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Cork Distance Week 2013 & 2014 

Sandy Cove Island.........Just one look and you are compelled to swim around it. 
Sandy Cove Island 
Sandy Cove Island 
Sandy Cove Island 
Sandy Cove Island: Slipway to the first corner 
Sandy Cove Island : Around the Back 
Sandy Cove Island : Around the Back
Sandy Cove Island : The Red House 
Swimmers View 
Swimmers View 
Swimmers View 
Ned Dennison 
Yes: His shoulders really are this big 
Sylle Estadiou 
Yes: Planning to swim English Channel : Butterfly 
Penny Palfrey 
Yes: THE Penny Palfrey 
Surprising what goes on whilst Haydn is off swimming. 
But Nicola forgot to ask Sir Bob, if it really was him that unpicked the threads from a hotel blanket in Exmouth to spell out a swear word? Or whether it was one the Rats? 
Lee Swim: The start of a wave 
Lee Swim: Part way through and spreading out 
Lough Allua at the start 
Haydn swimming ashore in Lough Allua 
Haydn swimming ashore in Lough Allua 
Litter Pick at Myrtleville 
Blackwater River, Fermoy 
Tragumna: Looking back towards the far headland, turn right for Lough Ine and onwards till morning 
 
Inniscarra Reservoir 
Carmen.........................Helen.............................Milko........................Sylvain 
 
.Rory...................................Brian.......................Liam................Lynsey 
 
Adrian........................Sarah........................Alan........................David 
 
Trevor.................................Colm.......................David..............Kenneth 
 
Ella................................Jackie.............................Una.............Anna Maria 
 
Kari....................................Sarah...........................Maeve...................Patrick 
 
David...Penny........Jackie ...Thomas.................Jowita...Bryn.............Ned 
 
THE SWIMMERS 
 
Bryan Avery England 
Robert Bohane Cork Ireland 
Bethany Bosch Vermont United States 
Jim Boucher Surrey England 
Colm Breathnach Waterford Ireland 
Grace Clifford Cork Ireland 
jackie Cobell Kent England 
Patrick Corkery Dublin Ireland 
David Dammerman New York United States 
Ned Denison Cork Ireland 
Ella Dunn Greater Manchester England 
Lynsey Dunne Sligo Ireland 
Bryn Dymott Cambridgeshire England 
Sylvain Estadieu Västra Götaland Sweden 
Rory Fitzgerald Hampshire England 
Catherine Fravello Dublin Ireland 
Helen Gibbs Northamptonshire England 
Milko van Gool Malawi Netherlands 
Adrian Healy Cork Ireland 
Sandra Howard Cork Ireland 
Eddie Irwin Cork Ireland 
Nora Irwin Cork Ireland 
Ger Kennedy Dublin Ireland 
Thomas W. Kofler BZ Italy 
Brian Lanahan South Carolina United States 
David Lee Cork Ireland 
Roisin lewis Dublin Ireland 
Kerri Lienhard-Hardman Zürich Switzerland 
Liam Maher Cork Ireland 
Trevor Malone Cork Ireland 
Edward Manders Wicklow Ireland 
Una Mc Intosh Cork Ireland 
Cormac Mc Kenna Dublin Ireland 
Sarah Mc Sweeney Cork Ireland 
Jaimie Monahan New York United States 
Maeve Mulcahy Cork Ireland 
Anna Maria Mullally Cork Ireland 
Maura OCallaghan Cork Ireland 
Penny Palfrey QLD Australia 
Ranie Pearce California United States 
Jowita Pleskot Waterford Ireland 
Carl Reynolds England 
Alan Rodgers Cork Ireland 
Kenneth Rodgers Cork Ireland 
Carmen Scales Leicestershire England 
Rebecca Stewart Greater London England 
Sarah Tunnicliffe Cambridgeshire England 
Fionnuala Walsh Clare Ireland 
Haydn Welch Taunton Somerset England 
Things Nicola and I loved about Ireland 
The accent, and why do the Irish end their sentances 
with the word, but? 
Coastal sea, that shouts 'swim me'. 
Beautful scenery.  
Tidy gardens and hedgerows. 
The place names of the villages and towns 
Belgooly, Skibereen, 
Empty roads and slow speed limits. 
Ned calling your swim suit 'Togs' 
Being called a Feck..g Eejit by an irrate woman driver, 
(that really made me smile).  
Nicola half way through a Two Way swim: Sandy Cove Channel 
 
Sometimes you just have to take some pictures 
Chiwawa : Chillswim- It's not for Pussys 
Paraic Casey Sandy Cove Swimmer 
Died whilst swimming The English Channel 2012 
EPILOGUE 
 
A number of Distance Week swimmers had plans for big swims within a few weeks : 
 
Thomas swam the Catalina Channel to complete the Triple Crown. 
 
Milko succesfully swam the North Channel in a mens new World Record. 
 
Penny tried the same, but was unable to complete the swim. 
 
Colm, David, Rory, Sarah, Carmen and Ella were all succesful in their English Channel swims. Brian & Kari unfortunately were unable to complete their swims. 
 
Patrick succeeded to swim 25 K in Lake Zurich (his longest swim ever). 
 
Jackie took part in the Bering Strait Arctic Relay from Russia to Alaska. 
 
Sylvain swam the English Channel , the worlds first man to do so.........butterfly. 
 

Cork Distance Week 2014 
12 to 20 July 2014 
To attend you either get a personal invite from Ned or you apply and hope to be accepted. 

 
 
 
I guess most swimmers, having attended Cork Distance week will forever look at their diaries at this time of year and remember, once they were a part of it. 
 
Some, will attend again. This year there are a few returning swimmers, myself included. Whilst the list of swimmers names is different, the aspirations are the same, many with dates set for English Channel swims. 
 
 
Things were so different this year, eventhough the swim schedule was the same. I thought maybe it would be worthwhile to list a few pointers which may be useful. In no particular order: 
 
1. Many of us train to swim the Channel or in preparation for a particular race or distance. Arriving at Cork Distance Week, without having trained particularly for these swims, misses the point. Cork Distance Week is not the place to find out whether you like cold water swimming, or to get swim fit, or to have a swimming holiday. It is a place where you arrive, actively swim fit and eager for a beasting. The schedule of two swims a day of two hours each might sound great fun from your armchair, but they can be really tough to complete at the times of day they occur and in any weather. Many swimmers this year, myself included, were happy to cut the sessions down to 90 minutes or less. Even missing out the odd session.....and that is not considering the torture swim or the six hour Channel qualifyer. 
 
 
2. Last year was different for me. I had a purpose for being here. Often I was one of the last out, having completed all of the scheduled swims and staying in the whole time. The beasting was self inflicted through the energy spent swimming, hard, as much as I could. This year I swam gently most of the time. Coming to Cork Distance Week, swim fit and eager, seeking further preparations towards your goal, is vital. I might say, without these ingrediants....don't come. 
 
3. I wonder whether Cork Distance Week could be split into two separate camps to allow for the non competitive , wetsuit and recreational swimmers. Thus retaining the original concept of the week, to be dastardly and brutal for some and more recreational for others. Or whether the swimmers should be more selectively invited. But I am not going to be the one to bring up that point with Ned. He is likely to throw jelly fish at me, and expect me to smile as I pick out the tentacles from my teeth. 
 
4. Actually, Cork Distance Week is not so much a training camp but simply an arrangement where you turn up at the appointed place and go for a swim. There is no training or coaching. You must therefore be capable of doing this yourself. That is quite a discipline, and I reckon more than half the swimmers this year did not excercise sufficient discipline, myself included. We just went for a few swims. 
 
5. Do I want to come back next year ? Only if I am near the top of my game and pushing 60, that's a tough call. Ask me that question again in two minutes and the reply with be a very insistent, "You bet". 
 
