Camlough Lake Ice Mile Training

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge / MAC Visual Media

The last Sunday in November and a crowd of us gathered at Doyle’s bar in the centre of Camlough village. Nervous excitement permeated the air as we each debated our own sanity at even contemplating the journey we were embarking upon.

A queue weaved its way first into the bar to sign waiver forms and register, then back-tracked through the narrow porch and into the snug, where in turn we each rolled up our sleeves to have our blood pressure checked – despite my occasional case of “white-coat syndrome”, I was pronounced fit to swim. Not sure whether to be pleased, a high BP would have been a great excuse! Oh how good we swimmers are at finding excuses!

The briefing then started with Padraig Mallon sharing some of his hard-found wisdom with us, little tricks of the trade to help calm anxiety, finding a mantra that works for oneself – I have a super one for getting up hills when hiking or cycling; “Buns of steel – Thighs of iron!” (Yes, I can dream on but it gets me up the hill every time!)

So far my swimming mantra is more based on; “The stronger I pull the sooner I get there!”  It doesn’t work so well when one’s swimming for time rather than distance though.

Nuala Moore then gave us an entertaining but also slightly sobering talk on what to expect and how to conduct ourselves. The onus is on each and every one of us to be responsible for ourselves and our own safety. Yes, there is a team of willing volunteers but let’s keep their job as easy as possible.

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Down to the lake-side and as we gathered on the slipway a team of kayakers headed out to escort us round the 250m loop. As is my usual want, I hung around – I can faff with the best of them but once I started, I felt not too bad although my cheeks were cold and I was glad I’d remembered ear-plugs. I hate that one little drop of cold water that always seems to seep in no matter how far I pull the cap down over my ears.

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As we gathered to start I saw Donna hugging her Chill swim float, “Have you a hot-water bottle in there?” (Shh! That might be an idea for next time!) The first challenge was to complete 750m before the first whistle was blown and the 20 minute swim group left the water. Continuing to kick I tried to maintain heat, remembering as Nuala said, “If you stop kicking, your little bum muscles will tense up and you won’t be able to kick,” made me smile. By 30 minutes my smile was wearing off, I could feel my hands beginning to tense and the baby finger on my right hand was creeping out. I clenched and opened my hands to try to pull it back into line but the stubborn baby seemed bent on getting out of there – leaving the rest behind if need be!

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The next turn around the marker and the call was “3 minutes left. Don’t swim too far.” Hooray! I can thole another few minutes. When the three whistle blasts sounded our time up, I dashed for the shore. I raced to my feet and as I thought a well-deserved pat on the back when Padraig quietly said “Well done. Now get back in and swim out to that rib and back.” You are MEAN Padraig Mallon!

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Dried and dressed in several layers it was a pleasure to gather around the braziers burning merrily on the lake shore as we congratulated each-other.

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Thanks to CLWF, mean Padraig, Ger and nice Nuala for setting up this program and I look forward to our next session.

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King and Queen of the North Channel Honoured by ILDSA

ILDSA HONOURS SWIMMING GREATS AT AWARDS NIGHT

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

King and Queen of the English Channel, Kevin Murphy and Alison Streeter, are crowned King and Queen of the North Channel, at the ILDSA Awards Night in Newry.

Even our own award winners’ achievements over the past year pale before these two and their myriad swims. Alison, amongst many other swims, has 43 English Channels, including being the first woman to achieve a triple crossing, and 3 North Channels, also the first woman and the first to swim Scotland to Ireland. Kevin has 34 English Channel swims, including 3 doubles, and 3 North Channels. Both have other swims too numerous to mention.

Alison had me in awe of how she can be so humble now about her phenomenal achievements, but as she told us that evening, that part of her life is in the past. Alison was genuinely pleased and surprised at receiving a standing ovation and said she has a soft spot for the ILDSA and the Irish, who have always made her feel very welcome and she wanted to thank everyone for supporting her in the past.

Brian Meharg, Master of Ceremonies, told me how he has been good friends with Alison since she first came here to swim the North Channel and related how, on her last swim in 1997, Brian’s wife Carina was pregnant and already a week overdue.  Brian smiled as he told me he was torn between staying home for his “fatherly duties” or heading out on the swim.  So, he headed on the swim and, as Carina waved them off, Alison firmly told her not to have the baby until after the swim was completed, adding that she would prefer if they both waited till Alison’s own birthday, 29th August.

Against all odds the dutiful baby did indeed wait and Rachel Alison Meharg arrived a further week late to share her birthday, and her name, with Alison Streeter as requested.

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The swimming part of Alison’s life is now firmly behind her and she has moved on to pastures new, breeding Alpaca on her farm in Wales and following her own spiritual journey. Animated, she chatted about her two new baby Alpaca and the exquisitely fine wool Alpaca hair produces wholeheartedly laughing as Carina described her own dog as “My baby!”

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Seeing Eye to Eye, Kevin and Padraig

Looking at Padraig Mallon standing with King of the Channel, a comment reached my ears. “Padraig could be a clone of Kevin, separated at birth by a few miles – and years!” Perhaps a degree of similarity can be seen between the two, I’ll allow you to make your own decisions on that.  As Padraig is beginning his adventure in ever more challenging open water events, he clearly shows a great respect for a man who has wealth of knowledge.

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Alison’s genuine words of encouragement to the gathering made me smile, although I do not quite believe her statement; “Anyone could do what I have done.” And, “Perhaps I have a great deal of bloody-mindedness!” It was nice to hear how she felt so welcomed in Ireland and that was why she kept coming back, Mercedes Glietze I believe, said something similar, even our bitter cold and hated jellyfish didn’t put these great ladies off!

With such a small community here in Ireland, there is a great mix in the swimming world with the uber-endurance swimmers rubbing shoulders (sometimes literally) with the sprinters and the leisure swimmers – many of us would see ourselves in more than one category – we all enjoy the great outdoors, and all deserve the hot chocolate/hot toddy after, the community spirit growing ever stronger.

Cus D’Amato said of a boxer, ”Knowing what he goes through, the very act of climbing into that ring stamps him a person of courage and discipline,” same could be said of these swimmers awarded by ILDSA, the open water, their boxing ring.

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