Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 8

Here’s Ned‘s report from the final leg of the SCAR Swim Challenge, the 10 km night swim in Theodore Roosevelt Lake:

I woke early at Apache Lake (ok, not 4:00 am like the previous days) and headed over for breakfast. It was open water heaven: four of us at a table with no room for all the plates! Darren and Greg befriended the swimmers with “extra” (a word I never encountered in this sport before…) pancakes and French toast.

Lea, Barb and I headed out on the Apache Trail: dirt road through fantastic countryside. We arrived in the old mining town of Globe in time for an early Mexican lunch and early check in to a converted schoolhouse B&B. A relaxing day … for a change.

We arrived on time for the swim briefing and milling. Since we were expected to arrive back near midnight it was time to say a few goodbyes – a great group of swimmers, kayakers and other volunteers. Dave Barra had the eye of the tiger look and I gave him the eye of the aged back.

Another boat trip to the start – closer that the previous days but still looked long to me. All the previous swims were shorter than advertised and I wondered if we might make them up in Roosevelt Lake. I decided not to go with the zinc/sun cream and settled on the “Barra strategy”. I would not feed every 30 minutes, as in all previous marathon swims. Into the kayak bag went just two feeds for the swim, which I predicted to take 2 hours 30 minutes.

Kent had arranged for a slug of new local swimmers – you know the type: young, slim and rested. I forced myself to focus on Barra and ignored the new talent. I got a great start as we headed through a marshy area around and island. I can’t image anyone cut a closer line as I “cleared” a few old sunken trees/branches. Barra pulled up on my right – but faced longer swim around.

Darkness was settling and I started to just focus on the kayaker. Looking up didn’t give me anything but a few light flashes. Next stop was past a rock headland. In Cork, we specialise in rocks so I was determined to cut the closest line. Bam, left hand into the cliff: YES, a perfect line!

Two and a half thousand right arm strokes in, I called for the first feed: 500 ml of High5, and it was down in 8 seconds. Barra wasn’t winning this in my feed times!

I looked ahead and it looked a really long way off – perhaps 3 days of twisting canyons dulled my straight line distance gauge. In the pitch black I started to lose my mental strength and was hoping for a quick appearance of the bridge then dam. It was not happening. Arms burning and body sore from the previous hard 7 days – it was getting ugly. I could see a swimmer perhaps 25 m behind me and imagined it was Barra.

Finally and eventually he passed under the bridge and the lights of the finish were in sight. Then we hit what could only be described as a bit of “gritty” water: slime, leaves, branched and who knows what else. I could hear Kent yell “75 yards” and I soon hit the finish. It was head up and yelled over to the boat: “please, somebody tell me that Dave Barra isn’t there?”

I had lived in New York as a student and love the accent, but not tonight. Dave replied – the sound of his voice put me into temporary shock – I don’t remember the words. Up on the boat and a huge congratulations to him and the others in front and Joe from Colorado had pipped us both.

I don’t think it was close and I don’t think any strategy would have taken Barra that evening: he was Rocky Balboa that night. There WILL be a next time!

With the event over – it was my turn to hit the beer cooler. Some stayed to party – but I was off soon and in bed by 1:00 am. Well done Kent and all for a massive event. Four marathons in 4 days with the last a night swim … so cool.

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 7

Finally, Ned has sent on a few photographs! Here is his report from Day 3 of the SCAR Swim Challenge, the Apache Lake 17 mile swim:

I woke in a hotel room with no phone, no web, no fridge, no cooking facilities and no open restaurant. It must not have been a pretty sight: sitting on the edge of the bed, covered in the first lot of zinc waiting to dry, eating three day old spaghetti and meatballs out of the largest zip lock bag in the world – with my right hand (the fingers alone just didn’t do it). It must have been pretty bad because I think the CNN weather girl changed the station from her side.

Photograph – Ned Denison

Headed up to the start of the Apache Lake swim (Day 3).

