Getting there…

Once again, I’ve been very slow to update the blog – no surprises there! I could try using our recent house move as an excuse, but really it’s just one of those things that can always be done “tomorrow”. Anyway, here’s a quick update on progress towards my Leme to Pontal swim since my last post

The first major block of pool training has come to an end and I finally feel like I have successfully relearned how to swim. It felt great being back to early-morning pool swims in Meadowbrook before work, getting some metres in the shoulders and knocking off some of those excess seconds that built up during my year off – though it’s never going to be the same as those hard yards with great teammates in Fermoy Swimming Club. I’m down to just ticking over in the pool now while I’m doing most of the work in the open water, but there will be some big sessions to come once the open water “season” (I have to be careful using that word in front of the hard-core winter swimmers) winds down and before leaving for Brazil.

Lion's Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata

One of the main reasons why I don’t swim in the sea in Dublin a whole lot…

Since May, I’ve been working on endurance in the open water. Although I live in Dublin and have done a few longer swims there, my aversion to lion’s-mane jellies and love for swimming on the south coast have meant that most of my training has been done at home. I built up the distance at first in the River Blackwater and Knockananig Reservoir in Fermoy, swimming with Dave Mulcahy and also on my own. Once the sea warmed up a bit, I shed the wetsuit and started doing slightly longer swims with Carol Cashell in Myrtleville and Cork Harbour and with Donal Buckley, a.k.a. “Lone Swimmer”, on the Copper Coast in County Waterford, as well as doing a few other swims along the coast of County Cork, including at Sandycove Island and Ballycotton.

6h swim

Steady 3.6 km/h for 6 h!

The highlight of my training so far though has to be the Cork Distance Week organised by Ned Denison. The camp was based around Sandycove Island but included swims in Loch Allua in the Lee Valley, Myrtleville, the River Blackwater in Fermoy, Lough Hyne between Skibbereen and Baltimore, Inniscarra Reservoir, and Boatstrand on the Copper Coast, as well as some purely social events. There was also a 6-hour swim at Sandycove on the last day of the camp (which I successfully completed in order to qualify for my Leme to Pontal swim attempt). The camp was a tough but fantastic week of swimming in great company and beautiful places, and worthy of its own post – at some point, I might even get around to writing that up and posting a few pictures!

Lee Swim 2017

A selection of photos from the “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim 2017 taken by George O’Keefe.

I’ve also finally done my first race of the summer, my tenth “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim, which starts near the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (where I spent a lot of my time whilst I was studying at University College Cork) and carries on down the North Channel of the River Lee, around Custom House Quay, and finishes at Clontarf Bridge. It was a bit of a shock to the system being back in a proper race, but it was good fun battling with Lizzie Lee for the best draft off Ned Denison, and even being pushed off course by Ned for making the mistake of trying to sneak past him on his blind side just before the finish… Enjoy that victory, Ned, I don’t intend to leave you have any more like that for a while!

That’s it for now. There won’t be such a long delay until the next post, hopefully…

A new challenge for 2017

I know, I know, I managed to let another whole year [and a bit] slip past without so much as a peep on the blog. As many are already aware, I spent the last three years focusing on finishing my BSc in ecology and settling into working life – as an actual ecologist, would you believe – and, just maybe, being a bit lazy… However, 2017 has arrived and that affliction that all who are swimmers have, that visceral desire to be in the water is too much to bear: I need to swim!

After last year’s trip to Brazil in September and seeing her seemingly infinite and stunningly beautiful coastline with its long, sandy beaches, huge, rounded limestone boulders, verdant slopes of Atlantic forest and the deep blue South Atlantic, I knew that it would be hard to resist at least a few marathon swims along that coast. So, a few weeks ago, I found a pool near where I work in Dublin and started training, still not entirely sure for what…

Pousada Casa da Praia

Waking up to this view of Praia dos Anjos in Arraial do Cabo, where Amerigo Vespucci landed in 1503, it’s hard not to imagine swimming here… (Image: Owen O’Keefe)

Aware of the potential difficulties in arranging a completely new swim, I decided that it was best to book an established swim, one for which “all” I would have to do would be to fill in the forms, pay the fees and train. One swim in particular jumped straight out at me: Leme to Pontal, a coastal swim of 35 km. This swim is the same distance as the English Channel, starting at Praia do Leme in Leme, Copacabana and passing all of the oceanic beaches and sites of the city of Rio de Janeiro before finishing at Praia do Pontal in Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Barra da Tijuca (see the interactive map below).

