Sunday, November 30, 2008


The weather has officially turned evil. All week fine weather. turns cold. Saturday, Sunday are freezing. Actually freezing with frost on the ground. And the forecast is saying that it will get warmer midweek but it will be cold again next weekend. That shouldn't be allowed!!

Saturday was a really beautiful day in Sandycove. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. And it was about 4 degrees C. A lovely day to sit in the car and look out at the sea, but not such a nice day to get into the water. I had been dreading the swim since Thursday when I heard that the weather was going to be so cold for the weekend. And getting up to frost on the ground Saturday morning didn't help matters! But I had arranged to meet Niall down there, plus I knew that if I didn't go down I'd have to face the pool which is full of parents and children on a Saturday afternoon-not such a fun time to be trying to get a decent session in! So off I went, with my car heater to keep me nice and warm and banish all cold thoughts on the way down!

I arrived in Sandycove to find Ger there, one of the Sandycove regulars. Niall arrived and measured the water temperature with his lab thermometer-it read at 9 degrees C, a degree colder than last was to be expected though with the few cold days weather. We decided that we'd better get ready quickly before we talked ourselves out of it! So in we was so, so feet and hands were numb just about immediately and it took a long time for me to get my breathing right...I was breathing every second stroke until I got to the first corner, normally I get into the rhythm of breathing every third stroke after about 30 or 40 strokes. And I thought the headache would never go away! But by the time I had rounded the first corner I started to get used to it, I kept my stroke rate high to keep warm and soon caught up with the two lads, who had left a couple of minutes before me.

The plan had been to swim two laps, or an hour if there was noone around to swim the second lap with. However, when I felt the cold as I got in I decided that an hour was out of the question. Mainly because I'm terrified of getting hypothermic. I don't mind the shivering or the numbness, or even the pain in my hands and feet when they get really cold. What I'm afraid of is the mental state that goes along with hypothermia-the confusion, the drowsiness-and the possibility of not realising that you are indeed hypothermic. It's a very dangerous state to be in if you're in open water. And the two lads were getting out after the lap, so I was going to be on my own after 30 minutes. So I decided that swimming back to the first corner again, then to the red house and back to the slip would be enough-it brought the swim up to 40minutes, which is about 2km...enough for 9 degree water I think!

I could get used to people handing me cups of tea when I get out of the water-yesterday it was Mike Harris, who recently had his knee replaced and was down to catch up with the goings-on of Sandycove-he misses the swimming but has to wait another few weeks yet before he can get in. It was good to see him and even better when he handed me hot tea!! So I drank that down, got a jumper on me and headed back to Actons. Unfortunately the hot tub wasn't working-apparently it was too cold outside for it to work properly!! So I had to make do with the steamroom-even that didn't get me warm fully though, I think because I was just so cold going in there. It took a few hours for me to really begin to feel warm again. But I guess that's to be expected when you swim in the sea for 40 minutes on a day when most people won't leave the house without a hat, scarf and gloves on!!!

Today was just as cold as yesterday. I was the only one mad enough to go down and swim today, so I took my mother and my dog, Fallon, along for the spin to make sure that I didn't freeze! Tides were at bad times this weekend-high tide today was around 6:30am and 7pm so the only times to swim were either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Early in the morning is not really an inviting option when there's still frost on the ground so 3:45pm it was. Unfortunately that meant that the sun had already gone down over the hills around Sandycove by the time I was getting in, so no bit of warmth even from that. So even though the water temperature was the same as yesterday, it felt much colder.

Having no company meant that I had to stay inside the island-whatever about the middle of summer, there was no way I was going around on my own on a cold winter's day! So I got in and swam up and down parallel to the island for a while. After 30minutes I decided I'd had enough-my hands were swelling up and quite sore and the sun was well and truly behind the hill at that stage so it was getting colder by the minute! And I knew that my poor mother was walking up and down the hill with Fallon, probably feeling the cold as much as I was!!!

Getting out was a challenge-the tide was still quite low, and my hands were very sore and more swollen than they've ever been getting out of the water I think. But I managed to crawl up the slip to the nice cosy towel that my mother had waiting for me! It was so nice to have the car warm when I got into it, normally I have to put up with those few minutes of cold air while I'm waiting for the heater to warm up! And to have someone drive me into Kinsale so I could keep my hands near the heater for the whole way in...I was spoilt! I don't know if it was that warming up or the fact that I stayed in for a shorter time, but I recovered much faster today than I did yesterday. I only spent about 10minutes in the steamroom today, but I was all warmed up by the time I was leaving Actons. It was nice not to feel cold for the evening!

All in all it was a good weekend's swimming...I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I think that it was enough given the temperatures. I never thought I'd say it but I'm actually looking forward to getting back in the pool tomorrow, the extra 20degrees will be much appreciated! I'm sure that will only last a few minutes before I'm giving out about the heat again though :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

100 laps and counting...

Today was my 100-lap milestone in Sandycove, and what a day for it! It was cold (air was 6deg C), windy and raining-and very tempting not to get in at all! But Eilís had told me to try to get 2 laps in both days this weekend and there was no way that I was going to go up to her tomorrow and tell her that I didn't get in today because it was raining!!!