Down to the marina and Kent had arranged 50 breakfast burritos. It settled well on top of the spaghetti and I got to meet Darren Miller (completed six of the Oceans Seven swims) and a big hug for Jen Schumacher. Darren wasn’t really up on the cadence of the swims and deferred on the burrito thinking we were swimming in a matter of minutes. The wind was cold/howling and Kent decided to run the swim with the wind (thereby denying me my best chance of taking Gracie). The kayakers were transported first up river and I went to sleep (with jeans, wool socks/cap, three under-layers and a hoodie) in the back of an empty U-Haul trailer. I woke to 27 swimmers (in summer garb) who had figured out the wisdom of my trailer and we chatted a while longer.

Photograph – Ned Denison

The crew in the back of the U-Haul truck, Ned sleeping in the back…

It was then up the river by boat – another 40 minutes or so and onto the starting beach. Everybody brought a spare suit for Greg – just in case.  Again, it was up the river to yet another dam another set of buoys.

Kent billed this as 17 miles and I packed 8 litres of High5. I sprinted at the start out of fear. Something in the water was making a menacing growl and I was thinking 6+ feet of BIG HUNGRY catfish. Gracie and Sarah again took off and Jen passed me as well. She didn’t give me even a small smile or a wave – so I gave her a little bump, just for old time sake. A fourth lady passed and at about 3 miles I had a big gap behind me. The next 30 minutes must have been crap because as we passed half-way my “lead” had reduced by 80%. It was time to decide what this swim was going to be. Was I just going to try and slog it out? Or was I going to pick it up a bit and not let them pass me (it is NOT a race)?  I just imagined it was Gábor Molnár behind me and picked it up a bit. I pulled away from all but one, who was like the terminator!

I then made a very big mistake. Kent had said that the marina was the second or third point and I calculated the remaining number of right arm strokes. The sun was hot, the jet skis scary and the damn terminator just kept coming. At one point, my kayaker wasn’t sure if we went to the right where the three killer jets skis emanated or to the left where we could see a gap. She studied the map while the terminator kept coming and coming. She declared less than 2 miles through the invisible gap and off we went: I reset my counter to 1,400 right arm strokes. She handed me the last bottle maybe 100 m in front of the terminator (now probably just a skeleton swimming) and when I saw the finish it was “sod the drink” and sprint (ok, it was thrash wildly and gasp) the 500 m or so. It was 6½ hours or so… On to the boat and cheering for the terminator, who suddenly morphed into Liz Fry. We were fifth and sixth and Liz was the first with a cold beer. The sound of the beer opening was barely audible to me with ear plugs standing next to Liz – but it brought Greg O’Connor flying around the corner at an Olympic pace to claim the second and third beer.

We headed back and passed cheering all the remaining swimmers. Mo gave the biggest wave and the buzzards had by now come to the same decision as the rest of us – Mo had 20+ years of world class swimming left! My arms were seriously hurting but I still managed to find a massage table … and go back for seconds.

Photograph – Ned Denison

Mo Siegel – there are now “awards” but he isn’t doing too badly!

Dinner was festive and it was the absolute reminder of the swimming marathon class I had been enjoying. At least two of the kayakers are world class swimmers! And perhaps as special, I was swimming with some of the swimmers who contribute the MOST back to the sport: Greg – Boston Light organiser, Liz – Swim the Sound and Dave – 8 Bridges, and there were others: Gracie, Becky, BarbCatalina organisers … and others.

Mo was clenching his fists ready to go back to battle the bed bugs when Liz, Bob and I confessed to 20+ river bites. Mo calmed and headed off before he found out that nobody else had a single one. The start mystery was also solved: Darren missed the breakfast burrito and his stomach was growling after the 2-ish hour start gap. I was close: 6+ feet of BIG HUNGRY DARREN … a sound which will give me nightmares and probably affect the wildlife birth rate in the canyon for years to come.

A very pleasant evening was drawing to a close when Dave casually remarked: “I am taking you tomorrow, Denison”. Shit, the 10k night swim might not just be star gazing.

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 6

Here’s Ned‘s report from Day 2 of the SCAR Swim Challenge in Canyon Lake:

All the swimmers and kayakers (and kayaks) were transported upriver to a start location a few hundred metres from the dam (for the next lake up).  I was in a sleek speed boat with some world class marathon swimmers!  Towering cliffs, cactus and soaring buzzards – very cool, and this place is now in the top 10 locations I have EVER visited: Yosemite, Okavango Delta, Ngorongoro Crater, etc. The trip took a long time and I did wonder – are we really going to swim all this?

