Team Endure to Cure

I'm swimming to raise awareness and funds for Team Endure to Cure. We are a team of individuals of all kinds who participate in ANY event, ANYWHERE in the world, and in the process raise funds to help advance cures for pediatric cancer while inspiring others.

I chose this wonderful group of athletes to share dreams and to ensure that every time o
ur face goes in the water our efforts count...This year gone Jason pushed his body through the Marathon des Sables-Jim is taking on the Gobi Desert next year-we are all just making our efforts count...Limits are virtual..

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Final 12km-to Zurich

I kept asking "have we past the cut off point?" I was not able to relax. 14.2km in 6.5hrs. That's slow but in open water anything can happen. It was a pressure. Over the years the time variables on the finishers is huge-there can be 6-7 hours difference between swimmers, which I find ginormous. Lakes are alive and with water running as deep as 146metres, a river running in Limmat and out Limminat there had to be massive movement of water. A percentage of that has to be local knowledge and piloting. As an swim organiser I spent a lot of time studying tides/flows and it is really important to understand the beat of the sea..
I studied the maps and read a lot of blogs, counter currents at Meilin according to some local accounts. Fresh water is 100% work rate. The sea allows us to roll, envelops us in a hug-like manner-the lake lifts the right arm, wallops the left arm, throws the body without rhythm. The lake was like a washing machine, quite confused and frustrated.
The gigantic ferry lifting water from the bottom of the lake. As I moved forward and the boat passed my peripheral vision walls of water started to hit me. I was not a happy camper. Delighted to get passed I was free to swim and just take in the scenery. I was there in 5hrs 39mins. That was 14.2km covered-with 12.2km to cover I should be finished in 10hours. I relaxed.

Buoyancy is a huge challenge

Once back in clear viewing I tucked in behind a relay team boat and allowed Frances and Frank to head to shore to use the bathroom and stretch her legs. I train on my own and it is a space that I'm confortable with. The water rolled up behind me pushed by the wind and I really felt that I was being driven forward. I thought briefly about the difficulty the boat would have relocating me as I was powering up the lake. I could see some kayaks inside but because we had a motor we could not come alongside the coast.

My crew arrived back and I lifted my head to welcome them back, took a bottle and some gel and headed off. We were heading into the 7th hour. The waves were starting to lift again and my legs were a little tight having to kick all the time. If the cramp continues it can lead to a real spasm on the instep of my foot.  I headed on, deliberating not enquiring about the mileage covered. I dropped my legs, dug  my head low in the water so my backside would rise and this allowed my legs to drag and relax. 

The Bloody crane.
I was swimming totally submerged-Tried kicking again and relaxed, and did this until the tightness in the belly of the calf relaxed. At 8hrs I stopped for a minute, I kicked to the boat and in a second I was gone backwards. my breathing lifted.   "Is that the same crane I'm passing?" I looked up at the boat and holding on to stop myself.
"No, they're everywhere" Frances said pointing up the shore..she turned away from me, she was lying.
"Is that the same crane I'm beside for the last hour?" I looked up at Frank.
"Yes it is " and he nodded and smiled. I couldn't believe that he hadn't moved me, or that he had not noticed that I was not moving.
Frances tried to reassure me that no other boat had passed me, I wasn't sure what to believe but the truth was wasted on me, I couldn't change the day so I dug in and off I went.
It wasn't anyone's fault, my pilot was following me and I had no idea where I was going I just knew that I was not going anywhere. I was swimming in oblivian that the countercurrents I was avoiding had got me. Frustration took hold and I needed to relax.