There were 8 of us down to swim, a good turnout for such an awful day. We all got dressed and ready to head in...and just as we were ready it started to lash rain...not a good start to the swim! I think that I got in today faster than I ever have before-mainly because I was hoping that it would be warmer in the water than it was standing on the slip (I was wrong about that one!). The water temperature was 10 or 11deg but felt colder-it took a while for me to get my breath, and I had a headache for the first few minutes. We had a lot of help from the wind and current out to the first corner and down to the second, where we regrouped. Finbarr was my only hope for a second lap, and he decided that instead of doing that he'd swim back towards the last guy in the group and make sure that he was ok and then just finish out the single lap. So I said that I'd join him and then do a triangle inside the island to make up the time to an hour. So back we went-we didn't have far to go though, he had nearly gotten to the corner at that stage. So we checked that he was ok and then went back in our original direction again.

By the time we had reached the front of the island I was getting pretty cold, so I had more or less decided that I'd swim to the first corner and then head back to the slip-that would be about 40mins in the water which I was figuring was good enough given the conditions. Finbarr had other ideas though. He decided that since we hadn't gone back very far at the second corner that he'd do the second lap...which I had written off in my mind at this stage!!! But I figured that my arms were still moving and not too I had no excuse not to go again! So we did...and by the time we got to the second corner again I was regretting not having gotten was REALLY cold at this stage-much more so than yesterday, when we had done two laps and I had felt ok the whole time. Today I just wanted to be out of there. And the only way to do that was to put the head down and keep swimming. I started counting strokes to distract myself-I figured it was about 300 strokes from the second to the third corner, another 300 to the red house and then maybe another 200 to the slip. So I did the first 300, turned the corner...and once I could see the slip I basically kept my arms moving as fast as they would go to get me there! And then we got out to the welcoming sight of Niall MacCarthy with tea and chocolate...thanks Niall :) And of course then we headed to the hot tub in Actons to warm does make it all worth it to sit in 38degree comfort...and it's so nice to not be cold for the rest of the evening too!

So all in all a good weekend's swimming-4 laps-59mins yesterday, 1hr 3mins today, in about 10deg C. And now that I've done my 100 laps I figure that I could take the rest of the year out of the cold sea...I'm not sure that Eilís will be agreeing with that one though!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm still alive!

I know, I know...I haven't posted in ages. I've been spending less and less time online lately (anyone who knows me well knows that this is very strange for me!), I just don't have the time for it-any time I sit down at the computer I feel guilty if I'm not working on the PhD! It's a good thing though I'd suppose-I've gotten very good at being organised and managing my time, I never was very good at that. Now I have to be just to fit everything in!

So...updates on what I've been doing since I last posted. The biggest one I think is that I'm now training under my coach, Eilís Burns, who has trained 8 solo English Channel swimmers (all of whom successfully completed the swim) and is one of the top swimming coaches in Ireland. It took a lot of pressure off me to have her on board because now I just do what she tells me to do, I don't have to be trying to figure out if I'm training enough or too much or if I'm doing the right types of sessions-not that I ever knew what the right sessions were anyway really! Of course now I have the added pressure of not breaking her perfect record but I'll be trying pretty hard not to do that anyway-I'm not doing all this training to not make it across!

So that brings me to the worst part of having her on board-my diet. I have NEVER been a healthy eater. It's not like I ate take-out seven nights a week or anything, but I really like my chocolate and sweet things and junk food. Not any more. Meals are healthy, snacks are healthy, I'm eating more fruit for breakfast now than I did all day before this (which wouldn't be hard since I used to eat practically no fruit!) and I've actually started eating vegetables. Maybe all of this is normal to some of you, but I REALLY miss my junk food! I know that it's doing me good though, I'm feeling really good at the moment and I have tons more energy than I ever did before. But I'm so looking forward to Christmas when I have every intention of eating chocolate for a week solid!!!

Training itself is going really well, I'm swimming 5 or 6 days a week now with 1 or 2 of those sessions being in the sea. And yes, the sea is REALLY cold now, it's down to 9 or 10degrees C (depending on whose watch you look at!) and it's not really comfortable to be swimming in it any more. But I'm still managing a lap both days most weekends for now. The biggest problem is that the days are getting so much shorter so it's getting harder to find good swim times. We usually swim at high tide since that's when it's safest to swim at Sandycove. But when high tide is at 7am it's really hard to make yourself get up for a sea swim! I actually had one morning a few weeks ago when I had to defrost the car to go down for a swim-that's never a good sign! But I haven't been seriously hypothermic yet and the body does warm back up-it might take a few days but eventually you feel your toes again!!

I also have some news on the non-training side of things...I'm in the process of setting up a website so that I can put up a bit more info about things that are going on. I figure that if I write about it on here it might spur me on to get it finished and published-I've been working on it for quite a while now and I just need to finish it off and put it out there!!

So that's probably about it for updates for now I think...hopefully I should have some news on my charity in the next week or so (for all of you out there who are just dying to give me money!) so I'll post about that when it's sorted. Until then....