6. Cork Distance Week is designed to mess with your head. 
 
7. Giving all is better than giving up, even if the result is the same. 
 
Oh, and one last point: If you are swimming here, cold, tired, sore and fed up with another hour still to go before you reach the shore....you will bump into the odd swimmer. When you do, make sure it is Sarah Tunnicliffe......the rest of the swim will get you home smiling. 
 
 
 
 
 
If you are a Navy Seal, think 'Hell Week'. The Cork Distance Week is a marathon swimming camp designed and led by renowned Channel Swimmer and Ice Mile Swimmer, Ned Denison of Ireland. 
 
The week is based around Sandycove Island, a couple of miles along the coast from the harbour town of Kinsale, Cork, Ireland . The training camp lays the groundwork to high mileage and significant psychological stress. Sandycove Island hosts the absolutely most brutal, the most unforgiving, the downright dastardly difficult open water swimming camp in the world. In elements that can be completely and thoroughly unreasonable, the Cork Distance Week prepares all-comers for anything and everything in the open water. And don't even think it makes a great week long holiday, despite it's name, Cork Distance Week is actually 9 days of high mileage , intense preparation and is notorious for the unyielding psychological and physiological stress that it offers: And for its unequaled record of success. 
 
Cork Distance Week........maybe Haydn really is too old for this one....One thing is certain, the swimmers will get to know Sandycove Island very well as they circumnavigate its chilly shores each morning, whilst lesser mortals are still sleeping sweetly in their beds. 
 
The waters are in the rather chilly 10-13°C (50-55°F) range and are rarely calm. After the swimmers have endured the toughest 7 days of cold open water, ultra early morning training swims of their lives and subsequent afternoon swims each day at other locations......... then comes....... 
 
The Total Body Brain Confusion Swim 
 
The Total Body Brain Confusion Swim is held on the 8th day where a team of coaches (affectionately known as torturers) go out of their way to remove any mental comfort that the swimmers may be experiencing. The total duration of swimming time remains unknown, the swim course is never straight and the feeds remain infrequent, as every possible irritation is tossed in the swimmers way. Little is written of the details of this swim, but pieces that do appear in print make unsettling reading. 
 
For those not taking part in the TBBC swim , the swimmers ( mostly English Channel aspirants ) will take a day off , prior to their 6-hour English Channel qualifying swim on the 9th day. Although considerably colder than needs be, the qualification swim enables these swimmers to train for the first half of their Channel swims. 
 
For those swimmers enduring the Total Body Brain Confusion swim, there is no day off. The Total Body Brain Confusion swim is held on the day before the six hour English Channel qualification swim and those swimmers enduring the TBBC swim, find the English Channel qualifying swim will simulate the last 6 hours of their planned Channel swim . 
 
Now, some say that if you have attended Distance Week, you will find the Channel easy in comparison. I don't care what they say, no one can ever speak of the English Channel using such words. Oh, and if you fancy attending Distance Week next year.......don't expect to be able to just turn up......you have to be invited to apply. 
 
Swim Session 1: Sandy Cove 
 
It always seems so wrong to set your alarm when the first number says 4. It is just trying to get light and I struggle out of bed at 4:45am, thinking I should have taken up stamp collecting instead. Rule number 1: Prepare your breakfast, clothes and swim stuff, the night before. 
 
Kinsale is still asleep and I am the only road user for the whole drive to Sandycove. Through the deserted town, along the harbour and over the estuary bridge. Into the green rolling pastures and hills to the beach. It's not a beach. Merely a stone slip and seafront wall. On a sunny day, the wall will attract kids in wetsuits and teens in shorts, to jump, bomb and splash. But not on this day, at this hour. 
 
Forty swimmers already in some state between fully clothed and Speedo ready, are gathered nervously wondering if all the claims might actuaaly be true. The temperature is uppermost in our minds. We know it will be cold. It is. We gather our resolve to get wet and commence a slow entry into waste deep water. One man dives straight in.....there's always one. 
 
A few hundred meters to the first corner of the Island is sufficient to acclimatise to the temperature and start concentrating on the swim ahead. I settle down and then comes corner two. It is interesting. The enclosed lagoon now opens up into the Atlantic Ocean. I know it's coming as the flat calm turns almost instantly into a short swell and wavelets. Then the temperature drops and the swim along the back side of the Island commences. Too close in and you scrape your fingers on the weed encrusted rocks, too far out and you simply have further to swim. The extra cold is noticeable. I am told it is 48 degrees Farenheit. 
 
Just as I get used to the new water conditions, I swim over a ramp of submerged rock. On a calm day, it looks as though you could walk along its reaches and clamber onto the Island. A swell comes and lifts me further into the shallows. This would be a dangerous place in a storm. The third corner, almost a 90 degree turn and the swell assists to push me back into the lagoon. The swim can relax and the wonder of it, the water feels much warmer now, even though it is still really chilly. Once in the lagoon, the water is flat and I commence to swim gently along the flat and sheltered inshore waters. 
 
The Red House. It's odd really, but what a welcome sight. Gradually it passes by without me having to look ahead for it. After 30 minutes, the Island is ready to take me for lap two. Again the cold hits me as I make the turns back into the ocean. I swim on. The plan was a two hour swim. It was easy to calculate I had three laps to go. Good, I am not cold yet. Otherwise the calculation would be more difficult. I spend some time trying to remember the names of the forty swimmers in the group and get to about ten.This will be a great excercise in acknowledging the onset of hypothermia. I am rubbish with names at the best of times. I pass the odd swimmer and the odd swimmer passes me, but we are now spread out and mostly I am swimming alone. I expect to be able to know the names of the swimmers as we pass, their strokes being more recognisable than their faces. 
 
The third lap is easier, and I have begun to get to know the feel of the water. I check my watch to ensure I complete the four laps in the two hours. It is always easier when you know the time remaining is getting shorter. I look forward to the warming temperature change and recognise the really cold bits are temporary. 
 
The last lap is over, I have past the final corner and the Red House is in view. It is still the most welcome sight. I check my watch and consider I will be ashore in spot on two hours if I increase my pace. The warmer water and the injection of pace will also help me warm up faster as I climb out and recover. Whilst I cannot swim with a pace for long, it is lovely to feel the strength of my swimming. Often I don't swim hard enough to get this feeling, as the durations of my swims are too long. One thing I know, once I have given up thirty minutes or an hour of faster swimming, the next hour or two gets slower and always feels uncomfortable. My stroke falls apart and my resolve suffers, hugely. Swimming over the shallows, I can see the sand. Now I understand why the Island is called Sandycove, when the tide is out, there is a bit of sand. 
 
It is good to leave the water, without anybody messing me around. I kind of wondered whether Ned might have ordered a few of us to do a fifth lap (a couple of swimmers had already done so, they were faster than me). 
 
What a lovely refreshing early morning, two hour swim before breakfast, working a little harder than normal. After all, it is only two hours and I really should be able to work hard for the full duration. Lets hope I get to do so before the week is out. 
 
One thing is certain, a six hour swim will be substantially unpleasant in these temperatures and the Total Body Brain Confusion swim (however long it takes) will be absolute torture. I am not ready. Ned says of the conditions, " they don't matter, we were coming to swim anyway". 
 
Next swim, this afternoon is a race in Cork. I understand there will be over 400 competitors. I haven't raced for twenty years. 
 
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Swim Session 2: Lee River Race 
 
It is early afternoon and we have travelled to the City of Cork for the Vibes & Scribes River Lee swim. 
The annual race is over a course of 2 kilometers and attracted around 420 swimmers. 
 
