Tag Archives: Craig Morrison

Images of 2013 – 1 – Swimming People

I wrapped up 2012 with a few posts on some photos I’d taken through the year related to swimming. About the time I writing those posts, I embarked on what is known as a 365 Project, taking a photograph (often many more) every day for a year, which I completed this week. (I started it thanks to Sandycove swimmer Riana Parsons and those 365 photographs can be seen on my Blipfoto account.

Portraiture is a difficult aspect of photography for some, including me, as it requires either a willingness to demand co-operation from subjects or a constant almost covert imposition of a camera. I’m not comfortable with either, but I have been learning to pursue the form. The number of portrait photographs from the year is still low and time goes by when I completely forget to take any.

So here are a few of my preferred shots of swimming people from the year. Once again, i chose mainly based on photographic merit rather than any personal relationships, but the range illustrates, I think, what attracts us about this sport, the people we met, the friends we make.

David IMG_0256.resized

My swimming Dad: David Frantzeskou, along with Evelyn, the owner of Varne Ridge Caravan Park outside Dover, one of my favourite places and amongst my favourite people, with so many different and enduring memories. It took some convincing of both David & Evelyn that this was a shot that I was proud of, displaying that slightly perplexed look we know so well on David’s face.

Getting ready IMG_8674.resized

I was fortunate to be part of another World Record English Channel swim crew for the second year in a row, this time with my friend Sylvain Estadieu. While images of Sylvain butterflying away from the White Cliffs or standing triumphant with the French tricoloeur are popular, this one is my favourite, the moments before the swim, a glimpse into Sylvain.

Liam MaherOn a grey day in summer we took to a few laps of Sandycove to wish our 2013 Manhattan Island Sandycove swimmers, Liam, Carol & Lisa the best. One of my shortlived waterproof cameras from this year (three!) caught a typical Liam Maher pose, English channel swimmer in front of Sandycove’s famous Red House (now beige). The Red House is used to mark final 400 metre sprints, the best line for the slipway and for the marathon swimmers of the club, could be seen from about two kilometres out for those who have braved the Speckled Door to Sandycove swim. The laugh on Liam’s face is entirely typical.

Eoin, Carol & MaeveIMG_9712.resizedAfter the Global Swim Conference visitors had all left the island, there were a few local Sandycovers hanging around chatting. Probably eating cake. Left is Eoin O’Riordan, middle is Carol Cashell and right is Maeve Moran. Eoin joined Carol in an English Channel two-way relay team as a substitute and did some great training, and the team went on to set a new two-way six person national English Channel record, after Carol had returned from getting second placed lady in the Manhattan Island Marathon swim. Maeve is another Sandycove regular and perennial and invaluable volunteer who will be swimming an English Channel relay next year.

Sakura & Nick IMG_9444_02.resized

Nick Adams, President of the CS&PF and multiple English Channel soloist and other swims, celebrates being inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as the Global Open Water Conference in Cork. With him is English Channel solo and many other swims, Dr. Sakura Hingley. Nick and Sakura had been married only recently, on August 25th, the anniversary of Captain Matthew Webb’s first English Channel solo. Both have been promising me articles for this blog for over two years. I am starting to lose hope.

Lisa IMG_9716_01.resizedMy very good friend Lisa Cummins, now living down-under and getting a free summer, well-known to all as one of the legendary two-way English channel swimmers. Lisa and I were once again on a few adventures this year, and therefore she had to put up with many attempts at portrait shots by me before I finally found one I was pleased with, in Sandycove of course.

Ray IMG_9237_01.resizedRay is a member of the Newtown and Guillamenes swimming club, my other (non-racing) club. Every day of the summer, from May until the end of September, Ray empties the bins, picks up rubbish and litter, keeps the coves and lawns of  Newtown and Guillamenes pristine, and even cleans the public toilets for the tourists, after the town council refused to so do. Ray is one the quiet heroic volunteers without whom no club in the world could survive and I have enormous respect for him.

