Race Review: Irish 10 km Championships

Once again, I’m very late in getting this post up – I’d almost forgotten that I even had a blog! Anyway, last weekend I travelled to Northern Ireland for the Irish 10 km Open Water Championship which were being held at the Camlough Lake Water Festival. The venue for the event, Camlough Lake, is a long narrow lake in the hills of South Armagh. The lake is only a 5-minute drive from the city of Newry. Watersports are very popular on the lake and swimming has really taken off over the last few years, with a record-breaking relay which made it into the Guinness Book of World Records and Northern Ireland’s first Ice Swims all taking place in the lake. Great credit is due to local man, Pádraig Mallon who swam an International Ice Mile, the English Channel and the North Channel all in 2013, for driving forward open water swimming in Camlough Lake and bringing together all of the team involved in the Water Festival…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

There was an excellent set-up at Camlough Lake for these events. I particularly liked the finishing zone with the overhead touch-pads…

As the Irish 10 km Championships were also being held as part of this year’s Water Festival, I decided to make the effort to travel up. I left my home in Fermoy in the afternoon and settled in for a long drive. To my surprise, I was crossing the border less than 3 hours later and it was only another 15 minutes to the lake – the joys of traveling on Ireland’s new and largely empty motorways! It was 6:00 pm when I arrived and the last even of Day 2 of the Water Festival, the Try-a-Tri, was just about to start. The set-up at the lake was very impressive, with swimmers being funneled into the finish by two swimming pool lane ropes and finishing by slapping overhead touch-pads as is done at all of the major international events. The safety operation was also top-class!

Photograph – Jacqueline Galway

Me swimming not long after the start of the second lap. I was falling well behind at this stage. (Photograph: Jacqueline Galway)

After a good night’s sleep, I made my way to the lakeside for registration at 11:00 am. There, I met Jon and Jamie Glover and their dad, Michael, who had travelled to Fermoy for the Irish Long Distance Swimming Party last November. Jon would be doing the 10 km, his first swim of this distance, and Jamie would be doing the 5 km. I also met Stephen Kelly and Warren Roche from Waterford. Stephen did a 10 km in the Blackwater in Fermoy about a fortnight before and would be swimming in a wetsuit while Warren, whom I had narrowly beaten at GaddinAbtGarnish in June, would be racing the 10 km in skins. Once we were all changed and had handed in our feeds to be taken to the feeding station, Pádraig gave the swim briefing: the course would be very simple – two 5 km laps of the lake (with the feeding station being at the far end). Pádraig then made sure that everyone in the skins category met the suit and cap regulations so that the event had the integrity expected of a national championship. Once everyone was ready, the klaxon sounded and the race had begun!

As we entered the water, my initial impression was that the water was quite warm: it felt to me like it was 16ºC or 17ºC and pretty uniform. As in most lakes/reservoirs that I’ve swum in, the underwater visibility was quite poor, but I wasn’t hear to admire the subsurface scenery – I was here to race. From the start, Stephen Kelly and Alvaro San Miguel (both in wetsuits) took off and Warren Roche, Lisa Comerford and myself (all in skins) stayed together in a [very small] pack with Warren leading most of the time and me falling back every so often to clear my goggles. We diverged for a time after about a mile but all converged again at the bottom of the lake, where we passed Alvaro. I was hoping to have a liquid feed at this point but the pack kept going, the feed would have taken too long and I wouldn’t have caught up. As we went back up the lake, Warren sped off and Lisa did the same just before the turn at the 5 km mark – I decided to have one of the gels that I’d stuffed into my togs at this point…

Around the next buoy, Warren was out of sight, Lisa had about 50 m on me and Alvaro was passing me. However, I slowly began to gain on Lisa. There was no point in worrying about Alvaro; we were in a different race. I caught up with Lisa as we neared the bottom of the lake and I could see by the trees on the shore that we were moving along at a good pace. This time, we did stop at the feeding station and I had my liquid feed. Lisa got away a bit faster than I did so I had to do a bit of work to catch her back up again. We settled into a good pace going up the lake and I just paced myself off Lisa (and accepted that Warren had the race won). There was a big tree marking about 500 m from the finish so I stopped to have another gel (this time with caffeine) for a final sprint to the finish: it was well worth the few seconds to stop and have the gel! I steadily pulled away from Lisa and, as the finish came into view, I noticed Warren on my left. I started sprinting, passed him and went all out for the touch-pad. At the finish, I threw my right hand up to slap the pad as the timing chips were on our right wrists and walked out. As we finished we each got warm cordial, a finisher’s medal and a multi-purpose scarf/hat/wristband thing, as well as our finish times, which for me was 2:28:29 – a new PB for 10 km!

Photograph – Stephen Kelly

The podium for the Irish 10 km Championship race. Left to right: Pádraig Mallon, Patricia McParland, Warren Roche, me, Bill Donnelly, Aoiffe McCourt-Lynch and Myles McCourt.