The darkness suited my mood
Out of my peripheral vision I noticed Frances at the helm, steering the trusty boat. I smiled. Frances had never driven an outboard before but I knew her well enough to know that a Formula 1 Ferrari would be no bother.
Intermittently the engine rev'd & Frances did circles re appear behind me. It was a great distraction. Frank took over and I stopped for a drink. In the last 3hrs I had only covered 5km- I was going nowhere. I mile an hour.
The bloody crane was still on my right.
"will you go in and move that crane please Frances? " I asked.
19km covered and only 7km to finish..I still had 3.5hrs. Suddenly I started to do the math.
I asked for some chocolate, my stomach was a bit quesy, I swallowed a piece of the mars bar as I struggled to stay above water, within seconds of swallowing the chocolate, it landed back on the surface of the water. Followed by the biggest projectile vomit, barely missing Frank! He looked a bit surprised as I just pushed it out of my way. The petrol fumes were really starting to bother me. the small little engine ticking over throws out petrol. Waves of nauseaous-I needed to go. Frantically Frances mixed dioralyte some paracetemol and I gulped it and gone. "Stay behind me, I need clean water" I shouted up, I closed my eyes and wished the crane would fall down.
22km mark-water lifted and getting by here was tough
This was my demon hour. My only question "What can I do about it?" Absolutely nothing...
"What can you change?" Nothing.. Shut up I screamed at myself.
Driving my arms deeper I was confident that I would get there at some stage. I relaxed, stressing myself was of little benefit but I did wish for calm.
"I'll stop every 20 mins for a while" I shouted up. It was important to achieve. I broke it down to 8/9 more feeds, 2 crossings of ventry beach. I relaxed into the distance I had covered. I had crossed Smerwick bay 8 times, a smile burst  through. I stopped and asked for the duck

 I wanted to take a few pics. During the 2 months of the Round Ireland Swim we had a rubber ducky who would drop in every now & then. Last night in the hotel a little rubber duck was in the bathroom. It was time to bring ducky in and take some pics. I took a few minutes, I had moved I was 6km away. I had taken a half an hour to swim 500m
In a solid tone Frances said "all the others are behind you, I really think that you're 2nd" only one boat and one kayak inside has moved away-one relay and one man.
We'll get there-I took five minutes, ate some jellies, floated the duck and chatted. For the last 9 hours I probably would have spoken only about 20 sentences, I felt the need to chat. I didn't come here to place, I didn't train to race. Battles are what I'm good at. Right now I was fighting myself and moaning about the conditions. Frances was so good trying to buoy me up-I could not imagine sitting in such a small space in such horrible conditions for 10 hours-I'd be broken.

so tired of getting slapped!!
 All smiles I headed off again to get another pasting. 
I imagined passing the river at Ventry and then got to the road up to Paidi O Sé's pub, I spotted a hand pointing in so I turned and refocused my thoughts. Imagined the days that in storms I made my way back the beach, counted to 50 and suddenly realised that the boat was not beside me.
I turned and they were chatting heading up the lake. "Hey" I shouted. "You pointed in".
"That's Tina Turner's House" Frank shouted. Thankfully my goggles were on. I was Demonic.
"I'm actually going to Zurich!! " I shouted back " get behind me... the petrol" as I could taste the petrol.

Came 2nd in Masters ladies to Anna Carin Nordin
 Digging my face in the water I could see Frances trying to explain the problem of pointing to Frank. Funny.. Once we cleared the 23km mark-The finish line was in view-I could sense the excitement from Frances. Thumbs up-I risked lifting my goggles to have a peek-it was my second time in 11 hours breaking the seal. Bright yellow flags was a sight for sore eyes and my sockets were sore-very sore..My final 3.4km took me 1.5hrs. It was slow but I was genuinely battled for most of the journey.
The calm water opened up, Frances started to pack her bags, I felt a sense of closure. I stopped for a long drink and to debrief the day. Thanked Frank, washed my eyes with clean water-put my goggles on for the last 20m. I was swimming for 12hrs.. despite the time being 12hrs 1mins.. the start time was 7.06am so they allowed me inside the cutoff.. it didn't matter to me-I was delighted to receive 2nd place-delighted that 7 were still behind me. Lakes are different monsters, like a taste in music-not for me. I'm a salt water baby.. I need the rock n roll of the sea not the erratic movement of the light fresh water-more hip hop than hard rock.. I have no doubt that lakes are beautiful places.. But I find the beauty in a crazy sea.. I could not find it here.
I loved the experience, It was not difficult, it was challenging, lifting arms higher than the muscles have trained to do, there were no moments of exasperation but then my racing is personal and everytime I start I win..
Thanks to all the organisers and the crews.. delighted to have got 12 hrs out of my body-Fantastic swim from Tom Healy from Dublin in 7 hrs.. but as I said to him.. does he regret not swimming the other 5hrs..????

