Tag Archives: Chris Bryan

Ice Mile Dilemmas – III – Black Rain

Part 1

Part 2

Ten minutes after briefing and the swimmers were lined up on Lough Dan’s so-called beach for the group photo seen in the previous part.

Sometimes writing about the minutiae of swimming is really boring. Sometimes such reportage can mask some other truth. Sometimes I think that the more I try to explain the less I succeed.

Unlike a marathon swim that can take multiple hours, the Ice Mile swim was short enough to recall detail of each of the four 400 metre laps, especially for someone who is used to trying to capture sensations for writing. But an ultra-detailed analysis can often be to see the paint on the building rather than the architecture.

Me at the start, sighting on the pontoon, taken by Vanessa Daws
Me at the start, sighting on the pontoon, taken by Vanessa Daws

The entry and swim out to the start pontoon was fine. I can get into extremely cold water comfortably after years of winter swimming and the 3 degrees Celsius (37.4° F.) at the edge was better than wading through ice as we had the previous year. Entry is easier when there is no wind or rain and you are swimming with others.

I relaxed through the first two laps. Almost certainly too much in retrospect. I was much slower than normal for the first 800 metres.

At the start of the third lap, I allocated part of my awareness as a monitor. Its only job was to check myself, my perceptions and reactions for as long as was possible. Cold slows and thickens the blood, cognition becomes impaired but the hypothermic person doesn’t realise this. Those movies where a hypothermic person clearly realises they must get moving or they will freeze are mostly nonsense.

By the third lap I had developed extreme pain in my hands and feet. Please remember I am used to really cold water, and I don’t describe that pain lightly as extreme. I began to get nervous about one of the lesser-known possible side effects of extreme cold water swimming, that of nerve damage to fingers (not frostbite). So I started clenching my fists and fingers hard during stroke recovery. I also put the pain away, walled it off. It was severe, but I’m a distance swimmer so it wasn’t relevant and I ignored it.

That penultimate lap hurt. So much.

Finbarr passed me. Everyone else had already moved in front of me though I’d been first to swim away from the beach. (I had swum to the pontoon to start, which wasn’t necessary, but I had wanted to so do). On the third lap I had reached the 75% distance that mirrored my 75% pre-swim confidence. I touched the buoy on the pontoon for the seventh time and started the last lap. I never took any notice of Eoin Gaffney on the pontoon or the kayakers or the RIB crew for the entire swim, except for the occasional taste of diesel in the water.

I was cold, then colder. Into hypothermia. As you know, cold is a word that holds no meaning in this situation, but I don’t have a better one. Unless you are cold water swimmer you have no idea what I mean, you just think your experience of an ordinary cold winter day is analagous.

There was pain, present but also distant because I disregarding it. Still swimming. Still focused. Hands quite extraordinarily not in The Claw. Still slow. I tried increasing my stroke rate. I couldn’t hold it for long.

Going down the seventh leg in the last 400 metres, the Black Rain developed.

The Black Rain. I have not heard any other cold water swimmer describe this. I have suffered it once previously. Spots before the eyes is a poor descriptor. It is more like a shifting rain, starting very light, almost imperceptible. Varying sizes, speed and seeming distances in front of me.  Just like rain, except its colour.

I touched the far buoy for the last time. 200 metres to go. Then the swim in. Okay, just the 200 metres to worry about. I knew I would make it.

The RIB was near. There was a kayaker beside me. I could not tell what or if they might have been saying. I didn’t really focus on them, and didn’t think to try. I didn’t think of anything beyond monitoring myself. Swim in. That was all. That was everything. The Black Rain was heavier and I was developing tunnel vision. Not a metaphor, but actual vignetting of my sight. The boats were near but felt far away, not really having anything to do with me, on the far side of a veil. Head for the beach.

Cold blood. Cold enuf blood becomes viscus blood. Viscous. Swim. Thick blood. Thick blood flowz slowly. swim. coLd blub blood Passes oxigen 2 ur brain slowli. always swim. keep swim. Your thinking. ur Thinking gets slowly. never stop swimin. never stop, never stop. never stop cccold. izh beach. shallow. stand. colm’s son. Mr Awesome. OUt. Dee. gEt Drest.

I didn’t need to touch the pontoon at the end of the 1600 metres. Since the beach was further away I had de facto completed the distance. Warren Roche and Tom Healy helped me once got into shallow water and stumbled semi-upright.


Despite the ever-encroaching cold, I had never stopped swimming, never stopped making forward progress, never lost sight of what I was doing. Years of cold water swimming makes a difference. Deeply ingrained habits and patterns and thinking mean everything.

The last two legs of the swim had taken both zero time and infinity. Time travel jokes become inessential when time itself ceases to have meaning. Cold is the universe’s ultimate time machine encased in the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Time, like my trap, is a mental construct of swimmers. Time is a beast, or a wall, something huge, not the little parasites of seconds and minutes. If we are close enough we can’t see it all and it either slips away or fills our sight and becomes meaningless.