I’ve already secured my window with the Leme to Pontal Swimming Association for the week of the 16th to 22nd December 2017. All I have to do now is to keep up the training and start re-acclimatising to the sea! I will try to keep the blog reasonably up to date with my progress and any other news, so keep an eye out here for intermittent updates and on Facebook, Instagram or maybe even Twitter for more frequent ones…

2 DSC_0040 Owen swim

Back in the Blackwater under Grandad‘s watchful eye last weekend…

More to come soon!

Um novo desafio para 2017

Por onde começar? Eu ia pedir desculpas por minha longa ausência deste blogue, mas sendo esta minha primeira postagem em português, suponho que faz mais sentido dar uma pequena introdução para quem não me conhece como nadador de águas abertas…

Chart – Lance Oram

A rota da minha travessia do Canal da Mancha, 21 de setembro de 2009. A curva é por causa das fortes correntes que estão presentes neste estreito.

Sou nadador desde uma época de que eu mesmo não lembro – aos seis meses de idade, minha avó começou a me levar semanalmente à piscina municipal da minha cidadezinha, Fermoy, no interior da Irlanda. Aos sete anos, comecei a nadar todos os dias no Rio Blackwater durante o verão com meu avô, e no mar aos domingos – nadar em águas abertas para mim foi uma maravilhosa união de duas coisas que me davam muita alegria: a natação e a natureza. Aos nove anos, entrei no Fermoy Swimming Club e aprendi a nadar com mais força, mais velocidade e mais eficiência. Isto me capacitou para entrar no mundo da natação competitiva de águas abertas aos treze anos de idade.

Em 2006, participei na minha primeira “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim no Rio Lee, no centro da cidade de Cork. Daí começou a loucura toda… Em setembro de 2007, nadei minha primeira travessia de 5 km no mar, e em novembro do mesmo ano, reservei minha travessia do Canal da Mancha, que eu completei em setembro de 2009 como o irlandês então mais rápido (com 10 h 19 min) e mais jovem (aos 16 anos). Desde então, eu continuei a nadar vários percursos famosos, como o Estreito de Gibraltar, outros não tão famosos, como o Estreito de Tory, e outros que tinham um significado mais pessoal, como os 60 km de Fermoy para o mar em Youghal. Tem mais detalhes da minha história de maratonas aquáticas na minha página da Openwaterpedia (disponível somente em inglês).


Saindo da água após nadar de Fermoy para Youghal, com meu avô de segurança! (Foto: Lee Fox)

Desde que eu formei e comecei a trabalhar, não tenho nadado tanto. Por isso, tenho sentido saudade da água, que é meu lar, e recentemente resolvi marcar um novo desafio para este ano. Ao escolher essa nova meta, estou voltando a algo bastante familiar, mas em um ambiente bem novo para mim…

A travessia do Leme ao Pontal, no litoral do Rio de Janeiro (capital), tem 35 km de distância – quase igual ao Canal da Mancha – só que fica no outro lado do mundo! Tenho experiência de nadar uns 35 km no mar aberto, em águas frias, acompanhado por um barco e tal. O que será novo para mim neste novo desafio é aquele sol intenso e calor infernal do Rio de Janeiro em dezembro!

C. Rio de Janeiro 9

Praia de Copacabana ao pôr do sol. (Foto: Owen O’Keefe)

O treinamento já começou com força e estou aumentando a quantidade e intensidade do mesmo de acordo com um programa desenhado especificamente para essa prova. Aqui neste blogue, vou escrever sobre meu progresso… Então, se isto for algo que talvez te interesse, fique de olho aqui!

Once again, I sort-of forgot that I had this blog…

Go mbeirimíd beo ag an am so arís, and let’s hope that it’s not an am so arís before I write anything on here again…

So ended my previous blog post… Reading it again carefully, I’m satisfied that I’ve broken no promises in not posting again until we have arrived safely at an am so arísagus písín eile leis! There are two main reasons why nothing new has appeared on the blog in the last year and a bit:

  1. I’ve been busy/lazy – At the time of my last post, I was nearing the end of my ecology degree at University College Cork. I was studying, that is to say stressing, about exams and struggling to finish my final year project on the crayfish of the River Awbeg. After that, I was busy finding a job. I got one and have been busy doing it ever since. In truth, I had time to write, but everything else that I’d been doing involved a lot of writing so I couldn’t be bothered writing any more “and that’s the holy all of it”, as went one of my favourite lines from 2015’s “national conversation” on marriage equality…
  2. I’ve been doing almost no swimming – Plenty has been going on so there’s been no shortage of writing material, but it hasn’t involved much swimming at all so I’ve been reluctant to post on what’s supposed to be a swimming blog…

Anyway, as I say, plenty did actually happen and, in the absence of anything else to write about, I will do my best to put up a few short posts in the next few weeks about how everything has changed [again!] in the last year…

I have a blog, I haven’t forgotten!

