Tag Archives: Sandycove

Images of 2013 – 2 – Swimming Locations

I didn’t think 2013 was a great year for swimming new locations for me, though early in the year I’d hoped that would be different. Unsurprising, I suppose, as the longer I’ve been swimming, the further I would need to travel to swim new locations. I’ve covered all the Copper Coast, much of the rest of the Waterford coast and I’m not a fan of river swimming, and there are no significant lakes anywhere near me. Also, I had no big swim this year, not being able to afford one, and the situation looks the same for 2014. :-(

But that didn’t stop me having a look through the year’s locations, and there were a few I’d forgotten to add to my favourites and in review the year wasn’t bad.

I’ll start with my watery home, Waterford’s Copper Coast, and most specifically Tramore Bay from my usual starting location of the Guillamenes Cove.

Tramore Bay_MG_8972.resized
A very calm day in Tramore Bay in December, made even calmer through use of a very long exposure. The orange buoy is about 450 metres out, can’t be seen from distance in the water, and what I use to test my navigation skills during the summer, requiring of myself that I reach it with no more than a 25 metre deviation to either side.

It wasn’t all good at the Guillamenes this year. The increasing litigiousness of Irish society and the nonsensical and fearfully reactionary approach of Tramore town council and my own club led to this steel monstrosity, which so incensed Wallace.

Wallace Guillamenes

Newtown Cove is only 200 metres away from the Guillamene Cove. Though I swim past it on at least half of all my swims, dependant of swim direction, yet I start there less than one time in a hundred. We did however start the distance camp swim from Newtown Cove.

Cove entrance_MG_8971.resized

My favourite other location on the Copper coast is Kilfarassey, providing as it does a range of reefs, caves, tunnels and swim distances and directions, centered around my favourite playground of Burke’s Island which sits about 600 metres from the beach. As a swimmer and blogger I use more representational images. But as an aspiring photographer, I’m increasingly drawn to try to capture more of how I feel about a place.

Burke's Island IMG_8614_01In the first two of the extraordinary five whole weeks of summer that Ireland received in 2013, while the water hadn’t yet risen above 10C, I swam more on the coast at the east side of Tramore Bay. Swimming out from Ballymacaw, Portally and Dunmore East, including finally swimming partway into Seal Cave between Portally and Ballymacaw, a scary place. I’ve never swum this wild stretch of coast without experiencing strong tidal currents running east or west.

One Saturday in June, I took some photos of an inshore fishing boat passing below the cliff walk. Three days later I heard of yet another boat from the local main fishing port of Dunmore East lost with all three hands, all of them brothers, off Powerstown Head, which marks the entrance to Tramore Bay and can be seen in the first photo above, and which is the terminus of the easternmost stretch of Waterford’s coast. When I checked my photographs, it was indeed the same boat, the Dean Leanne, with two of the three tragically lost brothers onboard, probably the last every photograph of the brothers at sea. I found a connection to the family and passed on all the photos.

Dean Leanne & Hook head

In January a group of us attempted an Ice Mile in Dublin at the Bull Wall, but the water wasn’t cold enough, even though I got quite hypothermic.

The swim route. Nothing much to see here.
The swim route. Nothing much to see here.

A few weeks later In March, the same group swam in the Wicklow Mountains at Lough Dan. For a variety of reasons I decided against the full attempt but the trip was great, and wading into ice-covered water measuring less than two degrees at the edges was … interesting.

Lough Dan_IMG_1304.resized

 In the coldest spring in over fifty years in Ireland, Dee and I took some Mexican visitors to the West Coast for the view. The howling Force Eight wind and five degree (Celsius) air meant they were unable to emerge to see much of the scenery. But apparently the most shocking thing they saw was me going swimming in Doolin harbour in a three metre swell in a howling wind and crashing waves, wearing a Speedo, with a dolphin and two fully dry-suited divers. How Dee & I chuckled.

Beyond Doonagore Castle the Crab Beast roars
Beyond Doonagore Castle, Doolin Bay with Crab Island bearing a full Atlantic attack. This shot was taken three miles from that wave.

I don’t think my first Sandycove trip of 2013 was until April, but I managed more Sandycove laps in 2013 than in 2012. My lifetime total is still well below 200, so joining the Sandycove “D” Club of 500 lap swimmers seems distant at best and I shall to remain content with being  “C” club member. Most of the rest of the County Cork Coast eluded me this year, despite early promises from other Sandycove swimmers. And I guess I’ve written and shown you plenty of Sandycove before.

Morning view from the outside west entrance with the sun in the east. The slipway is on the left, some of the reefs at the first corner are appearing and the tide is dropping toward low.
The Red House above is no longer red.

April and May saw me returning to my usual caves on the coast, but leaving exploration for new caves until the water warms up later on in the summer.

Newtown Cave
It is impossible to capture the range of light visible to the human eye with a camera in one photograph but I love the reflections of this shot from inside Newtown Head cave.

