Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sandycove Champion of Champions 2008

Yesterday, Sandycove was host to the much-anticipated Champion of Champions race...5 laps, then out and back in for 3 laps, then out and back in for a final lap. I think that it would be easier mentally to just do the 9 laps at once, it's hard to make yourself get back in after being out and warmed up. But then 9 laps without a rest would be tougher physically I guess. Regardless, it was a huge which I'm definitely not prepared for yet! My plan was to do 2 laps out of the initial 5 and then enjoy watching everyone else completing the challenge for the day and help out wherever I could.

I traveled down with Sylvain, who was hoping to complete the day. It was a lovely morning, sun shining and not too wind in Cork but then it's always a different story down west! We arrived at Sandycove around 8am to find Ned's wife Ann parking the huge horse trailer in front of the wall...not exactly an everyday sight!

Our dining room for the day!

We got a nice parking spot just across from the slip (good idea to be early!) and waited for Ned to be ready for our briefing. He began with a welcome and some introductions, the most notable of which being Kevin Murphy, "King of the Channel". Some of the group had previously completed relay and/or solo EC crossings, and many others were signed up for an attempt this year or next. It was great to be part of such a distinguished group of swimmers! He went on to talk about the initial 5 laps and wished us luck for the day ahead.

We all then headed back to the cars and got ready to get in...

Ready and waiting!

At about 9:15 the first swim of the day began at high tide. Conditions seemed relatively calm and the water wasn't too cold (the temperature range for the day was 12.5-14.5degreesC - 54.5-58degrees F). We all headed out for the first corner, where everything changed rather quickly...rough water hit us and we were thrown around like rag-dolls! It felt like a (very big) washing machine!

It was like that for the whole of the outside of the island...when I turned my head left towards the island to breathe all I could see was the waves crashing on the rocks and most of the time when I turned my head right all I was getting was a wall of water in my face. So I stuck with breathing to the left most of the time, it's my preferred side anyway! Looking at those waves breaking was kinda freaking me out though, I kept having mental images of me being thrown up onto the rocks by one of as a results I was doing a VERY wide lap of the island, I was probably swimming a couple of hundred metres more than I needed to but I wasn't going for a time or anything and I felt much safer out there!

Our Giant Washing Machine!

Once we rounded the second corner things calmed down a lot and by the time I was around the front of the island I'd almost forgotten how rough it had been! So I swam around again and had the not-so-nice experience of Ned lapping me, he was on his third lap and I was only on my second when he passed me at the third corner!! A couple of others must have too judging by times afterwards. But I was happy to just be completing my first double, it didn't bother me that it was a very slow one! I headed back into the slip and got warmed up and dressed and then waited for the others to start coming in. Soup and sandwiches arrived, provided by the RNLI. The soup was great for warming everyone up!

People soon started arriving in...and the general feeling was "I'm not getting back in there"!! It had been a tough morning and the thought of getting back in for 3 laps and then again for a final lap was a horrible one. But by the time 2pm came most people were ready to get back's amazing how much the mind buries over time...we forget how painful something was the first time around and then go do it again! I'd suppose it can be a good thing...I'd probably never have gotten back in the sea again if my mind had remembered how cold it was that first day!!

The original rules for the day didn't allow anyone to get in for the second session if they hadn't completed the first 5 laps. However, when it came to it, people were going ahead anyway since many people had missed some of the earlier laps due to the horrible conditions. So after much coaxing from Sarah and Kelly (who had lots of experience after coaxing Mark to get back in!) I decided to get back in too for a lap. It's so hard to get back in after just warming up and getting comfortable, and it was made even harder by the fact that conditions were still horrible (although we were assured that things had calmed down a little on the outside...I think that was just to make sure that any of us got back in at all tho!!). But most people got ready and headed this stage the tide was at its lowest so we had to walk out to get to deep water and then we ended up walking around some of the rocks as we headed out to the first corner. I was happy that I'd been down there with Mark the day before at low tide, it really helped with knowing what to expect and I wasn't quite so freaked out swimming through the seaweed this time around!

We decided that walking out to the island would be easier than swimming!

Things were just as horrible when we rounded the corner, but I managed the lap and even decided to do a second. My left shoulder was hurting quite a bit-I'm never sure whether to keep going or to stop when I'm in pain like that, I'm afraid of doing damage but then again I know that I need to learn to swim through a certain amount of pain...there will be plenty of pain to go through on the day that I swim the Channel! In the end it decided for itself though, after I finished the second lap and was contemplating doing the third I was talking to Finbarr and Imelda...and when I went to swim again it seized up-I could move it but definitely not enough to get around again. I'm not sure if it was the rough conditions or the cold or the fact that I'd swam more than I have had before in my life or just a mixture of all of these factors...but I headed for the slip anyway, very happy with the amount that I had was twice the number of laps that I had planned to do and I did more laps on that one day than I'd done in total up until then in tough conditions so I think that was a pretty good achievement!

I got warmed up for the second and final time that day and put on my many layers of clothes (helped by Sarah-thank you! It's horrible to not be able to dress yourself properly...but with the shoulder having given up there was no way I was getting my layers on without help!!). And from then I on was just sitting back and watching others do the hard work for the rest of the day!

Conditions apparently started improving a little for the last lap of the day...the wind had died down a bit. Some people headed out early so that they could get back to watch Munster in the Heineken Cup rugby final (which, incidentally, we won!) and the last few got in at 5pm. I have great respect for anyone who got in for that final lap, there was nothing going to make me get back in there again at that stage!

The day ended with many happy, some disappointed but everyone truly exhausted. It was a great day overall...the weather was good (besides that wind!) and the people were great. Only 4 people completed the day without wetsuits and 8 with wetsuits out of a total of 35 people (the results can be seen here). This year was more of a learning experience for me than anything else, and a chance to meet lots of people whose names I have only heard in passing up until now! I planned to do 2 laps, I ended up doing 4. Next year I'll be hoping to do all 9 tho!

And last but definitely not least...thanks to Sarah who gave up most of her day to come down and be my volunteer for the day...and to Kelly and Ann and everyone else who helped out and made it a great day for us swimmers! :)


M said...

another great post Lisa, very accurate and reflects exactly what sort of day we had, hope you shoulder is on the mend, though I also wish I could say the same for my own. I thought Enda was brilliant completing all four laps and you should be very proud of your self doing two doubles in those conditions. am sure we will be back for more one day, who knows we even get Kelli in there albeit in a wishes Mark

M said...

oops I meant Enda being one of the four to complete 9 laps