Jul 19, 2012

The Swim is On

At last the end is in sight.  The weather is gradually settling down, the sun is coming out, but most importantly, the wind is dying down.  I talked to my pilot Paul Foreman and I will swim most likely at 9am Saturday morning, the 21st July.  He is taking a relay out Friday morning, and if they are delayed, then my swim will be delayed. I will know at about 9pm Friday night.

In the meantime, Liam & Lisa are flying into London tomorrow and will be in Dover at 4pm. Along with Riana, they make up a super-crew that I know will support me all the way, and if necessary throw things at me if I whinge or slow up. They will also be doing the very important updating of the Twitter machine so that you can keep track of progress.

How do I follow the swim?
The boat has ShipAIS tracking, which updates constantly during the swim.  Click here, and then scroll down to the map and enter Dover for the port, and Pace Arrow for the vessel.

You can follow messages on the Twitter feed on this blog site, or directly here.

Thank you everybody for your great support and encouragement. I will do my best to get in touch with you all, but there will be too many things to do in the coming days, so I won't be able to respond immediately, sorry!  After long months of hard training I have travelled an amazing and sometimes difficult road -  I am looking forward to giving it a real shot on Saturday - to just keep swimming until I hit France...

Jul 12, 2012

Dover - Day 4

Today is the first time we can see France since we arrived

On Sunday morning we left a calm and sunny Rosslare and boarded the ferry for Pembroke for a very flat and relaxing crossing of the Irish Sea.  Four hours of driving through Wales, across the New Severn  Bridge, and the weather changed from sunny to cloudy to wet.  Sunday evening traffic meant traffic jams on the M25 but at about 8:30pm we finally arrived at Varne Ridge Holiday Park, a caravan park half way between Dover and Folkstone, and a traditional waiting spot for Irish Channel aspirants.  Craig and Donal had been here for two days already, and we were soon to be joined by Liam and Catherine on my crew, Jen Lane and her crew, and Lisa crewing for Craig.

Pace Arrow
On Monday I met with my pilot Paul Foreman and, along with fellow aspirant Fionnuala who is swimming next month, Paul showed us his boat Pace Arrow and answered all our questions.  Pace Arrow is not a big boat compared to others, so it is fast and shallow - good attributes for getting close to shore and getting back home to Dover quickly.  Paul is a very nice guy and we all got on well.  He said not to worry about the technicalities too much - just get in and keep swimming 'until your feet touch the deck' in France.

Friday's weather forecast
A lot of people have been asking how to follow the swim.  Pace Arrow uses AIS on his boat and this is how people can keep track of the boat during the swim - I will put a link on a new blog entry when I get the go-ahead for a swim, hopefully with a bit of notice.  People can also check out my Twitter feed here, and I now have tweets displayed on the right-hand side of this blog, as you may have noticed.  Twitter is probably the best way of keeping in touch.  Internet access isn't great but I will update when I  can, if I have news.  At the moment the weather has been very bad for swimming - lots of wind.  It doesn't look great before Saturday, and not great even then.  A Dublin swimmer John Downes has today left for home, as his pilot doesn't think he will swim before Monday and he has run out of time for this tide.  It is quite possible that the weather may be too bad for me to swim.  After that, I will have to come up with another plan.  In the meantime, we wait and watch the weather...

Jul 7, 2012

The Prom - Spot The Difference

These two videos were taken at the diving boards in Blackrock, Galway. See if you can tell the difference. Answers on a postcard please..

December 24th 2011

July 1st 2012

Jul 5, 2012

One Last Lap

There is now less than a week to go before my Channel tide opens.  I'm leaving on Sunday for Dover, the crew (Liam and Catherine) arrive on Monday, and the tide opens on Tuesday the 10th, for a window of 8 days.  If the weather is good, I will swim.  It has been a long time coming, but the day is nearly here.  The work has been done, the preparations have reached fever pitch, the plans ready, the packing imminent.  All that's left to do now is to enjoy the tapering - only an hour swim a day rather than 4, 6, 8.  Time to rest, get the mind in the groove - swim swim swim. Then swim some more.  And then some more.

Cork aspirants 2012
Yesterday we had one last lap around the island to celebrate the departure of the first batch of Cork-based aspirants.  Four of us go on next week's tide.  Here's a pic of coach Eilis' swimmers who have trained in Cork.  About 20 of us swam around to the back of the island and waited at corner 2 but no-one had a camera for the opportune moment, so that sight will have to be stored in our collective memories.

Sandycove crew
After the lap there was lots of coffee, cakes, scones, cards, channel chat, good lucks and best wishes.  A very enjoyable training session, perhaps the best yet..

Jun 25, 2012

Sandycove 10 hour swim

Sea pinks on the island
Cork Distance Camp was recently held here.  This is an annual 9-day extravaganza of swimming, sleep deprivation and cups of tea organised and run by the inimitable Ned Denison, long distance swim guru based in Cork.  There were swims every morning at 6am and every evening, in interesting local locations such as Sandycove, Inniscarra, Myrtleville, Fermoy, Garnish, Lough Hyne.  Swimmers from the UK, US and the antipodes joined locals for the week, and in a short number of years it has become an important training camp for swimmers to rack up the kilometers in a short space of time.  Last week the total was probably 120km of swimming, finishing up on the Sunday with a 6-hour swim.  This is very handy as it can be used as a channel aspirant's 6-hour qualification swim.  The Cork aspirants had already done our qualification swims last month, and coach Eilís wanted us to do more.  I had done 6 hours in my wetsuit in May and was planning on a challenging 8-hour swim this time, but coach said no.  I was doing 10 hours. Right..gulp!