The boat transport required two trips so we hung out on a small beach for an hour or so. Again, I tread carefully when going to pee as any hiss and rattle may not be trouble with my old plumbing. As we started getting into our suits and putting sun block on (in my case – again all over zinc) a ripple of fear and revulsion spread through the crowd of nearly fifty.  It was threatening to knock Canyon Lake out of my top 10 and well down to bottom 10.  Greg O’Connor had forgotten his swim suit and was threatening to swim naked. Liz Fry looked ready to scramble up the cliff. I produced a spare set and basically saved the day. This kind of evened it out my “swim cred”  – as earlier I was the only one to lay on the ground to take a nap before the swim, providing a kind of jungle gym experience for a few hundred ants.

Again, we swam upriver to the buoys below the dam and went on “5, 4, 3, 2, 1”.  I held the lead (it is NOT a race) for a good 112.5 m before Gracie went steaming by. Twenty minutes or so later, I think, Sarah passed me with Dave Barra hot on her heels. I picked it up and stayed with them.  The pulled away and I was 1% cheering Dave for taking on the ladies and 99% trying to remind him, by telepathy, that it is NOT a race.

I stopped the 1% cheering when they vanished from sight around not one but two corners. The day was hot (what else) and any boat traffic resulted in echo waves. Despite the frantic waving of Cimarron, my kayker, I was half thinking to insist on my right-of-way as the passenger tourist steamer (fake steamer) entered my narrow channel. I eventually moved to the canyon wall.

Things improved as I found Dave two miles into the swim. It was a great finish – earlier than I thought. Call it a sharp right then a 500 m sprint into another buoy line in front of another dam with a cheering group of earlier finishers and volunteers. I climbed on (about 4th and first male home), congratulated Gracie and the others and joined the cheering section. Soon so many came in that we needed to off-load onto a transport boat and headed back in.

Cimarron brought her massage table and YES, I was first home! We again snacked and chatted in the sun and could see Mo Siegel coming in strong. At 60+, Mo is an inspiration and took no offense to his personal flock of circling buzzards…

That evening we moved to the Apache Lake “resort” by long, twisty dirt road … and went off the grid. Kent arranged a sightseeing boat and we saw the desert stars – MAGICAL.

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 5

No email from Ned today, just a text:

Completed swim in just under 3 hours. Canyon Lake is one of the top ten pretty places I have ever seen. No internet coverage…

Today is the longest swim, 17 miles in Apache Lake.

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 4

Here is Part 4 of Ned‘s report from the SCAR Swim Challenge:

Up just before 4:00 am, which was frankly about my normal jet lag wake-up time. The house kitchen buzzed with toast slices, berries, porridge and anything else imaginable.  Gracie was downing coconut water (I have no idea)!

I suspect that we packed 25 litres of fluid between us with no two the same. Roger packed Pepsi with Maxim? I stayed with High5 plus 500 ml of another carbo-drink, water and a horrible chocolate recovery drink (thanks for the powder, Carol!). Half of mine were frozen solid as a way to battle the heat.

We left at 4:30 am and met the gang in the dark near the swim: magic market numbers, briefing and met the kayak volunteer. My kayak is Cimarron, one of the massage therapists and I reserved the first slot for Thursday and Friday. She headed off with my mesh bag of drinks, drugs and spare goggles!

I was ahead of Gracie for the first 45 minutes – ok, I was sitting in the front of the van taking us to the start and she was in the back. The start was a patch of desert where you checked for rattlesnakes before you ventured too far to pee.  Communal sun screening and nervous chat in the hot sun. I got nervous about the “water resistant for 80 minutes” stuff so instead used face zinc on my entire body.

Then we climbed down a cliff for 20 minutes (wearing shoes, togs, caps, goggles). Last year, Dave Barra fell and cracked two ribs – so we took it very seriously.

Another long wait at the bottom until the kayakers arrived (downstream) and organized by number. The swimmers headed upstream, maybe 500 m, to the bottom of a dam and went off (downstream) on “Go”.   My right upper arm was in considerable pain – and the worry was worse.  It was not a race; NOT A RACE.  Gracie and two other gals sprinted off and I got in a battle with four or five until we met the kayakers.