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Start line...

Walking down to the start line of the swim I had a sense of calm-we were here and beyond that, all we had to do was swim. The pontoon was a busy place at 6am. Boats and pilots all seeking out their swimmers as we waited to load our feeding stuff to the boats.  We had 15 litres of water

Frances & I before we loaded into the boats..

15 litres water, Bananas, bread, chocolate, gels, powders
Preparing for a marathon swim is a plan.With other sports there are feeding stations or emergency plans...with swimming what we have on the boat is what we have-preparation is integral.
I am not a fast swimmer so I was careful to push all thoughts of speed out of my mind but I had my requirements, I think it is so important to want from yourself and to have a plan. I stayed away from the cameras and the pomp and calmly greased myself up. Where the swim suit would chaff with the rotation-

The sky giving us it's intention..All sorted I relaxed, I was going to be there all day and elevating my heart rate and breathing was certainly not going to help. My plan was to go out slow, I had to make a cut off point at Meelin 14.5km mark by 6.5hrs. That would happily be a 4.5 hrs swim in the sea but lakes are different.
41 Solo swimmers readied and we were off.. A startline in many events is filled with “testosterone” and adrenaline.. Little heads bopped in the water-we were all equal and very calm-a lot of smiles and mutual respect and a genuine wish that we would all see other at the finish line.
 I needed to have a chat with myself so in the first half hour I watched the boats disappear into the distance as I got a rhythm. I pushed out my stroke and decided that I would try to meet my tree at the 6km mark in 2hrs- My breathing pocket was in a different place from the sea-my head had to dip lower and my chin tucked in deeper.
Frances was busy straight away with my bottles. The space on the boat is very limited and for Frances, it was not at as organised as she had wanted. I had planned Maxin for the first two hours and feeding every 30 mins. First four stops were took effort to stay up to drink so I gulped it down and gone.
The rain started... it's a long day!
 After an hour I was able to pass a few boats and it pleased me.. I have a long cruise stroke and with the sea calmish, lot of movement but I was feeling strong.
I didn’t feel the rain but the stillness of the water, I knew it was coming. The umbrellas popped up and torrential rain arrived, my tree disappeared, so too did Frances. Frank, my pilot had little choice but to sit in the rain covered by a pink umbrella and stick with me. The boat had a tarpaulin cover that comes down tight, turning to breathe I spotted a torch sticking out from underneath making was like a Harry Potter movie..

The battle started..going forward was tough
 Frances was hunched on the floor of a boat, with a torch in the dark, trying to sort out hydration-knowing she would be having a melt down I couldn’t stop laughing “she’s going to kill me” is all I could think.
A little hand peeped out in the rain to give me the 5min to feed warning and pulled back in again.. The five minute to feed warning allows me to push hard for five mintues knowing I will get a drink. It's all psych but it is important. A big smile greeted me, Frances had the insides of the boat all tidied without the knowledge of Frank, so she was much happier with her space. After 2 hrs the rain disappeared, the water calmed and as I turned my tree, I smiled to myself. My goggles felt good, the chaffing was nothing, my hat was staying on, and with the exception of a few little twinges in my calves I was gliding though the water. 6km covered, that 20% of my mileage.. 2hrs completed that’s 12.5% of my hour allocation, that’s a double crossing of Ventry beach-I was well impressed. Next feed I would take a Dioralyte & some banana to contradict the cramping and change to electrolytes. I was always planning ahead. With distance it’s important to break it down to mini achievements. In distance you don’t drive on, listen to the muscles.

Peek a boo-a huge section of the day spent indoors!