Lisa and Warren finished about 45 seconds after me and the other swimmers came in in dribs and drabs over the next hour and a half. Once the last swimmer was in, the presentations were made. I was delighted to not just be on the podium, but to be the Irish Champion for 10 km for 2013. I never expected that, especially just a week after my longest swim ever! I came home that evening with two trophies, two medals, a wooden plate, the finisher’s prize and an Amphibia X-Bag. I had a fantastic weekend at the Camlough Lake Water Festival and would highly recommend it to anyone. The bar has been set very high for other event organisers with this one!

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Tuairisc ón tSibéir ar Raidió na Gaeltachta

Mar ‘tá ar eolas agaibh ag an bpointe seo, tá ár gceathrar snámhaithe tar éis teacht abhaile ó Chraobhchomórtaisibh Shnámh Gheimhridh na Rúise i Tyumen na Sibéire. Maidin indiu, do dhein duine acu, Nuala Moore, agallamh le Helen Ní Shé ar chuid de chlárachaibh RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, An Saol ó Dheas, á chraoladh beo ón Daingean. Ní gá dhom á rá go raibh fuacht ar an lucht éisteachta féinig agus iad ag díriú isteach ar cad a bhí le rá ag Nuala fén gcleasaíocht a bhí á déanamh thall! Is féidir leat éisteacht leis an gclár tré chliceáil ar an nasc seo thíos (is í Nuala an chéad aoi):

Éist le Nuala ag caint ar an gclár…

Tugann Helen agus a clár tacaíocht iontach do Nuala agus don tsnámh fén aer go ginearálta. Dá barr, bíonn gach eolas ag pobal Gaeltachta a’ Deiscirt fé cad ‘tá ag tarlúint i gcúrsaí snámha fén aer ins na ceantairibh sin. Is féidir le gach éinne an clár so do leanúint ar Twitter @saolodheas, tá an clár le fáil ar Facebook chomh maith…

Ailt Bainteacha:

Irish Results from the Russian Winter Swimming Championships

Our four competitors (Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Pádraig Mallon and Noel Brennan) at the Russian Winter Swimming Championships have all returned home safely from Tyumen, Siberia following a very successful weekend. This morning, I spoke to Pádraig Mallon (Armagh) about how the hardened swimmers got on at the event…

Photograph – Facebook

“Team Irlandia” (l-r: Nuala Moore, Pádraig Mallon, Anne Marie Ward, Noel Brennan) with Jackie Cobell, the World Record holder for the slowest even English Channel swim!

Owen: First of all, Pádraig, can you tell us what the conditions were like when you first arrived in Tyumen?

Pádraig: When we arrived on the Friday, it was around –19ºC or –20ºC and there was no wind-chill factor, but there was a lot of snow and ice on the ground. This was what we had been told to expect so it didn’t come as too much of a shock.

Owen: Obviously, swimming in such extreme conditions is not without some major risks. What sorts of measures were in place to make sure that swimmers were safe?

Pádraig: The events were very well organised and were run by professionals who knew what they were doing. Everyone had to have an ECG and a blood pressure test before each swim, and if the doctors weren’t happy you would not be allowed to swim. This gave both the organisers and the swimmers peace of mind that everyone was fit to swim in 0.3ºC water. The recovery process after swimming was also carefully managed.

Owen: The 25 m and 50 m individual events and the 4 × 25 m relay event were on the Saturday. How did the Irish team do in these events?

Pádraig: It was a bit cooler on the Saturday, about –21ºC, but still not too bad. The first event was the 25 m breaststroke, Anne Marie came 4th and Nuala came 5th. In the freestyle, Nuala came 5th and Anne Marie came 6th. The women’s 50 m events were cancelled but Noel Brennan (Donegal) and I got to swim in the men’s event. The four of us also got to swim in the relay, which was a bit of fun, but we didn’t place.

Photograph – Facebook

Noel Brennan entertains with some unusual headgear!

Owen: Great stuff! How did the endurance events go on the Sunday?

Pádraig: It was a lot colder on the Sunday, between –30ºC and –33ºC during the competition. There was also a breeze, which made it feel even colder. Nuala and Anne Marie both did the 150 m and Nuala placed 3rd in her age group. I did the 300 m and placed 3rd also. The last event was a swim-off between two Russians, both going for the same ice swimming record. The winner broke the record by swimming just over 2,250 m in just over 1 hour 6 minutes…

Photograph – Facebook

Pádraig waits in anticipation for the start of the 300 m endurance swim…

Owen: Fantastic results, two medals for Ireland isn’t so bad at all! What was the highlight of the whole experience for you?

Pádraig: Definitely winning the bronze medal in the 300 m! I was only taking 50 m at a time. It was a great experience to swim against such a high calibre of swimmers and come out with a medal.

Owen: You must be delighted to be home at this stage?

Pádraig: Yes, we had an amazing time but I’m very relieved to be back in home to damp, semi-cold conditions!

Owen: Pádraig, thanks a million for taking the call. Enjoy the thawing-out process and have a great Christmas!

Pádraig is the organiser of the Camlough Lake Water Festival, which is held in August each year and includes a myriad of open water swimming events of various distances. He is waiting on confirmation that Camlough can also host winter swimming events in 2013 for anyone looking to experience the “euphoria” of cold water swimming for themselves, so watch this space…

Cé h-í Gealt a’ Locha?

