10K, How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways.

OK, this isn’t a poetry lesson, but was prompted by this mornings pool session. 10K is about as much as I have time to do in my early morning pool training session. Work is terrible inconvenience that way. I’ve done many different 10K sets over the years, usually swum as broken interval swims. The standard Open Water training set of 100 X 100m on 100secs is particularly popular.

However today was a first for me, a 10K straight swim. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this format, as it’s a long continuous swim with no breaks, no toys (paddles / pull buoy etc). Just you, your thoughts and the occasional glance at the clock. Those who know me and have swam with me know of my inability to count more than a few lengths. I’ve often lost count on 100m repeats. “How many’s that?” or “are we there yet?” seems to preface all my conversations while on long repeat sets. I’ve resigned myself to this fact and now for long swims I time myself and work out my distance based on time spent swimming.

This works for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I can’t count anyway and if your count is to be accurate, you need to swim at a steady pace. That way you can easily work out your distance based on how long you’ve been swimming. It’s even better if your steady pace works out at an even number. So for this set I decided to hold 1:30 per hundred, not too taxing and works out at 15 mins exactly per 1K. That would give me a total swim time of 2 1/2 hours, about as long as I have available at that time in the morning. There is a minute hand on the pace clock so that makes it ideal for counting.

So starting off at about 1:27 per 100, I started ticking off the 100’s. I had some drink lined up, so decided to stop on the half hour and have a drink, emulating my intended channel feeding schedule. So to keep within the time allowed, I needed to build up a small buffer, say 10 secs every 2K (30 mins). So I plodded along at the 1:30 ish pace until the last few 100’s of the 2K and then sped up slightly near the end to build up the small buffer. This 10 sec was enough to take a small swig and carry on, keeping to the target time.

So as the swim progressed people came into the lane, swam for a bit then left. This actually helped break up the swim: there’s not much to look at in a pool. I found the pace very comfortable and apart from an intermittent cramping in the arch of my right foot, incident free. I ticked off the 2k’s and slowly but surely got to the end.

I did an easy 200 backstroke swim down at the end just to do a bit of a stretch. So a good start to the day and another 10K set completed. Let me count the ways? Straight through is another way, done and dusted.

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The Dawn Patrol

Now that the sunrise time has shifted back we now have light in the sky before 6am, so this enables early morning swims, AKA The Dawn Patrol.
The last few mornings have been particularly nice, so we decided to give it a lash this morning. The downside of nice clear skies at 6am is that there has been no cloud cover overnight, so the air temp is down a bit. This morning it was only 3.5, brrrrrr

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As Dunmore East is a bit closer to me than Tramore, we decided to go there. Also it is a more “friendly” spot, in that it Is a small cove, sheltered and as it is in the Suir estuary and hence gets some fresh river water, has usually warmer water temperature. It’s about 200m or so across, so if there is a group swimming, swimming over and
back means swim speed isn’t important, as you are never far from land or another swimmer.

View to the left:
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View to the right:
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Pretty much full tide, and a small backwash can be seen to the left. As you can see it is quite bright, even though the sun hasn’t risen yet. There were only two of us this morning, so Alan Smith and myself togged off, yep the air was definitely 3 deg, jeepers the ground was cold too, and we headed down the slip. The water didn’t feel too bad as my feet were pretty cold by now anyway.
No going back now, so in we got and yep, the water was still cold. Sadly the slight rise in temperature we had hoped for was negated by the air temp. We measured the temp after a few mins, a reading of 8.5 confirmed our worst suspicions. So away we plodded on our 200m laps watching the sun rise and illuminate the cliffs on the right of the cove. Eventually it topped the headland to the left and was blinding then for the remainder of the swim.

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Sunlit cliff
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What a fantastic start to your day. If you’ve never done a dawn patrol, you’re missing out on one of life’s treats.

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Oh the Summer time is comin’

and the temperature is risin’.

Swimming By Numbers

Above is the temperature log in Tramore this season, updated for March. The temp is on the rise, albeit slowly. Every degree rise makes a big difference.

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The Original Iron Man

I do most of my sea swimming in Tramore, and one of the iconic features of Tramore bay is whats known as “The Metal Man”.

Picture thanks to Lisa Walsh Photography

This is part of a shipping navigational aid, built in 1823 by Lloyds of London, following the loss of 360 lives with the sinking of the Seahorse in 1816. At that time,  many vessels mistook Tramore bay as the entrance to Waterford harbour and once inside the bay, were unable to turn around and foundered on the rocks. There are three pillars, approx 60ft high, shown above, on the Newtown side of the bay, and two pillars on the opposite site, Brownstown Head.

On the centre of the three pillars is the Metal Man, a cast figure of a sailor, about 8-9 ft high, pointing out to sea.

Picture thanks to Ciaran Conneely

This figure is actually one of two that were cast at the time, the other one is mounted @ Rosses Point, Co. Sligo, shown below

Picture thanks to Joe Cashin Photography

In Tramore, the Metal Man is located approximately 1Km, as the fish swims  so to speak, from my favourite swimming spot, The Guillamene. This makes it a handy 2Km round trip  swim, taking approx 30 mins. Although The Guillameme is a very popular year round swim spot, there are not many swimmers who make the trip out to the end of the headland, so I thought it would be good to bring a camera on a swim and take some pictures of the headland from water level.