I made it back to Coumshingaun in the Comeragh Mountains during both winter and summer. Coumshingaun is the closest lake to me, if one ignores the 45 minute climb, but only I swim it during summer as the edge is circled with rocks and being so far from a road the risks are too high to swim in winter. 

Coumshingaun in winter (Nat Geo filter).resized

Loneswimming Coumshingaun.resized

I’m not sure if I made it out to Carricknamoan rock off Clonea in 2012, but I was back there in 2103. It’s a swim that looks simple in the picture below, taken from the slight height above the beach, and is only about three kilometres round trip, but it still requires experience as the rock is so low that it can’t be seen until the last couple of hundred metres, and there are changing tidal currents.

Carricknamoan & Black Rock_MG_4927-resized.resized

 I also completed a short swim I’d scouted in 2012, swimming out of Ardmore Bay to the wreck of the Samson, under the cliffs of Ardmore Head. (Ardmore is the oldest Christian settlement in Ireland). You can take a shorter 10 minute swim to the wreck if you climb down the path to the angling point and start from there, but what’s the fun in that? While rounding Ardmore Head into the bay on the return swim, Dee took a favourite photo with mine.

Loneswimming IMG_4749.resized

While Distance Camp final weekend and the qualification and torture swims were on, I instead cancelled my planned attendance on the last weekend to catch up with a swim I wanted to do for many years, to circumnavigate Skellig Michael, the 800 feet high island peak the site of a 1500 year old ancient hermetic site, 12 miles off the Irish south-west on the end of the Continental Shelf. Another swim not for beginners, despite its short course.

NW reef IMG_7077.resized

During the summer, I also range out along the Copper Coast away from usual entry and exit spots, particularly liking to risk swimming across Ronan’s Bay, as the return trip can present currents strong enough to cut swim speed by two-thirds and generate a significant challenge.

Newtown Head and the Metalman & pillars from across Ronan’s bay

August is the summer peak for open water swimmers. Long warm(-ish) days (this is Ireland after all), warm water (16 to 17 degrees Celsius in August this year, exceptional) and races. Carol Cashell organises the local favourite Ballycotton 4 kilometres race, which is usually cursed with bad weather, late in August. It’s a challenging swim and the conditions the past two years have made it an experienced-swimmer-only race.

After the race, after the pub, I wandered back down to the tiny beach to catch the moon over the island.

Ballycotton Island moon IMG_8815.resizedSeptember saw two visits to Dover for Sylvain’s Channel Butterfly swim. So there were the usual swims in Dover Harbour,

Dover Harbour Entrance IMG_0196

…and a swim into France with Sylvain. Channel dawn.resized

Not a bad swimming year I guess, in reflection.

If the weather co-operates, when this post is published, I’ll be swimming at the Guillamenes for my Christmas day swim.

Update: The Christmas day weather didn’t co-operate. The swim was cancelled due to heavy seas, but I swam anyway and about 20 people foolishly followed me into the water. Foolish as the swell as almost three metres, and I’ve had a lot of practice at timing and rough water particularly in Tramore Bay. But everyone was safe and fun was had.

Maybe we’ll get to swim together next year but regardless, have a happy holiday and my best to you all, my friends.

Related articles

Images of 2013 – 1 – Swimming People (loneswimmer.com)

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.


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.

An introduction to swimming at Sandycove – Part 1

Inside Sandycove Island
Inside Sandycove Island, from Third to Fourth Corner

I’ve been meaning to put this post for the past two years before the start of each year’s Distance Training Week!

Let’s start with a caution: Sandycove Island in Cork is a location for experienced open water swimmers. It should not be dismissed because it is (now) well-known or because there are many local swimmers. You should as always be aware of the tide and wind conditions and it is preferable to swim around the island with others according the local schedule. Any of the most experienced local swimmers can tell scary stories about swimming around the outside. 

I’ll also point out that there is a Sandycove Island Swim Club website. Tide times are not posted at the slipway but are posted on the website in the daily schedule (below). There are six current swimmers (crowned with special M Club swim caps) in the Thousand Plus Lifetime Laps club. There are more members of the 500 Lap L club and I myself am a far-flung member of the C Club (100+ lifetime laps) having only notched up about 150 laps, (but given I live two and half hours away…). Sandycove Island from Google Earth high-res A minimum of ten swims in different weather and tide conditions will start to give a good understanding of a particular location and obviously the more one swims at any location the better one understand its vagaries. Any of the C club members or up have a very good understanding of the island and have come to understand a lot of the finer points, in some cases literally.

Organised swims according the club schedule are held about one hundred and fifty days of the year and the annual calender is on the website (2013 schedule). With intermediate and distance and triathlete swimmers all swimming locally there is nearly always someone around for the scheduled swims. Sandycove and Sandycove Island are situated on the south-west Irish (Cork) coast outside the town of Kinsale. To the general population it is not anywhere near as well-known as Ireland’s other more famous swimming location of the same name but is better known amongst open water swimmers and is the swimming home of many experienced long distance and proficient sea-swimmers.