I was so happy out there and as I watched the coast roll back I felt so strong. I picked up a swimmer ahead, she was in my category so I was delighted to trail her and once I realised I was stronger I waited until my boat came back, took my bottle in 10 secs and headed off to track down my new adversary.  I passed her and it felt great.  I wasn’t racing but I needed to validate my own fitness. 3.5hrs in I was excited as we passed the 10km marking so we were on schedule to make the cut off point. I relaxed. I decided to slow my feed to 20 sec, to relax a bit. I changed to electrolytes and added a gel. The water was challenging but not difficult. It was deceptive.

Where Frances had to rest for 12 hrs..

I watched as the red marker failed to write on the whiteboard, Frances tried writing on the back of the board, I could see the frustration as both marker and board were thrown on the floor.  

The water the ferry churns up is uuuggghhhh
 I watched conversations and imagined the chat between Frances and Frank. The waves started to lift again, umbrellas up and Frances went back under the tarpaulin. After 5 hrs swimming Meelin was in the distance, that meant little so I focused on fast feeding, stopping for no more than 20 secs and pushed on. I couldn't believe how competitive I felt, I didn't train to race then all of a sudden I wanted more from my body that I put in. It's just not fair how our minds work. Each stop I wanted to know where the other ladies were, maybe it was just part of the game.
No boats had passed me. The water about the outboard engine was giving out petrol and as Frank drove forward I swallowed quite a gulp of fuel. Instantly my throat gagged and I started to throw up. I moved away to clean water.  I asked the boat to stay behind me until I regained my breathing. In the distance a ferry was crossing I was excited to be reaching the 14.2km mark with an hour to spare. I focused on the ferry and the progress. I repeated "suck it up, dumb it down, you can't change it" I asked for coca cola in 5 minutes to try and clean out my stomach and get a buzz of sugar. I let the gas out last night so it was flat.
The water approaching the ferry was horrendous, it was like being in a washing machine, watching your clothes going right and left, I was being dragged in towards the marina section before the ferry. I decided that my next stop would be a minute and I focused on that as a reward for driving harder.  I looked forward which is not my job but I felt that I needed to sight.
 My left arm was starting to tweak, I was surprised as normally it was my right arm. Being so low in the water I was forced to lift my elbow higher and maybe this was taking its toll. I asked for a painkiller-Frances mixed 1000ml of paracetamol in the tiniest cup of water…oooohhhhhh but needs must. The rain was down again and the though I was swimming for 30 minutes I had only covered 500m-I was at Meilin & once the ferry passed I was allowed through.

Getting passed this marina took an age..
I was delighted to pass the half way-I had more distance behind me than ahead. I felt strong. The hour plus after the ferry was very choppy, my legs were higher than my waist many times. It was such a new experience. My lower back felt great, over all I was doing so much better than I had expected. I took a two minute stop, eased out my legs. The cramps in my calf were quite severe. I thought about the athletes on the pitches. Lying there as a physio scrambled out, massaged, sprayed, stretched, everything to allow their athlete tp perform.. In marathon swimming it was simple..Suck it up and save yourself. It's strange how you can grow in spirit out of such comparasions, making what we are and what we achieve so much greater. With 12 km to swim it was four more double crossings of Ventry beach, four more times to get to Cuan, 6 hours swimming, my feeding going well, drinking about a litre an hour, my stomach had settled and so did the lake.

Sun showed a face, tarpaulin pulled back, Frances re appeared and needed to head to shore to go to the bathroom so for the next while I was on my own as they disappeared to the land..

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The final Countdown...

It's so fantastic to be here..sitting in Rapperswil waiting for the swim-we are so used to running and racing..making every minute count and trying to get back to one commitment or another.. Today I plan and relax and tomorrow I swim 26.4km-there is no other plan and no reason that I have to leave the lake.. At least not one I can see.

