Couch To 5km…

 

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Words by Maureen McCoy, Photography by Paul McCambridge

Taking the Couch to 5k running premise into open water swimming was always going to be a challenge but we decided we would attempt it. Our aim; To bring novice swimmers into the outdoors and take the whole group together on a swimming journey. The bonus would be to complete the Irish Long Distance Swimming Associations (ILDSA) 5k event on 5th August. We were not short of enthusiastic Lake-landers who chose to take it on.

After only ten weeks of training, 16 swimmers completed the swim from Culky Jetty to the Lakeland Forum.

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We started the programme in early June and met our swimmers for the first time at the Share Centre, Lisnaskea. For many this was their first venture into open water and they were somewhat nervous. Lough Erne waterways are not the chlorinated blue of the swimming pool with guide-lines painted along the floor and the deep end clearly marked. Here, there are no walls to stop and rest at and the great expanse of the lough can make one feel rather vulnerable.

 

Having spent our first few sessions in the relative security of the Share Centre bay, we then went to a “wild” swim spot at Ely Lodge Forest, near Carrickreagh Jetty. As Paul and I set out the markers for the swim course, the group chatted nervously among themselves and geared up for an abrupt jump in from the jetty into these new, unknown waters. Gritting their teeth and determining they would “go for it” on this swim. We then called them together for their pre-swim briefing; “Instead of entering at the jetty, we’ll walk in here and ease our way through the reeds.” This slow and gentle transition from land to water marked an increased understanding for many.

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Outdoor swimming is not about times and distances, it is about exploring and enjoying, it can become an adventure in a morning, an afternoon or evening. It is about being connected and immersed, time and distance covered are secondary to the senses and sensations. This, particularly for one of the less confident swimmers, was a turning point. To stop comparing and berating oneself for being slow or cataloguing distances, instead to marvel in one’s own progression and achievement. To really experience what we are doing, at the time of doing.

 

Carrying this new-found knowledge and confidence and with a long swim under their belts, the challenges were then ramped up with a circumnavigation of Devenish Island.

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On the 29th July, only nine weeks into training, the group undertook their most exposed swim yet. Accompanied by Darragh, Conleth and Kealan in kayaks, thirteen swimmers, Paul and I entered at Trory Jetty for the approximate 3.8k swim around the island.

 

The swim across to re-group at Devenish Jetty gave us opportunity to iron out any niggles. Goggles were fixed, photos taken and then we set off. The shallow waters around Friar’s Leap brought the challenge of swimming through heavily weeded sections. Then the stretch along the far side past Devenish West Jetty, began to feel like it would never end. Where was the top of this island?

As we finally rounded the top of Devenish swans watched us from the cover of the tall reeds and a large Heron passed overhead. Through those same reeds, we could just make out the shore and not much farther, Trory Jetty, our finish point. Relief was visible as we turned into the sheltered lee of the island, the toughest swim to date.

 

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One week later, the sun was out, nerves were increasing and the ILDSA event was about to get underway. The ILDSA Championship Swim in Lough Erne is in its 26th year, 17k being the main event then some years ago a 25k swim was added. Now, to attract more swimmers, the shorter distances of 10 and 5k have been added. As we waited at Culky Jetty to start, our eyes were peeled for the lead swimmer to come through, then we would be popped in the water to begin our swim to the Lakeland Forum.

Sunshine beamed down on us as we waited with high spirits. Ciara Doran led the 17k, with cheers and clapping the swimmers were spurred on and now keen to get started themselves. This was it, all training done; “I’ll see you at the finish!”

 

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Line up, countdown and off. Chaperoned by our kayakers and kayaks and paddleboarders from Erne Paddlers, they were underway.

 

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All sixteen Couch to 5k swimmers completed the distance in faster times than estimated. Most wore wetsuits, however two swam “skins” – meaning a normal swim suit.

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Inspired by the 25k and 17k Championship swimmers, who must only wear swim suits, many of the couch to 5k are planning to remove their wetsuits for the next time!