Immediately afterwards the freight train of Afterdrop took me harder than it ever has previously. Many people helped me as I was virtually unable to dress myself, but especially Tom Healy. I was almost unresponsive. My memory of the fifteen or twenty minutes post swim is hazy at best.

I’ve had mild hypothermia more times than I can recall, like most cold water swimmers. We don’t call it hypothermia of course, we just say chills and shivers. It sounds safer, doesn’t scare others. I have been in serious hypothermia (by my scale of experience) twice before. I’ve had memory loss. Loss of motor control. Inability to speak, to walk, to drive. So I can with confidence say that this was the worst hypothermia experience I’ve yet endured.

I am thankful specifically for the help of Mr Awesome Tom and his partner Rachel, Nicola Gilliland, Alan Smith, Colm Breathnach’s friend Warren Roche whom I thought was Colm’s son. (Should I apologise to Colm or Warren or both?)

And of course my regular accomplice Dee, who didn’t panic either and is still making fun of what she describes as the manic rictus of my face post-swim. I think she’s mixing it up with my regular face.

For reference, you have seen me write many times that I am an average range speed swimmer. The Sandycove Island Challenge each autumn is a similar distance when including the extra Ice Mile start and finish portions, about 1750 metres when the water is flat.

My time for the 2013 Sandycove Island Challenge, which had similar flat conditions and was maybe 14°C. , and my best ever race lap, was 25:30. Course record is held by Irish International swimmer Chris Bryan at 19:40 or thereabouts. My time for the same distance Ice Mile was astonishingly over 37 minutes. That’s what cold can do to a really experienced cold water swimmer. For reference I am 171 centimeters tall and weighed 76 kilos for the swim and my resting heart rate the previous morning was 53.

I had stopped shivering and was recovered and was out and about for photographs in under an hour, thanks to heat, hot water bottles applied correctly, glucose, rubbing and all the techniques used on a hypothermic person. Core temperature took a while longer to recover, until about the time we were half way home, two and half to three hours after the swim.

Seven of the nine Ice Milers finished. Colm Breathnach and Donal Jacob pulled out at 1200 metres due to not feeling right during the swim. You should recall that Colm is already an Ice Miler and a faster and better cold water swimmer than I. Fergal says, and I agree, having done the same myself last year, that for a swimmer such as Colm to pull out during a swim displays self-knowledge, confidence and experience that others should take note of and emulate, and hopefully indicates to others just how seriously this swim should be approached. I have great respect for both swimmers for the decision they made on the day.


Given a choice between a "heroic" pic and this one, there was little option
Given the choice between a “heroic” image and this one, I think the truth is more important

Did you think it might be different? More macho or inspirational?Something with less…pain?

I can’t do macho. Don’t know how. King of the Channel in the late 70’s, Des Renford used a phrase “Doing It Tough”. I did my Ice Mile tough. Frankly and honestly in my opinion this stuff is too dangerous to load  macho bullshit onto it.

Winning ugly” according to DeeNot pretty”, she also said, (though that may have been a general observation about me).

Getting it done. No need, no plan, to do it again, I swam out of the trap. I wish I could swim out of other traps.

The Ice Mile was awful, painful and horrible.

Cold is such an insufficient word.


Similar images of Finbarr are often the last thing many water polo and open water swimmers see before leaving the surface. Be afraid!
Similar images of Finbarr are often the last thing many water polo and open water swimmers see before departing the surface. Be afraid!


Later after warming up my heart rate was elevated for a few hours. Two days later I developed muscles pain for 24 hours almost identical to what I experience after the first five or six-hour pool swim of winter similar to what Colm reported after his Ice Mile swim last year. It felt like lactic buildup aches in my triceps, lats, pecs, along with lower back and thighs. The aches over the kidneys lasted another two days. I had an unidentified bruise and swelling on one finger, when I rarely bruise even after impacts. Minor issues and otherwise I am perfectly fine.

Here at the end of Part III, I’m taking a temporary break from the subject before returning with reflections and thoughts on the wider context of Ice Mile swimming, with the challenges, dangers, frauds, difficulties and some recommendations.


Fergal’s  writeup is here.

Vanessa’s excellent video is here.