Fé láthair, tá triúr Éireannach (Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward agus Pádraig Mallon) ar an slí go dtí Tyumen na Sibéire chun páirt do ghlacadh i gCraobhchomórtais Shnámh Gheiridh na Rúise. Ní ba luaithe i mbliana, do bhí sé socraithe ag Nuala ‘s ag Anne Marie dul go dtí an Rúis chun ‘bheith páirteach i n-iarracht ar shnámh sealaíochta do dhéanamh ó mhórthír na Rúise go dtí mórthír Alasca. Níor tharla sé sin, ar an drochuair, de bharr trioblóid le visas, &rl. I rith na traenála i gcomhair an tsionscnaimh seo, do dhein Seán Mac a’ tSíthigh ó TG4 píosa nuachta fén dtraenáil do bhí ar siúl ag Nuala i Loch a’ Pheidléara. Tá an fís nasctha agam thíos agus tá sé aistrithe go Béarla agam fé sin…

At the moment, the Irish (Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward and Pádraig Mallon) are on the way to Tyumen, Siberia to take plart in the Russian Winter Swimming Championships. Earlier in the year, Nuala and Anne Marie had planned to travel to Russia to be part of a relay attempt from the Russian mainland to the Alaskan mainland. Unfortunately, the swim didn’t go ahead due to issues with visas, etc. In the course of the training, Seán Mac a’ tSíthigh of TG4 made a news item about Nuala’s training in Pedlar’s Lake. I’ve put a link to the video below and translated it into English underneath…

Aistriúchán go Béarla / Translation into English:

Seán Mac a’ tSíthigh: More than a thousand feet above sea-level is a strange destination for a sea swimmer. However, at 7ºC (5ºC lower than the temperature of the sea) Pedlar’s Lake, high in the mountains of Corca Dhuibhne, has the coldest water in the area, and it is here that Nuala Moore does her training. She and Anne Marie Ward, a swimmer from Donegal, plan to take on the toughest swim in the world, the fifty miles of frozen sea between Russia and Alaska that they call the Bering Strait.

Nuala Moore: There are more than twenty-five international swimmers on the team and our plan is to get into the water and do multiple immersions. So, swimming for 20 minutes at a time, spending 6 or 7 hours on the boat and going back in again.

Séan Mac a’ tSíthigh: Nuala has years of experience when it comes to long distance swimming. She has completed great feats in the seas of this country and abroad. She has been coming here since November, and with a enthusiasm and courage, her body is becoming used to the cold.

Nuala Moore: Breathing is difficult at the start as the muscles become quite tight and this puts pressure on your heart. I had to lift up my face a few times but I’m fine now.

Seán Mac a’ tSíthigh: The Lunatic of the Lake is a cause for wonder among many hikers in the area. Nobody has swum across the entire Bering Strait yet, but you may rest assured that the long, cold days in Pedlar’s Lake will stand to the Dingle woman. Seán Mac a’ tSíthigh, Nuacht TG4, in Corca Dhuibhne.

Níos déanaí, tá Seán tar éis agallamh do dhéanamh le Nuala do Nuacht RTÉ i rith a cuid traenála níos déine do na Craobhchomórtais Shnámh Gheimhridh na Rúise, a bheidh ar siúl an deireadh seachtaine seo! Féach ar seo…

More recently, Seán did an interview with Nuala for RTÉ News during her somewhat more extreme training for the Russian Winter Swimming Championships, which are taking place this weekend! Take a look at this…

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Three Irish lunatics headed for Siberia!

Tomorrow, three lunatics from opposite ends of the Island of Ireland will board a plane bound for the heart of Siberia. Nuala Moore from Dingle in Co. Kerry, Anne Marie Ward from Co. Donegal and Pádraig Mallon from Co. Armagh are heading to the city of Tyumen to join fellow ice swimming enthusiasts from around the world for the Russian Winter Swimming Championships.

Photograph – Unknown

The Siberian city of Tyumen, Russia’s oldest settlement in Siberia, in the depths of winter.

The temperature in Tyumen at the moment is about –25ºC at night, with a daytime maximum of –10ºC. Good and “fresh” then! The swimming will take place in a specially made hole in the ice, just under the bridge in the above photograph, so the water temperature will be as close to the 0ºC as possible… The Championships get underway on Saturday, when swimmers will have the opportunity to swim in 25 m and 50 m events, on both freestyle and breaststroke, as well as a 4 × 25 m relay event. On Sunday, freestyle events in the 150 m, 300 m, 500, 800 m and 1 km distances will be available, as well as a grueling 1+ km endurance event for the real die-hards!

Photograph – Nuala Moore

Nuala’s training régime attracts some media attention!

The Championships are affiliated with the International Ice Swimming Federation (link below) and a potential Bering Straits crossing being planned for 2013. Swimmers may be accepted into this crossing depending on their showing at these Championships. Please join me in wishing Nuala, Anne Marie and Pádraig the very best of luck!

Thanks to Ram Barkai of the International Ice Swimming Association for providing me with most of the information for this post!