Time to meet the crew

Despite the heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures of the last two days, we finally made it as far as Frankfurt, Germany. As we are sitting here in the airport, trying to kill time while waiting for our flight to Rio tonight, I think that now is as good a time as any to introduce my support team for my upcoming Leme to Pontal swim. Apart from the pilot, his/her crew and the official observer from the Leme to Pontal Swimming Association, my support team is as follows:

IMGP4216Spearheading the operation will be my boyfriend, Wagner Hernandes, who has supported me for many of my training swims this summer, including my 6-hour qualifying swim at Sandycove during the Cork Distance Week. He helped to keep myself and a dozen or so other swimmers fed and encouraged for that particular swim, so managing my feeds etc. during Leme to Pontal will be no bother to him! Wagner will also manage communication between myself and the support boat.

WylliamI’m delighted that Wagner’s brother, Wylliam, will also be able to join us for this swim. Wylliam is studying nutritional sciences in his and Wagner’s hometown of Campos dos Goytacazes, in the north of the State of Rio de Janeiro, so he will be carefully observing to make sure that I am getting the most from my feeding plan. Wylliam will also be sending out some of the updates (in Portuguese) for those watching online.

AmyAnd last but certainly not least, my sister, Amy, will also be on the boat and will be doing an undoubtedly fantastic job of managing the GPS tracker and social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (I will post links to exactly which accounts she will be posting from once we’ve decided them). I’m very happy that this will be Amy’s first experience of crewing for a marathon swim and I hope that she will see for herself how beautiful our sport is.

Once we are all together in Rio (which will be this Friday, all going well) and have our plan of action finalised, I will share all of the details of how you can keep track of the swim (and might even be able to give an indication of the actual start day and time). It’s getting real now!

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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…

“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!

On the home stretch!

Artigo em português

Only 36 days to go?! Really?! How?!

All of a sudden, the swallows have disappeared, the summer is a distant memory and I’m in the final phase of my training for Leme to Pontal. My last open water training swim in Ireland was a 2 km dash in and out of the sea in Myrtleville on the October bank holiday and I’m now full-time in the full for the final push.

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Myrtleville on the morning of my last non-wetsuited open water swim in Ireland for the year.

With the goal that I’ve been working (and, at times, struggling) towards in sight, it’s become much easier to train. Getting up early to go for my pre-work pool session no longer requires discipline; it just happens, automatically; panic gets me up and out before I even get to think about taking a lazy morning. There’s nothing like a deadline!

This week and next week, I am doing big-ish metres in the pool, and then I will start tapering down for the big event…

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…

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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…

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

More to come soon!

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…