Review: SwimSmooth.com One Day Swim Clinic

In late Channel season 2011 I was in Varne Ridge to crew a solo. Present for that tide were a bunch of Channel Aspirants from Western Australia, advised by seven-times world open water champion Shelley Taylor-Smith. They had had a long wait with bad weather. One of the swimmers was UK-born but WA resident Paul Newsome, the coach behind the popular swimming website SwimSmooth.com and we got to chat the day after his Solo, which had been in very challenging Force 5 conditions, (making him, like me, a member of the unofficial Force 5 Channel club).

swimsmooth swimtypesSwimSmooth takes the rational approach that there isn’t a single style, that in fact there are different ways of swimming, especially for new and intermediate swimmers, and that there are appropriate progression paths for those styles. It doesn’t try to squeeze everyone into the same (useless) mould. SwimSmooth sets out six initial styles but the coaches aren’t tied into insisting that everyone is one of the styles, as people can demonstrate aspects of different styles. SwimSmooth also specialises in open water swimming, realising that there are many other aspects of open water swimming outside just the stroke that affect swimmers. A well-known aspect of SwimSmooth is their use of technology, (driven mostly by Paul’s SwimSmooth partner, Channel crew and swimming coach, Adam Young). These include their famous Mr. Smooth animation (at which I’m sure thousands have stared for long periods), the integration of Paul’s Feel For the Water Blog, and the thorough use of video comparison technology for stroke analysis, that previously would only have been available to elite swimmers. Video analysis is probably the most powerful technique tool of all apart from having your own elite coach. SwimSmooth doesn’t engage in Trademarking of well-known swim drills as some others have done. Instead a small selection of appropriate drills are used to address each swimmer’s deficiencies, something many new swimmer’s have no idea how to approach.

Mr. Smooth
Mr. Smooth

Unlike Total Immersion, of which I’ve already written some (but not all) of my criticisms, Paul has walked or more precisely, swam the talk. He took on the Channel in Force 5 winds and prevailed, still achieving  a fantastic time, better than most on a good day.

Last week I saw on Paul’s Twitter feed that he was heading for the UK’s swimming centre for excellence in Loughborough (pronounced Luff-burr-o). Last week he tweeted that he was also coming to Ireland for Coach and swim clinics and needed some guinea pigs for video analysis. I saw the Tweet too late and responded but I’d missed the opportunity. I also told Paul I’d hoped to add his autograph to the bookBut it all worked out because two days later Paul offered me a cancellation place on the March 17th St. Patrick’s Day swim clinic.

The University of Limerick Pool is one of Ireland’s only three 50 metres pools, and one of the two High Performance Centres, where Irish International Marathon Swimmer Chris Bryan trains, along with some of Ireland’s Olympic swimmers and hopefuls. Paul made the point that the Perth centre alone where SwimSmooth is based has three 50 metre pools, and over twenty 50 metre pools to serve its population of 1.2 million. The almost total abandonment of our sport is of course something most Irish swimmers feel keenly. For example Waterford Institute of Technology, (the nearest college to me), has been building a large Sports Campus. A Sports Campus … with no pool. But instead of a pool there’s a (now abandoned) business conference centre.

UL Pool SwimSmooth clinic IMG_20130317_112030
UL HPC 50m pool.

The twelve swimmers on the course arrived at the pool at the 10 a.m. opening (St. Patrick’s Day, national holiday) and met Paul and his SwimSmooth partner Adam Young, UK Swim Smooth coach Emma Bunting, and another twelve coaches who were on a three-day SwimSmooth Coaching course, which included English Channel relay swimmer and Solo Aspirant? Jill Bunyan. The swimmers were from around Ireland but the coaches were more geographically diverse, including Jill from the Isle of Man, coaches from Ireland, UK, Scotland, and as far as Hong Kong.

We spent about an hour on introductions, everyone speaking  about their experience and their own stroke problems.

As I’d said to Paul earlier in the week, I have no local club to swim with, and no coach. Since swimming is really a two-person sport, the swimmer constantly requiring the intervention of a coach, I knew my stroke would have problems. Though I didn’t say it, in my own mind, every single aspect of my stroke was likely to have issues. All the training I do only reinforces any poor technique where I am not aware of it. And most swimmers are not aware of their technique problems. We were also quickly introduced to personal swim coaches from those on their coach’s course, my coach was Cassie.

There followed a quick discussion of stroke, deliberately short so Paul would not be putting clutter into people’s minds just before swimming. We also saw some fantastic video that Adam and Paul had taken of Becky Adlington’s and Shelly Taylor-Smith’s strokes.

I warmed up, enjoying the luxury of the 50m length, since I’d be one of the last recorded, while Paul videoed each swimmer using a remote camera on a boom, recording front, side, over- and underwater angles.

Example of the video stroke analysis during the clinic. Neither of these swimmers is me!
Example of the video stroke analysis during the clinic. Neither of these swimmers is me!

After a working lunch, (there was no wasted time in the entire day) Paul started stroke analysis of each swimmer’s video. The last time I have video analysis of my stroke I felt terrible embarrassment when I saw myself. But I prefer to improve more than I care about embarrassement. I hoped there had been improvement since then, and there was in some areas, but other areas had deteriorated. My cruising open water or long pool distance bilateral stroke was okay (later in the pool Paul said it looked smooth and like I could go for ever, which is what I train for and which was a relief) but the video of my single-sided “speed” stroke showed ( I asked him to do both) appalling and multiple stroke errors.

Paul made some suggestions. I could already see, based on all the EVF work I’ve been doing for the last year, how in fact I’d caused the other problems, and some problems were utterly invisible to me (such as a slight left arm crossover when breathing right) . On Paul’s YouTube Channel there’s a good example of his analysis and tools in a long video.