Paul and I would like to thank John Boyle of Waterways Ireland who sponsored this pilot event. Our kayakers, Darragh, Conleth and Kealan McCambridge who gave great encouragement to the swimmers throughout the programme.

Robert Livingstone of the Share Centre and his staff for use of the excellent facilities at Share. Erne Paddlers and the ILDSA event organisers for allowing us to join the 5k event and swim in wetsuits.

(Wetsuit times were recorded separately from “skins” swimmers.)

Finally, well done to all the Couch to 5k participants. Of the 20 who attended the course, 3 decided a shorter distance would be more within their capabilities (one of whom swam Devenish) and one swimmer was on holiday – I am expecting a report that he competed a suitable long swim while there!

So pleased to have set you on this journey!

@MAC Visual Media - Paul McCambridge

Testimonials

Thanks so much to Maureen, Paul and the 3 lads for all their help and encouragement. The course was inspirational and transformative, a master class. – B M

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… thank you Mo, Paul and all the lads for Kayak support. What a top class course and an unforgettable event yesterday. Truly inspirational and looking forward to Long Distance swimming with you guys for the future. – E C

erwin

Totally appreciate all the time, effort and commitment that went into getting us further in our swimming than I ever thought possible. Such inspirational, encouraging people. Proud to know you. – M E

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Thanks so much guys. – J B

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A year ago, I would have laughed at anyone suggesting I could do a 5k swim. I just needed a bit of a push! …it was inspiring to see the longer distance swimmers and consider what the next challenge might be.  Thanks again for all your hard work organising the course and for all your encouragement and overall positivity. – T F

@MAC Visual Media - Paul McCambridge

Thanks Maureen and Paul, great event and few weeks training –  T B

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Thanks again Maureen, Paul and kayak support over the weeks. Really enjoyed the whole experience. – P L

@MAC Visual Media - Paul McCambridge

Mermaid – Short Documentary

A Short documentary about wild swimmer Maureen McCoy. This film explores the origins of Maureen’s passion for outdoor swimming, and how it continues to influence who she is today.

Director: Kitty Camilleri
Producers: Kitty Camilleri and Natalia Witkowska
DP: Natalia Witkowska
Editor: Natalia Witkowska

Lough Erne – Couch to 5km Challenge

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Waterways Ireland welcomes the initiative of Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge to bring their ‘Couch to 5km Swim Challenge’ to Lough Erne. A new and exciting outdoor swimming venture, the 10 week programme is designed to bring swimmers out of the pool and into the open water. The scheme will run over five fortnightly sessions from June to August 2017 and will provide swimmers with the knowledge, skills and training to ultimately complete a 5km Swim event.

Beautiful Lough Erne is the perfect location for swimmers to train or explore the many islands. The coaches are Maureen McCoy an English Channel soloist and Paul McCambridge a North Channel relay swimmer. Both Maureen and Paul will guide swimmers through from the first outdoor swim to competing in this challenging event.

The Couch to 5 Km Swim Challenge is aimed at swimmers of varied levels who wish to either start swimming outdoors or improve their fitness and speed for events. The coaches have designed a programme that will challenge each swimmer and allow them to acquire new skills, no matter what their starting point. 

The five fortnightly sessions will take place on Saturdays starting on the 3rd June and will increase in intensity with the aim of completing a 5km swim in August, 2017. There is a fee of £30 for participation. Register your interest by emailing swimfree4@gmail.com

Vico – County Dublin

Mo filming 1b webWords by Maureen McCoy, photos by Paul McCambridge

 

Dublin City has a great tradition of alfresco swimming and further south from the famous Forty Foot, on the Vico Road the pretty area of Dalkey boasts a similar bathing area, The Vico nestled along the cliff edge between Dalkey and Killiney beach, is popular with naturists.