I pulled ahead of the pack and my arm felt better (related?).  The gap increased steadily over the next few miles.  Sun was beating down in my eyes and even when I found shade in the high-walled narrow (maybe 75 m wide), I could see the sun lighting up the water a few meters away on one side.  My first feed was a 90% frozen bottle of fluid, which was fun.

Then it all went bad another few miles along – clearly, the others did not get the message: NOT A RACE. Four caught me and two passed me – the arm started to hurt again. I chased for a few miles and it seems that they always had a better line hugging reeds or cliffs. Finally, I reeled them in (all but the three speedy ladies) and slammed my left hand into one of their kayaks in the process.  I then started to pull ahead again.  The pain in my arm vanished … the left hand was feeling proud!

Into the wide lake we met a strong headwind. I got my head down and tried to muscle it … it seemed to help and the gap behind me widened. The fresh water pulls your legs down and the shoulders burn with extra effort.

A couple of miles from the end, a female swimmer passed me and would not be caught. I took to coast hugging (a Cork advantage) to get the shortest line and Cimarron was cringing as I went over rocks and through dead tree branches.

The finish took me by a pontoon boat with the four female finishers and to another dam. It seems that the swim was just under 9 miles and my time was 3 hours and 20 minutes or so (with some current helping). Gracie broke 3 hours and Dave was 30 minutes faster this year with unbroken ribs!

They laid on a spread of fruit and drinks on for the swimmers and crew. Everyone had finished and there were smiles all around. I noticed that poor Heather, the other massage lady, was standing all alone by her table. I decided to help – like throwing the first coins in the busker’s guitar case – I helped as her first customer. She then had them queuing up: my good deed for the day.

Back to the house for a massive feed and mixing feeds again. I think we are all positive about the second 10 mile lake swim on Thursday and, yes, another 4:00 am wake-up. We now leave the house behind and stay is “quaint” places in the mountains. The fun never ends!

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 3

Here is Ned’s account of his first day of the SCAR Swim Challenge in Arizona:

I headed off to the pool today with Gracie while the others went shopping for water, trackers, video camera mountings and other stuff… Small world – she grew up with Julie Galloway who swam the channel while living in Dublin.

There was sort of an invitation to train at the local school pool, so she did all the talking as she is a swim coach and recently broke the long standing Catalina speed record. In her words: “Your reputation probably hasn’t reached Mesa, Arizona, Ned.”

She made her pitch to blank faces at the pool until a swim coach came up to me and said:  “You look like you are here for the SCAR swim. Welcome and swim as you want.”  Gracie claimed that it was the lumpy middle aged man in a Speedo look that did it … but she looked unconvinced.

I put on the zinc and some sun block stuff that she laughed at. She had 15 varieties of Southern California surf stuff. It was 104ºF with a blistering sun.

The girl can swim! I did manage to blast past here at one point. Ok, so she was sculling feet first at the time… 3,500 m – just to get the arms moving again and off to  lunch.

Liz Fry‘s (English Channel 2-way swimmer) sister hosted us with ribs, corn, beans and potato salad and my last beer for a while. I met Dave Barra (organiser of the 7 day Hudson River swim) who helped answer my staged swim questions a few months ago and Tori Gorman from Sydney, who brought regards from Dougal Hunt, who also swam the channel while living in Dublin. The world gets smaller and Tori spent a month in Dover last summer and met the Cork gang!

We then moved over to a sports bar for the official gathering … and met three more swimmers I knew from before and a few friends from Facebook. Lots of different mental approaches in the room: a few there to win, a few to prepare for the Manhattan race, some to complete and a few to have a lash (with seemingly no regard to completing). In fairness, a lot of confidence in the gang but it is early in the season and a lot of early season nerves.

Back at the house, it was like a scene from the TV show “The Wire”: white powder everywhere as about 50 bottles of carbo-drink and recovery drink was measured, mixed and divided between the freezer and fridge. My preparations were on the simple side, Barb has several varieties and Gracie was a real chemist with loads of different powders. Roger muttered something about drinking a can of Pepsi and the ladies looked concerned. I went to bed – Roger is a very experienced marathoner and will be fine in the 10 mile swim on Wednesday.