Friends_MG_4547_01.resized

Left to right, Ciáran Byrne, Eddie Irwin, Craig Morrison, , me being manhandled, Finbarr Hedderman in back and Liam Maher, after a spring swim in Sandycove. Channel Soloists all. I didn’t take this shot, but handed the camera to Maura (Hynzie) Morrison. When you are being manhandled by Finbarr (6’4″) & Liam (6’8″) it’s like being caught in a landslide, there’s no fighting it. It’s good to have such friends.

President Billy_MG_7754.resized

Billy Kehoe, President of the Newtown and Guillamenes swimming club, 85 years old, and swimming at the Guillamenes for 75 years. I don’t think a single occasion has passed over the years that Billy hasn’t used the same joke with me, that I am not to swim past the Saltees (Islands), despite my offering to write him some new material. Billy is currently working on a history of the Newtown and Guillamenes swimming club that hopefully is almost near completion and to which I am really looking forward and will hopefuly publish her and on the club website, which I have completely neglected .

Paul Foreman IMG_8489.resized

Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation pilot and gentleman, Paul Foreman. Formerly of Pace Arrow, now of the Channel fleet’s best boat, Optimist, pilot for Gábor Molnar and Jen Hurley and our tragically lost friend Páraic Casey, Paul holds a special place of affection for many Sandycove swimmers who know him and were friends of Páraic.

Freda IMG_8419.resized

If you were to come up with any list of the ten most important people in the history of Channel swimming, Freda Streeter would be on that list. Mother of Alison, the Queen of the Channel and CS&PF Channel pilot Neil, Freda has trained hundreds of Channel swimmers and was instrumental in the formation of the CS&PF. For thirty years every weekend from May until September, with Barrie and Irene Wakeham and many others who assist, Freda runs a free Channel training camp for all comers.

Roger Finch IMG_8411.resized

I finally met cheeky chappie and South African Channel soloist Roger Finch in Varne Ridge, where all Channel swimmers eventually meet and then one day on Dover beach. He was training with Otto Thaining, whom I briefly met later. Otto was training to be the oldest Channel Soloist. Roger and I knew many people in common. Unfortunately Otto got weathered out, but my money is on him both returning and being successful next year. With the ebullient  Roger in his crew he’s all set.

Owen O' Keeffe closeup

My young friend Owen, the Fermoy Fish and I voyaged together again this year, most notably on his pioneering Blackwater swim. After Trent Grimsey’s swim last year, I’d come to the conclusion I may have taken my best ever photo of a swimmer. I guess my development as a photographer now leads to me realise that was a laughable conceit.  Reviewing my pics of the year, I’m currently of the belief this is the current best photo of a swimmer I’ve taken, getting past the stroke, the conditions, and inside Owen, as close metaphorically as I can get into another swimmer’s mind.

Group shot_MG_6640.resized

During Sandycove Distance Week, about 20 of the less lazy of the swimmers came over for a swim with me on the Copper Coast. It was one of the best days of the bet summer in a generation. There were complaints about the water being too warm! granted, this photo wasn’t chosen for its photographic merit, but for the sheer pleasure I derived from so many visitors.

Dee on Kilfarrassey Beach B&W _MG_5674.resized

Constrained as I am from publishing a photo of her, here’s my silent partner in most adventures and supporter in others. 

I look to meeting you all and capturing your images in 2014.

The race that wasn’t

Finbarr started it with the idea of a Sandycove three-lap invitational race at the end of October. With two weeks to go and no mention, Carol Cashell and I raised the idea again and discussion ensued.

With less than a week to go the starting lineup was small. The forecast for the weekend showed the Irish south-coast would catch the spin-off of storm Saint Jude. (I know, I’ve never heard a storm called after a Saint either). Winds were forecast to be Beaufort Five minimum.

Excellent! A bit of rough water was ideal to level the field. After all the Sandycove locals have it too easy at times, when the weather blows out they just start swimming inside the island. Pfft.

The worse the forecast the better, as far as Carol and I were concerned. Although as the fastest of the group, it wasn’t like she needed an advantage. By Thursday the weather forecasters were all getting excited like we don’t have big storms every year. Jude would bypass Ireland and clobber the UK, and Ireland would be assailed by nothing worse than Force Nine or so. The worst of Saturday’s weather was due to hit before mid-day when the worst of the storm would arrive on the south coast. We were aiming for TITW at 11.30am.

