Cork Distance Week – Trip Report – Part 2 – Days 4-6

Another day and more swimming!  Helen and I drove the hour or so up to Fermoy for the first swim of the day, in the River Blackwater.  This is the stamping ground of Owen O’ Keefe, speedy Wunderkind of Irish swimming, with an English Channel crossing in his pocket aged 16, in a time that was then an Irish record.

At 7 AM we started off up river from Fermoy.  I had put a good layer of resisto light blue sunblock on my back to try and protect against the Duck Flea Larvae that Ned had warned us about.  I hate those things, and they LOVE me, so I thought I would give them something to reckon with.

The river seemed benign and slow flowing, and the day warm with patchy sunshine.  A real pretty swim this.  I much prefer rivers to lakes.  The goal was to swim to Michael Flatley’s house, almost exactly 2 miles upstream, and back.  It was a lovely, easy, stretchy-out sort of swim, and 1 h 10 minutes later I was there.  Helen even swam with me, slowing her naturally faster pace down to mine, good practice for if she gets in and swims with me during my Channel Crossing (this is allowed under the rules, though only for short periods of time with gaps between).

There was a good little bit of head flow up by the twinkle-toed Irishman’s mansion, which we all then enjoyed coming back home, which was much shorter at only 45 minutes, though I did try a little harder and pushed on, though Helen was off and gone like a greyhound out of the traps…..

Ned photo courtesy Rory Fitzgerald.

The evening swim was one nearly everyone in the camp had been looking forward to.  The swim was to start in Loch Hyne, the worlds only (apparently) saltwater lake, then out through the rapids into a sheltered Lough, then out to the open sea, and down the coast to finish in Tragumna.  After arriving at Tragumna for the carpool to the start, it soon became clear that the latter part of the swim was not going to happen.  Fog engulfed the beach; opportunities for losing swimmers were obvious.  Ned quickly called it as a ‘Loch Hyne Only’ swim.  As it turned out, this was a brilliant call in every way, because Loch Hyne is just stunning.

As I mentioned earlier, Loch Hyne is a saltwater lake.  It is connected to the sea vi a a very narrow and shallow channel.  As the tide rises and falls every day, this causes water to flow in or out of the lake, over the rocks in channel, which creates a set of rapids.  Unlike most rapids, these change direction with the tides!  A unique place!

Loch Hyne

Loch Hyne

First was a roughly 1 km swim out past the islands to the rapids.   Boy was it cold!  Somewhere in the 12-13C range, and a real change from the relatively warm waters of the River Blackwater that morning.  As we neared the rapids, we could feel a push starting, requiring us to move to the right, to evade the flow, and clamber up onto a path running parallel with the channel.

The fun now started, jumping in at the top end, we were sucked into the flow, and catapulted down the rapids at high speed. The water was crystal clear, affording a fantastic view of the rocks and plants flashing in front of your eyes before you were flushed, whooping and exhilarated, out of the bottom and into the Loch.  What a rush.  This baby made the RMEP on the Nene look like a tiny stream.  Amazing power.  Truly the most fun I’ve ever had with my cozzie on!!

3 Times I repeated this trick, before slogging it out towards the open sea, against the current, stopping for chats with other swimmers, and some idle jellyfish spotting.  Then back from the sea to the rapids, through them one more time, and off back to the shore, at high speed, racing one of the locals to the shore.  What an awesome day!  6.4 km + 4 km = 10.4 km.


Wednesday started off with a bracing 3 laps of Sandycove Island at 9 AM.  4.8 km at about 12C.

Wednesday evening was a swim from Speckled Door, which is 5 km round the corner from Sandycove.  In waves according to speed, groups of swimmers set off around the headland, then sighting off the Red House (which is now kinda grey), all the way back to Sandycove.  A lovely swim in the evening sunshine.  The water up a tick at about 13C, a few jellies to see on the way, and a good fast swim too.  At about 1/2 way, a couple of the local superspeedies caught me up from their start behind.  I resolved to see how long I could stick with them.  Answer – about 1 km before I dropped back, and cruised into the cove.  5 km – 9.8 km for the day.


Thursday was a tester.  Many Channel swims start at a god-forsaken hour of the morning, depending on tides, and the first swim of the day, at Inniscara Reservoir mimics this.  It’s an hour or so to drive there, and toes in the water was 5 AM, only just starting to get light.  I REALLY struggled with this one.  I never really got into it.  While Helen and the speedies were thrashing it out, I was plodding horribly, before happening on Kate and Phil (fellow 2014/2015 EC aspirants) who were having an equally crappy day.  We had a nice chat actually, before plodding the mile or so back to the start.  Oh and Jeremy forgot to stop, and had a longer-than-anticipated swim.   I hate lake swimming.

The evening course was an entirely different affair.  A 2 hour drive east found us on the Copper Coast, home of the Loneswimmer Donal Buckley.  He had dreamed up a winding 5 km of fun and games around, through and under the rocks of Kilfarrasey.  Guided by Kayakers, including Donal himself, we set off.  This was many Distance Campers’ favourite swim of all, as it is not often marathon swimmers often get the chance to combine a bit of swimming slog with caving and arch-shooting.  I enjoyed it too, though I had goggle issues.  I think I had managed to get vaseline on my lenses, so could barely see anything useful the whole swim.  Between the second set of rocks and the third, there was a roughly 1/2 mile straight swim against a prevailing current.  This was good fun, but a slog, certainly took longer than the 12-13 minutes I would normally expect, especially as I stopped to have a good look at a MASSIVE barrel jellyfish I stumbled upon.  5 km in the end, but felt like 6 km!

3.2 + 5 = 8.2 km for the day.  55.8 km for the week so far.

Next up – you guessed it – Distance Week Part 3 – Days 7-9!


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