So I’m writing from bed after day one of ‘the toughest Marathon training camp in the world’…only my second ever visit to the Emerald Isle and I am loving it and it’s people so far – I think the week will be exhausting as there are many swims to come, two a day most days and those when we just swimming once we’re swimming for 6hours in a cold sea but as you may of guessed by now, this is where I like to be so I’m feeling happy. You may also be pleased to know that I am staying in a house with 9 other swimmers, all either channel swimmers or channel aspirants with swims booked this or next season so I am getting my fix of talking about swimming so you **might** get a break when I return…or I might have a whole load of new swimming stories if you’re really lucky!
So today started with a 2hour 6am TITW (toes in the water!) swim around Sandycove Island, the water felt cool to begin with, about 14º, not that cold by my usual standards but my local lakes and rivers have warmed quickly this season and I’ve not swam in anything colder for a little while so it’s relative I guess…nothing too terrible – well other than the film crew!!! If you ever wondered whether there is anything worse than getting into a cold sea at 6am…YES THERE IS! It’s being filmed by CBS as part of an hour long documentary about marathon swimming – applying vaseline at 5:30am when all you’ve done prior to that is fall out of bed into a swimming cossi, pee’d and brushed your teeth – I suspect I look a-m-a-zing! Anyway…no one ever claimed that marathon swimming was glamorous! 2 hours of swimming around an island; this in itself is a treat, when you often follow the black line on the bottom of a pool a new seabed to study is ace – seaweed, rocks, shoals of fish, SOME BABY SHARKS….beats spotting plasters and hair balls any old day! Swimming around the island brings it’s own challenges however – swim too close and you run the risk of cutting your hands on the sharp rocks (I did, it hurt!) – too far out and a) you swim further and b) the water feels cooler…breathe to the left and you get a glimpse of the white water spray breaking on the rocks – reminding you not to get too close, breathe to the right and you see nothing but sea – reminding you that there is nothing between you and America…or is it Bristol…it’s a lot of sea either way. The water temperature drops really noticeably as you leave the bay and head out into the open sea to confirm this. So much to think about, 2hours whizzes by. After this we introduce ourselves to the others on the camp, there are some serious swimmers here with some serious swims under their/our belts, some super fast, some super long, some super cold, all super interesting.
This afternoon brought The Vibes & Scribes Lee Swim through the centre of Cork, the 100th anniversary no less, 500 swimmers turned out for the event – I weirdly felt a little apprehensive before this swim – no idea why, it was only 2k – no biggy distance-wise and I’m no stranger to a river swim, who knows. We lined up for the start in waves, a dive start into the water (technically into the scrum!). These guys race rough, they swim over the top of you, they pull at you, hats and goggles get dislodged. A fairly usual open water mass start but this was relentless for the whole swim, getting kicked, scratched, pushed – I was happy to complete it with all my teeth let alone my cap and goggles if I’m honest. To come away with a silver medal a brucey bonus. I make it sound horrible – I don’t know what it says about me but it wasn’t – it was really good fun. Swimming through a city provides an awesome viewpoint, a side you rarely get to see them from, I always wish I could go straight back to the start and swim the course again heads up breaststroke to see the sights – you miss so much when you’re racing. This swim is also memorable for it changing taste (nice I realise) – brackish to start then gradually more salt water as you go. After 1,700m you turn where the rivers meet and complete the last 300m upstream where it turns to fresh water again – very curious. After a hose down by the local fire crew the highlight was a guy thrusting a bag of sweets under my nose and crying ‘wanna sweet? Take away the taste of poo!!’.
Then just time for a swift dinner, relax and SLEEP! Ready for another 2hrs around the island tomorrow morning…I wonder if I’ll see the sharks again – I wonder where Mummy is………………..