The day is going good-the forecast is rain this evening and storms for tomorrow with heavy rain. Frances will have a tough day in the boat but hoping that she will have a great day too.. we have christened our pilot Gunter-his name is probably Patrick but to us he's Gunter.. and a great guy.. we'll meet him in the morning.. One thing I know if he doesn't follow the plan... Frances will be driving and He'll be feeding me!!!!
we have our final run through of hydration-things will change if the lake is lumpy and waves-vis will be worse I'm guessing with the water off the mountains and drinking it will be more challenging..

I can't change any of that-I am so delighted to have zero plans for tomorrow, nothing but to persue my swim and to have fun with my friends....

here's to a great day...rain/wind or sun-we can only swim the water in front of me...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Plan your swim and swim your plan.. I've spent the last few days trying to sort out what my thoughts are with the 26.4km swim down the lake.. Getting to Zurich with our transport system is an expedition in itself..
The middle section of the lake
 The weather looks to be a little challenging with West winds and also rain-in fact from tomorrow Friday though Sun it is torrential. I was hoping not to tell Frances as she was busy packing her sunscreen and shorts, but with the need for wet gear and the fact that she will be in an open boat I spilled the beans last night.. Expletives were the expected response. It is actually going to be harder for the crews to be hanging about in the rain and wind than the swimmers. For us we have a function, For the crews mixing our food and trying to pass the day in the miserable conditions will be a toughie. But I have bought her a black board, well a white board so she can communicate with me.. things like "looking good Nuala"...hmm or maybe "I'll kill you when we get home"... either way we'll have fun.. Other challenges with the added rain-it will mix up the water & it might make it messy, lumpy-it will reduce the temperature which is not a problem for us..but it might affect the visability.
The air temp is looking at a minimum 16deg, crazy stuff-like a rainy day at home, with wind from the west. Happy days.
The first challenge is to make Meelin by the cut off point. 14.5km..The lake water can lift much quicker in wind than the sea. It's more slapping than the wallop of the sea.

The middle section of the lake-
 I breathe to the left so I will be breathing into the waves all the time, I have tried unilateral breathing but with old neck injuries that is just not going to happen. Once I get to Meilin the pressure will be off and hopefully it will be a just a cruise home to Zurich.
The recommendation for feeding a roughly about 32 fluid oz an hr.. that's just under a litre-swimming 10-12 hrs that's about 12 litres of liquid I'll be ingesting.. The biggest fears are not being adequetely hydrated. It's a mixture of water, maxim and a high electrolyte drink, at alternatives,maybe some warm drinks-throwing in some munchies as well-some chocolate, some sweets, some cake maybe, heck even a ham sandwich-well I suppose it's a good time to admit I'm going for a picnic and i'll swim to my next feeding!!!! I have a plan to follow but once we have everything with us, then we can change as we go along.

Nutrition and hydration is so important, I may not take half of what we bring but bring it we will. Once we leave there is no going back. I will probably feed every 30 mins. Unlike running and biking we can't particularly feed while we exercise, I will try to limit my stops to 30 secs-I won't be any more hurried-I'm not chasing a time so there's no need to stress.
I'll probably chat and enjoy the ride-This is the swim into Zurich.. It is such an enormous honour to get selected for these challenges-They are so exclusive and fun based.
I get a lot of questions re what I think about.. I genuinely can't remember.. I start out with a plan of thoughts but then as time passes I could have the same thoughts over and over and then try to remember the thoughts again-and so the games begin.. I am so looking forward to just having the opportunity to swim the distance without the stress of having to get home or back to work.. Balance with work /life is never easy with the distance training in the summer.
The key to anything is to enjoy it, a lot of people put a lot of pressure on the outcome but I always put my emphasis on the journey. It's been a difficult summer-trying to get in the water, the weather, the wind has been a nightmare. Work has been difficult being self employed in a small business. If i'm not there I don't get paid so justifying taking time to train was tough and then there was personal. So all in all I am over the moon to be part of such a wonderful event and that's my only objective.