***I originally wrote this post on Christmas Eve last but, for a variety of reasons, I’ve had to delay making it public until now. I’m glad that it’s finally up here and open to everyone!***

I know, I know, it’s been an age since I last posted anything on this blog. Why have I not been writing? The honest answer is that I haven’t really had much to write about, and that I couldn’t really be bothered to write, quite frankly. So, what have I been up to? Plenty, but not a whole lot of swimming, to tell the truth…

Photograph – Adrian Healy

Racing the 1,500 m in UL back in March. I haven’t seen the inside of the building since – oops! (Image: Adrian Healy)

A few weeks after my last post way back in March, I found myself in a somewhat awkward situation and having to finally confront some personal issues that I had been choosing to ignore for far too long. The first of these was the pretty poor state of my mental health throughout most of my first two years at university, the causes of which were many and varied, but which need not be discussed here. Just what it was that brought that awful period to a close was what forced me to talk about it… To cut a long story short, I took comfort in the company of a friend, another boy, and gradually began to think of him as more than just a friend. After a year, I couldn’t bear to keep the secret anymore, and so I told him how I felt. This was a huge step for me as I had never told anyone – and I mean absolutely anyone – either about my mental health or that I was gay. Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, this step didn’t go all that well. Knowing that this [as well as other complicating factors that revealed themselves in the following days and weeks] might trigger another, possibly worse bout of whatever it was that I had suffered before, I started talking. I was and am very lucky to have the most incredibly supportive friends and family, who helped me to process a good decade’s worth of emotional sh*t, for want of a better phrase, that I had built up in my head. I am beyond grateful for everything that they have done for me. So, thank you to everyone who has supported me!

But I did do *some* swimming!!!

As you might have seen in posts from earlier this year, I had gone back to training properly in the pool with my old club, Fermoy SC. That actually went quite well! Thanks to starting some light running and regular pool training, I lost a decent amount of weight and made a lot of gains in the pool, finally going under the minute in the 100 m freestyle and making good PBs in the 400 m and 1,500 m events too. I even managed to compete in the 400 m event at the Irish Age Group Championships & Summer Open in July, something which I’d given up on five years ago. I had an okay-ish season in the open water too, though I didn’t swim any major distance. I did go back to the Costa Brava though for my favourite event ever, the 6.5 km Marnaton “eDreams”  Cadaqués, where I had an “interesting” race that I might discuss in a later post… I’m sorry to say that there was little other news on the open water front – it would appear that weight loss and cold water tolerance don’t agree very well with one another!

Photograph – Edna English

On the podium again in Cadaqués. Not exactly in the position that I’d have liked but good to share it with meu amic, Albert Cortés Rovira. (Image: Edna English)

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The beautiful village of Cadaqués just after the swim – a truly stunning location! (Image: Owen O’Keefe)

Much to the disappointment of many, I did dip my toe into the world of triathlon this summer. Many dyed-in-the-wool open water swimmers would have me hanged, drawn and quartered for such a transgression! I must say that I’ve really enjoyed having a variety of sports in which to train. I always have and always will love swimming, so no need for an explanation there. I think that running is a very accessible sport (it’s inexpensive and there are so many opportunities for participation) and one which is very social too. Cycling I have found very enjoyable in a solitary way. Plus, I live in great cycling territory, something that my friend, Eoin McCarthy, will vouch for…

Side note: Many congratulations to Eoin on recently signing for the An Post-Chain Reaction Seán Kelly cycling team! Continued success to this incredible athlete…

As regards the sport of triathlon itself, I joined my local club, Blackwater Triathlon Club, this year and really enjoyed being part of the club, especially cycling the Ring of Beara, which was a fantastic experience. Once trained up a bit, I took part in two sprint distance triathlons: one in Carrick-on-Suir and one at home in Fermoy. The local event, which is now part of the Triathlon Ireland National Series, was amazing and I enjoyed it immensely. I wasn’t displeased with my performance either, I must admit. So, yeah, triathlon: it gets the thumbs up from me!

