Once a year, about June / July, the legend that is Ned Denison holds the Cork Distance Week. This is 9 days ( yes a week is 9 days here) of two swims per day, averaging about 2 hours per swim. Some are in the sea, some are in lakes some are in rivers, some are with the flow, some are against the flow.
It is generally regarded as one of the toughest swim camps going, with cold water temps and long hard swims. I signed up for the full camp this year, having done both weekends last year, and we are currently on day 6 of 9. The format for the day is a swim at 6 AM for two hours and a swim at 6 PM for another two hours. We can travel up to 2 hours to swim in some particularly stunning locations, Lough Hyne being one such fantastic swim spot. This makes for part of the challenge as you don’t get home til after 11 and then you’re up at 4 am to travel to the next swim. This is part of the plan to wear you down both physically and mentally and it works ! We are on day 6 now and I’m pretty exhausted.
However the hardest bit still looms over us all. The final weekend. The Saturday swim is a Total Body and Brain Confusion Swim (TBBC). This is done to bring you out of your comfort zone while swimming. You will probably spend most of it swimming alone ( as far as you can see) you might be told to tread water for 20 mins ( while a rope is untangled from the pilot boats propellor) you may or may not be given a feed at the appointed time, you don’t know how long the swim will be. 2,3,4 8 hours? All things that can wreck your head. It’s up to you to see how you can handle it.
Then on Sunday it’s a straight 6 hour English Channel qualifying swim. This is a mandatory safety requirement to ensure that those attempting the English Channel have at least some experience in swimming long distances in water colder than 16 degrees ( the water temp this morning was 12). The average swim time for the English Channel is about 13 hours, so 6 hours, while tough, is not even half way. The really hard bit is to have to do it after a tough week of swimming. We’ll probably have swum about 100K, then have to do the 6hr qualifier.
Nothing great is easy
However, for me, one of the great advantages of the week is that you get to meet and swim with lots of other like minded people, all who have dreams of marathon swims, not just the English Channel. For this week, people have traveled from as far away as the US West and East coasts and also the UK to participate and while many of these were just names on email or Facebook, now they are actually real people.
I’m not the only looney is the asylum 🙂