I need to swim in the shade if I am going to last the sun.  Despite seven sun bed sessions in Cork, I can feel a big burn coming!

Off to sleep now muttering “poli, poli, poli” – Swahili for “slowly”. Just like climbing Kilimanjaro, it is a long way, so go slowly.  The Cork translation would be “take it handy”. I have confidence for the 10 mile lake swim on Wednesday and this will help me.

Related Articles:

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 2

Ned‘s report from yesterday morning:

Tuesday, 30 April 2013 – 6:00 am (local time)

The plane trip out has left me with big fat swollen ankles – not a pretty sight.  Let’s hope they return to normal because they are so big that they’ll be a drag.  On the bright side, maybe they will help float my legs?  The toughtest past of long freshwater swims for a 6 foot 6 incher is that my feet sink and the shoulders pull that extra drag, forever, for four days.

My skin is stil in bad shape after the Guildford event: chlorine/windchill combination. This will not help as the temperature here was 105ºF and there is a blazing sun. Ah, how much sun could you get swimming 37 miles?

I met Kent, the organiser, who did confirm that Day 3 is the 17 mile swim. And there I was for the last few months smiling every time I saw Alan Rodgers train at Source, thinking: “he has no idea how hard the 16 miles in Lake Zurich will be”…

On Monday, our gang chatted, ate, shopped and relaxed. Gracie and her husband arrived at 3:00 am last night from San Diego to complete the house! She set the all-time (male/female) speed record in Catalina at the end of last year and no training does things like 17 mile pool swims in 6 hours. She will be my competition for the fastest here and my plan is simple: start 3 hours ahead of her, which might give me a chance.

The 50-strong group of swimmers and kayakers and volunteers meet at the sports bar tonight to do the briefing at at 5:15 am local lime we start the walk down to the first lake. Scary stuff!

Somebody please remind me why I find the need to keep challenging myself? Please! You don’t have much time – anyone?

There’ll be another update later today on how the first swim (in Saguaro Lake) went and Ned might even send us a picture or two…

Related Articles:

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 1

Over the next few days, I will be carrying reports from Ned Denison who is currently taking part in the SCAR Swim Challenge in Arizona. Here is the first installment:

It’s Sunday 29 April. I arrived in Phoenix Arizona at about 7:00 pm. I was met by Barbara Held (Triple Crown swimmer) and her Fire Captain friend and kayaker, Lee, in the biggest pickup truck I’ve ever seen.

My flights from London took about 16 hours. At the best of times, this would make me a bit sore but it was only 27 hours after completing the 1 mile every hour for 24 hours  in Guildford. Very sore, very old … and faced the daunting prospect of meeting Roger Finch (South African Triple Crown swimmer) and his lovely wife, Leslie, and he will want t0 have some beers…

I coped with one beer but must have missed some detailed of this 4 marathon swims in 4 days event: SCAR. I was sure it was three 10 mile swims plus 10 km night swim. It seems it is two 10 mile swims, a 17 mile swim then the 10 km night swim.

So, while I had no plan to enter Zurich this year, I seem to have drifted into a swim of the same distance. Just checking on Amazon for spare body parts…

There will be another update from Ned tomorrow. Hopefully, he will send on a few photographs too! Here’s a video from last year’s challenge to give you a feel for it:

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“An Saol ó Dheas” i gCOC

Grianghraf – Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha

Veain RnaG lasmuigh d’Áras Uí Rathaille i gColáiste ha h-Ollscoile, Corcaigh.

Tá an-chuid imeachtaí ar siúl i gColáiste na h-Ollscoile, Corcaigh chun ceiliúradh  a dhéanamh ar Sheachtain na Gaeilge. Mar chuid de na h-imeachtaí, do tháinig craoltóirí an chláir “An Saol ó Dheas” aniar ó Raidió na Gaeltachta Bhaile na nGall chugainn indé. Do craoladh an clár, le Helen Ní Shé á chur i láthair, beo ón tSeomra Chaidreamh in Áras Uí Rathaille i gceart-lár na h-Ollscoile.