I was numbered 235 and would therefore start the race about half way down the field. Competitors were numbered according to their announced time in which they expected to complete the swim, and I had announced 40 minutes (along with about 100 other swimmers announcing the same). We lined up on the starting pontoon, in waves of thirty swimmers, and I would start on wave eight. Each swimmer wore electronic timing devices, so there was no worry about starting late (apart from having 235 swimmers already ahead of me and causing the river to be a heaving mass of bodies). 
 
The starting gun sounded and we all dived into the rather warm waters. It was glorious to be swimming warm (even hot) as the effort began to cause me to sweat.I had decided to find a race pace, which I might be able to maintain for the 40 minutes I expected, after settling in after the mass start and having moved a little ahead of my wave so that I had no need to worry about being elbowed or kicked. I realised I was puffing and slowed a little to wait for my body to find a rhythm. It took a few minutes as I gradually increased the effort until I found a pace which I thought I might be able to maintain. 
 
A couple of swimmers had passed me and I just allowed that to happen. There was no point in trying to keep up, but just to keep working and increasing the effort . I had clear water and it felt great. Until a few more minutes, and it was clear I had caught up the wave that had preceded me. Every few moments a swimmer came into view through the green water and I would slowly overtake them. Until I was again in clear water. This repeated itself about three times as stragglers from earlier waves, failed to maintain their paces. 
 
I had forgotten to take a count of how many bridges needed to be swam under, so could only guess how much further I had to swim. I guessed about 3 or 4 minutes more before the turn, which would cause us all to swim in the adjoining river flow, against the tide. 
 
Although I looked ahead to try to spot the turn, I really had no idea where it might be and I couldn't see swimmers ahead of me to follow. I took a big long look, and was horrified to see that I had already reached the turning point, but was still mid stream. I wasted about 20 seconds to get back on course. 
 
Changing direction 90 degrees and swimming paralel to the jetty wall for about 100 meters, I could see the bright orange finish marker, about 300 meters ahead. There were also and a handful of swimmers still close enough to race. I had come here to race and put in as much effort as I thought I had left to spare and which would be sufficient to get me to finish, with nothing to spare. It was so exciting to be racing, eventhough it hurt. I really didn't have enough puff to sprint (and actually might have only been able to sprint 100 meters anyway). I simply increased the pace and pulled hard. The race would soon be over and the suffering would be short lived.  
 
Directly in front was a wet suited swimmer and to each side, someway over, were two other swimmers.  
I had the opportunity to race these three and gradually, and unbeknown to the swimmer in front, I pulled alongside him and went ahead. He responded once he was aware of my positioning, but with only a few meters left, there was little he could do.  
 
I hit the finish marker completly puffed out whilst the other swimmers simply swam off to climb out. I let them go, happy I had given the race a hard shot, whilst others clearly could have given more. 
 
My finish time was 32 minutes and two seconds. 380 swimmers and I came 66th overall (not bad for an old guy). There were 15 swimmers in my age group and I was 5th.  
 
I am so pleased to have found a pace. This is why I have come to Cork Distance Week. I just have to replicate it a few times and maybe manage to maintain it for a few hours rather than thirty minutes. 
 
Next swim, well, the alarm is set with the 4 as the first number again. It is 9pm and I am late for bed. 
 
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Swim Session 3: Sandy Cove 
 
So, the swim starts at 6am. Working back the time from there. Fifteen minutes to get ready to swim, ten minutes to drive, thirty minutes to breakfast and get washed and dressed. Alarm could be set for 05:05. Great, extra sleep time gained. Presuming of course, everything is prepared the night before and breakfast is already waiting on the table. Good plan, until I waste five minutes looking for the key to unlock the holiday flat we are renting, and find it down the bottom of the armchair. 
 
Sandy Cove looks soooo inviting this morning. The sky is blue and it looks like the sun will be bright as soon as it clears the horizon. The water is a flat calm. We all get wet together and find it just as cold , although the temperature changes appear more gentle. We are not swimming into a brick wall of ultra cold patches, rather they are blending in with us. There are no swell surges on the far side of the island, and I can swim close to the rocks for the more scenic route. Round and round the Island, for two hours and ashore. It seems most of the swimmers got out early and they are already dressing or are dressed on the quay. I have told Ned already, that I am not expecting to be first in and last out every morning. 
 
Getting to know Sandy Cove Island a little better. What a great place to swim.  
 
Getting out, I am in a hurry to get dressed and return to the flat, as we have only an hour or two to start the drive to Loch Allua for an 8 kilometer race. Of course, that is why the others got out early. They would have time to refuel their bodies and take a nap (the little cheats). 
 
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Swim Session 4: Lough Allua 
 
It causes me concern that, whilst I might feel great immediatly after a swim, I notice how quickly I feel worse within the hour. Completely drained of essence. It takes a good sleep, food and plenty to drink to recover. This mornings swim was no exception, as we hurry to take the drive to Loch Allua, for it's annual swim, I remain totally depleted. I hope to get a short nap before the briefing, and get my head down.......It lasts about 30 seconds, before a group member wakes me up, before I had even got started. I abandon the idea. It seems a few other swimmers are drained too. Of course, this is Ned's idea, to get us tired and swim through it. The answer is to get clever and efficiently hydrated and fed with the correct food, and then sleep. To be smarter with the recovery, this is not a holiday, no sight seeing. We came here to swim. 
 
(Right now, I am too tired to write the blog for the Loch Allua swim. It is only 8:30 in the evening but tomorrows swim starts at 5 am. Ned's having a laugh, the swim is 40 minutes drive away. The alarm is set for 03:30..........that is only seven hours away. I need more sleep, seven hours is nowhere near enough). 
 
The briefing for the Loch Allua swim is over and there are 68 swimmers. We are graded in 6 waves with the slowest wave starting first (I am number 41, and guess I submitted the 41st slowest time, and am in wave 3). Each subsequent wave starting 5 minutes behind the wave in front. It is expected the faster waves will catch up with the slower waves.  
 
Immediatly we enter the water, it feels luxurious, warm and fresh. It feels great to be swimming warm, there is only a hint of wind and the water is as flat as a mill pond, although ocassionally rippled by whatever means the wind can muster. We head off in our wave and aim for the wave in front. Very soon I am again swimming alone. This is how I like it. Free to find my own pace and with no swimmer nearby, I am not tempted to swim a touch faster just to keep up, or feel I am swimming well, but keeping pace with a slower swimmer. Although this is a race, I am not racing but trying to find a pace. I look up to check my track, and ahead I notice swimmers stretching across the whole width of the loch. I can take no clue as to which side of the loch to swim. No idea whether the next clump of trees at the waters edge is in fact a change of direction or a false lead. I pass close to the edge but didn't see the six foot high reed beds which we were warned not to try to swim through to cut off corners (apparently the only way out is backwards the same way you got in). I waste a few seconds and once beyond, I spot a large body of swimmers directly ahead on the other side of the loch. There are a couple of kayaks with them, clearly escorting them in the correct direction. I swim on comfortable in the knowledge I am on course.  
 
Every now and again, I pass a swimmer from the wave ahead, then I pass a couple of swimmers , then three. The wave has stretched out and it takes about twenty minutes to find myself alone again. I settle back into my slightly faster than 'all day' pace. Looking ahead to spot the next group of swimmers, I rejoice in the flat water. Creating a small bow wave, which flows smoothly past my face, I hardly turn my head to breathe but rely upon the rotation of my shoulders. One eye and the corner of my mouth break the surface and I breathe. Resisting the urge to work harder. I spend thirty minutes simply being. 
 
Suddenly a swimmer has drawn up beside me and is moving ahead slightly faster. I realise I have been caught by a faster wave behind me. I am so tempted to increase my pace, tuck in and draft. I soon realise I would have to maintain a racing pace to do so and decide to control my swim and not be controlled by the other swimmer forcing his pace upon me. I will speed up when I decide. I watch the reed beds, meadows , copses and hedgrows slowly pass by. The scenery is beautiful and the swimming is fluid. Every few minutes I am passed by a faster swimmer, some close, some across the width of the loch and barely noticeable. None are matched enough for me to tuck in, when I try to get close. 
 
