I’ve just had my 4th swimming lesson with Karl McEntegart at DCU and I really feel I’m making progress. In fact it’s not just a feeling – I can clearly see the difference – from 63 mins in the water for my 1st sea race in July, to 36 mins for my 4th race a month later!
I don’t remember not being able to swim. Like walking, it’s just something I always remember doing. My mum used to tell me that my dad left me sitting on a rock at the beach in Tramore and the tide came in and knocked me off. I don’t know if that’s true, but she claimed I was a toddler at the time, and I doggy paddled back to the shore before anyone could reach me. I love the mermaid feel to the story, so I’m going to claim it and refuse to forensically examine it too closely!
You’d imagine with my ‘mermaid-style’ start to life, that I’d be a strong swimmer. Well I’m not. I’m a comfortable swimmer. I have never struggled in water, never felt tired or sore while swimming, never felt afraid. In fact, when I was 23 stone, being in the water was a very happy place for me. I could hide my body under the surface of the waves and imagine I was beautiful. That mermaid thing again…
Have I Made A Huge Mistake?
It wasn’t until I tried my 1st sea-race this July that I realised how far out of my depth I really was. Struggling to breathe as the waves slapped me in the face, I really began to think I’d made a huge mistake. Everyone else was out of the water and gone home, all but the last of the big orange marker buoys had been taken out of the water, and to my embarrassment I was now on 1st name terms with the rescue boat, who kept asking if I needed a lift! They were probably hoping I’d give up, call it a day, and let everyone go home to their tea… I realised afterwards that race means, well, race! I had never swam against a clock before, never attempted to be fast before. I would happily swim all day, but I wasn’t actually going anywhere. Throw a choppy sea and a turning tide into the mix and you begin to see why I was twice the length of time in the water than the svelte creatures who had flown past me at the first marker.
I realised I had work to do and that was when I started my pool lessons with Karl. He is brilliant at correcting my technique without overwhelming me, and I go away enthusiastically anxious to try out each new trick. Joining the Eastern Bay Swimming Club pool nights has also been a revelation. An hour of swimming lengths against the clock. It’s tough and it’s slightly soul destroying because I’m at least a length behind everyone else in my lane. But I know the only way I can shorten that distance is to keep going.
Each of my 4 sea races have been an education too. Dealing with tides and currents, wind, cold and the dreaded jellyfish. It’s been a tough year to get involved with sea racing. It’s been really stormy, there have been water quality issues, and there have been a staggering amount of jellyfish, including the big bad boy sort, that you hear warnings about on the radio.
Will Curiosity Kill The Cat?
So why this year? Why keep pushing so hard? If I’m honest, it’s because I had a dream. I’ve always been fascinated with Dublin’s iconic
annual river race – the Liffey Swim. While doing ‘kayak rescue cover’ for the swimmers last year I had a sneaky curiosity about whether I would ever be able to swim it too. I swam in the sea all last winter with Eastern Bay, but I was staying close to shore and not pushing any distance. Then I came back to Dublin in July after climbing Elbrus and the thought of having a go at the Liffey just refused to go away.
Which brings me to today’s lesson. After race one, I didn’t think I’d have a chance. You need to complete 4 open-sea races to even qualify to join the starting line for the Liffey Swim. Well I’ve done that. Somewhat to my own surprise, I have my races in. I could have given up at race one, but I didn’t,
and it’s a lesson on the value of just staying on in there. I’m still slow, but I’m not as slow as I was, and I’m improving all the time.
Today I drove over to Dublin 4 to hand-deliver my entry form for the Liffey Swim. I’ve worked so hard to complete those qualifying races that I was afraid to trust the form to
the post. The funny thing is, I bumped into the postman along the way and he had a bunch of
envelopes that were clearly other forms headed for the same address. We ended up having a fine chat about sea swimming, the Liffey Swim, and me apologising for my unwarranted lack of faith in the postal system. Nice bloke and only in Ireland…
So now the race is on.
I’m not racing against the other swimmers – I’m racing against myself. The Liffey Swim on September 13th is 2,500 metres against the tide. That’s 1,000 metres more than I’ve swum so far, and there’s a one-hour cut off. I have qualified to enter, but I still have a lot of work to do to complete the swim within the given time.
I have two weeks, I have Karl, I have Eastern Bay and I have a stubborn desire to be a mermaid.
Wish me luck…
Hi Iʼm Donnchadh from City Kayaking. Weʼre based at Dublin City Moorings, by the IFSC on the River Liffey right in the heart of Dublin City Centre. We opened our doors in May 2012 and are heading into our third Summer full of plans and excitement. From here we run our watersports company in one of the most unique surroundings in the country!
City Kayaking offers the ultimate ʻUrban Adventureʼ to both locals and tourists alike running 2-Hour City River Trips from our base and heading up river exploring underneath Dublinʼs most famous bridges. Our trips give you the opportunity to experience Dublin like never before and see the city from a whole new angle.
We also run 3-Hour Island Bridge Escape tours where we take people upstream right through the city and into the wilderness once you get beyond Heuston Station. This is a seriously cool trip and gives people the chance to experience the lesser seen side of Dublin. With all sorts of wildlife surrounding the river up there you really donʼt feel like youʼre anywhere near the city.
We regularly get seals in the Liffey and they explore right up towards Islandbrige when the tide is good and high, which is the time we schedule these trips at. Thereʼs also plenty of herons, lots of fish about and weʼve even seen several kingfishers which are an amazingly colourful bird. Itʼs hard to believe that youʼre right in the middle of Dublin with all that going on. Itʼs a real escape from things!
One thing that so many people comment on is how quiet it is when youʼre on the river. The quay walls act like a barrier for the sound and even when youʼre up between OʼConnell Bridge and the Haʼpenny bridge right in the middle of all the city madness, itʼs nice and quiet on the river. Hard to believe I know, but itʼs worth experiencing it.
We also run lessons and cater for youth groups too. Thanks to the generous sponsorship from Dublin Port Company weʼre running a €5 Kayaking rate for Youth Groups which is seriously good value. We heavily discounted these sessions and Dublin Port provided us with some funding to allow us to be able to offer such great value activities for youth groups. Weʼve still got some sessions available to book over the summer and have all the details up on our site for anyone interested (or drop us a line) www.citykayaking.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +353-1-442 8234.
Our Lessons and Fitness Paddling Classes are starting to pick up now and are run by Emily, our top class Canadian Kayaking Instructor. Emily is an extremely accomplished kayaker and instructor and has competed as part of the Canadian team for the past 7 years. Fitness paddling is geared towards beginners looking to have a fun fitness experience on the water. Our lessons are ideal for those looking to pick up a new hobby or for the adventure racers looking to get some training in before the next event. These run both midweek in the mornings and evenings and at the weekend too.
City Kayaking featured on Ireland’s Fittest Family on RTÉ this year, when competing families raced against each other over a one kilometre kayaking course across the main shipping channel in Dublin Port. You can check it out on the RTÉ player if you missed it!
We’ve come a long way since opening our doors 2 years ago and we owe a lot of thanks to family and friends for helping us along the way. Weʼve got some big plans going forward and are very excited to be heading into our third summer season on the water! Hopefully weʼll see you out joining us on the water soon too. Who knows, you might even see Teena there too!!