more difficult conditions than I was in, how much of a wuss I had become, and eventually decided (nothing really happens quickly in marathon swimming) “too much thinking, not enough swimming”.
So three hours done, thinking, if I’m doing six, I’m half way there. Can’t stop now. So then I set the definite target at 6 hours. Started the countdown to reaching the magic number, and swam in 30 min slots, taking the feeds and ticking off the time until I got to 6. I never did “feel better in a while”, got increasingly colder, numb feet, claw hands. The sun came out and gave a slight boost, but nothing significant. Finally the magic moment arrived. 6 hours done. I always feel that when doing a long swim, it’s a terrible pity to stop when you’re at the end, having come so far. Think of how long it took you to get there and if you’re doing it again next week, you’ll have to start from zero again, but I had decided 6 was it. Job done. Get out and get warm. 8 hours will have to wait for another day.
Above is one of the swimmers, Charlotte Brynn, legendary swimmer of the 26 mile Lake Memphremagog, taken after the 6 hour swim. She and I swam together frequently during the camp and as pure luck would have it, we’re both swimming the English Channel on the same tide with the same pilot. So looking forward to meeting up again in Dover in August.