Siobhan Cronin is The southern starthe editor. She is also an avid swimmer and in her regular blog “From A to Sea” she documents her swimming journey in the sea. So put on the wetsuit, dive in and join her on her aquatic adventures
I have mixed feelings about October.
Well, first of all, I love it because it’s my birthday month, and that means winter is coming – I’ve always been more of a winter girl than a sun girl. .
But it also signals a definitive change in the way we swim.
First, the wonderful organized charity swims come to an end, except for a few for the truly elite swimmers and brave souls.
Second, it means a little extra time before and after each swim, with the extra layers of clothing to put on, then sort, rinse and wash afterwards.
But it also gives us time to breathe and be grateful for the summer that has passed.
This one wasn’t bad, weather wise we all agreed.
We completed the last of the big events last month.
First, we had the Great Fjord Swim in mid-September.
Although it’s nearly a five-hour drive – from West Cork, through Clare, to Galway and over to the Mayo border – it’s one of the most fun swimming events in the country .
Run by events company Gaelforce, with a charity element, it’s a much more organized affair than the more casual charity events around West Cork.
Several hundred swimming enthusiasts descend on the beautiful Killary area of Galway, in Ireland’s only true fjord – a body of water in the middle of two mountain ranges.
I had participated last year but because we were still in the grip of Covid the 2km swim went from shore, in a C shape, to shore further along the rugged coastline .
But this year, the boat was back! And it’s what many devotees of this annual swim have said that makes it so special, and after our little trip on the Killary tourist boat, we understood the attraction.
The buzz on the boat, the amazing view from the water, and then the little jump out back to swim to the start line, make this a very unusual open water event.
Participants come from all over Ireland and overseas, and there is a shorter 750m version, for beginners or hesitant swimmers, which also starts from a boat – a small prawn boat.
There’s 3.9km longer for serious swimmers, but the real joy of this event is the post-swim camaraderie – and the treats!
Little marquees along the fjord offered soup and bread for the delighted water girls, and there was even hot whiskey for those of us who were lucky enough to have designated drivers – thanks to Sue who brought her West Cork women’s mini-bus on tour!
There was traditional Irish music and free branded t-shirts and two large dress-up marquees, for female and male attendees.
The beautiful village of Leenane was buzzing with swimmers after swimming, and the feeling that everyone was high as kites was palpable. We had booked a room at a nearby hostel for 10 of us water ladies, with use of the adjacent spa – in all honesty, what more could you want from a weekend?
A word of advice for anyone planning to do the same next year – we found our swimming earplugs served a dual purpose as ten West Cork women let loose in Connemara can be a lot of noise after dark of the night !
The next morning the results were posted on the Gaelforce site, showing our final times for what had at times been a choppy swim, albeit under spectacular Galway blue skies.
I was a little surprised to see that my time meant I had come in behind most of my buddies, even though I knew I was on shore when they came out of the water. Confused?
So did we, until we realized that two of us had to pick up the wrong official microchipped swimming caps when we were changing on the boat, so our timing chips were on the wrong head. Cue plans to deliberately swap our hats with super swimmers next year!!
Two weeks later, it was time for Sherkin’s swim in Baltimore and most of the same crafty warriors had signed up. A timely fundraiser for the Village Wild Atlantic Pool, this was going to be my first competition.
With a different landmark last year, it was decided to return to the original route from the island to the mainland this year, and the swim is only one distance – 2 km.
Having negotiated the dark but cool waters of the western Atlantic the previous fortnight, and with the calm turquoise sea as we left Sherkin Pier, we all felt a bit smug.
A little too smug, as it turns out things got a little choppy about 20 minutes later!
At one point, I felt like I was going nowhere, because every time I looked to my right, the damn Beacon seemed to be laughing at me.
But I had to move, because I finally saw the Baltimore slipway looming in front of me, and Oceans Seven legend Steve Redmond stood there as I successfully emerged from my own little challenge, delighted.
Poor Steve had the full effect of my gratitude, as I grabbed him for the biggest hug I could summon, given my bewildered and exhausted status.
As we did the autopsy outside the Bushe bar an hour later, we all noticed that there really is no room for complacency in swimming – you never know what you’re going to get when you enter the water.
My friend Anne saw it as a metaphor for life – when the going gets tough, just put one arm in front of the other and keep going until you get to the other side.
Nothing tastes as good – or as well deserved – as those post-swim pints. Even the “zero” alcohol!
And we all agreed that, despite the joy of the water, nothing is as pleasant as getting back on solid ground after launching into the Atlantic several minutes earlier.
If you want to get an idea of the sheer fun you feel when you complete one of these great mini-challenges, take a look at the wide, ear-to-ear smiles on the faces of each swimmer emerging from the fjord, captured by the Gaelforce photographers at Killary in September – the joy is contagious: https://www.facebook.com/GaelforceEvents.
Read Siobhán’s previous blog entry by clicking here.