13th August 2017
One of my goals every year, when I sit down in January, is to try something new. For 2017 I wanted to improve my swimming – I love getting out in the sea. My plan was to swim every month in the sea – starting in freezing cold January waters.
The perfect incentive was the chance to swim with Leinster Open Sea races over the summer. I quickly realised I loved this racing. The chance to enter the Liffey Swim was nice but when I heard about the 87th Dun Laoghaire Harbour Swim I was taken. It’s only down the road and the sea is cleaner than the river! Plus the course along the harbour wall sounded great for crowds to be cheering us on.
I did my 6 qualifying races – getting my handicap down (in golf that’s good, in swimming that’s bad – i.e. you’re slower). I got down early for the 2pm start. It was a lovely afternoon – warm and calm. Wandering along the East Pier, it was nice passing people in the orange race t-shirts. A silent doffing of caps – “you made it too, good luck”.
My handicap was 1:30, so watching the pre-go and go racers swim away, I was relaxed but amazed at the size of the crowd peering down at us from the pier wall. Hundreds of faces – so hard to pick out people I knew. That was the best moment: the buzz and expectation on that slipway.
The course was 2.2km – out past the RNLI Lifeboat, along the ferry terminal pier, across the wide expanse to the lighthouse at the mouth of the harbour. It was harder than I thought to go in a straight line.
Around the buoys, halfway. My goggles got knocked off when I got a thump on the head as I rounded a buoy. These things happen. I was really enjoying the swimming. We were like a shoal of fish: arms flailing, legs kicking, all going in the same direction. Staying together for fear of being picked off by a rogue jellyfish or fishing line.
The bandstand was in sight. The crowds got bigger up to my left. The sun came out. Bliss. I tried to up my pace. You don’t realise you’re slowing down and thrashing a bit more, so I tried to relax and lengthen the stroke. I made it – collected number 156 (sure only 155 beat me). 43 minutes. The fastest guys were under 30 mins. No harm.
A quick hose down on the slipway. Smiles all round. Dried off and clothes on. I met a few friends, and lots of babies. Up to the Royal Marine Hotel to watch the Deise Hurlers. A few pints and chowder to recover. It was nice. Hearing the presentation of winners was nice – the man who won said he came 2nd 21 years ago (1996), so it just shows age is just a number. Keep chipping away. Or he just had a good handicap. Watch out for me in 2038!