Photograph – Finbar O'Hanlon

Look, there I go………triathlon-ing! (Image: Finbar O’Hanlon)

Anyway, forgetting for *two seconds* about university, that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to since I last posted. While there are a lot of things that I’d rather forget about, 2014 has not in fact been the worst year ever and I can write now a happier and healthier person than ever before. Finally, a very happy Christmas [or whatever mid-winter festival you’re celebrating] and see you in the new year!

Go mbeirimíd beo ag an am so arís, and let’s hope that it’s not an am so arís before I write anything on here again…

Just checking in!

Yes, I know it’s been about six months since I lasted posted anything! I think I’ll use college as an excuse this time, but really I’ve had very little to write about. One thing that I neglected to do at the end of 2013 was to sum up how the year went, so I might as well do that now… The highlights of the open water season for me were:

  • Winning the 5 km at GaddinAbtGarnish with a new PB of 1:08:24 (my report here).
  • Swimming in the Martin Duggan Memorial Swim for the first time (my report here).
  • Setting a new Irish record for an English Channel 2-way relay with my friends on team Crosóige Mara in July (my report here).
  • Setting a new male record for Round Jersey also in July (my report here).
  • Swimming around the Old Head of Kinsale and through the tunnel connecting Holeopen Bays East and West with Ned Denison.
  • Completing the first ever non-stop swim from Fermoy to Youghal (60 km down my own River Blackwater) in just over 12 hours in August (my report here).
  • Winning the Irish 10 km Championships in Camlough Lake, Co. Armagh just a week later (my report here).
  • Of course, swimming in VI Marnaton “eDreams” Cadaqués in Catalonia with some amazing company (my report here).

I will have another post coming very soon (within a few days, hopefully) about how this winter has been going in the pool. It has been very different from previous winters I’ve gone through, especially in recent years…

Deireadh an Fhómhair Linn

Is soiléir fén dtaca so go bhfuil an samhradh imthithe slán uainn. Ní’l aon amharc ar na fáinleoga anso i Mainistir Fhear Maí, cé go dtuigtear dom go bhfuil roinnt díobh fós le feiscint thiar i gCiarraí. Le cúpla lá anuas, tá gálaí gaoithe is ceathanna uafásacha istoíche agus gan ach fo-radharc ar an ngréin isló. Tá na tráthnónta ag éirí níos giorra de réir a chéile agus beidh an oíche níos sia ná an lá gan ró-mhoill. Tá an geimhreadh ag teacht, ní’l aon dabht fén spéir faoi!

Dá bharr san, táim thar n-ais ins an linn snámha don chuid is mó agus ní’l fonn dá laghad orm bheith istigh ins an Abhainn Mhóir nó ins an lochán ar Chnoc an Aonaigh nó ins an bhfairrge fiú. Ag an am gcéanna, táim thar n-ais ag an ollscoil ag tosnú mo thríú bliana ann ag déanamh céim san eiceolaíocht. Maidin Chéadaoin, bíonn sé de nós agam dul isteach chuig an linn snámha ins an Muirdíg agus bualadh le Lisa Cummins i gcomhair caife i ndiaidh san – comhartha maith go bhfuil sé ‘na gheimhreadh againn! An tseachtain seo, do tháinig aoi speisialta im’ theannta: Tara Diversi ón Astráil… Do bhí maidin (is tráthnóinín) ana-dheas ag an dtriúir againn ag ráiméis fé gach aon tsaghas ruda a bhaineann leis an snámh fén aer. Bail ó Dhia ar bhuachaill-chara Tara go raibh air éisteacht linn!

Sin é an scéal mar atá sé fén dtráth so. Ní’l mórán eile le rá agam, i ndá ríribh, ach go bhfuil an-chuid obair le déanamh agam maidir le cúrsaí oideachais! Táimíd ag tnúth le rás deireanach an tséasúir ó Inis Earcáin go Dún na Séad an deireadh seachtaine seo chugainn agus go mór mhór le Comhdháil Dhomhanda an tSnámha fén Aer a bheidh á reachtáil i gCorcaigh an deireadh seachtaine dar gcionn. Sin é go fóillín…

Ailt Bhainteacha: