In the famous words of John Lennon, “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done”. Swimming around the Country unaided by artificial propulsion as an individual has yet to be done, but that’s not to say it can’t be done. The reason I bring it up is because on this leg of the journey, I was questioning why I was doing this and the further I get from Dublin the harder it is going to be to juggle family and work life with swimming life. At the time of writing, Red Bull have not as yet reached out to sponsor me.
The planning was fun as usual, where I spent time looking continually on Google Earth, Windguru and an App I downloaded which charts the prevailing currents in the Irish sea, relative to high tide in Dover. Unfortunately the people who made this App only have data on the waters around the UK, but luckily I remembered a site we came across last year which does the job around Ireland (https://www.eoceanic.com/). Unfortunately the site is dog slow and takes forever to load.
I didn’t know the landscape of today’s swim so I was hoping the exit point would be somehow more discernable than a small dip in the dunes. As luck would have it when I got there, I was able to park the car in a gap between cliffs that was in full view from the water. This was a great relief. Upon arriving, I surveyed the beach and there wasn’t much to see. There were cliffs obviously which carried with them large warning signs at the car park along with a foreboding that when the tide is in, you might be cut off from the exit point.
I had scheduled a three and a half hour slot between the phone calls to Jen. The first at 1:30 to say, I would ring back again by 5. This allowed for an hour for the 10 KM cycle and two and a half hours for the 6KM swim from Ballinoulart back to the car at Tinnaberna. The sun was shining on the road as I steadily made my way along the back roads to Kilmuckeridge. There was the occasional stroller or strollers out and now as I reflect, it seems that type of Country life is quite tranquil. Between Kilmuckeridge and Ballinoulart, I was on the high road to Ballygarrett, but there was no traffic to speak of for the 4 or 5 kilometers. Passing through Kilmuckeridge, I didn’t notice anyone staring at a Dub in a wetsuit on a bike.
The swim itself was mostly lovely. The water was not noticeable temperature-wise and checking later on the internet, it was officially 11.4 celsius in Wexford waters. I still wore the gloves due to my lack of confidence with May water temps but they sagged an awful lot. And as they sagged, they were like carrying weights and made my arms tired. Once I was getting tired, that’s when the negative thoughts moved in. “Why am I doing this?”, “What do I need to prove?”, etc, etc. However the voice of experience then moved in. All the times I got angry on last year’s swims, Niall talked me down and we finished them and then felt good about them. So I then knew, the present bad vibes would be long forgotten when I finished the jaunt, and went home to reflect.
According to Google Earth, there was to be a large caravan resort called Morriscastle roughly 2 KM into the swim but from the water there were no fields of mobile homes to be seen. There was a large gap in the dunes in the area which made sense to be the location. From the aerial perspective there wasn’t many other places that would have access points to the beach like that. As I neared the area I could see two senior gentlemen in bathing shorts approaching the water’s edge. It had occurred for me to stop and liaise with them but shyness kicked in, so I left them to wonder who might this be in black, who was approaching from the north with a tow float. The currents were fairly stagnant which means the App I had and indeed the website I mentioned earlier were more relevant to offshore currents.
There were lots of occasions when it got too shallow, either because of the local sand banks or just the gentle waves had pushed me too close to the beach and the incline was negligible. I was getting weary of the sagging gloves so I reasoned should I take them off and see if I can do without them? I stopped, stood up, took them off and shoved them down the front of my wetsuit. I figured it was not warm enough to stop and take a break on the beach and also time was moving on. I was now an hour and a half into the swim and I still couldn’t see the finish. I could see a vista of twenty meter high cliffs stretch out to the south and I could see a gap or two way off in the distance but there was no indication as to which gap contained my car.
Swimming on without the gloves, the speed noticeably picked up and I didn’t feel a chill in the water. This was reassuring and a good omen for the swims ahead. This time last year, the expedition hadn’t even started and this year I was now into 6KM swims already. I understand that the purists would reject the neoprene, but it does facilitate staying in the water long enough to cover the distances that are needed. I was thinking about this during the week and my mind debated the point that the people who explored space also needed protective equipment. And Hilary didn’t climb everest without an oxygen tank. Granted they didn’t do it with a helicopter and nor am I using flippers!
Swimming alongside the cliffs was picturesque. They were not huge but they were pretty and well kept. They were some form of brown sandstone and in places they were absolutely vertical rock face. The sun was beaming up ahead over the various gaps I mentioned, while there was a light overcast where I was at this point. Sometimes the lack of sun weighs in on my mood, but every time I looked back, I could see where I was, was gone from view which only confirmed progress was still ongoing.
Eventually one of the gaps drew near but the cliffs were so linear and close to the water’s edge, that if there was a carpark in the gap, it was not evident. Thankfully when I was 20 meters away from it, a car park unveiled itself. I stopped my watch and it informed me, I had been swimming for one hour and fifty nine minutes. This was slow for the distance but I knew that was because of the gear and the conditions and I was happy with the fact I had been exerting myself for three hours and I wasn’t exhausted. Again I know the channel crossing purists would scoff at the paltry effort, but I’m happy, and in the words of Father Finton Stack, “I’ve had my fun, and that’s all that matters!”.
I rang Jen at close to five o clock and then drove back to collect the bike and home.
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