Email negotiations about all the various safety requirements, race rules, evacuation procedures and volunteers led to a concise rule set:

  • Two laps, handicapped.
  • Cake to be proved afterwards by Carol.
  • No rubber knickers.
  • Finbarr was allowed to drown anyone foolish enough to get within an arm length of him (a rule on which he insisted, disguising it as English Channel Rules).

Despite beating Rob and Craig this year, I was due to get an excellent three-minute handicap over both of them, which i didn’t refuse. All’s fair. Rob Bohane is a member of the “M” 1000+ lap club, as is Finbarr and Craig Morrison is a member of the “D” 500+ lap club,. Eddie Irwin, Carol Cashell and myself are all “C” swimmers of 100+ laps. All highly experienced marathon swimmers with many and varied skills.

The local forecast for Sandycove showed winds peaking between 10am and 1pm, anywhere from Force 6 to Force 8.

Second Corner IMG_0094
Second Corner to third corner, buoy in the distance.

The second corner looked quite reasonable when I arrived, though the rain meant I could only take one quick shot. The wind was still rising. Down at the slipway, another M club member (1000+), Mags Buckley (no relation) said the water was lovely and warm but she’d stayed to the inside.

From the slipway we could see the waves breaking across the first corner, and the outside wave that only breaks when winds are getting high, reaching into the corner. The expert round beside the first corner was impossible. The normal route outside first corner was impossible. Even the cowardly route outside the normal first corner was … (f)risky. I like (f)risky.

At the last minute, the handicap and race was thrown out. Then the five others started swimming just as I was on the slipway. The water was indeed warm, an extraordinary for end of October fourteen degrees (57F).

Just getting to the outside was testing. The narrow point between the island and mainland produced an unpredictable wall to swim through, which ripped my goggles off. Going over the top resulted in a crash into the trough. Unlike a breaking wave, it wasn’t predictable. Meanwhile waves were peeling off the corner rocks where the expert Sandycovers normally cut inward. The first corner was froth but all the guys were waiting beside the outside break. I took a slightly inside line, watching for the rock that is only exposed to air in conditions like this, having seen it once last year from above in similar conditions, and therefore having its location well imprinted. I stopped to fix my goggles a second time, something that was to continue for the whole swim as they were constantly loosened by the waves. Then we were all off again.

The waves were about three metres, not at all unusual for a Tramore Bay swimmer, and in the “lumpy” category. But outside the island, things change. Apart from being in the direct path of the south-west wind coming over the Old Head of Kinsale, some wind was diverted at water level along the side of the coast. Waves climbed out of deeper water onto the island shelf to produce one of the most unpredictable of water states, that of reflected waves over rock.

First corner. Note the outside wave, which had grown by the time we started.
First corner. Note the outside wave, which had grown by the time we started.

The waves hit the island and bounced back, doubling up with incoming waves at different times and places, causing sudden occasional peaks of four to five metres or shelving waves to scend suddenly, like a punch of water. The 360 degree horizon was mere metres away for everyone, all of us sunken into watery bowls, except for the island’s grassy profile, the wind and rain and spume filling the air, grace in the water impossible even for a swimmer of Carol’s style.

It was excellent fun, that feeling of being hurled and thrown by an ocean that would be terrifying for beginners but feels like an opportunity to revel for a more experienced swimmer.

One moment we were two or three metres apart, the next we were thrown onto each other. I picked up a scrape, not from rocks, but from Rob being thrown onto me fingernails first.

The second corner is where expert Sandycovers risk the limit. The interface of gradually descending reef and pushing swell. How close? How much risk can you take? We love the second corner. Approaching out of the kidney bean shape, you can be too close or too far out, and even if you get a great line, you still have others to deal with. Others who put you on the reef, or risk the reef themselves, and laugh. People like Finbarr, Craig, Rob, or me. The second corner is a melee, a game of chicken played not with other swimmers but with rock. Unthinking, unmoving and therefore always triumphant rock.

But not that day. The second corner was instead a marine Jackson Pollock, the reef as canvas, the sea as paint, the wind as artist. From outside we could only see the precipice of the artichokey-feldgrau waves as they crashed onto the corner. We all went wide, to a greater or lesser extent. Carol and I cut in a little as we passed the first two hundred and seventy degrees of turn, catching a wave to pass the trailing end of the reef.

