ILDSA Awards and HoF-MSI Inductions

This Sunday, 11th March 2018, will be an important day in the Irish open water swimming calendar, a day to acknowledge the achievements of swimmers and contributors during the 2017 season as well as to honour the lifetime achievements of members of the Irish open water swimming community. We will mark these at the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association‘s (ILDSA) Annual Awards and the inaugural induction ceremony of the Hall of Fame – Marathon Swimming Ireland (HoF-MSI), which will be held at the Waterside House Hotel near Donabate in Fingal (North County Dublin), a fitting location on the edge of the Irish sea and looking out at Lambay Island.

After lunch in the Lambay Suite, the awards and induction ceremonies will get underway. To get things started, there will be a welcome address by the Deputy Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Adrian Henchy (FF), after which I will take over as master of ceremonies for the rest of the afternoon. The fact that I’ve been trusted with this duty surely means that I didn’t do too bad a job when I hosted the awards in 2012!

First will be the presentation of medals to all swimmers born or resident on the island of Ireland who successfully completed English Channel crossings in 2017. Carol Finlay, Participation Officer of Swim Ireland, and Maggie Purcell, President of Swim Ireland, will present the medals for solo and relay swims, respectively. Medals will then be presented to all swimmers who successfully completed North Channel Swims in 2017, with medals for solo swims being presented by Billy Wallace, President of the ILDSA, and medals for relay swims being presented by Cllr Henchy and Eoin Gaffney of Leinster Open Sea.

Following the presentation of the English Channel and North Channel medals, we will move on to the presentation of the ILDSA Awards for the 2017 season, which will be presented by Maggie Purcell, President of Swim Ireland. The following is a list of the awards that will be presented:

Between the various medal and award presentations, four speakers will offer us unique insights into different challenges in our sport. Wes Nolan, Ion Lazarenco and Ned Denison will offer us a swimmer’s perspective, while veteran North Channel pilot Brian Meharg MBE will give us a pilot’s slant on things.

The final part of the proceedings will be a very special event: the inaugural induction ceremony of the HoF-MSI. The Class of 2018 will be inducted by Billy Wallace and Ned Denison, who are both Honorees of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Classes of 1999 and 2012, respectively). The Honour Swimmers and Contributors that will be inducted are:

Just in case that wasn’t enough silverware for everybody, there will be one final presentation. The afternoon’s ceremonies will close with the presentation of a “Special Award”, about which I know precisely naught, so I am sure that we will all be eager to find out whom its recipient will be and wherefore…

Notes:

  1. Places for the lunch and awards can be booked here.
  2. For those traveling by public transport, there will be a shuttle bus service from Dublin City Centre to the venue and back again.

Travessia do Leme ao Pontal na mídia irlandesa

Na terça-feira passada, dia 28 de novembro, um dos jornais regionais de Cork, o Evening Echo, publicou um artigo sobre minha travessia do Leme ao Pontal. Escreveram um pouco sobre minha vida, como eu aprendi a nadar com meu avô, Tom Baker, no Rio Blackwater em Fermoy, minha atual profissão (sou ecólogo e trabalho numa consultoria de engenharia civil) e algumas das maiores travessias que eu já fiz, como o Canal da Mancha, a circunavegação de Jersey e de Fermoy a Youghal. Descreveram também a travessia do Leme ao Pontal e como esta prova é um novo tipo de desafio para mim. Veja o artigo abaixo:

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Dois dias depois, apareceu um outro artigo sobre a travessia, desta vez no The Avondhu, o jornal local na minha cidade natal. Publicaram uma boa descrição da travessia e como funciona a janela, além dos detalhes de uma semana típica do meu treinamento. Foi destacado a grande importância do aspecto psicológico da travessia: como é importante treinar não somente o corpo, mas também a mente, para você estabelecer a mentalidade de consistentemente atingir seus objetivos. Confira abaixo o artigo que saiu:

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Finalmente, na sexta-feira passada, 1º de dezembro, eu fiz uma entrevista de rádio com uma das estações do meu condado de Cork, a C103fm. A entrevista foi feita durante o programa Cork Today com a Patricia Messinger. Conversamos na maior parte sobre os mesmos temas que foram incluídos nos artigos acima, mas a Patricia me fez uma pergunta importante: “como você financia suas travessias?” Na hora eu fiquei surpreso e eu não tinha como responder, além de: “direto do meu salário”, o que é verdade. Acho que ela estava tentando me dar uma oportunidade de agradecer aos meus patrocinadores (não tenho nenhum, mas não por não querer!). De qualquer jeito, agradeci à minha família e aos meus amigos pelo imenso apoio moral e técnico que eles me dão e expliquei que, infelizmente, não recebo apoio financeiro. Se você quiser, pode escutar o programa aqui (minha entrevista começa a 1:00:57)…

Esta questão de como financiar travessias em águas abertas ou (ultra-) maratonas aquáticas, que podem ser bem caras, é uma questão meio polêmica no nosso esporte e um assunto muito mal entendido entre as pessoas que não nadam. Mas é um assunto para ser discutido em outro blogue! Por ora, continuamos rumo ao Pontal…

 

Counting down the days!

A long year of training is finally over and I’m now just a week out from heading off to Rio for my 35 km swim from Leme to Pontal. It’s been a struggle at times, but at last I’m feeling both physically and mentally ready. Last Sunday morning, I had my last sea swim in Ireland for this year: a leisurely lap of Sandycove Island with friends and training buddies, followed by the customary confectionery…

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A total of 47 swimmers swam at Sandycove last Sunday and, despite the water temperature being between 10ºC and 11ºC, about half swam a full lap of the island without wetsuits!

This week is my last week of training and it will be an easy one to ensure that I stay injury-free before arriving in Rio, so my real challenge for this week will be to try to stay motivated at work while I can do little other than visualise the swim!

Over the next week and a bit, I will be posting details of how you can follow the swim in real time. So keep an eye out for those…

“Qual é a data da travessia?”

Bastante gente tem me perguntado qual é a data da minha travessia a nado do Leme ao Pontal e algumas pessoas ficam um pouco confusas sobre o porquê de não ter uma data específica, então achei que seria uma boa ideia escrever um texto curto para explicar a situação…

Minha janela de travessia é de 16 a 22 de dezembro e esta é confirmada. O motivo de reservar um período de uma semana (em vez de marcar um dia só) é o seguinte: a travessia exige boas condições de mar, e como a rota fica numa costa exposta, estas condições não podem ser garantidas na hora de reservar o nado, que pode ser meses ou até anos antes da tentativa. Então, reservar sete dias e não um, significa que eu terei uma chance bem melhor de realizar o desafio.

Assim que chegarmos no Rio, vou ficar diariamente em contato com a Leme to Pontal Swimming Association para discutir a previsão do tempo e eu devo ser capaz de confirmar a data e hora do começo da travessia um dia ou dois antes. Fiquem de olho aqui para receber notícias!

“What date is the swim?”

A lot of people have been asking me about the date of my Leme to Pontal swim and some are a bit confused by why there isn’t yet a fixed date, so I thought I’d write a quick aside to explain the reason for this…

My swim window is 16-22 December and this is fixed. The reason for booking a seven-day window rather than a single date is that the swim requires reasonably calm sea conditions for the best part of a day, something that, given the local climate and exposed nature of the route, cannot be guaranteed for any given day at the time of booking the swim, which is often months or even years beforehand. So, booking seven days rather than just one means that I have a much better chance of actually getting to swim.

From the day I arrive in Rio, I will be in regular contact with the Leme to Pontal Swimming Association to discuss weather forecasts and should be able to confirm the actual date and time that I will start the swim a day or two in advance. Keep an eye out for updates!

No trecho final do treinamento!

Article in English

Só faltam 36 dias?! É assim mesmo?! Mas como?!

De repente, as aves do verão estão de volta à África, os dias longos e treinos no mar acabaram e estou na fase final do meu treinamento para a travessia do Leme ao Pontal. Já fiz meu último treino no mar (sem neoprene) na Irlanda: foi uma sessão rapidinha de 2 km em Myrtleville na última segunda-feira de outubro (que é feriado aqui). Agora estou dando o esforço final antes da grande travessia.

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A praia de Myrtleville na manhã em que fiz meu último treino no mar na Irlanda de 2017.

