GaddinAbtGarnish 2012 – a 5k novice’s story

SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandMember
edited June 2012 in Swim Reports
In my own head, I’ve always been a swimmer. Different swimmers have different views of what constitutes a “swimmer”, but in my own mind, I’ve always been one. As a youngster I went through the exams with Irish Water Safety in a neighbouring town as our own had no pool. We had no car at home so there wasn’t much sea swimming, but swimming in the river was my real love anyway and still is. The local pool was built when I was 15, so in my late teens I was a low grade club swimmer for a while. Having by then qualified as a lifeguard, I worked part-time there evenings and weekends, to supplement my lowly apprentice wages. Like the baker who loses his taste for cakes and buns, once the pool became work, my love for swimming dissipated.

Having qualified as a tradesman, the need for the second income came to an end, and I only darkened the pool door for a few weeks “training” prior to the local charity swim in the river each year. Last year I lost my Dad to cancer, and as the local swim is a cancer support fund-raiser I decided to give it a bit more commitment than had become normal. A greater level of preparation of course led to a far greater level of enjoyment and so I also travelled around to complete a few more swims, the longest being the 3k Gadd which last year was also in aid of a cancer support charity.

At the end of the year I received an email that I now know to be referred to as “Ned’s List”. It is basically a list compiled by Ned Denison for qualification purposes, of swimmers who have completed open water swims of 3k+, 5k+ or 9k+, whether in togs or wetsuit. I was listed as a 3k wetsuit swimmer, so I replied that it should in fact state that I had done the 3k in togs and that I would make the 5k list in 2012!

My training (since Christmas) would basically have consisted of 3-4 sessions per week in the pool of 2.5-3.5km. My shortest session was 2k and my longest was 4k. Training was centred mostly around 100m and 200m intervals, with some drill work. There were no paddle sets, and a relatively low amount of pull sets. My highest weekly total was 14km and I had 200km under my belt heading to Garnish. A combination of family and work commitments saw the yardage decline steeply for three weeks prior to the big day; however I decided to consider this my taper. The truth is, even when I did fit in a session, I was in a bit of a slump. I worried that I had overcooked it, feeling that my peak was a month ago. The sea situation was no better, with my longest swim of the year being a mere 40 minutes. There could be no doubt that this wasn’t enough preparation for a 3kph swimmer, but it was what it was and I would have no choice but to try tough it out.

I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....



  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandMember
    My “support crew” (my wife Sandra and our 6-y-o daughter Emily) and I left home at our customary one hour later than planned, and of course stopped on the way for the obligatory McDonalds. The weather was far better than last year and on reaching the West Cork coastline it became clear that this year’s swim would be easier on swimmer and spectators alike. Last year the window wipers were on full and there were “white horses” in Bantry Bay. This year the sea was like a pane of glass by comparison.

    Once I had registered, the two girls headed back into town and I sat in the sunshine with a couple of bananas and a bottle of water, waiting for the safety briefing. I don’t really know a whole lot of people from the open water scene and so I was sitting alone, but Ned Denison came over and introduced himself (I recognised him in any case) and we chatted for a few minutes. He assured me that this year’s 5k would be easier than last year’s 3k due to the conditions. That he found time for this in spite of being in the middle of hosting “Cork Distance Week” and having to greet the travelling swimmers, who were arriving for it, was very generous of him and it was much appreciated. It is easy to see how he is such a focal point for open water swimming in Munster.

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandMember
    edited June 2012
    Once the safety briefing was over we all walked the short distance to the slipway at Ellen’s Rock from where the swim would start. There were 76 swimmers of 142 taking the 5k option and I was set to swim in the second wave. I lined up near a togs swimmer with no cap on whom I vaguely recognised from last year, and decided to try keep up with him for as long as I could. My plan was to swim to the first buoy (500m) at warm-up pace and take it from there.