I had a rough idea how long it would take until it would be time to look ahead for the boat marking the narrow entrance into the river, and started to hope it would soon be in view. I noticed a white spot ahead, which gradually increased in size. I guessed this was it. As I got closer, swimmers had begun bunching more tightly together. Some had a good line, others were too wide. It was time to swim a little harder and take advantage of those who had not spotted their line. Knowing also, the swim would be over within twenty minutes.  
 
It is a simple question: What pace do I need to find that will last for twenty minutes? In the back of my mind I wonder if maybe the swim has thirty minutes to cover, or even only fifteen. What if the river section was only ten minutes (we were told it had a fast current). If only ten minutes remained I could speed up further. I had no idea, so simply increased my pace. On returning home I measured the river on Google earth, it appears to be 0.8 of a mile. 
 
The entrance to the river was a narrow gap in the reeds, maybe 10 meters across. Turning into the river I swam past Bryn Dymott, who had spent 15 hours in the English Channel last year trying to get across as the oldest breast stroker and only 10th person , ( he had to be pulled out ). I looked out for the much mentioned current. It was true the weeds flowed in the right direction, but the current was not spectacular. Maybe a litle faster, a little more noticeable. It was easy to see swimmers now, they were much more tightly packed together in the confined and narrow width of the river, compared to the open loch. 
 
I swam harder to chase down the swimmer in front, then the next. It was thrilling to be racing again. One by one I carried on. Sometimes a swimmer seemed too far ahead, but in a few minutes, I was passing again. I supposed these had no race pace, and were simply swimming to finish the swim. People were ahead on the river bank, the end was in sight. I swam over a section of river barely two feet deep and looked ahead. The people were only spectating, there was no sign of the finish. On I swam, a little puffed but enjoying the hard work.  
 
Another swimmer was being reeled in, he was working harder too but I soon passed him by. Ahead about 50 meters was another, and ahead maybe 300 meters I could see more people. Maybe this was the finish. I increased my pace a little more but knew I had no sprint to offer. I caught up to the feet of the swimmer ahead and she responded too, knowing the finish was near, but not racing. Gradually drawing level we had both increased our pace and finished within a second or two of each other. 
 
I would say, this was the best swim of my life. Every single stroke was a joy and the location simply beautiful. 
 
Climbing out of the water, I was almost sweating and nowhere near the shivering wrecks that many swimmers appeared to be. 
 
Four miles in 2 hours 10 minutes and finished in 32nd place. Gosh, I wish I could maintain a faster pace for two hours rather than thirty minutes. 
 
We had a communal lunch and drove back to Kinsale. The evening was drawing in and costing precious sleep time. I prepare for the mornings swim and it is all to soon half past eight, then 9 o'clock. The alarm is set for 03:30 
 
Despite being tired, I waste about an hour laying in bed, trying to sleep, but can't turn off my thoughts. I suppose at least I am resting my bones, but it is a good deep sleep that is wanted. Every hour or so, I check the time on my watch and soon enough, I am waiting for the alarm to sound. Why is it so hard to sleep, the more tired you get? Six hours is not enough when the next mornings swim is so early. 
 
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Swim Session 5: Myrtleville 
 
It s still dark as we drive to Myrtleville. Its not far, but through narrow country lanes. Nicola drives while I eat my breakfast. We arrive at the beach at 04:30 as the sky begins to offer us a pale light, the Atlantic Ocean is a silvery grey. The sun is still asleep below the horizon. 
 
We swim off parallel to the rocky headland, having been told to make for the next beach and return. The water is cold, maybe 12C at most. The water is calm, with little swell. It is times like this when you can comfortably swim over the rocks and be distracted by the weeds and the odd small crab scuttling away as you pass overhead. Misjudge it a little and your fingers drag over the rocks, get it completly wrong and you scracth your belly or thighs. 
 
I feel lethargic and just swim, waiting for the time to pass. I resist looking at my watch, but try to judge the time. It will soon be time to look. I look at my watch and am spot on, thirty minutes gone. I cannot find my pace or enthusiasm. Reaching the beach, I turn around and head back. Other swimmers are in groups talking for a few moments, others are still swimming to the beach, others like me, have started back. That's when I first noticed a purple stinger drifting past my body about two feet deep. About the size of you fist or smaller, these were mostly smaller. Easy to miss, but with a nasty little sting. 
 
The tide was against us on the way back, but hardly noticeable and nothing of any concern. The jelly was gone and the sun had cleared the horizon sending silver blue shadows across the wavelets. I suppose it took about five minutes to pay atention to the golden pathway directly ahead. No need to see where you are swimming, just swim towards the light. It was easy to stay on the track, either side the water was a dull green, brown, grey. Looking ahead at the golden ball of sun, not yet too bright to dazzle, I realised why this swim had been added to Ned's itinerary. English Channel swimmers will be so familiar with this most uplifting of sights, as the hours of darkness pass and the sun rises in the Channel. The sea takes on this wonderful shade of colour and shadow, it lasts about thirty minutes.  
 
In between the moments of beauty, I pass another stinger reminding me we are swimming in a difficult space. Maybe attracted to the light, the jellies approach the surface. They are all small, but I begin the counting game. Every few minutes another comes close. I miss them all by a foot or two. One gets so close it is rotated through the vortex of my hand pulling through the water. That's One : Nil to me. 
 
I get bored after I get to 13 jellies and anyway, its time to swim into the beach from where we started. 
I swim through a small patch of weed. It is never a surprise, it doesn't make you flinch. I don't bother to look or shake weeds off, they will fall away on their own. Then, its different, my right hand hits something more firm as my fingers spear a stinger. It disapears under my body in a tangle of jelly and tassles. Hah, that's Two : Nll to me. 
 
Back on the beach, some are dressed already, some are shivering, all have ended their session early or as soon as they had made it back ashore. We should all have stayed in a little longer, waiting for the last swimmers to get in, but all get out. 
 
Nicola and Ned's girlfriend had filled four bin bags , having spent their time doing a litter pick on the beach. 
 
The great thing about having started a swim early, is this, the next swim (a few times around Sandy Cove Island) is eight hours away. Time for a good nap. 
 
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Swim Session 6: Sandy Cove 
 
We are all getting rather fond of this Island. The weather has been luxuriously warm, although the water remains chilly and downright cold in places. But we know where these places are now, and simply swim through them. It would be a wholy different matter if the kind of fierce and windy weather we were all frightened of, started to blow in. This swim camp would be really horrid, brutal and unforgiving if the wind picked up. 
 
Some swimmers had arrived early to pop in a couple extra laps of the Island and you could see the odd two or three at various stages around the shoreline. Coloured hats mostly white, some orange and blue. The arms making small splashes and leaving a chevron trail behind. It's easy to dive in now and simply ignore the cold water by the slip. In two hours I will be returning to the slip after the sesssion and the water will appear toasty. 
 
I determine to ensure I get back inside two hours rather than the usual few minutes later and immediately commence a slightly faster pace. I find I am mostly alone as I swim (although swimmers are both ahead and behind me, I don't slow down and it's too far to catch up). I settle into a routine of just looking ahead every few minutes for a split second and keep swimming. The water is a flat calm with very little swell. I swim close into the Island to watch the rocks and weed slip by. At times I would catch up the swimmer in front and at times a swimmer would swim past me. Every time a swimmer swam past me, I would see if I could respond by increasing my effort and tuck in. But after a few minutes it would be clear I could not maintain the new pace for the duration, and would settle back.  
 
I was increasing the effort though every lap, aiming to stay on target with my times. On the third lap, I considered putting in the most effort and see how far I could maintain it, but the plan fell short after I completed the Atlantic edge and got back into the warmer lagoon water, where I settled back to the previously faster pace to rest, and prepare to work hard a little later.  
 