We stopped again to regroup. Past the second corner is a favourite spot of Sandycove swimmers, inside the mush, behind the reef, where if you are not racing, you can stop and chat, before you race back anyway.

Inside channel IMG_0101
Inside the island, deceptively calm an hour earlier

Assembled again we all re-started, as I grabbed the positional advantage. The visibility decreasing as the wind of the leeward side funneled around the low third corner. Then around into the inside. Sheltered from the outside storm, the visibility, already poor, actually decreased. The wind poured up the inside, driving rain and chop head-on. The Red House (now grey) took ages to pass swimming against the wind. Eddie passed on my left. Carol passed me on the right, their better strokes more advantageous in the lesser size of these conditions. Was I middle of the Channel or left of right? I couldn’t see. The water here lacked any visibility also. Any one stupid enough to be on a boat in the channel on the day better be keeping an eye out for the even-more-stupid swimmers.

Past the Red House eventually, the forward chop constantly slapping me in the face. Stay low. Get under it. I know where the slipway should be, but instead I swing left. The fourth corner seems miles away on my left. It’s an island though so I can’t get lost.

Had to line up for the first corner again. From this angle you normally approach really close in. But there are rocks beside the island between fourth and first so outward, back through the middle of the gap, once again getting hit by the waves of the narrow point. Further out this time, the waves looked bigger. Outside the corner, finally out of the head-on rain, I stopped and looked around. No sign of the others. Ha! Loneswimmer alone again.

No further waiting I set off again, enjoying the outside once more, watching for the pure white water indicative of a sub-surface reef, watching for square waves within two metres of me, sliding along the faces of the sudden peaks to surf in and swim back out, tacking and gibing my way around the island, going wider around the second and third corners to enter the inside channel again, and to cruise back to the slipway, the driving rain dropping but the water visibility still being impenetrable, until I crashed into the slipway, the other five already changed having only completed one lap each. Default winner of the race that wasn’t! Didn’t even bother towelling dry in the rain. Cakes and buns from Carol and Maura Morrison.

Thirty minutes later the wind had almost died, the rain was gone, and the water settled. We had got the timing exactly right. By accident.

I once suggested Mike Harris’s “It’s a bit lumpy, chaps” could the club motto, and this day was the epitome of that attitude. Rough water is fun (once you know you don’t have to swim through it for the next twelve hours).

Swimming 2012, continuing the pictorial tour – faces of 2012

The chief inadequacy amongst my many photographic skills is the portrait. In fact I don’t think of them as portraits, but the more prosaic “pictures of people”. I really struggle with them, with imposing on people, especially when I know that it’ll usually be a waste of their time. So I try to grab snapshots unobtrusively where possible, and that’s when I remember. I have had to learn that people are mostly interested in pictures of people. And then I cheat in making them look better by using black and white. I’ve read a comment by a photographer I can’t find, that colour photography shows you the picture of their clothes, black and white shows you the colour of their soul. Take that for whatever it’s worth being repeated by an atheist.

Here are some of my favourite photos of swimming people from 2012. Apologies to all the important people, friends and family, in my life who aren’t here. And bigger apologies to those who are.

Alan Clack at Sandycove,
Alan Clack at Sandycove,

Alan Clack, aka the George Clooney of open water swimming. I actually took this on my phone, hence the slightly grainy look (which is not deliberate).

Man of the Year
Man of the Year

Stephen Redmond signing my book after returning from his final triumphant Ocean’s Seven swim in Japan.

President Billy
President Billy

Billy Kehoe, President of the Newtown and Guillamenes swimming club. Seventy five years swimming there and a gentleman.

The record-setters
The record-setters

English Channel soloists Craig Morrison (left) and Rob The Bull Bohane (right). Craig set a new club record for the English Channel. And then Rob set a newer club record. It’s worthwhile visualising the pair drinking champagne from a bucket on Sandycove Island one autumn Friday night at twilight… in a storm.  The bottle was in the bucket.

Liam Maher
Liam Maher

At nine feet tall, English Channel soloist Liam Maher is twice the height of the average four and a half foot tall French person, Sylvain Estadieu, the Flying Frenchman excepted. Sylvain is a strangely small four feet high but with a wingspan of nine feet.

Loneswimming
Loneswimming

Yours truly at Coumshingaun. How arrogant is that? I’m trying to overcome self-consciousness only exacerbated by this photo. This may not be the image to do it with. Photo taken by Dee.

Lisa
Lisa

She’ll kill me for this. Irish Queen of the Sea, Lisa Cummins, visiting the spot where she tumble-turned off France after her first lap of the Channel.

Finbarr
Finbarr

English Channel Soloist and King of Cold Water Finbarr Hedderman hides his happy face. He had just recently lost his flowing locks. Micro-seconds after this was taken, I sure was subject to the usual Corkonian abuse.

Three amigos
Three amigos

Channel swimmers Rob Bohane (right), Ciaran Byrne (left), and myself (centre), after a training swim in Dover. Owen O’Keefe Maybe Lisa actually took this photo with my camera? I finally remember, it was Super Crewman Kieran O’Connor! The Fermoy Fish did well. Only after you’ve struggled out of the water up Dover’s almost-lethal shingle can you appreciate its difficulty.

The Authority
The AUTHORITY

Sandycove island Club Chairwoman Liz Buckley (no relation, fake half-sister) is mammy to us all, while Club Secretary Ned Denison downs a quick swig of gripe-water. Not at all like the Soviet Politburo. At all.

The perfect picnic
The perfect picnic

I said on the day it was the best picnic ever. Cap Gris Nez. This was definitely better in colour, as was the day. Left to right: Liam Maher, Rob Bohane, Lisa Cummins, Paraic Casey, Riana Parsons, Catherine Walsh, Craig Morrison.

Paraic & Riana
Paraic & Riana, Dover Castle

I need to swim now.

Q & A with Trent Grimsey

A couple of weeks after his record-breaking English Channel swim, I put some questions to Trent, from myself and some of you on Twitter, and quite a lot from fellow Aussie English Channel and Sandycove swimmer Craig Morrison. Most the questions are a swimmer’s point of view.
I’ve been asked how much long I could make Trent’s story continue on the blog and the answer is this is the last one. For this year anyway..
In the meantime, Trent has been nominated for Male Swim of the Year on the marathonswimmers.org forum. You need to be a member to vote. Membership is open marathon and aspiring marathon swimmers. On the forum he has also been nominated for the Barra Award for Overall Performance of the year.
And Trent has also been nominated for two World Open Water Swimming Awards, where nominations are open to the public, Man of the Year, and Performance of the Year.
Also I put together a short 6 minute video of Trent’s Channel swim.
Feeding, best feeding interval for long & short stuff?

In long races I normally feed every 15 minutes but with the Channel I knew every second would count so that’s why I decided to feed every 20 minutes!

Pre-race eating pattern, a week of pigging your self or always the same?

I always try to keep it the same although if it’s a race over 5 hours I really eat a lot of food the day before just for the extra fuel.

What do you eat before and after training, say morning session?

Before training a bowl of cereal, then after training I eat my big breakfast… 3 pieces of toast, baked beans and fruit.

How many calories do you consume daily, healthy or anything goes?

I try to eat as healthy as I can from Monday to Friday then on the weekends I eat whatever I want! I don’t count calories.

Land base training. How much how important, if you had to pick 3 exercises what would they be?

Three months ago I finished my personal training degree so this is something I’m really interested in. I do weights two times a week, I ride the exercise bike three times a week, I do a little bit of core everyday.

Stretching, is it crap or important?

I think stretching is very important. I try to stretch everyday!

What’s a typical workout when training for EC, as opposed to 10k?

The training is not too different, just a couple more aerobic sessions a week and a couple less speed sessions.

Any cross training, how much?
 

Exercise bike, weights, core

Typical interval work ie. 100×100, 10×1000 etc. how much rest between sets?