Ar an gclár ‘bhí ceoltóirí den chéad scoth chomh maith le h-aíonna éagsúla ó Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha agus ó ranna eile ins an Ollscoil. Do bhíos féin ar an gclár ag caint mar gheall ar mo chuid snámha féinig agus mar gheall ar an snámh atá pleanáilte ag an bhfoireann Crosóige Mara i Mí Iúil na bliana so. Tá an pod-chraoladh nasctha thíos:

Tosnaím-se ag caint timpeall leith-shlí istigh sa chlár ach b’fhiú duit cloisint leis an rud ar fad toisc go bhfuil an caighdeán cheoil sin agus cainteoirí chomh suimiúil sin ann…

Guest Post: Patrick Corkery’s Ice Mile

Today’s guest post is a report from Patrick Corkery of NAC Masters SC (Dublin) on his successful Ice Mile attempt at Lough Dan in the Wicklow Mountains on Sunday, 24 February. Though he generally keeps a low profile, Patrick has completed many notable swims, including the 16 km Cork to Cobh swim, an 11 km Dublin Bay crossing and all eight “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swims. He is also a regular on the Irish masters swimming circuit. He very kindly let me post his reflection on the Lough Dan swim here:

I have taken the opportunity, if you don’t mind, to put a bit to paper, while it’s still fresh. I don’t have a blog, so here it is instead…

Had a good swim. The mountain setting of the glacier-formed Lough Dan (Co. Wicklow, Ireland) was spectacular, like a scene from “Lord of the Rings”, and the snow on the ground and the shoreline ice film really made it a true “Ice Swim”. Needing 5.0ºC or less for our mile swim, water temperature varied from freezing in the shallows to 3ºC in a foot of water: it was what we both wanted and didn’t want at the same time.  There wasn’t much room for smiles when you know what’s ahead. Breakfast of muesli, toast, tea and juice was augmented by 7:30 am lunch of soup stew and roll, followed by some pre-swim sandwiches and chocolate bar and by now not-warm-enough energy drink. Anything to help fill the stomach for energy and to ward off the cold.

Photograph – Patrick Corkery

Pre-race advice from my fellow swimmers, John Daly, Colm Breathnach, Donal BuckleyCarmel Collins and Fergal Somerville – the organiser of the Eastern Bay Swim Team Invitational Ice Swim – was that the swim would still be there again and not to take on more than you “wanted” to; while my well-meaning brother John Paul’s voice of reason was to not feel pressured into it either.

The nervous energy before the race was immense. Within 3 seconds of hearing from Fergal on Thursday that the race was scheduled for the weekend, my heart rate jumped 30 or 40 beats, the adrenaline kicked in and my whole physical and mental demeanour changed from what it had been just a minute before. Thankfully, this had settled by race day – Sunday, 24 February 2013 – and the fact it was our second attempt at an International Ice Swimming Association swim seemed to make it easier to face. Since the Association was started by South African, Ram Barkai, in 2009 and there are less than 70 Ice Swimmers worldwide. Having a mandatory ECG completed with fellow High Rock swimmer and medic for the swim, Dr. Nichola Gilliland and paramedic and champion English Channel Swimmer Tom Healy on hand, I was as ready as I was going to be.

Photograph – Patrick Corkery

Someone asked if I was going to do half of the distance or all of it – I said “all of it” – because you have to start knowing that that’s what’s involved and not let the doubt in. If we were in trouble or slowed up too much, such as changing to breaststroke, the safety boat would take us out, no questions asked, so you had to put a bit of trust there and hope it didn’t come to that.

Photograph – Patrick Corkery

Cold initially and gasping for breath, you just get in and get on with it. Didn’t have the right line to the buoy on the first length, heading for the wrong snow covered treeline, but Fergal nudged me to indicate we should aim more left and after that had no trouble sighting. The high-vis vest that I’d asked the safety kayaker to tie to the buoy helped make it stand out. Three of us arrived at the first buoy together and I thought there’s no need for the usual open water race “argy-bargy”! I did all the laps anti-clockwise and I was glad to be meeting the others going back and forth on our eight 200 m lengths. Once the breathing settled down after the first length, my body felt wrapped in a blanket – like the line in the Pink Floyd song “I have become comfortably numb”. The body’s self-protection mechanism of holding all the blood close to the heart and vital organs was working. Hands had pins and needles and feet cold and my mouth full of cold water too.

On lap 3 noticed that my hand (was only looking at the right one as my breaths were coming thick and fast) was glowing red underwater, like the colour of salmon. This worried me, but above water it looked ok, so ploughed on regardless and thought it’s a trick of the light or the bog water. I have been clenching my fists on each “catch” part of the stroke and sometimes on the recovery too which would not be the most efficient. The thought of my hands that colour and the pins and needles feeling convinces me that I am as well to keep clenching, even though overall it will mean more time in the water.

On lap 6, at about 1,150 m, the blanket that was keeping my body numb just evaporated and the cold hit me from the shoulders down, like Mr. Freeze. This wasn’t good, as last month on our first (warmer) Ice Swim attempt at the Bull Wall the comfortably numb feeling started to partly wear off towards the end, whereas this time it just vanished in a split second. Again, the body telling you something, just no time to wonder; what? A few strokes later I met Fergal coming towards me and he put the head up and shouted some encouragement.

Photograph – Patrick Corkery

Laps 7 and 8 were a bit more hazy, my mind was more blank (no room in the head for songs or thoughts – I had been saying Hail Marys up to this) and kind of had the feeling that I was drifting off to sleep. The brain was obviously in shut down mode, although I knew to spot for the buoy and the pontoon. Saw the RIB with Skipper Barry, the Scout Leader, at various times on the odd-numbered lengths, standing off. I could feel the strength in my arms, I was on automatic and it was the strength of swimming kept me going, because I didn’t have to think about that. Temperature on my watch on my wrist (which adds about a degree) during the swim was 4.4ºC , as against the 6.7ºC the last day.

After touching the pontoon to finish, the shallow water was a bit of a struggle as I couldn’t swim or stand up, so tried to push forward into shallow water as best I could get. Some of the guys, including Tom, were standing in a few inches of water, but I didn’t think they’d come all the way in after me! Unsteady on my feet and not able to do anything for myself, the three guys (Colm Dunne, fellow lifeguard, Cian Connaughton, sea swimmer and fellow NAC Master, and John Paul) I had helping were great and got me wrapped up in my first change of clothes and 100 yards up the snowy track to the car. I remember a lot of that, giving directions and giving out, but seemingly I said a few times that I couldn’t see clearly.  I think this was more to do with my brain being in retreat rather than any pain with the eyes.

They got me in the car and the body heat of Colm and John Paul hugging me helped calm the fierce shivering and intense cold as I couldn’t even feel the heat off the car heater which they said was blasting out. After a few minutes, we went into the Scouts’ canteen barn and did a quick change into my dry second change of clothes and back in the car with some hot water coke bottles and advice from John Kenny, safety officer (and my lifesaving instructor when I was 11 years old).

When I had surfaced after this, everyone had left, but I was in no state to see anyone anyway. I had seen Fergal through the car windscreen and he looked a funny shade of purple, but otherwise okay. I was back to normal by the time we were on the M50 heading for home.

Last night (30 hours later) and today, my skin is feeling a cold burn. It’s a bit red and feels like sunburn and the skin and muscles are a bit sore too. I had this before from a snow swim 2 years ago, but this time it doesn’t seem as bad … yet. All told, it was a pretty extreme experience.

Photograph – Patrick Corkery

At 31 minutes 25 seconds, it took approximately 33% longer than an equivalent pool swim. It was a bloody tough swim, an achievement that took all my mental and physical reserves … and then some!

A special note of thanks reserved for my wife, Alice, and baby, Matthew, for their constant support of my swimming adventures and again to all the support teams, the medics, the organisers, the Lough Dan scouts and especially to Fergal Somerville for making it all happen and for the invitation to take part.

Patrick Corkery
NAC Masters SC

Well done to Patrick on a great swim and a big thanks from me for letting me post this on the blog. I would usually direct readers to the guest’s blog but Patrick doesn’t have his own one … yet! In any case, we’re all looking forward to hearing more from him.