 

Early March this year I travelled back to the Vico, invited by some documentary film-making students from Trinity College. We were lucky, the previous week had been grey and windy and yet the weekend brought with it sunshine, interspersed with the odd shower, perfect spring swimming weather. When I arrived I found the crew had already spent several hours before, setting up time-lapse cameras and planning the story. It’s a little un-nerving having someone new behind the camera, I’m used to photos, not so used to being filmed but variety is the spice of life! Several walks up and down the approaching path certainly warmed me up before I was to get into the water. As the day wore on the regular patrons filtered in and away, stopping for a quick chat, sharing more favoured spots around the country and commenting on the mild weather. “Have you had your swim then?” the constant question, “Not yet, but it’s coming!” As the day faded to evening and the sun sunk ever lower it was time to brave the sea. My last swim that week had been in a lake in the Mourne mountains and had been acutely painful it was so cold, I was now rather nervous that I may squeal and shiver uncontrollably, all to be documented on camera! Joy, the water was not as sharp as that mountain lake. As I swam under the craggy rocks of Hawk Cliff a seal popped his head above the swell some way further out. He’d spent the day milling around, a little curious but otherwise unconcerned with the small stream of swimmers who had been in and out of the sea all day as the tide rose and fell away again. He seemed much less interested in me than I in him.

 

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Once dressed and just before I left the Vico I looked out to see a pod of porpoises gliding through the water, their dorsal fins slicing the small waves as they passed back and forth across the bay. Below me the final evenings swimmer, a lady around my own age, side-stroked along the shoreline, swimming with ease and un-encumbered by swimwear. I admired her bravery as she finished her swim, climbed out, dried and dressed, unabashed, then made her way back up the long flight of steps in the evening light.

 

A narrow gap in the wall along the Vico road walking up the hill away from Dalkey marks the entrance to the path which first goes across a high-sided footbridge over the railway and then down towards the shore. Surfboards line the railings and the small white-washed shelter built into the rocks stands out against the grey stone. Handwritten on a board the words ‘swimwear optional’ and the white painted shelter above the ladders welcomes you in. Steep steps with handrails lead you to the water and to one side a small sea-water pool mirrors the sky, a sharp contrast to the choppy sea.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016, ISBN 978-1-84889-280-4

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Getting there; by car from Killiney take the Victoria then the Vico Road past Victoria Park. At White Rocks Bathing Area there is a lay-by with car parking spaces. Frome here walk as there is no further parking along the road. Heading towards Dalkey as the road sweeps left and drops down look out for the narrow gap on the sea-ward side, take this path across the footbridge and down to the Vico Bathing Area.

 

Google Maps;

https://goo.gl/maps/rV6bUBTTKs82

 

‘Book’ your Christmas Stocking Filler!

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We would like to thank all of you who have supported our WordPress site and our book published earlier this year by Collins Press.

We have a limited number of SIGNED 1st edition books left, so why not treat someone to a stocking filler with our ‘glove compartment-friendly book’ sold here for £14 + £2.80 postage.

“Now she(Maureen McCoy) and fellow swimming enthusiast photographer Paul McCambridge have produced a glove compartment-friendly book called Wild Swimming in Ireland.” – Sunday Times

Book of the Week – “Like David Walsh’s excellent Oileáin which […]  contains much for general readers and dreamers too, Wild Swimming in Ireland is a serious guide book but also an enjoyable and informative read for any hibernophile.” Irish News

“When the sun shines, there’s nowhere better for an outdoor dip than Ireland. Here are 10 sweet spots for your swims…Here’s a book with summer written all over it… Irish Independent 

“Wonderfully illustrated and […] conveys the sense of adventure involved in swimming in an uncontrolled environment like the sea.”– Irish Mountain Log

“There’s a sight you will see in Ireland that you won’t see elsewhere: diving boards! Authors Maureen McCoy and Paul McCambridge guide us to their top 5” –  Outdoor Swimming Society and ‘5 best places to swim in Ireland’ –  OSS

“The book is full of practical information to make wild swimming safe and invigorating for everyone, whatever your swimming ability.” – Irish Swimmer