Most of my aerobic work is done on a 1.10 to 1.15 cycle.
This reminds me of something I forgot to put in the final section of the story of Trent’s Channel records, when we were returning. After Damián and Trent returned to the boat, Harley and Trent were discussing the end of the swim. Damián was able to say that Trent has been swimming at 1:11 to 1:11:5 per 100. For swimmers, two thing sleep out from that. the first is the speed that Trent was still swimming after crossing the Channel. The second is that Damián was able to so accurately identify swim speed to within half a second, from experience.
Anything scientific out of the normal, that elite swimmers like yourself do compared to the rest of us?
While swimming the Channel this year I had some duck tape on my swimming cap because I didn’t want it to fall off!
Were you scared or nervous steaming out to the beach?  
No I wasn’t nervous or scared, just excited. I knew I had done everything I could have possible done to have prepared myself for this so there was no reason to be nervous.
 
I was enormously impressed by your calm in the face of Mike Oram’s, um, unique way of dealing with swimmers, and became an 100% fan right there, no reservations. How much negativity do you have to deal with as a world-class swimmer?
There are a lot of athletes that like playing head games with their competitors in marathon swimming. I believe you need to be very mentally strong to deal with some of these games. You learn to just discard what you know is not true and don’t let it affect you!
 
I told Harley that I thought it was important that you say you’d booked the Channel three years ago, when Mike O (or most of us) wouldn’t have had a clue who you were. How and when were you infected by the Channel dream?
I must have been about 10 years old when I found out people could actually swim the English Channel. Ever since I found this out I have had a dream of being the fastest person to have ever swam it. I hate not being the fastest or best at something!
 
Photo courtesy of Owen O’Keefe

Has the enormity of what you’ve achieved started to sink in? The Channel is a huge deal. The Channel community says it changes you. Did you ever hear the Chad Hundeby English Channel story? Nearly 20 years ago, it was a different time. He’d been World Number 1 a while, but he said when people asked how his Channel was, and he said he hadn’t done it yet, the other swimmers would just nod and say nothing. He said he felt until he did the Channel he hadn’t really arrived. Like you he set the record on his first swim. 

Yes, I think the enormity of what I have done has only just now started to sink in. I’m so glad to be able to tell people I have swam the English Channel, I feel I can finally say I’m a real marathon swimmer now I’ve swam the Channel.
 
What does your training and racing year look like generally? Do you work it out with Harley?
For the rest of the year it will just be a big training block really. I have a few smaller races here and in New Zealand that I’ll be doing but that’s about it. I tell Harley what races I want to do and we work out together what the best plan will be to get there.
 
If this isn’t too difficult a question, what would say were the key components of your success? (excluding pilot)
The extra weight I put on, drinking all my feeds, and the encouragement I got the whole way from my crew.
 
How much stroke/technique/out of water work do you do? I know from talking to Harley you changed your diet, decreased running, to put on weight, he said it decreased your recovery time and illnesses. What are your thoughts on it?
I’m not a very strong swimming, just very rhythmic. This is why I do two weight sessions a week to get me stronger and that in turns helps with my stroke.
 
Yes, I believe having the extra weight on helped me recover faster from training and races. It also helped with recovering from sickness!
 
How do you plan and deal with all the travelling and living on two sides of the world?
It does get a little hard sometimes living in Australia because we are so far away and it’s so expensive to travel anywhere but in saying that it’s so fun travelling and racing on the circuit!
 
You and Harley seem like a really close team. How have you both previously dealt with the adversity of people not believing in you? I don’t think it’ll be a problem in the future.
I think the best way to deal with people not believing in you is to prove them wrong!
Everything I saw you do was 100% connected to getting you to France quicker. Swimming, feeding, technique, positive thoughts and encouragement. It was an awesome display of comprehensive scope. How did you learn to focus so much on the positive mental side ? Any tips there?
I believe the only way to get better at focusing and thinking positive during a race is to practice it as much as you can.
 
What next?
World Championships next year. I think I can win a gold medal there!
 
Can I crew next time? :-)
Definitely, you and Owen. I am going to book in again for 2014, around early September or late August. I believe I can take another 5 to 10 minutes off the record!
Finally Trent’s got some new t-shirts ..
Well folks, that last line isn’t a bluff, Trent is actually in the planning process for 2014, hopefully Owen and I will be there again, and therefore so will you be, if loneswimmer.com last that long.