So here it is, my first effort at a video. I don’t think Steven Spielberg will lose any sleep.

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Farewell old friend.

Alternatively titled, in homage to Jesse on The Fast Show, “This season I have been mostly wearing …. a pink hat.”

As most of the early morning crew in Kingfisher Waterford will have seen, I’ve been wearing the same pink latex swim cap for the majority of the season to date. I prefer to wear latex hats in the pool, rather than silicone ones, as they are thinner and hence cooler. The downside is that they die a horrible death.

I picked this one up at last years Lough Sheelin 15K swim. I hope Martin Cullen didn’t see me take a girly pink one as well as a manly yellow hat. I’ve been wearing it pretty much in every pool session since September, so it’s been slowly going downhill, colour fading, nice “age spots”, curly edges, until finally this week it just keeled over and split.

It’s like a death in the family, but I suppose after lasting around 700km, it’s had a good innings. So long pink hat, we’ll never forget you.

Ní fheicimid a leithéad arís.


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A week is a long time in politics.

A week is a long time in swimming too, well 5 days actually.
5 days a few weeks ago were a milestone for me.

I apologise in advance to the non swimmers here, this post is a bit nerdy.

A group of us training for long distance swims this season were “offered” an opportunity to participate in an overnight swim last Friday night. This was the brainchild of Eilís Burns, marathon swimming coach extraordinaire. This was to start at 10PM and finish at 6AM the following morning. It was to be a straight through “normal” swim session, not of the 24 hour format, where you swim a mile on the hour. The main gist is that you swim continually, and through the “darkest hours”, 3-4 AM, when you are your weakest physically and mentally. Eilís also suggested that to get the most from the swim, there was to be no taking the Friday off work, sleeping in or any ease off in “normal” training. We were to arrive tired.

Right, so that set the goal. My swim week starts on Mondays @ 6AM. The overnight swim finished at 6AM Saturday. That gave 5 full days of swimming. Luckily that week, I was able to get a full set of 2-3 hour morning sessions. However, the week was slightly complicated by the arrival of my first cold / manflu in 3 years. I was convinced that my year round exposure to cold water was actually keeping me immune, but sadly no. By Wednesday I was in trouble, runny eyes, runny nose, bad chest etc. I was worried as there was no way I was going to make it to Friday, never mind the overnight swim. On Thursday I resorted to drugs, and a few doses of flu tablets later, I wasn’t getting any worse, but was still not in good shape. So, do I go or not? I decided to go, based on my logic that if I was standing on the beach in Dover ready to start and I had a cold, I would still get in and swim. So, I swam Friday morning, notching up a 10K, coughing and spluttering as I went.

Total for the week so far, 45K, one of my best weeks this season. So, headed down to Cork after work and dinner to begin the 8 hour session.

Picture taken about 4AM I think.

The format was to be continuous 100’s, on an interval you were comfortable with. A group of us swam on 1:40, which gives 3.6KPH. We started off and swam through for 10K, holding the pace. We stopped for a 3 minute break, quick toilet pit stop and reorganize the feed bottles, then started the next 10K. This went well for me, but in the last hour, the miles done earlier in the week started to bite. My arms started to accumulate lactic acid and just got sorer and sorer. We were still holding the pace, around 1:22 – 1:25, but I started to slip at this stage and went down to 1:30. I was really feeling it at this stage, with every pull hurting. I was not in a happy place. At this stage the prayers started, ticking off the 100’s in between. Then, almost suddenly, we were at 19K, 1K left, only 10 more 100’s.  Somehow I managed to hold onto the pace, keep my 10 sec rest and got to 20K. Boy, was I glad to touch that wall.
I took a good break then, grabbed a bite to eat, a cup of tea, several actually, and gave my arms a chance to recover. I then finished off with 3K worth of easy 50’s alternate backcrawl / breaststroke on 60.

Then, more grub, more tea, a sit in the jacuzzi, a bit of a chat, a few hours kip, then home.

Feeds throughout the swim didn’t go well. I was on Maxim, with blackcurrant flavouring. After the first feed, I had indigestion, and this stayed for the whole swim, like I was overfull. Not pleasant, but not a show stopper either.

So a total of 23K swam on Friday night, 33K (English Channel distance) in the 24 hours starting 6AM Friday morning, and with a weekly total of 68K, my biggest week, or 5 day programme by a mile. It wasn’t easy, but got there in the end.

Hopefully with the sea temp now on the rise, this may be the last long pool set before I hit the sea big time.

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Jellyfish, all you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask

I’ve made contact with one of the co-ordinators of the EcoJel project
(details on www.jellyfish.ie) and he’s agreed to come to Waterford and give
a talk about the project and in particular about jellyfish. This is a
subject that we, as sea swimmers, have more than a passing interest in.

As the attached flyer states, this talk will provide a general introduction
to jellyfish and their importance in coastal seas. The talk will discuss
the different types of jellyfish in Irish waters (e.g. Moon, Portuguese
Man-O-War), their life cycle (where do jellyfish go during the winter?),
treatment/prevention of jellyfish stings (the pros and cons), their impacts
on society (e.g. both positive and negative), and whether jellyfish are
increasing with climate change or overfishing

Get the details here: Discovering the secret lives of jellyfish

Its free and open to all, so spread the word.

Let me know if you are going to attend, we need an idea of numbers.

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