The group includes three Triple Crown swimmers, and currently nineteen English Channel soloists with many more swimming achievements, a list of which is kept on the Sandycove Swimmers website, (updated at the end of each swim season). A few miles to the west of the cove is the Old Head of Kinsale, which stretches out six kilometres and protects this stretch of coast from some of the prevailing south-westerly swell and storms. The cove offers the possibility of inside laps when the conditions outside the island are too rough and it’s possible to swim up into the usually warmer estuary behind the island (which also has more boat moorings) but not on low tide.

A south-easterly wind is generally considered the worst condition for swimming anywhere in the cove, and in this wind even the inside of the island is exposed with only the very short near (west) side being protected.

Around the island swimming is almost exclusively anti-clockwise (counter-clockwise for my North American friends) around the island, partially due to being easier to navigate the various rocks and because it is easier and safer to navigate into the cove from outside the island. Since the direction is now established it is therefore safer to be swimming in the same direction as others. Anti-clockwise swims tend to only occur on multi-lap long swims that go through the low tide period.

American Channel swimmer Jen Schumacher negotiating the kelp at low tide
American Channel swimmer Jen Schumacher negotiating the kelp at low tide

Water temperature around the island is variable, as is depth.  Amongst the coldest parts is the shallow entrance where all swims start at the slipway, as there is a cold stream feeding in. The stretch out to the first corner is slightly warmer. Passing outside the “first corner” is usually cold especially having transitioned from warmer water inside. Inside the island, protected from the exposed sea, or after the second corner where the river estuary can improve temperatures can also be warmer but not necessarily so. On occasion, these conditions can reverse with the outside being warmer. This variability and daily unpredictability is part of the difficulty and attraction of Sandycove for long distance training and it is common to hear it said that the temperature range around the island can be two degrees on a single lap. This may sound insignificant but the difference between ten and twelve degrees Celsius is very wide.

There is sea life. There is at least one local common seal, not often seen but which does occasionally shadow swimmers. The protected location means jellyfish infestations are light and the far side of the Old Kinsale Head only a few miles west has much higher numbers. The waters are home to the usual denizens of seabass, sprats and shellfish and occasionally mackerel shoals outside.

The water is clean though it does taste somewhat interesting as one swims the last hundred metres into the slipway. Water visibility has the same range as the rest of the Irish coast from clear to impenetrable with the clearest days usually following a northerly wind (and therefore often the coldest days).

Apart from windless days, the calmest conditions are on northerly and north-westerly winds as these are offshore for both of the two “long sides” of the island. Calmer days are not often the warmest unless during an unusually sunny long spell during the summer. Long periods of windlessness or sun are rare in Ireland.

Sandycove Island. Red House on the left, Fourth Corner on left, First Corner on bottom right, Finbarr's Beach bottom left of the island.
Sandycove Island. Red House on the left, Fourth Corner on left, First Corner on bottom right, Finbarr’s Beach bottom left of the island. Lower tide , much more of the Fourth and First Corner’s reefs exposed.

Part 2.


Steve Redmond’s Homecoming

If you are in Ireland, you know Steve is getting pretty great coverage and reception here in Ireland, as it should be. Many interviewers don’t really get it, you can hear the bemusement in their voices. But in fairness to them, those of us who are swimmers have trouble wrapping our heads around it.

For most of the world, to swim ONE of those swims is only a dream. Only the tinyest percentage of people complete one or two.

Steve, for now, is the only person, ever, to complete all seven swims and will always be the first.

Just pause there for a moment: Three years, seven Channels, eleven swims.

Hundreds of people met Stephen and Noel Browne, one of Steve’s most trusted friends, Tsugaru crew and significant organiser and behind the scenes powerhouse, when they returned to Cork, the Rebel County, and the real capitol at Cork Airport last night. They had spent almost all the time from immediately after finishing Tsugaru on Sunday travelling home.

Media interviews

Many travelled in convoy back to West Cork through Clonakilty with car horns honking toward Ballydehob, with bonfires blazing on the hills, a Celtic tradition thousands of years old. “Home is the sailor, home from the sea”.

Stephen & Ann, Noel & partner

There were special greetings and homecomings in Cork. Steve’s wife Ann was at the airport, as were his two kids, little Stevie and Siadbh, family, friends, supporters and swimmers.

If you’ve read Steve’s previous accounts of swims here, you will know that his mantra while swimming is to repeat his children’s names, and as Ann said last night to Sandycove Island Swim Club Chairwoman Liz and myself, when things get tough he adds her name!

Stephen and the Lough Ine swimming & support Crew

Stephen was grabbed by national TV on exiting the gate to much cheering, but he moved to grab his family and close friends, including close friend and Lough Ine training partner and Sandycove Island Swimming pioneer and Channel swimmer Steven Black.

