Thursday, September 11, 2008

364 Days To Go

I just thought I'd mark the fact that my tides start a year from today (September 11-16th, 2009)! I can't believe that this time next year there will be 4 of us from Cork sitting in the Varne Ridge caravan park waiting for call from our pilots, hoping that the weather will allow all of us to swim. It's going to be a hectic year trying to get all of the training but I'm enjoying it so far. So let's hope I feel the same way through the winter with those long pool sessions!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Inishbofin Swim

I know it's a long time since I've updated...I've had a lot of stuff going on recently-more than anything I've been trying to get plenty of time in the sea before it gets any colder than it has already and before college starts up again for real! So here goes about Inishbofin....

I traveled up on the Friday on my own unfortunately-I couldn't carpool with the others since I was going to be heading to the airport to head to Dover on the way home on Sunday. So I got up in the evening to find that everyone else was already there and had had a quick swim-the water looked lovely and calm at that stage and we were just hoping that it would hold for Saturday so that we'd be able to swim to the island. We went for dinner that evening which was lovely, there was a big group of us including Ned, Niall, Julieann (who's also signed up to swim the Channel next summer), Eddie (who had just swum the Channel and was full of useful advice!) and his wife Nora, Graeme (who swam the Channel last year) and a few others who were sitting too far down the table for me to remember! It was a lovely dinner-I think Ned totally confused the waitress by asking for just a big bowl of plain pasta for the table-I'm sure that they don't get that as an everyday request!

When we left to head back to the B&B afterwards the weather had changed for the worse. It was drizzling rain and the wind had started to come up. Through the night I could hear the wind howling through the window, which was not a good sign for the swim! We got up to a dry morning the following morning, and it seemed to be much calmer than the night before. We had breakfast (which consisted of huge bowls of porridge along with cereal and eggs and much encouraging from Ned to eat it all-I thought I'd never be able to get up after all the food!), got ourselves ready to go and headed down to meet Martin Cullen who had traveled over from the island that morning.

Unfortunately he had bad news for us. He had decided that, for safety reasons, it would be too risky to swim from Cleggan to Inishbofin. So it was decided that we would head out on the ferry and do four two-mile laps of Inishbofin harbour-the same distance but much safer. When the ferry was leaving Cleggan all seemed very calm-until we got outside the shelter of the land and then the ferry started lurching from side to side more and more and we realised why exactly Martin had made his decision! It was very rough out there and it would just have been too dangerous for both swimmers and kayakers.

When we got to Bofin, we were paired up with our kayakers, there were a couple more swimmers than kayakers so I was sharing a kayaker, Ann-Marie, with Sharon, who trains with Martin in Cavan. We were briefed on the course, which was basically a wide square from the slip out towards the mouth of the harbour, across and back down towards the slip. We then went and got ourselves ready to swim.

Starting out-I'm on the right with the orange cap-Ned and Julieann are off in front already!

13 of us began the swim around 12 noon. The first few minutes were mainly concerned with keeping together with Sharon and trying to find Ann-Marie but once the crowd had thinned out (in other words, the fast people had left us!!) we got into a rhythm. It was nice swimming up towards the harbour, we swam up past an old fort towards a white tower at the edge of the harbour which made it easy to see where we were aiming for!

(As an aside...the two photos below were both taken during the swim-notice the difference in the weather-talk about 4 seasons in one day-we had 4 seasons in 4 hours!!!)

The lovely views as we swam towards the mouth of the harbour

It was much rougher as we swam across the mouth of the harbour, it made it hard to see the buoy that we were swimming towards...thankfully Ann-Marie could see it! Swimming down towards the slip it got much calmer again and before we knew it we had a lap done and we were able to have a nice hot drink-I was starving even though I had thought I'd never be hungry again after that breakfast!!!

Rough water near the mouth of Inishbofin harbour

Sharon's plan was to do two laps, so when we came in after the second lap she was undecided as to whether or not to go again. Up until then I had not felt cold at all, but in the time we were waiting around while everyone was encouraging her to go again, I cooled down a lot and by the time she had decided to go for one more I was quite cold. I really needed to speed up to get warm again or this was going to be my final lap too. While most people tend to start off quickly and get slower, I tend to start off slowly and then build up...I don't know if that's me warming up or just speeding up as I get closer to the finish because I know then that I can get out of the water sooner! So when we were half way around and another kayaker showed up (some people doing 3 laps had finished at that stage) to keep Ann-Marie company, I decided to take that as an opportunity to up my speed a little and warm myself up. So unfortunately for Ann-Marie she was on her own with me again and the other kayaker stayed with Sharon as she finished out her final lap.

At this stage I wasn't sure how many people were still left swimming and if I was the last one doing 4 laps or not. So I figured I'd try to catch up with Niall, who I knew was maybe a quarter of a mile ahead of me-if I don't have something to aim for then I just get lazy! So I sped up to Niall and caught up with him close to the mouth of the harbour on our last lap. And I figured then I might as well keep going as fast as I could to get to the end-at this stage the weather was turning horrible and, while I didn't mind (or even notice) the rain, my poor kayaker (a different girl who had taken over from Ann-Marie at this stage) was getting soaked! I feel sorry for the people taking care of us at swimming events-they have the boring job of traveling around slowly (whether it's by boat or by kayak), in this case in circles, and then when the weather turns bad they're much more badly off than we are in the water! So I ended up doing that lap in about 55 minutes (the first lap had taken 1hr 10mins in comparison!)...I "sprinted" (my sprinting isn't very fast-especially when I've already swam 7 and a half miles!) between the old pier and the new pier at the end, thinking that it might take about 100 strokes-it took over 300-bad estimation! But while I was tired at the end, I still felt like I could have done more, so I guess that's a good sign.

As I came up the slip, Sharon came to meet me drinking a hot whiskey-I was glad to see that she had finished comfortably and was "sensibly" warming herself up! I got into the waiting ambulance-the local ambulance driver was very kindly spending his day transporting us to the community centre where we had showers and food waiting, so that was great! I had my shower, drank hot tea, had yummy cookies and chatted to the others who were all nicely warmed up at that stage.

That evening we had a lovely dinner in the Dolphin Restaurant and then there was a presentation with a prize for everyone who took part, which I thought was really nice. Julieann had finished first in a time of 2hrs 58mins in what was her longest sea swim to date, which was an amazing achievement. And Ned came in soon after at 3hrs 7mins. I completed the 8 miles in 4hrs 23mins which I was happy with. 9 of us in total completed the 4 laps, and 4 people did 3 laps. And we mustn't forget Eddie, who did a lap to "loosen out" after his Channel swim 3 weeks previously! For most of us it was our longest sea swim to date. The night of chatting afterwards did some good too-we have at least one swimmer, Breccene Ennis, who has since announced plans to do a Channel swim in 2010, another person to join us Channel aspirants!

All in all it was a fabulous swim-it was disappointing that we couldn't swim from the mainland but swimming is always weather-dependent and we were lucky in this case to have a safe alternative where we could do the equivalent distance. I met some great people, and I'm sure that I'll be seeing some of them in the coming year as I train.

I want to say a huge thank you to Martin Cullen, who organised the who swim so well, to Graeme who harassed us to keep swimming after each lap, to all of the boat crew and kayakers who made the swim possible, to the ambulance driver who gave up his day to drive us around and to anyone else who helped with organisation. I'm looking forward to next year's swim already!