Preparations Almost Finished

It’s hard to believe that it’s July already – the summer is flying by! This Saturday, the best event of the year, the “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim, takes place in Cork City. I and all of my Crosóige Mara teammates will be there for our last swim at home before leaving for Dover the following day! Everyone on the team has put in a lot of training, including our 2-hour qualifying swims, a night swim and relay changeover practices, so we are ready for whatever the English Channel has to throw at us…

Logo – Maeve Ryan

Crosóige Mara Channel Relay Team 2013

We are doing the swim in aid Down Syndrome Ireland, a very worthy cause, and if you’d like to sponsor us just go to our iDonate page and click “Sponsor Me”. Any support is greatly appreciated by all of the team!

Preparations for Jersey are coming along also. Last Thursday, I had a very nice 7.5 km swim on my own from Fermoy Rowing Club to the rapids above Castlehyde and back. The water seemed quite warm so I decided to try a 6-hour (Round Jersey solo qualifying swim) on Saturday. After a tough pool session with Chris Mintern and a river swim with James O’Mahony on the Friday, I wasn’t 100% sure how the 6-hour would go but I knew that it was possibly my last chance to get it done before heading to Dover…

I started the swim at 7:00 am on the Saturday morning. It was very dull and a bit cool, but the water was still about 15ºC so that was good news! I was swimming upriver to various points on the bank and then back down for my feeds. I got a but cold during the second hour but this soon passed – no harm to get that phase out of the way early in the swim! After about 2 hours, Dave Mulcahy joined me and swam to Glenabo Stream and back, taking about 1 hour 30 minutes. After just over 4 hours I switched from 30 minute intervals to 20 minute intervals as planned. This made the last 2 hours seem a bit quicker.

I finished after 6 hours 3 minutes of swimming, a bit sorer than when I did the 5 hours in the sea in Myrtleville as long swims can be harder in fresh water, with just over 20.5 km swum. Thankfully, Niamh Fleming of Blackwater Tri Club was there to drop me home as my tracksuit pants (with keys and some small change), warm jumper, shoes and even underwear had been stolen from my gear bag during the swim…

The fact that my belongings were stolen caused me great upset. Somebody had obviously meticulously searched through the bag for their target items, i.e. clothes and cash, and left what was on little use to them. For the last 48 hours my major concern has been my missing keys, which included keys to the front door of my own house and my grandfather’s house, as well as keys to the side gates of my house, my bike lock and, most importantly of all, my father’s car. Luckily, I just this minute found that the thief had taken the keys out of the pocket of my tracksuit pants and hidden them in an unused side-pocket of my gear bag. To be honest, I don’t care about the clothes or the small change that I’m not going to get back, I’m just relieved to have my keys and some sense of security back.

On the other hand, this could have been a very serious safety issue. It was a Saturday so there were no construction workers in the area and the Rowing Club were all away at a regatta, and had the weather been bad, there wouldn’t have been anyone around when I finished the swim. I was in the water for just over 6 hours and could have been very cold when I exited. I could have been hypothermic upon exiting without any means of getting assistance. If it came to it, I’d have had to walk into town in my togs – not an ideal situation, as you can imagine. So, I would appeal to anyone engaged in theft to think not just about the monetary/sentimental value of what you’re stealing or the upset that you are causing to the person that you’re stealing from, but about the very real danger in which you’re putting their life if you’re they happen to be swimming at the time.

Quick Update!

I haven’t posted in a while but I have a good excuse in that I was actually busy getting some swimming done! With the Martin Duggan Memorial Swim put behind me for another year, I took a day (alright, two days) off swimming and had a rest for myself. I then managed another 40+ km week, including a 5-hour swim in Myrtleville which you can read about in this article on the Myrtleville Swimmers website: Owen O’Keefe’s Swim

Map – FINIS Hydro Tracker GPS

There was some more good news this week in that entries have finally opened for the first ever Munster Open Water Swimming Championships at the National Rowing Centre, Cork on Saturday, 17 August 2013. These promise to be great regional championship events and will also include the Irish Junior 5 km Championships and a relay event. You can find more information on the event website…

Logo – Owen O'Keefe

Chun deireadh ceart do chur lem’ sheachtain snámha, do bhuaileas bóthar siar go Corca Dhuibhne agus an snámh bliantúil de chuid Nuala Moore ó Ché Cuain go Cé Cheann Trá agus thar n-ais arís (más mian). Lá grianmhar tirim a bhí ann ach bhí sé ana-ghaothmhar, do bhí cuilithíní ag teacht ón dtaobh clé an fhaid is a bhíomair ag snámh ó Ché Cuain go Ceann Trá. Do bhíos i n-ann teach ard buí do dhéanamh amach agus mé ag dul sa treo ó thuaidh – ní rabhas ábalta an Cé d’fheiceáil ar aon chor. Do chríochnaíos an chéad slí (b’fhéidir 1,800 m) i n-am píosa beag ní b’fhaide ná 30 neomataí. Nuair a chasas timpeall is do thosnaigh ag dul ins an treo eile, níor thig liom rud ar bith d’fheiscint thar na dtonnta is do chasas ar ais go Cé Cheann Trá airís. Do bhí tae is ceapairí i dTigh Pháidí Uí Shé ar Ard an Bhóthair againn i ndiaigh an tsnámha.