I don’t have Paul’s coaching experience obviously, but I have enough swim experience and coaching knowledge to analyse someone else’s stroke. This is the irony of swimming, that what we see in others we can’t see in ourselves. For an experienced swimmer, seeing their own stroke says more than any words.

Donal, underwater
Donal, underwater

Paul also spent some time on open water skills and advice, addressing such issues as turning, rough water, and anxiety.

Cassie & Donal
Cassie & Donal (& Trish, elite pool swimmer in the foreground)

Next we moved back to the pool and did a range of drills, none of which were new to me, but some of which I hadn’t done in a long time and which were good to revisit. These drills were chosen by Paul to address the issues of the range of swim abilities present on the course. That range of abilities never became an problem, spread as we were across three 50 metre lanes, and we all had a chance to work more with our individual coaches. The drills included using Finis Freestyle and Agility paddles and pull-buoys. Already being a paddle addict I was hugely impressed by the Agility paddle, (which I’d planned to try anyway after Evan recommended them). I’ve since bought a pair.

One of the swimmers on the course, Trish, is an elite swimmer, in time and stroke, and I certainly have plenty of open water experience, even if my swimming speed is average. Yet neither of us felt that anything we did was a waste of time, or in any way dumbed-down, and the time didn’t drag. To satisfy relative beginners through intermediate level, to advanced and elite levels, all in one course, is no mean feat and usually only comes in a squad with time. Swim ability questionnaires filled out by the other swimmers beforehand certainly facilitated this and assisted the excellent organisation on the day.

Due to the public holiday UL were keen to shut the pool early so there wasn’t a lot of time to chat.

We  each came away with a stroke analysis from our coaches, an individual DVD that Adam had generated for each swimmer which included not only the video of our own swimming, but also all the comparison videos, the computer notes and audio from the analysis, and specific drill and swimming advice for each swimmer dependant on Paul’s and the individual coaches assessments. Oh, and a SwimSmooth open water swim cap. (Find the cap).


I’ve recently seen someone pay for video swim analysis in which they were only recorded from the side and front from above the water, and the remaining time was spent by the “coach” and swimmer talking on the side of the pool.

The SwimSmooth one day swim clinic is so far beyond that as to be almost like comparing two different sports.

The clinic offered time-efficient, personalized and top-class stroke analysis, expert coaches, specific open water and drill advice, and stroke remediation, for all levels of ability and experience. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Alternatively, if you are not in a location where you can participate in one of these clinics in the foreseeable future (but remember I’m in the middle-of-nowhere, so you never know), the SwimSmooth blog, has some excellent free technique and drill resources for all levels, and there’s the SwimSmooth DVDs and books, also highly recommended.

Paul & Donal. Not only is he faster, he's younger and better looking.
Paul & Donal. Not only is he faster, he’s younger and better looking. And now finally added to my marathon swimmer’s autograph book.

I expect a Top Five and very possibly a Top Three place for Paul in this year’s MIMS when the large Irish and Aussie contingent will account for over a third of the entire field.

Minutes of first Chris Bryan (International) Fanclub AGM

Special Guest!

Chris Bryan, Irish International Team open water swimmer

Attendees: Finbarr Hedderman, Owen O’Keefe, Donal Buckley



Item 1: Fanclub financials: Economist Finbarr appointed de facto Treasurer to start fundraising.

Item 2: Get some international members. Action Chris.

Item 3: Get some girls members. Action Owen.

Item 4: Owen’s pants. Special working sub-group convened to seek external consultation.

Item 5: Discussion regarding Chris and Owen returning Finbarr and Donal’s rightful Beginish Trophies before next year’s race.

Item 6: Possible conflict of interest over Donal and Owen’s membership of the International Trent Grimsey fanclub discussed. Solution: Trent to be invited to join Chris’s fanclub and visa versa. Action Chris.

Item 7: Chris Bryan International Fanclub members table motion that Chris Bryan is great. Motion unanimously passed.

Meeting adjourned. To the bar.

Next scheduled meeting: TBD.

Chris Bryan2

Guest Article: Chris Bryan, Irish International 10k swimmer

Guest articles are one of the huge joys and honours for me in writing loneswimmer. I always feel lucky to feature one of them and privileged when people agree and I to get to read them in advance.

Chris Bryan is from Shannon, Co. Clare (west of Ireland, origin of the Irish Coffee!) and is Ireland’s first international  5k and 10k open water swimmer. His training base is the High Performance Centre [HPCUL], University of Limerick Arena  in Limerick, one of the two High Performance swimming centres in Ireland. He’s in his fourth year of college studying  Sport and Exercise Science and was born in 1990.

Chris is on Twitter and Facebook.

Results to date:

FINA World Championships 2011, 5km, 8th place
LEN European Championships 2011, 10km, 11th place
First Irish man to qualify and compete for European Championships (2010) and World Championships (2011) open water.
LEN European cup 5km, Turkey(2011): 1st
LEN European cup 10km Israel (2012): 3rd

A minor one, but if I’m not mistaken, I think he also holds the lap record for Sandycove Island, has been unbeatable when he has raced it.

Draft remaining 2012 Schedule:
Olympic Marathon 10km swim Qualifier- Setubal Portugal June10th. That’s next Sunday folks!)
Great East Swim- Alton Lake, Britain 16th June
German Nationals- Großkrotzenburg, Germany 28th and 30th June
Olympics 10km, London, 10th August
Belgian Nationals- Hazewinkel,Belgium 26/27th August
European Championships- Piombino, Italy 12-16th September
I3 swim series- Kilaloe, Ireland 22/23rd September

I’m delighted to contribute towards LoneSwimmer.com [not as much as I am - Donal]; hopefully it will help me to reconnect with all the real open water swimmers at home. I’ve currently fallen out of the Irish national circuit as sadly most races I have had my eye on seem to clash with my international commitments.

Training Program:

I’m currently training in the High Performance Training Centre in the University of Limerick under Coach Ronald Claes. The centre is broken into development squads which hope to feed swimmers into the main ‘Elite Squad’ in which each athlete has the opportunity to compete at the highest level internationally.

The Elite squad program involves up to 10/11 swim sessions on a regular week.
Training starts in the morning on deck at 5.10a.m., where 20 – 30mins of dry land work is done.

Dry land involves:

  • Skipping (used as a warm-up).
  • Sit ups, back ups and plank variations. (To increase core stability strength and endurance in the pool to provide optimal streamline).
  • Shoulder endurance exercises and push ups.
  • Hand paddle stretch cord work. (Technique focus and strength endurance / power work).

Then to the pool! In the morning this can be from 5/6km up to 17/18km, all depending on time in the training cycle & season and the week intensity! Of course all swimmers in the squads are broken up into their groups based on their race distance. (Sprint / Middle / Distance / OW)

In the evening we begin at 2pm if we have a gym or circuit training, or 2.30pm if we just have a choice of land warm up/loosen out before the swim session. We begin in the water at 3pm. Distance in the evening is usually less ranging from 3 to 7km.


Post all swim sessions a certain amount of ‘pre-habilitation’ is always carried out such as flexibility and general stretching, muscle control and core strength. Of course this includes shoulder control and stability work. Swimming is not a natural movement! We were not designed to rotate our arms thousands of times a day above our heads! (On average we’ll say 35 strokes a length and for 14km/280 lengths a day, in other words 9,800 times! And that’s a relatively low estimate personally)!

I do a lot of Internal and external rotations with a theraband twice a day after every session,

3×10 reps each arm working concentrically for 2 seconds and eccentrically for 4 seconds.

For me personally I find that if I go a few sessions without this I get a constant ‘niggling’ in my shoulder which is just something I can’t afford to worry about.

The Elite Squad is supported by a coaching, sports science & medical team:

  • Full time coach
  • Dietician
  • Performance analyst
  • Chartered physiotherapist
  • Sports psychologist
  • Sports physiologist
  • Strength & conditioning
  • Medical officer

All areas which are of importance to high performance sport and development. Some support is used more than others but they are all vital ingredients on the way to success at the highest level.

I am very privileged to have such a structured and fully supported set up, I have been to many world-class squads over the past few years and have seen the training base of some of the world’s best and I can confidently say that in UL through the support of the Sports council, Swim Ireland and the University of Limerick we have the facilities to compete with any one of those international set ups.

Still there are no short cuts to success – only hard work and attention to detail and “Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” (Lou Holtz)

Having confidence in your training regime and confidence in the staff is essential, it’s hard enough getting up at 4.35am without having to ask if I’m really doing the right things in training, it’s a blind faith in my coach that I need. Studying Sports Science does gives an extra insight into my training and often helps me get that little more out of myself when I know ‘this I what I need to do to succeed’ , but it also raises many questions and doubts, but I very much have to emphasise that just a little bit of information sometimes can be a bad thing. So I leave the worrying up the coach and blindly follow!

One question I often get asked is about the major differences between pool swimming and open water, they both can be broken into 2 main areas in my opinion:

Stroke: A higher and more relaxed stroke is essential for the open water. In the pool stroke length is of huge importance for swimming fast and count strokes per length cannot be under estimated, for open water the focus on training a higher rhythmic and comfortable stroke rate often out-weighs the need for stroke length based on the constant changing environment of open water.

Race perspective: In the pool there are 8 lanes all the same length, same width and with the same amount of water in each, really from a purely physical aspect it is non-contact and nothing the competitor beside you does can affect your race, this is a constant environment. In the open water every race is different, competitors, course, temperature, chop. This constantly changing dynamic environment makes things a lot more uncertain and ‘race smarts’ become very important. There is of course always going to be a little bit of luck to each race, but the thing I find about luck is that, the harder I work the more I tend to have of it! It’s also not by chance that the best guys always seem to come out on top!

