Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Saturday, 23 June 2012

I Don't Think I'm Ready For This Jelly – My 1st Attempt at Sea Swimming

The weekend after my 1st triathlon, I found myself in Skerries again. I had left my bike there for the week, for my uncle to drop it into the local bike shop, to see what had cause my chain slippages that had happened a few times in training and also during the event. As it turned out, the gears weren't tuned terribly well and either were the brake cables. I suppose this was forgiveable as I had purchased this directly from the supplier, and had it quickly put together by an agent over here – if I had bought it from a bike shop, I would have expected it to be fully serviced and road ready.On a side note, the bike shop owner asked me about my bike and how much I paid for it. He was pretty impressed by the spec on it and was surprised by the cost, saying it wouldn't be able bik
es of that spec into stock for what I paid for it! I was pretty happy to hear that from someone who knew his stuff. I had kind of winged on my bike selection on the Sensa website, picking the Romagna Special because
a. with the discount I was getting, it fit in my budget
b. as a special, it was a package deal on groupset, saddle, wheel and forks (I was intimidated by such choice on things I knew absolutely nothing about!)
and c. I liked the color scheme!
So yes, by some stroke of luck, and through no skill on my part, I had landed myself a decent bike – good to know!

In any case, apart from the usual social reasons, there was another triathlon reason I was out in Skerries that weekend – I wanted to have a proper go at sea-swimming training.

There was a few reasons I wanted to do this:
1.      I was now confident I could swim out in the bay, after my impressive swim split the previous weekend, on the other side of the peninsula.
2.      I had noted the muscle fatigue I had gotten during the swim, and figured I needed to practise in the wetsuit more.
3.      With TriAthlone coming up in a week, and the possibility of an Olympic distance swim as part of a relay at the end of the summer, I wanted to start putting more focus on my swimming again. I actually thought I would make this a regular thing, if I was to be out at Skerries most weekends like I had been lately.
From Mary's house on the coast you could clearly see Skerries peninsula, and crucially you could see a straight line from a little beach below the house, to the beach and slipway below the life-boathouse on the peninsula. I had plotted this on Google Earth as about 1km, so thought it would be achievable to swim there and back again on a plod. Also as this stretch of the bay was one to those few parts of the east coast of Ireland that is actually northfacing, the sea in this area, sheltered by the peninsula was calm pretty much 90% of the time.

I figured I needed to get it over and done with, otherwise I would've spent the day deliberating about it, but by the time I had my wetsuit on but I was nervous. I think had been fine on race day because of the adrenaline, and the fact that there was safety in numbers (there was also safety in safety boats) – even when I went swimming in the sea a lot as a kid, I was only comfortable doing it with other people. Also the water was not as calm as it could have been – it wasn't very rough by any means, but I would certainly have to swim out against a bit of choppiness!

I got down to the little beach. The swell seemed bigger when I was at sea level. Mary, Liam and Billy were looking at me from the back garden – was that camera in Liam's hand?! Oh well, can't turn back now!

The plan was to swim out perpindicular from the beach until I knew I was clear of the craggy outcrops on either side, and then beeline towards the boathouse slipway once I could see a clear path to it between all the moored boats. Billy was to meet me at the other side, just in case I didn't fancy swimming back.

The swim out was difficult. I had picked out a buoy to aim for while swimming, but in practise the swell was too big to sight anything. This resulted in a very stop-start swim out to sea, occasionally swimming breastroke, occasionally swallowing some seawater. Not pleasant at all, but no major problems. Once I had the lifeboat slipway in sight I effectively turned right and was now swimming across the swell, making it almost unnoticeable, which was a pleasant surprise! I took one last look towards the house, where I could just about still make out one or two figures, before I decided to get to my swimming.

This part was initially quite pleasant – the sun was out, the water was clear, it was easy to sight the boathouse and I was finding a good rhythym. This did not last for long.

After about 100m of swimming, this huge white pulsating thing passed right under me. A jellyfish. This thing was at least 1meter in diameter, and that's assuming it was only 1 meter below me. If it was deeper, it was bigger! I recoiled and lifted my head out of the water. I was well aware that jellyfish stings themselves were harmless from local irish jellyfish, though I was also aware that most people who die after getting stung by jellyfish are people who then went into shock and subsequently drowned! I'm not sure if when that fact was presented to me that it was meant to be reassuring or not, but it wasn't a good thought! I tried to compose myself, swam a few strokes (quite urgently) with my head up to get away from that area, then put my head back in the water and continued swimming. This had relaxed my breathing, but my heartrate was still in the clouds! I figured that was my jellyfish sighting for the day and I would calm down.
It was not be though – within 50m another giant, possibly larger than the last, pulsated by underneath me. Holy crap! I recoiled again, and swam with my head out of the water extensively. I told myself, they weren't after me, they don't swim after people, just go were currents take them, they only get swam into, and they seemed to be swimming too deep to touch. I didn't put my head back into the water though, I could recognize I was now in a panic and I wanted to control it a bit. I looked back to the house – no one to be seen. I knew there was some small dinghys out sailing with a support boat too, but it was very difficult to see with swell. What was I thinking, coming out here on my own?!
I kept swimming towards the life-boathouse slipway with my head up, trying to calm myself down again. Then my right hand hit something – a jellyfish! This was much smaller than what had passed under me, about the size of my hand, but no less disturbing. I'm not sure I'd ever touched a jellyfish before! Then I hit another with my left hand, then another. These things were everywhere!! I turned onto my back and started swimming backstroke, hit another. At one stage I crossed my arms and just kicked my legs, even still, I hit 2 or 3 with my feet! I was aware that I was probably freaking out a bit too much, but I couldn't calm down now – I was swimming out on my own, in a swarm of jellyfish!
"That's the Guy!"

I must have kicked my legs for about 5 minutes before I realised I was not hitting anything anymore. I turned to see I was about 200m from the slipway now. Thank god! I swam frontcrawl again, and was relatively calm but still didn't dare put my head back in the water again. Eventually I got back to dry land and met Billy. There was no way I was swimming back again. When I got back to the house and got changed, even though I felt calm, I was still shaking for about an hour afterwards before my nerves had completely settled.

Maybe I wasn't ready for sea swimming just yet...