    As we swam out to the first buoy I appeared to be a bit offline (left, as usual), so I had to put in a small burst to get back on track without losing too much distance to those taking a straighter line. Turning at the buoy, I saw No Cap Man a few metres in front so I chased hard to get back on terms and we swam together for a while. Entering a shallower patch at the first corner, I looked up for the second buoy but couldn’t see it. I was in a very shallow patch now with a lot of weeds (which I don’t like!) when I passed directly over a jellyfish. I’ve actually never been stung so the fear of the unknown is a problem for me. I stopped kicking and breastroked past him into a long gangly patch of weed and so returned to flat out front crawl heading for what I hoped was deeper water. I could see the buoy now and up ahead, No Cap Man was having some class of goggles issue which allowed me to catch up again for a while.

    Heading along the far side of Garnish Island now, there were patches of quite cold water. I thought that this side of the island might be shaded perhaps, and hoped it would be warmer when I got around the next corner. The third buoy was up ahead and again it was quite shallow here, although with somewhat less weeds. I decided that this further underlined my theory about shade, when I swam over another jelly. Slightly less panic this time, but I was at this stage dropped from our little group and alone. Still comfortable, I saw the island’s yellow slipway sign as I breathed to the left and knew I wasn’t far from starting the second and final lap.

    As I swam around the last corner of the island, the water was warmer again and I began to think of my Dad, as I often do when I’m swimming. “Hold the wheel Conor” I heard him say as I thought of the good times out cycling with him when I was young. (He was one of Ireland’s top amateur cyclists and had competed internationally). He would cycle faster and faster and I’d try to stay in his slipstream for as long as I could “hold the wheel”.

    Slightly ahead and to my left was a man in a blue-shouldered wetsuit, I smiled thinking of Dad’s advice and tried to “hold the heel” instead. Blue Wetsuit Man and I were now passing the first buoy again, so I allowed myself a sneaky look at my watch. 45 minutes to half-way and I was quite pleased. I was estimating 1hr40-1hr45 for my overall time and so I had a bit in hand for the second lap.

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandMember
    edited June 2012
    I took a slightly wider berth around the first corner this time in an attempt to avoid the weeds and the jellyfish, but there he was directly under me and I’d swear it was the same one! Blue Wetsuit Man had opened a gap of a few metres now, and we were back in cold water having passed the second buoy. I was starting to struggle a little as I tried to sight the third buoy, but I couldn’t pick it out. I followed Blue Wetsuit Man hoping that he was on the right line. I was getting colder and looked at the watch again, estimating that I had about 4k covered by now. 1hr 17 meant that I was probably about right with this guess. Passing the third buoy for the final time, I felt a little unsure of where I was headed. Blue Wetsuit Man was nowhere to be seen. A red kayak that had been near the third buoy was now making its way towards me. When all else fails turn left I thought and I swam on. The yellow sign for the slipway appeared again and it reassured me somewhat, but I was cold and tired now. The red kayak was close enough to get a good look at the paddler when I breathed left. He had a beard. I wondered was I the last remaining swimmer seeing that Beardy Red Kayak man was following me in.
    By now I really just wanted to be finished. Attempts at sighting were beginning to involve one or two strokes of breastroke. I could see the first buoy up ahead, but it felt like I wasn’t getting any closer. It was 500m to shore from the buoy and I just wanted to be finished. Beardy Red Kayak Man must have been feeling it.
    "This is the last buoy," he said, "straight in from here."
    I said in reply. An acceptable one word alternative to "thanks very much for all your help, I have it from here." Another look at the watch. 1hr31.
    "One last effort now for 1hr40," said my head.
    "Yeah right," said my arms.