The forth lap, and a swimmer was ahead of me, so I slowly caught up and passed. On the Atlantic side for the last time, I became aware of another swimmer who had caught me and had settled into my pace, maybe a little faster. It was all I needed to decide now was the time to start working harder still, with about twenty minutes still to swim. I swam as hard as I felt I could maintain for twenty minutes, but the deciding factor was maintaining contact with the other swimmer, regardless. It was great to be racing again, even if the other swimmer was unaware I was working my hardest and racing him. 
 
Suddenly I was aware of a 'Top Gun' moment. When suddenly the one opponent became two. I wondered where the other swimmer had come from, whether he too had caught us up, or whether he was there all along.He was clearly the faster of us all, and it made us both increase our effort. I was puffing, but decided to do my best to stay with them both. At times I pulled ahead a foot or two, but they were having none of it and would pull ahead of me. At the corners I tried to take a better line and it worked. Except the faster swimmer simply stopped swimming, so I stopped too and we waited for the other swimmer who had missed the line by ten seconds and was well behind. We swapped a few pleasantries waiting. Actually, I was glad for the breather. 
 
In line abreast, we rounded the final corner of the Island, the Red House now in the distance and we swam back in. Milko, (the swimmer who had missed the turn) had also missed the breather, and Colm, the third swimmer gradually fell a few feet behind. Clearly they hadn't realised I was racing them, as I had increased my pace to the very best I thought I could muster. It didn'tt last more than a minute or two, before they slowly came leval again, and then held position. One or other of us edged a foot in front during this last kilometer and I stayed puffed out throughout. Everynow and again, I would look ahead, not to check my course, but to see how far still to swim and see if I could manage a bit more effort. 
 
It was thrilling to swim fast again, even if only for a few minutes. Then Milko stopped swimming, we had reached the shallow waters by the slip way. The water was toasty warm and I just lay there for a short while to cool down and to get my breath back. It felt like I was sweating. 
 
It's funny, I didn't shiver once getting dressed. I didn't even put on all my layers. Working hard is definately the secret to staying warm , it's just a shame, I cannot work hard for much more than 45 minutes at a real push. And it didn't feel like cheating getting out seven minutes early .  
 
The swim schedule has us swimming at Sandy Cove twice tomorrow, but other locations for the remainder of Distance Week. I don't know, but I doubt I should try to go faster still. Faster than one hour 53 minutes will hurt too much. We all have some nasty swims lined up for the weekend and maybe need to rest are sore muscles. 
 
But thanks Colm and Milko for a great end to a lovely swim. Getting to love this Island. 
 
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Swim Session 7: Blackwater River, Fermoy. 
 
I slept badly again. My arms and shoulders really ached, it worried me. I knew I would have nothing to give today. The usual too early start again, with only 7 hours sleep (rest). The drive to the river took about an hour and we were all wet by 7 am. 
 
This swim appeared to have let Ned down this year. It was upstream for about 3 kilometers and the flow would get more powerful the further up river we swam (as the river narrowed and shallowed). Eventually, the flow of the river would match the pace of the swimmer, and we would find ourselves swimming stationary against the current. The stronger swimmers might even get as far as Michael Flatley's house. On the hour we would all turn back and take a ride downstream, to where we had started.  
 
The problem was, the river was hardly moving, it did get stronger further up, but it didn't make any difference. We enjoyed a peaceful and warm swim, up and back. Few of us were working hard. We all needed a gentle swim to loosen our aching muscles and simply enjoy the reeds, grasses and trees lining the riverbank. It was lovely and comfortably warm. 
 
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Swim Session 8: Lough Ine 
 
When completed, this swim will mark the end of the first half of Cork Distance Week. Already my shoulders ache all of the time. At least the swims are varied and require different types of effort and mental conditioning. Sometimes the water is warm, sometmes cold, sometimes you work hard, sometimes a little more gently to recover. Sometimes the swims are just beautiful. Tonights swim, looks to be a mixture of everything. 
 
Looking down the Lough, about one kilometer, (we are told) is a set of rapids which will push us out into the Atlantic. We would then swim around a couple of headlands and along the coast to a small beach. I must say, I prefer destination swimming rather than just swimming to fill in the hours. 
 
We split into two groups of about 20 swimmers and head off down the Lough. The water is warm and flat. We know this will change. Having relaxed into the gentle effort required to stay pretty close to maintain a group, the peace is shattered as we swim into some really cold water. I would guess even 5 degrees colder. It plays a mental torture game with your resolve. One moment looking forward to a fun swim, then realising it could actually be pretty grim. Especially as we hadn't reached the Ocean yet. 
 
When swimming in a group, you tend not to look ahead, but just swim nearby another swimmer. Happily settled again in the colder water (which happened to warm up a touch, thankfully), I excitedly awaited the approach of the rapids and the pull of the current. It didn't come. Surely we must have been swimming long enough to reach them by now? The water depth had shallowed and we we were swimming in water no more than four feet deep, crystal clear and cold. I expected to see the gravel and pebbles start to slide rapidly behind as the current took over, but the gravel slowed to a standstill, despite all my energy to swim ahead. I looked up, and we had all swam in a bunch to this same place, and some were crawling out onto the bank. The tide was coming in, the rapids were reversed and flooding into the Lough, rather than emptying into the ocean. 
 
We all scrambled ashore and walked the 200 meters towards the ocean. Alongside the rapids, a path had been laid with large stones to traverse and in some areas we cut through tall grasses, interspersed with brambles and nettles. We tried to avoid these, but some got stung, rehearsing maybe for a later jelly sting. Once we reached the beginning of the rapids, we all began jumping back in for a free ride back the way we had just swam in the speeding current. 
 
Walking back to the start, braving the nettles once more, we commenced to swim out between the headlands of a small gorge into the ocean. Around a few outcrops of land and rocks, we then had a swim across a large bay and into the beach.  
 
A pleasant swim, which would have been great fun if the water were a little warmer and if we were all fresh. I guess we are all suffering with aches and pains and maybe even a little fed up of swimming. It was difficult to work too hard and turn it into a solid training swim. Realising we have some very tough swims in a few days and worried that our general condition and tiredness may be much worse by then. We hold back on the effort of our swimming. The swim was therefore a little unfulling although we were all smiling at the end. 
 
We joked that Ned would come ashore and order us all to swim back to where we had started and that the promised curry was just a trick. Ned did come ashore, but didn't order us to swim back, and the curry really happened. 
 
It was midnight before we got to bed.................Uhmmmm food or sleep? It is a tough question. But somehow I think most of us would rather get back home sooner and grab that extra hour or two in bed. 
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Swim Session 9: Sandy Cove 
 
The session was scheduled to start at 9am. So last nights meal (had it been avoided) might have allowed us all ten hours sleep instead of eight. It was great to be going to bed in the dark rather than in the lightime hours of the early evening. Although it was midnight, the eight hours sleep ahead of us fet like a true luxury. 
 
We have all got used to swimming around the island now. Some swim three laps, others four, and a few swim five laps. Many of us now just plunge in rather than getting in at walking speed. My swimming felt tired and had no essence. It's okay for a while as long as the effort starts to invigorate, so I swim patiently waiting to resolve to work harder once warmed up. Well, I warmed up but simply couldn't be bothered to swim hard. It is worrying. 
 
The first lap took took thirty minutes, which was swum mostly on my own. I swam tight ino the rocks to enjoy watching them as they slid past. The water was calm and the visibility had been improving all week, the sun was shining, the hour later than normal. This swim should be one of the best. Then the jelly fish came. 
 
You see them all the time, maybe one here and one there. Seeing one is nothing new or worrying. You simply swim past it and carry on. This time it was different. Having carried on a few minutes, there was another, then another. Now there were many. Even half a dozen in one look. I keep swimming, the view changes evey breath as the fist batch of jellies had past behind me, and then there were more. I had started to swim by looking ahead. This would give me advance warning to either stop in an instant or switch onto my side. 
 
I did both. Stopping just inches before hitting a cinamon coloured jelly. The tennis ball sized jelly took up the space of a football, as the tentacles floated lazily around it. Then a smaller prurple jelly, its tentacles behaving properly, were all bunched neatly together and trailed directly behind it. I stopped my left arm recovery and leant onto my right side as the jelly passed down the full length of my exposed body and away. It was beautiful. generally, they all are. Looking like interstellar galaxies drifting in an ocean of water. I assumed they were bunching together being affected by the general wind direction, and had nowhere else to drift but along the shore of the island. I was still swimming close in. I moved out where another swimmer was progressing, she had not seen any jellies. It didn't take long before we both were seeing more. 
 
Swiming back into the lagoon, the other swimmer headed back in. I wondered if she had been stung. I spent the next ten minutes wondering whether to carry on around the back of the island again (I still had two more laps to complete). Well, I hadn't been stung yet, so carried on. I chose to swim out away form the confines of the rocky shallower area. Believing the extra water volume would increase the quantity of free water between the jellies. 
 
It seemed a good plan. I saw very few on that third lap. I noticed behind me and tight in to the island, Sylle was butterflying through his session. I wondered if he too had seen the jellies. I swim to rendezvous with him and we meet up at the second corner. He had seen a few jellies but had missed them all. We swam the final lap together, and saw fewer still.  
 
It is hard swimming next to Sylle. His butterfly is about the same speed as my frontcrawl. I can see every stroke he makes, either above the water with the burst of energy required to bring both arms up and clear of the water, followed by the breath hold as he immerses his face to glide and undulate beneath. 
 
I consider my aches and pains and the energy required to even think the session still had thirty minutes to swim. I was tired. Sylle must be in a worse place, yet he keeps stroking onwards and I have to put in effort to stay with him. His pain becomes my pain.........How on earth can anybody even think they might swim the English Channel doing butterfly? I take some strength from Sylle and just swim on and back to my clothes. Thirteen minutes slower than last time. 
 
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Swim Session 10 : Speckled Door 
 
It's not that I am getting fed up with swimming around Sandy Cove Island, but it is always great to go somewhere new. Having arrived at Sandy Cove, the place is crowded and parking very restricted. Looking down the coast, Ned points out a couple of headlands and lets us know that behind the further of the two is Speckled Door. The revised plan being to drive there, and swim back to Sandy Cove. 
 
We split into groups and I join up with Carmen and Sylle. We commence a swim across the bay to the headland. The water is warm (maybe we have just hardened up), the sun has been shining a full week and such unusual weather may actually be heating the water. 
 
The calm weather has also made the underwater visibility much greater. As we swim, we find many small jellies, much the same as usual. Mostly vibrant purple or blue, trailing tentacles up to a meter long. Mostly they are slightly smaller than fist size, maybe egg sized. They are all stunningly beautifull. It is good the water is so clear they can easily be seen. The jellies are seperated by maybe thirty feet, and sometimes you can swim a minute or two and see nothing.  
 
We carried on swimming, occasionally stopping short to avoid a soft but obvious head on collision. Its odd, you rarely see the one that zaps you. Suddenly I feel a sting straight across my cheek and along my mouth and lips, as if I had wiped my mouth with a stinging nettle. It hurts. The sting lasts only a few minutes though and is soon forgotten. Then the underside of my left arm and within seconds the same on my right. Neither sting as much as the first. We round the headland and in the far distance can make out a reddish splodge on the horizon, it's the Red House. We are swimming in.  
 
Twice more I am stung, one on my shoulder neck and face . It must have had rather long tentacles to reach so far, and the sting was far more painful than the others. Then another , I swam straight into it and got a facefull. Five stings in all, balanced only by two that didn't quite manage it. Both sent tumbling into the depths by the vortex of my hands in a tangle of their their own tentacles. I hoped it would take them all night to untangle themselves. Total score 5 : 2 to them. 
 
Mostly Carmen and I swam close and Sylle a little behind. Carmen has a lazy leg kick, exactly the same as mine and her pace pretty well matched. It made a lovely swim that much more relaxing than when swimming with one whose style is so much different than your own. 
 
As for the jellies, they are simply too beautiful to worry about. In fact, they made the swim memorable. 
 
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Swim Session 11 : Inniscarra Reservoir. 
 
Alarm set for 03:15. In the water by five on the dot. The first thing you see whilst preparing to get wet, is the No Swimming sign. Now I understood why Ned had us get there so early. The water was as still as a mill pond and only the slightest breath of wind. The water was toasty warm and offred an ideal opportunity to have a slow relaxing swim, to simply find some looseness in the muscles. I decided not to work hard at all but to enjoy the morning. 
 
Swimming up the reservoir again with Sylle, but soon we had seperated. Nobody was bothering to swim close. Simply we swam in the general direction of the dam. Soon I was alone and could see no other swimmer near enough to yell at. I crossed over to the far side and was completely alone.  
 
The sun was yet to rise above the horizon. A thin white fog was misting around the surface of the water. I swam into the middle of it until completely surrounded. The area in front was darker than behind, and eventually I turned back 180 degrees and headed toward the lighter area. Emerging into a bright sunrise. I eventually returned to the start point 15 minutes early and swam a couple widths to swim off the remaining time for the session, surprised that a handful of others had already got out. Returning 15 minutes later on the dot of two hours, many of the group had also got out and in some stage of being dressed. 
 
I consider by winter time, we would all give good money for a peaceful swim as this had been, in such calm and warm water and a stunning setting. Why finish your session even 5 minutes early. Today would have been a great day to have been first in, last out. On Saturday we have the Total Body Brain Confusion swim. If there is a day to be last in , first out, it will be that day, not this day. 
 
Home in time for late breakfast and to catch of on some ZZZZZZ's 
 
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Swim Session 12 : Guillamene, Copper Coast 
 
Another long drive to a spectacular section of the coast. Clearly it is Ned's plan to have us finish a swim late and get to bed beyond midnight, ready for another dawn start somewhere else. Messing with our heads and body. 
 
It seems most of us are tired and need more sleep, many (me included) have aching limbs from the accumulated swims so far. Many have swum enough already this week and each session is commenced with some trepidation and less enthusism..........we just don't fancy another swim.......preferring a day in bed. 
 
Arriving at a cliff top car park, with spaces reserved for us by Donal Buckley (LoneSwimmer) and the local swimming club. We take a look over the cliff edge, looking left there is a coastline stretching towards a beach maybe three miles away, to the right the coast is rugged with steep cliffs and small coves. Above the cliffs are three white tower columns, one has a statue on top. We are told we shall be swimming to the towers, through a tunnelled cave and back along the coast towards the beach, and return. 
 
The water is a litle chilly, and we get cold playing in the tunnel (nicknamed by Ned as The Cave of the Lone Swiimmer). It has a dark entrance which is impossible to see past and into the tunnel, without swimming closer and closer. It would be impossible in rough conditions, but tonight was perfect. Once past the entrance there is sufficient light to be aware of the structure and direction to swim. Even though dark, there seems to be a sufficient current running through which might eventually pop you back into the Atlantic. Once through, we head back for a couple miles towards the beach. The faster swimmers maybe reaching the beach. Others would turn somewhere earlier at a small pier structure, and return to the start point.  
 
A rather fun swim and pretty well swum alone in a peaceful setting. Not much need to bother about navigation, or pacing with others, simply follow the cliff and enjoy.  
 
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Swim Session 13 : Garryvoe Beach 
 
Another early start with insufficient sleep. We drive almost an hour to this particular beach. Recognising this is the last structured swim of the week. A number of swimmers have not turned up today (even yesterday), their bodies or mental stress, burning out. Many 'saving' themselves for the unknown details of the torture swim comprising Total Body Bain Confusion on Saturday and the six hour swim on Sunday. 
 
I could easily miss this swim too, but feeling this way is quite normal and no reason to actually 'go through with it' and not swim. It is a simple course, and one which would be pretty scary if swimming alone. Sitting offshore about three miles distant is Ballycotton Island. We simply swim straight out to sea and aim for the island, turning back once a quarter mile before the island in order not to encounter fierce tides which flow there. 
 
The water is relatively warm and surprisingly, had no cold patches whatever. The sandy sea floor gradually getting deeper and within 5 minutes is too deep to see. It is simply a matter of warming up, finding a pace and swimming in a straight line. Once away form the shore the water takes on an oily flat texture. It is like silk to swim through and leaves an unspoilt bow wave as you pass through. I guess, like most swimmers, I was swimming lazy today. It had been great to work hard at the beginning of the week, but now simply too much effort to do so.  
 
Now, it is about getting your head in a place that will help you just swim through the hours. This is made easier if warm and without aching muscles, with a good belly of carb loaded fuel and plenty of hydration. Knowing the likely duration of the swim is probably the most valued prerequisite for the mind games. Today was about being content with simply swimming. It turned out to be a great start for the day, and happily, although I swam gently, my body did not complain too much. This is a great sign for tomorrow. 
 
Trying to remember this day, will be difficult tomorrow, but is the ideal plan for the first part of the TBBC swim tomorrow. 
 
Leaving the water at the allotted time, it is clear the faster swimmers have taken it upon themselves to touch the island. They arrive back almost twenty minutes late, all smiling. This too, reveals another secret. We all came here to swim, and that is what we will do tomorrow. Whatever Ned and his teams of 'torturers' come up with to spoil our day, must be smiled at, laughed off, even looked forward too. We just swim for as long as it takes. Hoping our various anxieities evaporate.  
 
We have been warned not to take our watches. I guess that was obvious. Knowing the time already swum, and the time left to swim is valuable to the spirit. We will not be told how long the swim will be and only told to stop swimming when Ned decides it's time. Of course, many of us would have a good idea, without a watch, whether we have swam thirty minutes. But it all goes fuzzy once an hour or two has passed. The calculation gets more complicated as we struggle to maintain our stroke. If the swim is easy, maybe the time will pass more quickly, once tired, cold, fed up and hurting, time slows sooooo much. I guess, once we have been miserable for a couple of hours, maybe we will have been swimming for four. 
 
Feeds are also a problem for Ned to co-ordinate for every swimmer. So no individual feeds and everyone will only be offered water from Ned's boat. 
 
At least the weather is fantastic and the water likely to be calm. Poor Ned, the most vital ingredient for a torture swim (miserable cold water and bad weather) is missing. It will be tough for Ned to make this swim torturous and unknown. There are many factors we will know for certain, even the time of day can be calculated by the sun. It will be interesting at the end of the swim, if anyone guesses accurately how long the swim lasted. 
 
Oh, and Jackie Cobel has just arrived. Jackie holds the record for the slowest ever crossing of the English Channel in over 28 hours. She has come just for the tough swims. As they say; 'When the going gets tough, the sprinters leave the water'. 
 
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Swim Session 14 : Garrettstown 
 
A play session in the sea. Crumbs, I don't know how to play in the sea. Everytime I am at a beach, I swim off for hours. I never just splash around with people. Afterwards we gather at Colm's holiday rental. Ned is happily passing around chocolate cakes, pastries and other sweet and lovely things all to be scoffed. I politely refuse, prefering to fill up my belly with decent calories and not have the sugar rush. We need to leave early to get a decent amount of hours in bed and as I walk back to the car, my trousers fall down....... I blame Ned. 
 
Large bowl of hot pasta for supper and to bed. Excitedly wondering what Ned has up his sleeve for tomorrow. 
 
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Total Body Brain Confusion Swim 
 
Swim Session 15: Total Body Brain Confusion swim. Saturday 13th July 
 
Somehow, I don't want to divulge the details of this swim , as I suspect this swim is the reason many have travelled from around the world to be here. The weather is absolutely beautiful, the blue sky reflected in the flat calm waters around Sandy Cove. We gather for a briefing at 8 am. Ned starts off by bringing out some lights sticks and asks a few swimmers to pin them on their suits for later. They fell for it........I didn't. 
 
Soon it is time to swim. Ned asks Kari to step forward. Kari has a Channel swim late September but has had some concerns about swimming alone around the Island. Ned immediately tells her to get in the water and swim along the coast to Speckled Door, where she will receive her first feed, once she gets there (Speckled Door is about two hours away). Kari will be swimming alone. Kari (having no idea where Speckled Door actually is, as she missed the swim from there a few days ago) immediately gets in the water and heads off. Asking no questions but looking rather bemused, she swims out of the Cove and into the Atlantic, turning right and heads off down the coast. 
 
The rest of us are given various assignments. Some swim off one way, others go elsewhere. I am told to just swim around the Island, in the opposite direction. I guess Ned is thinking (after so many swims in the 'correct direction') going the wrong way around would be confusing. He was so wrong. It was so much fun swimming around in the other direction, in fact I was wondering if we would ever get the opportunity to do that. After a while I was interrupted and told to swim somewhere else, joining up with a number of other swimmers who were already swimming there. 
 
I had thought that Ned might suggest the first feed would be in an hour, but eventually get to us in two hours and try to suggest that we had in fact only swam for one hour. We would think time was dragging. He didn't think of it. When he motored in close, I would ignore the boat unless it was obvious Ned wanted my attention. Ned waved, and I swam close, he pulled out a bottle of water and prepared to throw it at me. I was thirsty, having guessed the time at 90 minutes in. It was an easy guess, as I knew how long it took to swim around the Island and so far the the swimming was easy and still loose. I wondered if he was only joking about the feed, but he really did throw me the water bottle and I anxiously picked it out of the sea to unscrew the cap. Here came the first torture, the water was frozen. I considered why Ned would try to get us to swallow ice cold water, it could give us stomach cramp or make us shiver a while. In fact, having taken the cap off, it was impossible to get more than a few drops of precious pure water to soothe my salty mouth. Feed, non existent, I threw the bottle back on the boat, smiling to myself. Was that the best Ned could do? It seemed Ned repeated this trick to a number of swimmers, but poor Ella Dunn (another Channel aspirant, who succeeded a few weeks later) came off the worse. Ned had misjudged the throw and the bottle hit Ella square on the bridge of her nose, causing quite a nasty bump. 
 
I swim off, alone, and spent the next period of time trying to think of the worst torture that Ned could possibly inflict. It took up quite a long time before my mind was sidetracked elsewhere. I had decided that the worst thing would be to order me to spend the rest of the swim doing backstroke. Without a nose clip, I would be sea sick within thirty minutes and spend the rest of the time in misery, despite the lovely weather. I reckoned also, it would be a tough swim if it never ended. However, I had considered (in the light that we had no feeds), the swim would be less than six hours. Particularly as the six hour Channel qualification swim was arranged for the next day. Ned felt that organising every-ones individual feeds would be too difficult to distribute correctly. Although I had thought he would simply give each swimmer the wrong feeds and try to upset them in that way. He could have asked us to bring sufficient feeds for a really long swim, that would have bothered a few people. I reckoned he might pass me a hot coffee (being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints), I do not take caffeine drinks, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and I avoid a few other particular behaviours. Ned could have teased me mercilessly, if he knew. Maybe a coffee? Ensuring I knew what it was before drinking , and seeing how I would respond, whether I would accept the drink or go without a feed for another indeterminable time. I had already pre empted my response if that situation arose. It didn't. Maybe Ned wasn't looking for individual tortures but more generic issues, which might be encountered in the Channel. 
 
Eventually, I was ordered to swim off around a headland, into an area we had not swam before. I smiled. Surely Ned must know that it would be exciting to be told to swim away from the usual places. I had swam across from the headland every time we swam around the Island, and wondered what was around it. Now I was being told to swim off around it and just keep swimming with the coast on my left. This was not worrying, it just added ingredients of excitement to the swim and made the time pass more quickly. 
 
It occurred to me that I had not be thinking of the time for a while and had to guess . I thought maybe I had been swimming for two hours, so put my elbow on the water and raised my forearm perpendicular. I then made the OK sign with my hand and lined up the circle ( formed with my finger and thumb), with the sun. If the sun could fit in the circle, I knew we had been swimming for two hours. If the sun was too high, it would be longer, if too low, we would still be under two hours. It appeared I was spot on. I had also figured the sun would be at its highest spot in the sky after six hours. Who needs a watch? 
 
After a while I bumped into a couple of other swimmers and we nattered for a few moments before carrying on our various ways. Still with the coast on my left, the swimming was glorious. Eventually Ned motored by and asked if everything was OK. Of course it was, but I really felt hungry . I let Ned know that I wished I had eaten those chocolate cakes, pastries and lovely things he was passing around last night. (I had refused them in order to ensure I had plenty of stomach room for real food). He asked if I was hungry and immediately started to rummage through a box. It was a good feeling, I thought maybe an almond slice or a banana was on its way. Ned raised his arm and threw me my feed. I knew what is was whilst it was flying in mid air. It plopped right in front of me. A raw Sea Bass, neatly gutted. I smiled and the boat crew just laughed, clearly having played this trick many times already that morning. I examined the fish, wondering if there was any part I could pick at, even thinking to just take a big bite, scales and all. Ned yelled at me to just throw it away, it had been handled too much already. I let the fish sink slowly to the sea floor and carried on swimming. 
 
Eventually, I was approached again and told to head back to Sandy Cove. It seemed the swim was coming to an end. Arriving back at the slip, I expected to be told the swim was only half way through, and to be given a good feed to prepare for the second half, (that would have been really convincing and harsh) . I thought maybe I might simply be told to do a few more laps of the Island. In fact there was nothing. It really was time to get out, other swimmers had already left the water and some were even dressed. I enquired after Sylvain to see if he was still in. He was. I could not allow the butterfly swimmer to stay in whilst I was warm and dressed. We are a team, sharing a tide in September to swim the Channel. I decided to intercept him part way around the Island and we swam together. Soon enough , we were intercepted by David, who told us the swim really was over. 
 
So that was that. The Total Body Brain Confusion swim was finished. I believe everybody got out smiling. Poor Ned. The weather made it the most fun and glorious swim of the week. I tell you this though, it would have been utterly horrid if the water was colder and the weather normal, and I would be frightened to do it all over again on a random date next year. 
 
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Swim Session 16: English Channel Six Hour Qualification Swim 
 
8 am at Sandy Cove and we are briefed for the final swim of Cork Distance Week. This swim was important. Many of us had plans for an attempt on The English Channel. It was therefore vital that we had a documented swim of at least six hours (whether or not we had previously swum that duration in training) prior to the camp. The course was simple. We would all swim laps around the Island and collect our feeds every second lap. 
 
Many of us were a little bored of swimming and in some ways, glad this was the last swim. We all understood the next six hours were important to many of us. Other Channel aspirants would have had a week of rest before undertaking their qualification swims, they would be fresh and rested, and would make the swim on a calm warm and blue day. Not for us. Not during Cork Distance Week. Our six hour qualification swim would see us swimming in whatever random weather the day had for us, we would already be tired, hungry and carry sore muscles. Our swim would be a rehearsal for the last six hours of a Channel swim, not the first six hours. 
 
The weather was dull and overcast, but a long way from rough or difficult. We organised our feeds and commenced the swim around the Island. I had thought to maintain 30 minute laps and would therefore aim to swim 12 laps. My body lacked any mojo and after the first 32 minute lap, it was already too tough a call to make the second lap in 28 minutes to catch up. Then the feed would take up a minute or two more. I didn't care though. I would still do 12 laps and simply take twenty minutes longer, if need be. 
 
I settled into the routine. Exercising patience as the minutes slowly passed into a couple of hours and a chunk of the swim completed. Then another feed. The feeds were lovely and I imagined the carbs loading my tired muscles and refuelling them with warmth and energy, as I drank. Then off again, my muscles appreciating the short rest, would stretch out more calmly for a few minutes. I would swim on, trying to feel the energy course through my body. I felt stronger and the lap immediately after a feed always seemed easier. Then came the lap without the feed, gradually my essence was being drained and half way around the Island again, I would be anxiously awaiting the next feed. Expectant of the refreshed energy it would provide. The swim was marked off, per lap, per feed, per hour. Six laps done and suddenly the swim is half over. For a while the swim seems easier. 
 
Soon, the muscles would be empty of stored or replaced energy from the feeds. Energy would soon be burned from fat deposits and for an hour or two, the body would feel the difference. Hit the Wall. It happens all the time, and from here on, the swim becomes a slog. Regular feeds do help, but nothing gets you back to how it was. Thankfully, your mind assures you the swim will be over in a couple of hours (a short training swim still to do). Nevertheless, it's still a slog. This is great training though, simply to stay focused on the work to be done despite the discomfort and anxiety. We get used to swimming like this. In the Channel, this might last ten hours, not two. It's a whole different ball game. Simply, the hours still to swim can be so many, you just know you cannot possibly make it, so might as well give up now. 
 
Your mind gives up before your arms. Experience though tells it differently. You can always swim one more stroke and you allow the strokes to be made despite the perfect knowledge you cannot make it. The hours melt away so slowly until something magic happens. Somehow, time remaining becomes short, just a couple more hours. Belief comes flooding back. You are energised and swim on with greater purpose. 
 
I approach the last feed. Only two laps left to swim. Time to say goodbye to the Island. Ned asks me to swim in the lagoon for the last 45 minutes and accompany Brian, who is bleeding from his shoulders. He has worn the skin off with his chin. I would have preferred to have finished the 12 laps, but swim over to intercept Brian. Brian of course, is in a groove. He needs to finish the swim on his own. I swim off, randomly swimming a couple lengths of the lagoon, time passes slowly and I am happy when the six hours is up. I swim ashore a little bored but happy its all over. 
 
Mostly people are smiling. But not all. Poor Carmen, she had already accomplished her documented six hour swim, so didn't need to finish this one to qualify. However, with a Channel swim only a month away, this might be her last long swim before tapering down. Around the fourth hour, another swimmer played a prank on Carmen and pulled her feet from under her, just as she was taking a feed. The thing is, many things can happen during a swim and any one thing might be enough to cause sufficient stress to end the swim. Carmen could not recover her composure and was unable to carry on. Another swimmer had been told the swim was over and was getting dressed, only to realise she had got out an hour too soon. 
 
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Cork Distance Week 2013 was over. 
 
I had swum around 100 kilometers in 16 sessions in 9 days. My body aches but I feel alive and refreshed. The weather was fantastic. Now it's over and I wonder how it might have been had Ireland not experienced the sunniest fortnight since records began, if the weather had just been normal. I am frightened to think about applying for Cork Distance Week 2014. Ned seems to think next years event might be a month earlier. Somehow I think I might just apply.................. 
 
I don't set the alarm at bedtime, but know I will wake up early and want to swim. Just once more around, maybe twice. After a late breakfast we drive to the Cove. The car park is empty, there are no swimmers. The island looks lonely today. 
 
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