Cork Distance Week is a 9 day week based in Sandycove a few minutes from Kinsale, Ireland. The mastermind behind it is renowned marathon swimmer – Ned Denison. By invitation only – it is akin to marathon swimmers boot camp. Campers swim roughly 4-5 hours a day (over two sessions) in various locations throughout Cork – in the sea, in rivers and in lakes. The week is 9 days rather than 7 because “you never know when your marathon swim might end or how long it will take.” As Ned explained to some English Channel aspirants…marathon swimming is really the only sport where, most times, you don’t know exactly where the finish line will be when you start. Hence – a tough 9 day camp.
Matt and I arrived in Dublin on Thursday and spent our first day and night there. We headed to Kinsale on Friday and had a lovely dinner with friends Anna Maria, Darius and Louise. Ned and his partner joined us for dessert. Then we headed to another restaurant to meet some other distance week swimmers. The best part of these events is getting to meet and to know open water swimmers all over the world.
Saturday morning came and we were to be at Sandycove at 8:00 a.m. for introductions and toes in the water at 9:00. There were about 50-60 people there – some participating in all of distance week and some local swimmers just there for a swim. Everyone shared their personal stories, successes and goals. I was a little concerned about the cold as the water was reported to be between 10 and 14 degrees Celcius (50-57 Fahrenheit) as you travel around Sandycove Island. The temperature differential around the island is quite amazing and swings about 5-10 degrees.
I was one of the last people in the water as I eased my way in. My friend Anna Maria helped, as did my new friend Angela who lives in Cork. She agreed to be my swim buddy around the island and gave me the great advice that it helps to dip your chest down into the water before plunging in. I always splash my face – but Angela’s trick worked and off we went after I caught my breath. It wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated – I think because I froze-up pretty quickly. The water was rough as we came around the first corner of the island and Angela stopped to make sure I was okay and to give me directions along the way. The water was in the low 50s, the wind was blowing about 25mph and it was a cloudy morning. Thankfully, we made it around the island having done a wide lap to be sure not to get pushed into the rocks by the wind and waves. It was great swim and I was glad to have my first lap under my belt.
Saturday afternoon we were off for a 8k swim across Loch Allua a little over an hour away from Kinsale. We were shipped up to the start in the back of a box truck and off we went. The lake was fresh water, peaty and a clear brownish color. It was actually lovely and the water temperature a bit warmer around 58 -60 degrees Fahrenheit. There were reed beds and water lillies – and COWS! They were right by the side of the river at one point staring at all the swimmers going by. And – it poured down rain for the majority of the swim. A great way to start a week of swimming in Ireland. I completely regret that I didn’t take my camera with me to capture the cows and the rain. I finished in about 2 hours and 20 minutes and swam in with friends Janet and Amanda. The swim was followed with a dinner at a lovely restaurant.
Sunday brought another windy and rainy morning and we had toes in the water at Sandycove at 8:00 a.m. I found Angela and asked if she would be my swim buddy again and my friend Janet decided to swim with us. The swells coming around the first corner weren’t quite as high as Saturday morning – but it was pretty lumpy. I brought the camera along and the pictures don’t really show the extremity of the lumps. At the end of our swim, Angela’s 11 year old nephew was swimming inside the island for his first foray into swimming in the sea and we swam with him a bit. Another great morning.
Sunday afternoon brought the torture swim – and I will do a separate post about that later in the week. Last night we had cake and dinner (yes – in that order :)) at Anna Maria and Darius’s house along with a number of other swimmers. Great week so far!
We are off to swim in the Blackwater River in Fermoy this afternoon. It has been pouring rain today so the conditions going up the river should be rough but coming back down the river should be super fun!
While us mere mortals watch on…..enjoy the brutality! You guys are amazing.