The walk to the 1st corner, tide out
For once the weather was actually quiet nice for a long swim, and actually got sunnier as the day went on.  The Cork aspirants started at 7am, preparing feeds, and moving them onto the island.  And then off we went, around the island, swim swim swim.  Neither the water nor the air temperature were particularly warm.  I was glad I was in a wetsuit and felt sorry for the others in togs.  After an hour the rest of the Distance Camp swimmers arrived and suddenly there were loads of people in the water.

Feeds ready to go
At each lap of the island I swam to shore to get a feed of Maxim carb drink from Riana, and each time the water level was lower and lower as the tide went out.  More rocks appeared in view,  liberated from the sea, and it eventually required a walk of 20m to get to water deep enough to start a new lap.  Feeds involved opening my mouth and throwing back 300ml of fluid as fast as possible, then moving on, practicing to keep going all the time.
Swimming in for a feed
What did I do for all that time in the water?  Laps and more laps of the island - 7, 8, 9, 10.  Looking at the waves.  Looking at the goats.  Looking at the trees that aren't there.  Listing all the houses I ever lived in.  God, how long more to go?  This would drive you mad!  Then Ned wanted us all to stay inside the island, so I swam down the creek and did a lap of the yacht 'Aikido' moored there - one lap, two laps, three. Time passed. Verrrrrry slowly. And people finished up one by one, and I met fewer swimmers in the water.  Cars at the slip disappeared over the hill and around the corner - gone.  The helpers on the island also became fewer and eventually got in a boat and left!  Another lap of the island.  My arms complained and demanded to stop, and by hour 9 I was done.  This of course was too late to drop out though, and with the help of Riana and Liam swimming with me I plodded through the last hour to finish with the only other two people in the water, Lisa and Carmel.  A 10 hour swim - there's something I don't do too often (TG).

Jun 18, 2012

Coping with The Cold - a decision

"Nothing great is easy".  That's what they say about swimming The Channel.  How right they are.  Since the sea training schedule started on the 1st May I have struggled to keep up.  I've always kept up. In the pool I spent hours and hours ploughing up and down doing the training program that coach Eilís has mapped out for her channel aspirants - 142km in February, 165km in March, 146km in April.

Sandycove the day I swam 4:20 hrs - before the rain.
Then May arrived and I swam twice a day to keep up the mileage - 6:30am in Inniscarra lake, 45 minutes in 11C water, 6pm in Sandycove, 45 minutes on an overcast, windy day.  Sunday 1 hour at Inniscarra ploughing through chop, Monday at Myrtleville, 31 minutes swimming through jellyfish of all description, Wednesday 7am at Cuskinny for 64 minutes in fresh, cold water.  Every day trying to increase the time in the water, every day feeling the cold, the cold, the cold, getting cramps in the water and afterwards shivering and coping with muscle spasms.  A 45 minute swim would mean 30 minutes of shivering before I could drive home or to work.

With a lot of effort, Maxim and the help of Riana and friends I pushed out my times to 1 hour 25 minutes, 2 hours, 4:20, 4:40.  That's about 14km, but it took everything out of me physically, mentally and emotionally, and it wasn't enough - the qualification time to be allowed to swim The Channel is 6 hours.  I was exhausted and battered, took a break and contemplated giving up, but with the help of coach, Riana and friends, came up with a decision - I would still do the swim, but I would wear a wetsuit.  I contacted my pilot and CS&PF and they are ok with that - it just won't count as a Channel swim - it will be an 'unorthodox' swim, so no qualification swim, no observer, and no certificate at the end.  But swimming in a wetsuit allows me to swim without the cold stopping me, and for that I am grateful and actually excited about the swim again.  Onwards and upwards from here...

May 27, 2012

Cork Table Quiz

The Cork version of SleepSwim's diabolical table quiz was held in the South County, Douglas last Thursday night, attracting an exotic array of very brainy swimmers, musicians, athletes, educators, card-players and friends.  Surmounting various interrogative hurdles as naming monotremes, the number of Michael Phelps' gold medals, the world's largest island or all five children visiting Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory, an intelligent "Poco Piu Mosso" won out against a tied "Team Viola" and one of the two confusingly-named Judean teams.  A monster raffle produced a number of lucky happy punters as well.

In total the night raised €1,132, a great achievement to all participants and to those who donated even if they couldn't attend.  All of this will go straight to Marymount Hospice and St Vincent de Paul, two very worthy charities.

Lots of thank yous again - Liam Maher for acting as question-master and taking the blame for the tough questions. The South County for the venue, food and raffle prize. Bernard Lynch at Centra Crosshaven, Cork Coffee Roasters, Bramley Lodge for sponsoring prizes, as did Fota Wildlife Park, Source Health & Fitness, Old Killarney Cottages, The Shelbourne Bar, Catherine Sheridan, Liam Maher and Alan Craughwell. The staff of Glounthane NS also did great fund-raising and I am very grateful for their support. I hope I didn't miss anyone there - a very well done to all.