Grianghraf – Owen O'Keefe

Im’ sheasamh ar Ché Cuain ag féachaint trasna go dtí Cé Cheann Trá…

That’s pretty much all I have to say for now. There is the possibility of meeting Diarmuid Dennehy and Carol Cashell for a new swim, Bridgetown Priory to Fermoy, on Saturday but other than that, the next big one is the “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim on Saturday, 6 June…

Catching up on myself…

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post lamenting the relatively small amount of training that I’d done in 2013 versus what I’d done in 2012. Over the last 3 or 4 weeks, though, things have started to pick up a bit and I’m starting to get a bit more training done. This is probably down to two three main factors:

  1. It’s springtime! The days are much longer and the weather is getting better, this makes it  a lot easier to have a good attitude about getting up in the morning and makes the odd open water session a possibility.
  2. I recently rejoined Fermoy SC. Now, someone else has to decide where, when, and for how long I swim! Someone will also be cross if I don’t turn up for training. It’s hard to imagine the difference that this makes – I now find it a hundred times easier to train just because I don’t have to think or plan, I just do what I’m told! I have great admiration for everyone that can motivate and organise themselves to train.
  3. It’s “study month” at UCC – that month (April) that UCC students are given off to study for the end-of-year written exams in May (only three weeks for my course as we have an extra field module in April). This means that I don’t have to waste upwards of 2 hours and some energy sitting on a bus doing nothing. More time/energy for swimming!

We’re almost at the end of April now and, as you can see from Fig. 1 (below), this month has seen me swim almost twice as much as I did in either January, February or March. I put this down to a combination of 1., 2. and 3. above…

Figure – Owen O'Keefe

Fig. 1 – Monthly metres for 2013 as at 28 April.

One of my major issues last year was that I took off like mad right at the beginning of the year, I built up very quickly from a <5 km week (with not a lot of base training from 2011) to a >50 km week in just one month and then very quickly crashed and burned. I got quite sick and demotivated and could hardly swim for a few weeks, and even when I did start back it was a slow start and never really went anywhere for the rest of the year. This year has been very different: I started off slowly (from a good base of swimming in late 2012) and had two strange up-down cycles but have now started to maintain modest but more consistent mileage which, I might add, consists of much better quality training than anything that I did last year. You can see the comparison between my weekly training distances from 2012 and 2013 in Fig. 2 (below).

Figure – Owen O'Keefe

Fig. 2 – Comparison of Weeks 1 to 17 from 2012 and 2013.

Now, with the water warming up and the long days, open water can start to contribute much more to my training. I have easy access to open water with the River Blackwater and Knockananig Reservoir right on my doorstep – both of these are “open all hours” venues and are free of charge so I intend to make great use of them! Also, my open water training should be of much better quality than ever before with my new FINIS Hydro Tracker GPS which I’ve been testing over the last week or so.

In Fig. 3 (below), you can see my early burst of training in January 2012 and the subsequent plateau where I became unwell contrasted with this year’s steadier climb. I’d hope to catch up with myself at some point in June (when I will be attempting my 6 hour qualifying swim for my Round Jersey Solo in July) and continue with both pool and open water training for the rest of the summer.

Figure – Owen O'Keefe

Fig. 3 – Accumulation of metres for 2012 and 2013.

All going well, I should finish the year with 1,000 km or thereabouts. But, as we all know, it’s not really the mileage that counts but the quality of the training and I think that whatever mileage I eventually finish up with for 2013 will be of much better quality than that of my 800 km of struggling about last year…

Tip: Never underestimate the power of Microsoft Excel as an analytical training aid!

Training 2012 versus 2013

I’m really struggling for writing material at the moment so I just thought that I’d do a quick comparison between how my training was going this time last year and how it’s going now. Here’s a quick bar chart (my liking for charts and graphs of all kinds will become apparent in future posts):

Graphic – Owen O'Keefe

Clustered bar chart of Weekly Totals (m) for Weeks 1 to 6 of 2012 and 2013.

2011 was a bit of an off year for me with my Leaving Certificate exams in June and my first semester at University College Cork from September to December. In January 2012, I found myself unexpectedly climbing up the mileage ladder on an almost daily basis. The fourth week of January was a 40 km week, which was a good week for me even when training for my English Channel swim in 2009. The next week, I managed over 50 km, including a 25 km pool swim on my birthday and a lap of Sandycove Island. This was my longest week ever!

However, this sudden increase in training volume took it’s toll and weakened my system enough to get a bad bout of tonsillitis. My training subsequently collapsed and weeks passed when I did not swim at all. I eventually got over it and had a great summer…

Since the middle of September 2012, my training has been lower in volume but I’ve been much more consistent and have been getting more value out of it. From the chart above, I’ve been doing very little until now (with college work, etc.) but I won’t be crashing and burning as I did last year. Hopefully, this will stand to me in the long run!