Stephen & Steven

We waited around, talked a lot of swimming, and then the man himself came over, lots of manly and womanly swim hugs and we got time to talk with him, and he shared some details of the Tsugaru swim, that made all us swimmers feel like we were there. As Liam said, that moment alone was special. Stephen said to me he’d already written up the Tsugaru swim report for me, and I hadn’t even asked this time, I figured he had more than enough professionals hanging on his time and every word. We were there because we are all open water swimmers and admirers and he is one, in fact right now he is The Swimmer.

We took a picture with the members of Sandycove Island Swim Club who were able to make it.

Back l-r : Lisa Cummins, Steven Black, Ciaran Byrne, Finbarr Hedderman, Liam Maher, Stephen Redmond, Owen O’Keeffe, Noel Browne, Liz Buckley
Front l-r: Ossi Schmidt, me, Gabor Molnar

Being an unashamed fanboy, I of course got his autograph, not for the first time.

Welcome home Steve. You make us all proud to be Irish, proud to be swimmers, and proud to know you. Arise Cork, and take your place among the nations of the world.

So, Stephen’s Tsugaru swim report, coming in two days!

Grant Proposal and Application – Toward a post-modern contextualization of swimming sub-cultures

To: European Union Centre for Anthropological Studies, Irish Department of Sport,  Irish Department of Heritage and Tourism, FINA, South London Swimming Club, Sandycove Island Swimming Club, Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, Irish Bankers Association, the wealthy guy from down the road.

Proposal: The advent of ubiquitous communication and democratization of publication has led to an explosion in discussion and participation in the sport of swimming. Formerly normative bicameral paradigms of swimming as principally pool or open water have divested into non-homogeneous externally identified cliques, and observers vest power through the actions of promotion and advertisement by further fracturing the tenuous nomenclature into new terminology.

Figure 1 postulates the current dialectic of nomenclature as a guide to this proposed research. Is this self-identification valid and symptomatic of previous disenfranchisement, or is it an attempt at further hegemony?
Figure 1: Toward a new taxonomy of open water swimming. (It’s a Zoo out there. Apparently.)
The new taxonomy of open water swimming. It's a Zoo out there. Apparently.
This researcher seeks to observe, identify and codify this ontological re-upholstering and search out the semiotics of natation and the ideologies of various tribal sub-cultures. Are the new modalities of signification phallogocentric posturing, intertextual multivocalities of post-colonial others previously excluded by a white male Western patriarchy or a new hyper-contemporaneous narrative?
Me? I’m just an open water swimmer.


oceans7 banner

The Redman Aquathon – Fundraiser for Stephen Redmond

Fundraising event: Redman Aquathon

This event is a fund-raiser for Stephen Redmond’s 7th Great Ocean swim ! He hopes to be the first swimmer in the world to complete the Ocean 7 Swim Challenge. If you’d like to support him come along to the Aquathon on the 29th, will be a fun day!

Old Head of Kinsale, Co, Cork.
Old Head of Kinsale, Co, Cork. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Date: 29th April 2012
Location: Gary Lucas Beach, Garretstown ,Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork
Distances: Swim: 650m Run: 6.5km
Start Time: 12.00
Registration Location: Speckled Door Pub
Race Director: Anders Ingelsten (+353)0879195421
Sponsor: The Edge Sports Shop

Entry: Single €30, Relay €45 (includes food after the race at the Speckled Door pub)

This is the only AQUATHON run in Munster 2012 and it’s a FUNdraising event for Stephen Redmond’s final swim. All proceeds of the event will go to supporting Stephen. Therefore this race will be run on shoe string budget with no fancy prizes or goodie bags. The focus of the event is to have FUN and raise money for Stephen. All competitors need to either be a Triathlon Ireland Member or have a One Day License from Triathlon Ireland.

Note that registration can be done on the day and One Day Licences also can be bought on the day. The cost for a One Day License is €5.

Registration and the free after event meal is at the Speckled Door pub.

More details can be found here: http://www.westcorktri.com/

If you are unfortunate enough to not live in Ireland,  and are unable to attend, you can still donate to Steve’s fundraising on his site.

If the swim looks a bit short, some Sandycove swimmers will just be staying in the water.



Something important that I recently learned

If doing a long swim with a training partner … who is faster than you anyway … if you are barely managing to hold onto his bubbles … do not, I repeat DO NOT give him some of your caffeinated carbohydrate feed (Hammer Perpetuum with Caffeine) at the 21k point … ESPECIALLY if he has been off caffeine for four months!


Or you will see him take off like Speedy MacSpeedster, the holder of the Speedy Family’s speed record.

Gábor and I had a 24k last Friday. Unfortunately I can’t share the session details as it’s under an NDA from Coach Eilís. Suffice to say it was tough. According to Gábor, graduates of this particular session shall henceforth be known as The 24 Carat Club, and includes all this year’s Sandycove marathon swimmers. Also swimming at various times during the day were Queen Lisa, marathon swimmer Rob The Bull Bohane, and 2012 Aspirants Catherine Sheridan & Carmel Collins.