Com a meta para qual eu tenho trabalhado (e, às vezes, batalhado) em vista, ficou bem mais fácil treinar. Acordando cedo de manhã para ir à piscina e fazer minha sessão de natação antes de ir ao escritório não precisa mais de discipina; simplesmente acontece, automaticamente; o pânico me levanta e me manda embora antes que eu possa sequer pensar em tirar uma manhã de folga. Não há nada igual a um prazo, né!

Esta semana e a que vem, estou fazendo uma boa quilometragem na piscina. Depois eu vou começar a reduzir aos poucos a intensidade do treinamento, na expectativa de estar pronto para a tentativa no dia 16 de dezembro…

RACE REPORT: The Great Blackwater Swim

I’ve done two races this year (the “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim in Cork City and the GaddinAbtGarnish in Glengarriff, West Cork), but didn’t really “race” either of those particularly well. Anyway, I did another race the weekend before last and managed to swim a bit better. So, here’s my first “race report” for quite some time…

On Sunday, 27th August, I took part in the inaugural and hopefully annual Great Blackwater Swim from Castlehyde House to Fermoy Rowing Club, which was organised by Blackwater Triathlon Club as part of the Fermoy Festival. See my last few posts for a background to how this swim came about and a description of the course

Swimmers registered at the rowing club in the morning and were taken by minibus to the gates of the Castlehyde estate, from where we enjoyed the nice walk down the wooded avenue towards the riverbank. There was a great atmosphere at the start as all of the swimmers gathered, admired the grand surroundings of the estate grounds, had photos taken with the mansion and chatted – there was a look of nervous excitement on a lot of swimmers’ faces as, for many, this would be a considerable step up distance-wise from the previous swims.

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Eagerly awaiting the call to hit the water outside Castlehyde House. (Image: Ber Hunter)

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Some of the kayakers assembling before the start, Simon Mulcahy on the left and Wagner Hernandes second from the left. (Image: Ber Hunter)

After a big group photo, it was time to get everyone into the water, with a piper from a local pipe band for an added bit of atmosphere. Thankfully, us non-wetsuited swimmers, small in numbers though we were, were allowed to wait until all of the wetsuited swimmers were in the water before getting ourselves (so that we wouldn’t get cold waiting for the start)… It was an impressive sight to see all 105 bodies assembled in the river ready to take on the 3+ km swim back to town!

My bit of local knowledge paid off at the start so that I managed to position myself in the strongest flow and get out of the crowd quickly. It was clear after about 100 m that I had no hope of keeping anywhere near my Crosóige Mara teammate Maeve Ryan and whoever else was in the lead pack (pair, as it later transpired), so I decided not to go all out and blow up, like I did in Marnaton “eDreams” Cadaqués a few years back, and just swim my own swim. That strategy paid off: I kept ahead of the main bunch and, for the first 2 km, anytime I looked back, there was just one swimmer on my toes, and he fell off once I started to put the boot down…

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Coming into the finish, trying to look like a proper swimmer! (Image: Ber Hunter)

Maeve [unsurprisingly] blitzed the course and was first home! She had a battle on her hands, though, and was followed shortly by Brian Foley (first in the male wetsuit category). After a bit of a gap, I was third home and first in the male non-wetsuit category. First in the female wetsuit category was Maeve Linehan from Mallow (so a fellow Blackwater native).

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Receiving my prize for first male non-wetsuit from Dave Mulcahy. (Image: Ber Hunter)

All the feedback from participants was glowing: everyone seems to have thoroughly enjoyed the event and it looks like there’ll be an even bigger turnout for next year! Thanks to everyone at Blackwater Triathlon Club for organising the race, to Michael Flatley and all the staff in Castlehyde for allowing us access to the river through the property, to Fermoy Lions Club for promoting the event and making sure that it could go ahead, and to Ber Hunter for her fabulous photographs!

Last chance to enter the Great Blackwater Swim

In my last post, I talked about a trial swim from Castlehyde to Fermoy by Blackwater Triathlon Club. If you liked the sound of the swim and can make it to Fermoy this Sunday, 27th August, you can try it for yourself! The club has decided to run the swim as “The Great Blackwater Swim” and in aid of Fermoy Lions Club. Entry costs €16.55 (including transaction fee) and is available at this link. Here’s an overview of the course:

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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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)

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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…