The basics of both in and out of the pool though are not so different, the technical aspects of the stroke, the physical conditioning, and fast swimming! The 10km marathon event is the Olympic distance and on average the pace would be 66-68 seconds per 100 m long course [Donal's added emphasis]. With the last 1000m being the fastest and the last 400m being about 4 minutes at the top level.

I have always considered myself a hard worker and am a very driven person but one major lesson I have learned over the past two years is the importance of smart training. It is of course to train hard and to the best of you abilities but if there is no structure or no time for your body to adapt and recover from the training it doesn’t matter how hard you train!

I find the above graph very important, training isn’t just about what you do in the water or in the gym but what you do outside of training is just as important! It’s a 24/7 career, if you don’t recover appropriately then all the hard work will never be as effective. I try not to obsess about this but rather make sure to follow a few rules of thumb:

  • ‘Golden Window’ Within 30 mins of post train need to eat a snack including carbohydrate and some protein (banana and a yogurt drink.)

  • Have a main meal within 2 hours post session. (Carbohydrate focus)

  • Morning heart rates. Can be a great indicator of over training or oncoming sickness before it’s too late and you can quickly adjust intensity.

  • Pre-habilitation. (As discussed above.)

  • If you’re not in 100% fitness you won’t be able to train 100% . Cut your losses and adjust intensity.

First we make our habits, then our habits make us.

This year is an exciting year obviously being an Olympic year, especially for me as it is probably as close to a home Olympics that I’m going to get. The qualifying procedure for open water is a hard one and slightly complicated.

Olympic Games: 25 athletes for Male and Female

Olympic Qualifier, race 1 of 2: World Championships 2011, 10 athletes qualified, the only opportunity for 2 athletes from one nation to qualify, 2 athletes from both Germany and Russia made it in the top 10. The average age of the Top Ten was 28 years.

Olympic Qualifier, race 2 of 2, Portugal June 10th: There are 15 more places up for grabs. A Top 9 finish guarantees qualification (only 1 per nation). There is then one spot allocated for Great Britain and then one place (5 in total) are allocated to each of the next highest placed competitors, one from each continent after the 9 already qualified. In the case where there is more than one per nation in the top 9, the second place will be reallocated to the 11th place finisher and so on (per continent).

There are 62 entires for the race at this point and a lot to play for. Training has gone amazing this year and I’ve left no stone unturned and have made sure to put myself in the best possible position, so now I just have to be confident in my preparations and know what I’m capable of and if anyone else thinks they deserve to qualify ahead of me they sure as hell are going to have to work for it! Qualifying won’t be easy for anyone in this race no matter if you’re World 25km or 10km Champion, 1500m Olympic Champion, English Channel record holder, they are all in there, but for me I can’t possibly imagine anyone wants it more than me, or has worked as hard or as smart! “There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything!’

I hope to continue in this chase to pursue the chance to reach my utmost potential. After this year I hope first to finish my college degree and manage to juggle my training and athlete lifestyle around it. Even though my schedule is a hectic one, I am someone who loves to have structure to my life and I will always have goals and certain aspirations in which I will strive to achieve, be it academic, sporting, family or business. This sport of swimming has already afforded me so many positive experiences and has made me into who I am moulded me to become the best I can be in all aspects of my life. It’s given me contacts, friends, colleagues, the opportunity to travel the world and meet and talk to some truly inspirational and amazing people. Ever since I was young I dreamed of being able to compete with the best in the world and always knew I could. It is that deep self-belief that keeps me going through disappointing results, and grows from the good. I hope to continue to achieve and compete at the highest level and by no means intend to sell myself short. Who knows what the next few years will bring if by Rio de Janeiro 2016 I’ll be challenging to achieve at the pinnacle of my sport.

Reminder again of Chris’ Twitter and Facebook accounts. And everyone? Let’s all wish him the best for next Sunday’s Olympic Qualifier and the London Olympics.

There is a link broadcast of the race on Portuguese tv, but there is also an internet link and this one

Euro 10k Cup course

Irish 10k Olympic Qualifier Chris Bryan 3rd in Euro 10k

Irish open water swimmer and Olympic 10k qualifier Chris Bryan finished in a great third place at 1:54.14 in today’s Euro 10k Cup in Israel.

He placed behind Sergey Bolshakov (Russia), World Championship 2011 Bronze in 10km, who won in 1:54.04 and David Davies (Great Britain), 2008, 10km Olympic Silver, all according to Chris’ own Twitter account.

The water was a toasty 23 C with 6 laps of 1.6k. The field was 28 men from seven nations.

Euro 10k Cup course

Look forward to an upcoming Guest Article from Chris when he has time (which is rare), I don’t want to press him unnecessarily, but maybe this will serve as a gentle reminder!

His next and final target before London is another Euro Cup 10k in Portugal on June 7th.

Owen O'Keefe Cornwall '08_0517

Guest post: Owen O’ Keefe

Owen is one of the really special young people we are occasionally lucky to meet. Another Sandycove swimmer, Owen was the youngest ever Irish person to swim the English Channel at the age of 16, and not that but was blazingly fast. For those of us infected with the Channel bug, we understand how extraordinary this is, as for most of us our age is actually an advantage to completing the Channel, giving us reserves we badly need, and few of us would think seriously about such a task at such an age. In fact he and Lisa both had Lance Oram as pilots, and Owen was getting off the boat when Lisa was getting on.

Not finished there he also completed the Gibraltar Strait last year, organises the annual Blackwater swim, (now a big swim in our local calender), has been a recipient of a National People Of The Year Award, has been the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association representative for the south of Ireland, is organising this year’s Irish Channel Party (a big deal) and continues to complete a series of first-ever swims along the Irish South Coast such as Around Sherkin Island. He is hugely popular with our whole group and I’d like to say I swim with him more but I can’t keep up with him. Oh, he’s currently in college.

It’s an honour, as always, for me to feature a guest post from him. Unsurprisingly for those who know Owen, his post is very considered of the future of open water swimming in Ireland. And I feel confident that with Owen, Chris Bryan, and another young swimmer in our group, Billy “The Phenom” Mulcahy, the future of Irish Open Water Swimming is in good hands.



[T]his post [..] reminds me of when I had my own swimming blog and never used to update it! The though of having to write full sentences just scares me. Anyway, I’ve started now so I might as well keep going…

“If you could change one thing about this sport, what would it be?”

For anyone that loves the sport of open-water swimming, it can be difficult to think of anything that you might like to change about it. However, I’m sure that most people would agree that one very positive change would be to have more people taking part in and enjoying our sport in Ireland. In other places, e.g. South Africa, Australia, USA and Great Britain, open-water swimming is well-established and popular sport. Why then, aren’t there more people enjoying the sport here in Ireland, surely one of the world’s greatest swimming locations?

As you have all seen from reading this Blog, Ireland’s seas, rivers and lakes have so much to offer us in terms of swimming. Increased participation can only be a good thing for the sport. Only recently, Donal wrote an article about the amazing group of swimmers at Sandycove (Kinsale) and the contagion of great achievements resulting from this active community of swimmers. The Sandycove swimmers are always encouraging new swimmers to sample the sport and inspiring those already hooked to dream big and achieve great things. Everything that is great about sport can be found at Sandycove, so why isn’t the message spreading?

I’ll leave you to think about that for a while. As usual, it’s taken me ages to start writing but now that I’ve started I can’t stop!

In my experience, there are a number of long-standing barriers that prevent many people in Ireland from getting the chance to even get a taste of the sport. It must be said that these barriers are held up from both inside and outside the sport, that’s what makes the so strong!

One of the main barriers preventing people from sampling open-water swimming for themselves is the stereotypical view of the sport. Many people outside of open-water swimming do not even see it as a sport, they have visions of an elitist, misogynistic, backward pastime where high-minded, overweight, old and middle-aged men take a weekly skinny-dip in the sea to escape from their families and remind themselves of how they’re made of steel. I’m not joking, that is the typical Irish view of open-water swimming. People obviously don’t want to be associated with such activities so avoid real open-water swimming also. Hopefully the televised Olympic 10 km is helping to change this view.

Local authorities believe that jumping off of piers and bridges in GAA* shorts in June is open-water swimming and this has prompted them to erect “No Swimming” signs at favourite swimming locations all around the country. I have on occasion been cautioned by people associated with the local council for swimming at one of my main training spots!

Certain conservative elements within our sport would rather keep it all for themselves. One of their main methods of doing this is by enforcing an outright ban on all wetsuits, and when they are forced to accept wetsuited swimmers they insist on leaving all non-wetsuited swimmers start first in races “to make them feel more important”. I heard that last quote at a meeting and was shocked that the organizer of the swim in question was praised for this! The use of a handicapping system and the enforcement of ridiculous age limits are also widely used techniques to prevent growth of the sport.

The single largest obstacle to increased participation in open-water swimming comes from outside the sport itself but from within the aquatics spectrum. Since open-water swimming is essentially swimming in any location other than a pool, pool swimming is the natural feeder sport for open-water swimming in most parts of Ireland (surf-rescue is a big feeder in counties such as Clare**). Due to the respective age profiles of the two sports, one would expect to see a natural progression of many young swimmers from pool swimming to open-water swimming. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Ireland. Many swimming clubs in Ireland have very negative attitudes towards open-water swimming and are not one bit pleased about their members taking part in open-water swimming. Some have begun to spread myths to swimmers and parents about how bad it is for their technique and their muscles, etc. I know of one club which is currently going down the line of expressly forbidding their members from swimming in the open-water! How is our sport supposed to survive without a steady flow of young blood and fresh ideas?