Recovery was about four days to feeling almost normal while swimming, pretty good.

I am now off caffeine again myself.

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.

Some of the Irish marathon swimmers, with some new 20122 additions

Sandycove Swimmers – Pressure to achieve

One of the great things about the Sandycove group is actually that it raises one’s own expectations of oneself.

I reminded of that when I saw a quotation from Lewis Pugh on Twitter: “Don’t join an easy crowd. You won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform and achieve are high.” Jim Rohn.

That’s exactly what has happened in Sandycove. As new swimmers join the marathon club, whether Zurich, Gibraltar, Windermere, the English Channel or an eight-hour around the island, the indirect and direct pressure on other swimmers grow. Sometimes, when we know we have a likely candidate, the pressure is overt and consistent: “You should be signing up now!” Other times it grows in the person themselves, “if they can do it, so can I” or “I want to try that too”.

There are currently, at the start of 2012, 16 English Channel Soloists from the group;

Diarmuid O’Brien, Ned Denison, Imelda Hughes , Ray Terry, Danny Coholane, Finbarr Hedderman, Eddie Irwin, Niall O’ Crualaoich, Owen O’ Keeffe, Lisa Cummins (English Channel Two-Way), Sylvain Estadieu, Liam Maher, Jennifer Hurley, Donal Buckley, Ciáran Byrne, Gábor Mólnar.

Some of the Irish marathon swimmers, with some new 2012 additions

Those swimmers have also completed many other distance swims in Ireland and elsewhere. Sandycove is a real name in marathon open water swimming, great for a small country that needs any confidence it can claim right now. 2012 will see that number jump significantly again. Also this year there will be MIMS swims, Windermere doubles, Rottnest, Zurich and other as yet unadvertised or private swims. The group’s influence spreads throughout the country and now even further.

Lewis is right. Joining or visiting a marathon group like Sandycove (or South London SC or the Serps group, Dover, CIBBOWS, La Jolla, Huntingdon/LA, San Francisco, Cape Town, Perth) will make you think about and question your own capabilities and make you push yourself beyond where you might previously not have even considered. It’s not even important that you live  close to one, by an occasional visit to one of these groups you gain friends, support, expertise  and experience and that all important drive to improve and push your limits.

Continue reading


Sandycove’s C, D & M “clubs”

Excerpted from Lisa and Liz on the Sandycove website. I’m the only non-resident Cork person to have made the C club. It will take me many years to make the D club, (500 laps), I’ve only done about 20 laps so far this year and unlikely to do even a handful more before year end. Still, nice to have made the Sandycove big leagues. Eoin will have passed me out by now so I’ll be on the bottom rung until I can pass Sylvain (stay travelling Sylvain!). It’s not the full list, I notice Eddie, Imelda. Niall, Danny C., Owen O’K Jen and Gábor aren’t on it, and all those are surely also on the list.

Hey Rob, how is that with over 700 laps I can still kick your arse on the far corner! :-)

Finbarr, Ned & Rob will all enter the Top Club to join Stephen and Mike H. by next year in the Elite M group.

“We stole this concept from the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco which keeps track of Alcatraz swims.  In 2011, [Sandycove] hosted Gary Emich who at the time had 801 recorded Alcatraz swims and the International Swimming Hall of Fame had requested his log book as part of their permanent display.

Many of our Sandycove Island swimmers are lap counters.  They may have a goal at the start of the year or they may simply keep a log.

We honour the muti-lappers with Roman Numerals as follows:

  • C = 100 or more laps
  • D = 500 or more laps
  • M = 1,000 or more laps

One of these days we’ll get some hats/hoodies with this theme.

We welcome you to keep your results up to date (no more frequently than monthly please!) and if you deserve to be on the list, please send in your current tally to sandycoveswimmers.cdm@gmail.com.  We will accept a calculated estimate to get your current number.  Just share the logic/calculations.

Below are our current C, D and M club members. These lists are will be kept updated here.

C – 100 life time laps

Name Number of Laps Last Updated
Eoin O’Riordan 118 30/08/2011
Donal Buckley 120 30/08/2011
Sylvain Estadieu 132 10/10/2010
Ger O’Donnell 199 24/10/2010
Dave Mulcahy 200 10/10/2010
Craig Morrison 248 28/08/2011
Lisa Cummins 401 21/09/2011

D – 500 life time laps

Name Number of Laps Last Updated
Ossi Schmidt 700 13/10/2010
Robert Bohane 742 30/08/2011
Finbarr Hedderman 851 28/08/2011
Ned Denison 928 28/08/2011

M – 1000 life time laps

Name Number of Laps Last Updated
Steven Black 1062 10/10/2010
Mike Harris 2015 10/10/2010

Spring in Sandycove

Back to Sandycove for the first time this year at the weekend. The rest of the south coast seemed clouded over, but the sun was shining in Kinsale.

Went for a lovely double lap by myself, back on Ned’s qualification list for this year, starting with the 3k+. Fin and Ned were just out, the water was nice, measured 8.6C at the swanky new slipway, but felt about 10c around the island so nice and easy for a double, only losing little finger movement by the end.

Sandycove Island panorama (50% size)

Took this photo (actually 3x pictures, explaining the weird curve) after the tide has dropped, starting to expose the reef near the first corner. On the full size the island goats are just visible below the hill-top. Click for larger.

The second and third corners;

Sandycove Motto?

img 3504

I saw Steve Munatones had a tweet about the Waikiki Roughwater swim having a (boring) motto, and asking if other swims have mottos.

Which led me to wonder what the overall Sandycove motto should be? Any suggestions?

Mike Harris’s “It’s a bit lumpy, chaps” might be the best candidate.

“Ten to fourteen degrees and some goats, on one lap”

“How about an inside lap?”

“It’s a bit chilly today”

“It was warm last week”

“I would have had him if it weren’t for…”

“Keep out from the third corner”

“Keep into the third corner”

Return to Sandycove

So last Saturday was Rob and Danny’s send-off swim for the Channel, Eddie going to Jersey and a triumphant return for Liam, Jen, & I from the Channel, Gábor back from Zurich, Owen back from Gibraltar, and Ned back from Jersey.

The whole Channel experience would have been worth it just to welcomed and congratulated by Channel swimmers, Ned, Eddie, Finbarr, Imelda, Jen, Liam, Ciarán, Ossi, Owen, and all the other Sandycove crew who were around.

It is so weird to be congratulated by such great swimmers, and to be told that my swim has set a standard for mental toughness.

And at the same time, as one of the things I keep coming back to, a conversation between Jen and I, that no-one else except the swimmers would really understand the Channel, no-one except those who’ve been there. And here were all the people who had been there and understand.

I had decided to do and was given the OK, for a ten minutes swim after having a massage the night before. Of course that became a lap of the island, with Liam making sure I didn’t sink. My shoulder was screaming instantly, I couldn’t stretch properly or pull at all, so I was the slowest around. We stopped for pictures on the infamous third corner. I look forward to seeing those, not sure who has them. It was also back to bloody twelve degrees. Jesus. Even Gábor was shivering after their earlier three laps.

Tara noticed this week that my hair was beaching, hell I hadn’t even cut it for months, trying to get a few mils extra of insulation (not required anyway).

The craic was had afterwards for a few hours, no time or training pressure for once. Damn, we need the five boys to get there and get it done. More send-offs, (Ciarán and Gábor and Alan still to leave), and more triumphant returns I’m sure, to look forward to.

Those of us done have already booked accommodation for the Dover Channel dinner in the spring! That’s going to be some damn party, along with all the others.

Six hour swim in sub-eleven degree Celsius water – my longest cold swim

Edit: The original title of this post may have been the worst title I ever wrote. And that’s saying something. I’m really bad at titles.

Dante wrote that the Ninth Circle of the Inferno was ice. He didn’t seem to consider freezing water, so I guess it might have been the lobby entrance to the Ninth level? Where we spent six hours on a Saturday on 2010. Reserved for the wilfully stupid, and marathon swimmers. Who may just be one and the same.

It was supposed to be the final eight hour swim for Jen & I yesterday with Ciarán and Rob also in the water.

Ciarán had arranged Kieran O’Connor to provide rib support for a Speckled Door and back swim before finishing with more laps of Sandycove. (Thanks again Kieran).

We started just after nine am. Cold at the slipway, as bloody usual but then…it didn’t get much better. Wind was South West, about Force Three starting hitting Force Four occasionally later on. So headwind and chop down to the Spec. First feed was just after Hake Head, the main landmark for swimmers on the way down at about fifty minutes. Rob and I reached the Spec at about two hours, a couple of minutes ahead.

We had expected it to take somewhere between one hour thirty to one hour forty five. At least fifteen minutes behind. And cold.
Kieran told us it was fifteen Celsius the whole way, but the wind was making us cold. We knew he was lying. At this stage I’d lost my left hand. And my thighs were starting to seize. I started kicking them against my hands underwater to improve circulation.

He sent Rob & I into the harbour to circle before the feed. When we got back he’d already fed Jen and Ciarán, and sent us to chase them the whole way back.
“Pursuit”, cackled Rob, and off we went.

We stroked side by side until the next feed ( apart from ten minute divergence as we each felt we knew the best line back, both of us confident in our navigation skills). We split and came back together after Hake Head side by side again. At that feed looking back we saw we’d passed Hake Head (it’s not easily visible from the west side) and were obviously flying with the wind and swell behind us. We’d had ten minutes of sun and slightly warmed up. We never saw Jen and Ciarán the whole way back

We hit Finbarr’s Beach just catching the other pair, with them about five seconds ahead at almost exactly four hours. Half an hour behind our estimated time, but twenty minutes faster on the return journey.

As we transferred our feed bottles to the beach, Ciarán told us the real temperature.

Ten point seven to eleven point one. Degrees. Celsius.

Sweet merciful Cthulhu. No wonder we were all suffering and in pain. Actual pain by the way. My neck had seized up, I had pains up my forearms, biceps and shoulders. My lower back hurt. My thighs were the worst, with hideous pain in them. I tried punching them as hard as I could to restore some circulation. Lying to us was exactly the right thing for Kieran to do. If we had known we might decided on a short swim early on.

Only during the week I had been thinking how I could never have done the six hour qualification in thirteen degrees that Ciarán and Rob had done.

We agreed on two laps (one hour) then we would call it.

The first lap was bad.

The second lap was a nightmare, the second toughest Sandycove lap I’ve ever done, (the worst was on  the eight lap (mile) on the first Champion Of Champions swim in 2008, the race where only twelve out of over fifty finished and it took twenty minutes to swim the normal ten minute outside stretch).

We made it back. Fed. Time (and everything else) was getting a bit blurry but I was not getting out short of six hours. We were around five hours at that stage. I was going to go again when the boys suggested an inside lap.

There was no merciful warm patch after the third corner, nor outside the island, as there had been for a few weeks now.

Now the boys are tough as nails. On the eight hour swim, when it was too rough outside the island at the end for me, Rob kept going out. If they were suggesting moving inside that’ll tell you something. Rob is not known as The Bull for nothing.

We did an inside triangle. A warm patch as the fourth corner felt like paradise. It was…only 11.4 C!

Yes, only half a degree higher. We swam up the Pil estuary where it was a bit better, but still with cold patches. Back for the last feed.

Thirty minutes. We needed thirty minutes.

We went for another inside triangle. We stood for a few seconds in the sticky mud up the estuary where Rob asked if standing there for two hours would count. We made it back to Finbarr’s, attempting the final sprint. Which didn’t look or feel like one, but no point hanging onto any energy at that stage. We came in together again.

As we stumbled onto the low tide sandbank, I looked at the guys. They looked like I felt.

Our legs were unable to bend or properly support us. Arms bent and back hunched like chimpanzees. Necks not working. Moving very similar to movie zombies.

Get the boxes. Into the cold one final time and swim back across the channel, pushing the swim boxes or towing them behind us. Warm shower from water bottles warming in the too-late sun.

Where were you Sun, when we needed you you six hours ago“? Bit bloody late . “You see Sun, it’s that fickleness that means Ireland never developed a proper Sun Worship religion. Just think, you could have had a shot. You have been a contender. A few month’s sunshine and we could have had our own Ra or Akhenaton. Instead we got those bloody priests. And we all know how that ended.

Dressed. Almost immediate recovery, something Jen had pointed out to me a few weeks back. Food and chat for a few hours. More talk about details for our Channel swims. Questions, some of which will soon be directed toward those of you successful Channel swimmers reading this.

Lessons learnt:

  • I would have sworn it was impossible (for me). (A day later I still think it’s impossible)
  • If I had known the real temperature at the start I would never have done it
  • If I had been by myself I would never had done it
  • Sometimes will-power will take you places you never thought possible. I hope I never forget how I felt starting that final hour with all higher powers of cognition and articulation fled:

Fuck you sea. Fuck you waves and wind. Fuck you cold. I’m coming. I’m fucking coming. Third Corner? I fucking OWN the Third Corner.”

(It lasted until said Third Corner by the way, by which time I was back to whimpering.)

Update: Months later, thinking this was a great achievement and also reflecting that we were all borderline hypothermic (and we all know hypo), I discovered that Lisa had done nine hours in similar temperatures during her EC Double training!

But a year and half later memories of this swim are still with us all, and it often discussed. Ihope to never have to do anything like this again.

Sandycove Distance Camp

Last week was Sandycove Cork Distance camp. Organised and run by Ned Dennison, it’s a 10 day series of swims designed for long distance swimmers wanting to get some really serious training done.

It started as the Champion Of Champions swim in 2008, based on the UK Dover race of the same format; a 5 mile swim a 2 hour break, then 3 miles, then another break, then a one mile sprint, with results based on cumulative times.

2008 was notorious due to the cold and changing adverse weather as the day progressed, such that only 12 of us finished the whole 9 miles.

2009 included a swim up the coast from the Speckled Door. Still a bit cold but with better conditions. At that stage the Distance Camp also started.

Given it’s not local for me, I skipped the mid-week early morning swims and just stuck to my own program. The guys were swimming 2 hours at 6am and 2 in the evening most week-days, with the big swims last weekend, 4 and half to 5 and a half hours on Saturday (depending on which group you were in) and 6 or 8 hours on Sunday.