    Just in front of me in a green kayak, a girl with a blond ponytail is pointing frantically. I can’t see which direction but I’m pretty sure it’s not the one that I’m travelling in. I try left again and look up to see her pointing even more frantically.
    "Head for the cars," she says, "can you see the cars?"
    I say, unable for discussion, or to see the cars.
    I turn right instead and she appears to calm down. I struggle past her. Breathing to my left I see Beardy Red Kayak Man again. I kind of stop and look around. I can see the cars now. At least I know where I’m going. I promise myself some prescription goggles for the next “big” swim.
    "Do you want to catch on," says Beardy Red Kayak Man.
    "Ah no I’ll get there alright," I say. "God no, after an hour and a half and you want me to jack," I think to myself. I put the head down. Concentrate on my stroke. Beardy is less than four feet from my left. As I breathe right a blue kayak has appeared a similar distance away.
    "They’re going to pull me," I think. "300m from shore. In front of my wife and daughter. Get it together Conor."
    A few uniform strokes later and the blue kayak shoots away ahead. Beardy must have told Blue that I’m alright. I relax a bit. I resolve not to stand up too soon. I can see the bottom getting closer.
    "Don’t stand until you’re on the slipway," I think.
    It would look terrible to go under in front of everyone. I swim until my hand touches the slip. I draw my haunches in under me, with one hand also on the bottom. I look at the watch. 1hr45. I look up and see the girls so stand up and walk out. The timekeeper tilts her head and reads my number off my hand. I’m glad not to be asked.

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandMember
    "Your lip is blue," Sandra informs me.
    Not really sure what to say to that, I start to get dressed. After a cold water swim I’m always conscious of keeping talking to a minimum. It generally only highlights how cold you are, and leads your family to believe that you are in fact completely nuts. Fully dressed I sit on the rocks for a minute and get a hug from Emily. I should really walk around a bit but there are a handful of swimmers yet to finish so I wait to applaud them. There are significantly less people here to welcome us slow coaches than there were to see us off!

    We stay until the very end, and every swimmer seems to have thoroughly enjoyed their day. Many thanks to Ossi & Imelda, who organised this wonderful swim. Back at Rainbow Restaurant for the post-swim meal, a few people pass comment on how cold I seem but I don’t feel too bad myself. I do however get some good advice on recovery drinks from a swimmer who I guess is a Sandycove regular, which I add to my “improvements for next time” list.

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • mrfinbarrmrfinbarr Charter Member
    I always admire people who can remember enough of a swim to write a post that detailed and lengthy. I also swam the Gadd last year and remembered it as quite a wonderful place to be; However I share your fear of the unknown and not knowing where I was last ruined the swim for me last year. This year I was determined to enjoy the wonderful surroundings and took Ossi's advice to "Gadd" literally & I must say it was a truly magical trip.

    One of beauties of the growth of OW swimming is the new people we meet and while you seemed to have enjoyed some of my company for a portion of the swim I alas did not get to meet you so hopefully you will come to Sandycove and join me for a few laps soon; your Gadd shows you're certaintly able to do a multi-lapper with all the channel asspirants.

    No-hat man
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    Or you know Fin, you could come to Waterford for a swim with TWO Tipp men!

  • SuirThingSuirThing Carrick-on-Suir, IrelandMember
    edited June 2012
    ha .... No Cap Man is mrfinbarr
    mrfinbarr wrote:
    This year I was determined to enjoy the wonderful surroundings and took Ossi's advice to "Gadd" literally & I must say it was a truly magical trip.

    I saw your name (which i recognised from Donal's site) when reading through the results and thought "not so bad .... only X minutes behind a good swimmer"

    now I see you were only gaddin !!

    I'm hoping to take in Myrtleville on Sunday morning (before the match),
    I might see you there (Up Tipp!!)

    ps - best of luck Donal

    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....

  • Thanks for sendiung on the link to your post Conor. For somebody who experienced the GADD as cold as you did you had a lively discussion with yourself and your surroundings. Well done to your swim and well done to your article. Imelda & I look forward to seeing you again for the 3rd Annual GaddAbtGarnish on Saturday 6th June. May the winter be more clement to us this year.
Sign In or Register to comment.