At a national level, Swim Ireland gives the impression that open-water swimming is nothing but a nuisance to them. The largely technocratic National Open-Water Committee seems to have been completely disbanded and, to the best of my knowledge, we only have one high performance place for open-water! That swimmer, by the way, is Chris Bryan – best of luck to him for the coming season! A serious change in attitude is needed at a national level.

Well, that’s pretty much my rant about what the problem is. In [the next part] I will try to offer some solutions and highlight where efforts are being made…

So now that we have established what the root causes of the problem are we can figure how to fix it? Here are a few of my own suggestions:

We need to change people’s long-held view of the sport. How do we do it? Organize more swims and get the local community involved so that they can see for themselves what the sport is really like. We can also encourage people to watch the Olympic 10 km in London this year so that they can see competitive open-water swimming at the highest level.

Educate local authorities on what our activities involve and convince them that we are responsible, safety-conscious people who are not an insurance risk to them, i.e. they don’t need to bam us from swimming!

Convince conservative elements within the sport that increased participation is a good thing and not a threat. There will be a few who will want to keep the circle small so that they can just keep “passing around the trophy”, diplomacy will not work on them. Lift all of these unnecessary bans on wetsuits so that we can include those who simply can’t swim without them and triathletes. End the use of handicapping, especially for large races as it leads to potentially dangerous situations at the end of a race, and let’s get back to the common sense idea that whoever is fastest wins! It’s nice to win something every so often but who cares once you’re having fun?

Encourage club swimmers to try open-water swimming. Trying it isn’t going to hurt them, if they like it then they’ll stick with it, if they don’t then they just stay in the pool, what’s the big deal? In my view, every club should have a water polo squad, a diving squad, a synchro-squad and an open-water squad. I would love to see all swimming clubs progress to becoming aquatics clubs, I can see this benefiting everyone!

Swim Ireland need to some to the realization that open-water is a legitimate aquatic discipline and as such it is entitled to appropriate coordination and funding. Given the opportunity, I think open-water could be a potential area of medal winning for Ireland at the Olympics.

Maybe these might work, maybe they mightn’t, who knows unless we try? Have you got any ideas of your own? If you do, please share them with others and let’s grow this great sport. It has so much potential here in Ireland, let’s do it some justice…

Now that I’m almost finished, I’d just like to acknowledge a few people who have done a lot for open-water swimming:

Ned Denison – has done Trojan work in recruitment of both swimmers and event organizers and has encouraged so many people around the world to set big goals, and achieve them. Always leading by example, Ned is himself one of Ireland’s most accomplished open-water swimmers. Without him, the Sandycove group would not be what it is today.

Marie Murphy RIP – of Newry & Mourne SC gave the last few year’s of her life to developing the very successful Camlough Lake group in Northern Ireland. She encouraged so many young swimmers into the open-water and did so as part of the club program. She also set up the Junior Championships at Camlough with Pádraig Mallon and these have been very successful.

David Walliams – much loved comedian, swam the English Channel in [I think] 2008 for Sport Relief UK and subsequently swam the Straits of Gibraltar and the River Thames, raising millions of GB£ for charity. His high profile swims have shown the public what our sport is really about.

FINA and the IOC – have done an awful lot in recent years by running high level open-water races all around the world. Giving the top athletes an arena as they have is always raising the profile of the sport and gaining respect for the top competitors.

Finally stopped writing. Oh, I just remembered that I would like to thank Donal for letting plug my event:

Martin Duggan Memorial Swim – Sunday, 1st July 2012 – Fermoy Rowing Club, Ashe Quay, Fermoy, Co. Cork –

Apologies that the website is still “under construction”. Like Iarann-Ród Éireann***, and open-water swimming in Ireland, it’s not there yet but it’s getting there…

Owen’s English Channel Videos.

Part 1 ,

Part 2 

People of the Year Awards: 

*GAA: the Gaelic Athletic Association, the amateur organising body for traditional Irish sports, the largest organisation in Ireland  and one of the largest amateur organisations in the entire world

** County on the Irish West Coast, famous for its high cliffs and rough waters

***  Iarann-Ród Éireann: Irish name for Irish Rail

I’ve started updating the openwaterpedia.com details for the Sandycove swimmers. I’m having problems adding Owen at the moment. Here’s a list of his swims in the interim:

Around Lizard Point (7.5 km – Kynance Cove to Cadgwith) – First Time Recorded – 26th July 2008, 1 hr 59 mins, aged 15 yrs.
Cork City to Myrtleville (26 km) – First Time Recorded – 4th July 2009, 5 hrs 47 mins, aged 16 yrs.
English Channel Solo – 21st September 2009, 10 hrs 19 mins (fastest born in ROI), aged 16 yrs (youngest from IOI).
Straits of Gibraltar Solo – 22nd July 2010, 3 hrs 52 mins, aged 17 yrs.
Around Sherkin Island (16 km) – First Time Recorded – 31st August 2011, 3 hrs 58 mins.