We started the first weekend ourselves with a 5 hour swim in Ballycroneen when the rest were doing 1 or 2 hours, but the total for the camp, if you did everything, was 150,000 metres!

I had a car problem for 2 days so my total was about 110,00 metres. Rob & Gabor each did 90k in a week, (compared to my 70k)!

Nice shot of Sandycove

Taken by Danny’s wife Clare, at our 6 hour Sandycove swim 2 weeks ago. First corner is on the left, 2nd corner is on the right. Kinsale estuary is beyond. This is at high tide when the near channel is clear.
The tiny beach is Finbarr’s Beach, named after Finbarr Hedderman who used it for his feeding when training for the Channel in 2008, and used by all the distance swimmers now to feed from on long swims. We each tow a box over to the island with our food in it.

Anatomy of an 8 Hour swim

So three plus hour swims are a weekly (or more) feature of training right now (end of January ’10). “Normal” day’s training is hovering around two  to two & an half. I did a four hour about a week and half ago, just to see how I feeling. I had been planning to do a five hour solo that week until The Boss told us we were doing an eight hour together.

The four hour swim was a significant change from a mixed three and an half-hour session. I was doing a “Pyramid”, 1000 to 100m and back to 1000m as the main set, apart from a 1000m warm-up and few hundred swim down. The intervals were constant. I was tired by the end but “could have kept going’, which is how I judge my condition. Tired obviously though. But double the time? My previous longest swim was a five and half hour sea swim with Danny in 2008.

Ravenous and tired the next day, though I had planned a two hour session but RL intervened & I had an enforced break that day.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached the eight hour.

Having been sick during the week, I was most nervous about an induced asthma attack, which would have stopped me swimming.

Having talked to fellow soloist (oxymoron?) Jen about feeding the previous weekend, I tried to carb. load (though with a poor appetite) and had two pasta dinners the afternoon and evening beforehand, and a bunch of sandwiches before bed, along with some of the usual crap I eat.

Breakfast was fresh made smoothie and porridge, my normal training breakfast, along with another bunch of sandwiches in the car on the two hour drive down.

I also spent quite a while making two litres of fruit smoothie for the swim to keep it fresh as possible. (Grape and orange juice, peaches, pineapple, banana & yoghurt). I also had another five litres of my Miwadi isotonic mix and some grapes & bananas. Basically my swim feeding strategy was to try 100% fruit which I had done on many three plus hour swims, the only change moving from solid and awkward to liquid and easy.

The other six of The Magnificent Seven had started swimming at 7.30am in the accommodating and friendly Source Fitness Centre pool in Springfields Morans Hotel in Cork, with The Boss on the deck. A quick chat before the start, she told everyone was nervous about it.

I joined the guys at 8.40am and we kept to one lane for the day.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe lots of long sets and it an eight hour version of a usual training session. The whole shebang. 1000’s, 1500’s, paddles, pull-buoy, laterals, alternate speeds and strokes etc.

The first three hours flew, until Eilís called a 15 minute break on the four hour mark (for the guys, only three hours in for me). Fine again after. The Boss had to leave at mid-day.

At the five hour mark I was reflecting on the comparison between my four recent hour solo pool session and this session. I was definitely feeling fresher by the five hour mark. The six hour mark I considered about equal with the four hour solo. The seventh hour for me, last hour for the guys, included an 1500 hard. I held onto Liam and Rob (leading) but it hurt. They wound down their last 20 minutes easy enough and I said good-bye.

Then the dreaded re-entry into pool by myself for the final one hour and 20 minutes. I was thinking of repeat 1000’s but too leaden by then and needed a break after 800, and settled on repeat 400’s. 10 to 20 secs would be my usual interval at this point but I’m afraid they crept up to 30 to 45 for the last few despite the presence of one of Eilís’s representatives on earth, this time her brother Pat, whom I was bit too tired to recognise, though after chasing him, (unsuccessfully and being lapped), for a few k., I think I now know his style very well.

Astonishing performance of the day was my English Channel Double Relay friend and team-mate Danny, who finished work at 6am, had an hour sleep, and completed the full eight hours, and Gábor who swam with sprained wrist and damaged shoulder after a recent fall.

But everyone did great and we would have been lost without Liam keeping track of our sets and leading us out so much.

(At one point in hour seven, I was leading out a 1000m alternate set, Liam recommended I track the easy/fast alternate 150 metres. The 1000 metres were done when I was sure we had only swum 600m! No more leading out for me, I can’t count).

Turned out a few of the guys were watching from upstairs for my final hour, making sure I didn’t drown I guess, and came down after I finished, which I really appreciated.

Liam estimated about 24,000m for their total based on all the intervening sessions completed, so I’ll assume the same, besting my previous longest ever pool swim of about 14k.

I had a recovery shake, which I only do after big swims, my usual chicken breast and hit the road.