Two weeks today (3rd July) our window for the channel opens, it’s been a long and cold journey. Heather, Aisling and I have been getting into the sea regularly for about 18 months, at times for only 5 to 10 minutes. Unfortunately Heather has struggled more than Ash and I adapting to the cold and has, despite her best efforts, run out of time to qualify for the swim. We are all sad to have come so far together and to not finish the job together, especially since this was Heather’s dream and we came along to help her fulfil it and in the process it has become a dream we shared. The team going to Dover will be Aisling and myself and Jennifer Laffan, a lovely Scottish young lady who has a solo spot booked for September.
It has been a gorgeous day and warm, after a day trying to catch up at work I decided to go for a little paddle at Dunmore East. The water was chilly but not cold, the few days of warm weather have started to work their magic on the sea temperatures. As with the swim on Thursday it was not as calm as it appeared from the car park and swimming out to the furthest flag was a bit bouncy though the changes in temperature were not a severe as last week. After swimming out to the first flag I met Mick Ryan from the Kilkenny Triathlon Club and we agreed to sort of buddy up. After the second loop Anne Corr and her daughter Ciara, also out making the most of the lovely summer weather. Its great when you expect to be on your own swimming, but meet up with friends and make a few on the way as well.
I’m going to try and post every day until we swim now.
The Rebel Plunge was on the 9th June this year and both Ash and I had signed up for it which coincided with the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco which the amazing Heather had entered for the second year in a row. https://www.escapealcatraztri.com
Ash and I left my place at 9am with aim of getting into Cork for about 11:00 so that we could be sure of parking. We were there in time to park a short walk from the start at Port of Cork and have a leisurely coffee and scone on the walk round. We were some of the first to register and collect our goodie bag which included a very handy hold-all and a bobble hat (a must after an open water swim). We even had time for a wander around the Cork Harbour festival, though not quite enough time to look around one of the naval boat tied up at the dock. By the time we headed back to the Port of Cork there were a lot more swimmers around and we changed but kept our robes on to avoid getting cold too soon. Up to this point it had been a warm, mainly overcast, but with burst of sunshine, morning now the heaven opened and despite being under a bit of a veranda it was a bit of a game keeping our gear dry.
The swim is 3.8km downstream with the out flowing tide from the Port of Cork to the boat club at Blackrock and we were told to keep 10m out from the bank. By the time we put our gear in the van to be taken to the exit, listened to the swim brief and made our way to the start the sun had shown its face and it was quite warm lining up for off. As usual the start comes quickly and there is no time for much faffing around, fortunately the water was not too cold so I got off and running fairly quickly. I tend to start slowly and let ‘serious’ competitors hare off, I’m ashamed to admit that I quite enjoy the fact that I spend the time catching and overtaking swimmers. Ticking off the buoys, watching my technique and catching and passing swimmers passes the time and when there is no one about to pass, I tend to switch off and swim and enjoy the feeling of moving through the water.
It felt like the end appear fairly quickly, I’d lost track of time and there was someone there to help me find my feet to walk up the mat to the finish line. I found my bag and Ash and the heavens opened again so it was a quick change before lining up to collect our much needed burger. We stayed to applaud the winners before walking back up to Cork for a bite to eat and a chat.
The results show that it took me 53:28 which I’m happy with and placed 30 of 61 skins swimmers and 14 of 24 female skins, happy with that and another great day out. This is a well organised event and fun to do, if you get the chance sign up for it next year – I will.
Heather, of course, managed to escape from Alcatraz and after a week in the San Francisco sun arrived home safe and sound. She is one amazing lady.
Ash and I had great plans for a 5km swim Saturday morning but family commitments got in the way for Ash and I slept in and had to nip into work before heading to Passage East for Beat the Ferryman.
Beat the Ferryman is a great little swim between Ballyhack in Co. Wexford and Passage East in Co. Waterford across the Suir Estuary. Due to the currents and shipping between the sea and the Port of Waterford this is a swim you could only do as an organised event. The name comes from the fact that a ferry runs between the two villages roughly every 15 minutes from 7am (9:30 Sunday & BH) to 9pm (1st June to 31st Aug). The Passage East hurling club have been running the event since 2015 and this year was my third year doing it and second year in skins. There is a great atmosphere at the even and there is food and music in a beautiful spot, the last two years it has been blessed with lovely weather and this year was no exception. There were a lot fewer skins swimmers this year, possibly because the water temperatures have been very slow to rise, but the positive from this was that I finished as second female non-wetsuit, possible aided by seeing loads of jellyfish about 100 to 200m out – that certainly got me kicking! The Kilkenny Swimming Club Masters walked away with third in both the male (Olgerts Rudzitis) and female (Kathryn Nolan) wetsuits and the achievement award (Aidan Brennan). Video of the event can be found at https://youtu.be/s3rpKQ2MeTY
Friday 28th July marked 19 days to go. Friday is usually catch-up day at work, having spent the guts of two days trying to get ammonia monitors working, catching up was going to be a challenge. I also had to go and renew my driving licence as it would expire whilst in the UK. Whilst I caught up with some work, getting the rest done would have to wait until Monday. On the plus side, the licence renewal process only took 5 minutes, largely due to booking online and filling out the paperwork and having the correct documents with me; with a bit of luck my new licence will be with me before I head off. Hopefully the NCT (Irish equivalent of the MOT) on the car will go as smoothly next Friday.
