One of the great things about Distance Week is that it is 9 days long, not the garden variety 7. It gets tough towards the end. Just to recap, Days 1-6 netted me 56 km, from 11 swims in 6 days. I bailed only on the ‘Follow Me’ swim after the horrible seasickness.
Day 7 gave us 2 swims, though only one of them really counted.
The morning swim was from Garryvoe beach out towards Ballycotton lighthouse, a straight 4 km shoot there, and another one back. Ned briefed us, telling us to be back within 2 hours. I knew that at my speed, that meant I wouldn’t be getting to the Island and back in 2 hours, so resolved to turn back at 50 minutes. Ned had put out two large yellow buoys at roughly 1 k and 2 k, and laid on kayakers. Apparently in past years, there had been some difficulty in keeping tabs on swimmers as they fanned out across the bay.
This was a top swim. Still not warm by anyone’s standards, at around 14-15C, but very beautiful, and, for the sea, unusually calm for most of it. At the first buoy I found myself alongside Alexia, who I had not swum with before. Turned out we were matched nicely for pace, so I spent the rest of the out and back swimming with her. A couple of nice jelly stings on this swim, but nothing too serious! Would recommend to Ned that the full ‘To the Island and Back’ swim be offered to all next time, not just the superspeedies capable of doing it in close to the 2 hours alloted. Or even the full ‘Round the Island’ swim!
The evening swim was a ‘fun swim’ in the sea, handstands and crab catching. Enjoyable nonsense before the rigours to come. Total for the day – 5.5 km.
Day 8 – Total Brain and Body Confusion Swim (aka Torture Swim, TBBC)
Not supposed to say much about this swim. Suffice to say it is based in and around Sandycove Island, and the idea is to send you out swimming, and to make your life as uncertain and uncomfortable as possible. Ned briefed all of the swimmers taking part beforehand. We closed our eyes while he took us through all of the things that might come along to discomfit us on a Channel crossing. Jellyfish, being sick, flying past the Cap on a 4 knot spring tide and not landing it, boat breaking down etc etc. All scary stuff less than 2 weeks before my tide opened.
Summary – I went in and swam. 4 Hours and 15 minutes later I emerged, having had no calories, feeling good about myself. Swim distance – 13.7 km
Day 9 – 6 Hour
I had done quite a few 6 hour swims in Dover Harbour before Distance Week. Some of them were pretty relaxed and easy, some of them were more challenging. None of them had I done with 75 km in the shoulders over the previous week, and with some sleep deprivation to boot. This is the idea of this swim: it is supposed to mimic the ‘business end’ of a major channel crossing, when you have already given quite a lot. Feeds were prepared and ferried out to Finbarr’s beach on the Island, along with the volunteer feeders.
I had agreed to swim with Alexia, after our nice, evenly-matched swim of 2 days before, and it worked out well. We came into feed after 3 laps (roughly 5 km), then every 2 laps after that. It wasn’t desperately warm in the water, though definitely warmer than earlier on in the week. The feeding went well, as did swimming with a swim buddy. The sun shone again, and soon it was done, and another 20.1 km in the bank!
Distance Week was done. 95 km done in the week, and some wonderful, varied swimming. Also the opportunity to visit some totally beautiful places in Ireland that I otherwise would not have seen.
Thanks to Ned, his supporters, and the other Distance Weekers.
I felt well set up for the English Channel after the week. Ready to taper!
Hopefully see you next year!