Matt Cooper, Radio Interview – Wednesday 25 May 2016 – Today FM

Seasonal Swims of 2016

 

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Please email us your Seasonal Swims and we’ll add them to our list swimfree4@gmail.com

Wildswim.wordpress.com does not organise any of these swims, we have simply collated a list for general interest … please remember that all swimmers swim at their own risk …

LOUGH HYNE LAPPERS … Every Sunday throughout the winter, 11.30am … meet for swims, all welcome, Lough Hyne, Co Cork

https://www.facebook.com/LoughHyneLappers/

12 SWIMS OF CHRISTMAS … Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers … Check out the Chunky Dunkers Facebook page, these are not organised events and all swimmers swim at their own risk…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/319941478354115/?fref=nf

FREEZING FOR A REASON … Special Olympics Polar Plunge …

3rd December:

Titanic Quarter, Belfast 11am  /  Forty Foot, Dublin 1pm  /  Clougherhead Beach, Co Louth 1pm  /  Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford 1pm

10th December:

Ringaskiddy, Cork 12n  /  Salthill Promenade, Galway 1pm  /  Rathmullan, Donegal 1.30pm

Registration: £15 / €15 plus additional fundraising requested, see link below. 

Special Olympics Ireland Polar Plunge 2016

TURKEY SWIMS 2016 … throughout December, Co Cork …

Sunday 27 Nov, 2.30pm Sandycove

Sat 3rd Dec 12.30 Myrtleville

Sat 10th Dec 12.30 Sandycove

Sat 17th Dec 11.00am Myrtleville

Sun 18th Dec 10.00am Sandycove

https://sandycoveswimmers.com/2016/10/15/turkey-swims-2016/

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SANTA SPLASH … 18th December 1.30pm … Arcadia Beach / East Strand Portrush

Swimming costume & a Santa Hat … £5 minimum donation to Children’s Heartbeat Trust

Arcadia Bathing Club every Sunday 10.30am … All swims at your own risk.

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=arcadia%20bathing%20club

PIER TO PIER … Christmas Eve 9.30am … Carlingford, Co Louth

https://www.facebook.com/events/1131397306928279/

Registration at 8.45am

Any enquiries or to help out with this event
Contact Jennifer: +353863983403 loudyank@gmail.com

OPERATION FREEZE KNEES … Christmas Day 12noon…. Portstewart Strand and all donations go to the Coleraine Hospice Support Group.

CHRISTMAS DAY SWIM … 11.30am … Newcastle Harbour, Co Down… Donations in aid of Motor Neurone Disease.

BOXING DAY… 10.45 for 11 am plunge… Bangor – Ballyholme Yatch Club… Donations in aid of Action Medical Research – SPARKS NI

www.action.org.uk/boxing-day-swim

DARE TO DIP … New Years Day 11.00am … Crawfordsburn Beach, Co Down

https://cancerfocusni.org/events/dare-to-dip/

NEW YEARS SPLASH … AWARE-ni … Monday 2nd January 12noon for 12.30 splash… Newcastle Beach (near Sleeve Donard Hotel)

www.aware-ni.org/newyearsplash.html

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Supermoon Swimming

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There is something magic in a moonlight swim, with that disc gleaming pearly white.
The call of a bird across the beach, I can’t see her in this muted light
As I take off my shoes and press bare feet into the cool, damp sands,
I remember a time many moons ago, when I held my brothers hands.
Our first night swim, a Donegal beach, we begged our parents consent.
And scrambled our way down a steep sand-dune, there stood with nervous intent.
I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight but I remember that night so clear.
Adventure, excitement, the cold and damp, all tinged with an escence of fear.
Now forty years on and again I stand, as wavelets caress the shore
Silver threads dance that are soon to be lost, as the waves retreat once more.
As I cast my clothes in a heap on the sand, my skin glows a milky white
And I step into the water, a silver-tipped grey, under pearlescent moonlight.