Training today consisted of a swim with the Masters at the Watershed. I had planned on doing a shortish sprint session anyway and Duncan and another swimmer in the lane were agreeable. After about a 400m warm up, we then did 12x25m in IM order, followed by 4 x 50m in IM order and finally 100m IM, then as a cool down 4x25m using good push and glide and 15 strokes, 2 x 50m the same and an easy 100m to finish. The fly makes me work hard as, although I love the stroke, I am pretty bad at it. This was the first time I have done 50m Fly since I was a child, so I was pretty pleased with that. Thanks to Duncan for the set.
For every up there is a down I suppose. On the way home from Carlingford, I popped in to Loughboy in Kilkenny to get something to soothe the mouth ulcers I had developed. When I walked out of the pharmacy I saw my mum sat on a chair outside the neighbouring cafe, she had fallen. Dad had managed to half catch her to prevent her from the full impact, but she was shaken, at 87 any fall is not to be taken lightly, and her left wrist was very sore. Between Dad and I, we managed to persuade to go to the A&E at St. Lukes to have the wrist X-rayed, good job we did as a bone in the wrist was broken and had become displaced. The doctors had to apply some traction to the wrist to return the bone before applying the cast, and then check the alignment with another X-ray. Thankfully we were in on a Monday night but it all still took around three hours.
Tuesday night we were back in to the A&E due to Mum’s hand swelling, the medics removed the original caste and tried to make the next one slightly less tight. I missed my regular Tuesday night session in the pool and I have been going in to visit as much as possible which does make fitting in training, especially if I want to eat, a little more difficult. I’m not complaining, I am so lucky to be able to to spend time with both my parents and we do love to put the world to right – unfortunately no one is listening.
My training since Christmas has involved a brilliant strength and conditioning class by Matt Zielinski (organised by Kilkenny Triathlon Club) on a Monday night, Swim session run by The Watershed (sessions set by Mikey and Jamie) on a Tuesday night, Pilates with Imelda Norris), swimming on Thursday with my own sets and Friday nights with Kilkenny Swimming Club Masters, Saturday or Sunday started with a sea swim, I also included at least one rest day per week. I then signed up for the VHI women’s mini marathon so I also added a couch to 10k training plan into the mix. Needless to say, the odd late session at work, sore muscles or illness meant that the odd session didn’t happen. With respect to the swimming, I am not a great believer in just swimming 2-5k with no break; sessions were mixed, some long sets, some sprints, drill sets, slow sets really concentrating on technique and how adjusting it felt and did it help with niggles in the neck and shoulders and also including other strokes. I did a Total Immersion session in February which I found useful and got me back to doing a stroke that felt right for me. Mikey, Jamie and Marie, at the Watershed, also provided technique feedback and suggestions, I am also not one for thinking that there is only one right way to swim front crawl. At 55 my body has picked up a few niggles (particularly in my neck and shoulders) so I try different bits of technique and adjust my stoke if it works for me and discard the tweek if it doesn’t. Some drills I just don’t do, for instance the dreaded ‘shark-fin’ and ‘zip-up’ which pinch my shoulder and are painful or uncomfortable; in my opinion neither drill is good because the shoulder is really not designed to move like that. I have not had a coach and time will tell whether this was a huge oversight.
Not having a defined training plan or coach does mean that things like spending two nights in a row in A&E with Mum probably disrupts my training more than it should, but then I had just returned from a fairly intense weekend so I would have had a bit of a recovery week anyway. The weekend following HITtheWALL was the weekend of the VHI mini marathon. I have done this last couple of years, it is a great atmosphere and Sandra and I have a little celebration afterwards and a great chat. This year I did the 10k in 1:26:22 which is not fast but okay considering I had not finished the C210k program and this year I was not in agony and exhausted when I finished; with a result like that we just had to celebrate.
To round off the weekend, I met Heather for a swim at Dunmore East, as she had done a 4 hour cycle it was a pleasant shake down swim of a couple of circuits of the bay. It was a beautiful day for a quick swim and a lovely way to round off the long weekend.
This was the day for either a 4, 6 or 10 hour swim, which we had all signed up for but decided against doing. For myself, I had swam 7.5km in just over three hours which was my furthest swim and was enough to qualify to swim the channel in a relay. The aim was to maintain and improve my fitness and stay injury free – a further swim could have been pushing my luck and there is always next year. Ash had done a 6 hour qualifier in Dover in October and like myself didn’t want to over do it and run the risk of injury. Unfortunately, Heather was still feeling the cold and showing signs of early hypothermia after about an hour so a four hour swim was not an option.
Will I go back next year? Absolutely, from the night swim on the first night, the 7.5km swim on day two to the Ice’n’dice on the Sunday, this weekend had made me push myself and I did more than I thought I was capable of. Have I found my limit, I don’t think so, I have moved my limits out a bit further. The Infinity crew, allow you to push those limits but they make the swims as safe as it is possible to do; be under no illusions this is cold, open water swimming, it cannot be 100% safe even with one canoe per swimmer (not the situation), this is not the weekend for your very first open water swim in skins or wetsuit. I had a great time and next year I will be doing a 4 or 6 hour swim on the Monday and book an extra night and day off to recover and drive home on the Tuesday.