Have fun and chalk it down.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Marathon swimming is an amazing sport-for 10-12hours I will swim without any contact with the boat-My drinks passed to me and over the duration I will stop probably no longer than a minute or two an hour..which is inself will be a challenge as we all have the need for a chat and mingle.

Lake Zurich is a huge lake in the centre of Switzerland and each year a group of swimmers gather to swim 26.4km down the glorious length of coastline. I lived and worked in Switzerland in the town of Montreux, this is my first trip back in twenty years and I am excited at the thought of returning to swim, makes my visit all the more special. It's never easy to go back to where you had fantastic memories so this is an amazing opportunity.

The Sri Chimnoy Marathon Team who organise the event aspire to push each athlete beyond their limits.
 "The races are organised on the principles of self-transcendence, where each compete against themselves and his own previous capacities. Endurance races allow each competitor to go deep within and truly find the best within themselves in order to persevere and finish, and even though there are trophies for the leading finishers, in truth every athlete who completes such long distances is a winner"

This year, Solo Swimmers- there are 12 women in total swimming & 34 males. To enter the swim you apply with your experience and if selected you are awarded a place. It is an honour to get accepted and I really look forward to the challenge.There are also a number of relay teams.

I'm a sea swimmer-living in SW Ireland..

I have few expectations with the exception of finishing. The lakes are slow and I don’t have any great experience in fresh water so I am hoping that the day goes well and we have a fantastic day out.
My biggest challenges will be buoyancy and heat.
The main difference between the lake and the sea is buoyancy. Whereby over the years my body fat levels have really added to my salt water swims with added buoyancy, the extra weight will make me sink more...I am dreading this element more than the swimming..feeding while trying to stay afloat is my nightmare!!
A lower body position adds challenge to the heads position going through the water-and puts extra pressure on the lower back as we have to work harder to leg kick and keep our feet high.
But challenges is all that there are and we factor them in.
I am keeping it in my mind that it's only a day out and there are so many who would be delighted to experience what I do..
I had hoped to do a lot more lake swimming but the weather and the summer/life in itself did not allow that to happen. In a way it is now allowing me to dig that little bit deeper to my mind..
On Saturday night we have a “Mountain of Silence” self transcendence concert where we allowed to reflect and enjoy the festivities.

Frances driving me on... tough task master
 Sunday morning it's a 5am wake up- early breakfast-get our bags transported to the start and finish line-to have clothes at the end.. organising the food for the day will be a huge challenge-I am still not 100% certain on a few items.. The heat will be an interesting addition to our day..I have never swum any distance in 20deg water.. so overall it's exciting.. Frances is my crew and I'll be lucky if I don't get a paddle on the ass to hurry up... Frances is a tough task master.  

Our Team Motto..make all efforts count..
Frances will be in charge of my day...calculating my nutrition and over 12 hrs-her own feeding will be a challenge as well.. I'll panic every time I'll see her eating.. I'll have to get a time release lock on my food box!!! Only joking.. I'm delighted to have a familiar face to focus on, there's no moaning.. we've had a fantastic build up-the weather has been tough this summer-so as training went we meandered along..Our water temperature was a challenging year..we had weeks of incessant Northerly wind-wind that striped the body heat as my core tried tirelessy to maintain it.. I do not swim in pools so it's been all cold water.

What can I say about Team Endure to Cure-I was drawn to their sense of possibility..their need to make every step/stroke count, their need to make every athlete and every effort special..Every athlete has a different Mount Everest-and a seperate need to fight their own battles-break their own limits-some need to go faster-some want speed but mostly we are all privledged to be there..
Since my events started in 2003-I have raised over €65,000 all through sport for Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, RNLI & various other. There are an enormous volume of people who live vicariously through us, who are inspired by what we do. Who take on their own limits by realising that we all endure some pain-but it is minimal to the amount of help-inspiriation and most importantly funding we can raise to ensure that a child somewhere can maybe reach our age and enjoy some amazing adventure..
I am genuinely so looking forward to swimming Lake Zurich-to facing more challenges and mostly about having fun..
Thanks for all the support I receive-without it achievements are lonely..