First off, I can’t say enough about Infinity’s Hit the Wall Training camp and the team that Jacqueline and Padraig have put together. Their love of open water swimming is infectious! The camp they have put together is an outstanding weekend to really push your limits and have fun while doing it. I can’t recommend the Hit the Wall Camp enough! Below is a recap of most of the events over the weekend.
Sky Park outdoor adventure park
We kick off our adventure with zip lines, climbing walls, repelling and other obstacles. I was on the team for the zip line along with most of my housemates. The zip line was a blast. I have done them before so this was easy and super fun. Several of my housemates hadn’t done it before and super proud for them to give it a go! The goal of the adventure park was to challenge yourself to attempt something outside your comfort zone or that scares you and was a great prelude to the weekend ahead.
Glow Night Swim at Camlough Lake
After the Adventure Park we shortly departed for our 1st of many swims for the 4 day weekend. We headed out to Camlough Lake for a looped swim. When we signed up we had to choose whether we wanted the yellow “Hit the Wall” swim cap. By choosing the yellow cap, that meant you would be pushed a bit more to really hit your limit. I chose the yellow cap which meant that for the lake swim, I would swim for 90 minutes along with all my other fellow yellow caps. A little secret is that I hate circle courses so I knew this would wear on me a bit. I like point to point or one big circle. Each time you get to the start point for your next lap, my little mind says, “Well you could get out now?” Luckily this was night one and I was feeling good and ready to go. I think after the 3rd lap I lost count, Thank God! It was even hard to read in my strava after but I think it was 5 laps over 90 minutes in water that was about 53 degrees. All of these swims for me are just with a bathing suit, goggles, cap and ear plugs as those are the Marathon Swimming guidelines. I felt pretty good in the water and after but there is always this period after with the after drop where you get really cold, really fast. It’s super important to get out of the wet bathing suit as quickly as possible and into dry clothes so you can warm back up. Having a nice bottle of warm liquid is also super helpful along with wool socks, beanie, gloves and a warm swim parka.
Morning Glory Swim
Sadly I missed this. After the night swim, getting home and showering, I got to bed around 1:30am so slept in. I am sure this swim was delightful.
Battle of Carlingford Lough Race
That afternoon we had the Carlingford Battle where we swam 7k from Carlingford to Omeath which I was really looking forward to. I mean whats not to love about a point to point swim, right? This swim hugged the shoreline and we swam buoy to buoy. We were greeted with some challenging conditions with lots of wind and chop so heard times were much slower this year from those who had done it in the past. This swim was warmer than the lake swim and I think the water temp was closer to 55 degrees and felt good throughout the swim. This swim was about 8700 yards per my garmin and took me about 2 hours 38 minutes. I can typically carry my own feeds for swims up to 3 hours so I had a Saloman soft flask bottle for my water and electrolytes. Then I use a Gu refillable flask and I can hold both of these in my suit. Another great flask option is the Hydrapak Stow which is a little bigger than the Saloman flask.
Sunday Morning Cure Swim
Nothing like nice swim the next day to stretch out the arms. We jumped in around 7am and were to swim for about 2 hours. Once again we were faced with a tight circle swim due to challenging weather conditions. We had another very windy day with a wee bit of chop. And as Amy said “We had 4 seasons in one hour.” Working through some shoulder issues, the challenge of swimming in chop puts a bit more strain on my shoulders. And I was thinking about my long swim the next day and letting my wee little brain play wee little games. I swam two loops for about an hour 22 minutes with the water temp probably closer to 53 degrees this day.
Hit the Wall Yoga
YOGA! THANK YOU YOGA! I am so glad I went to the yoga class with Shirli. She provided a great class which focused on stretching and opening up areas like shoulders, neck and hip flexors. I felt so much better after the class.
Sunday Night- Hit the Wall Ice n’ Dice
When we showed up for the Ice n’ Dice, we had to decided what we wanted to swim the next day. The options were 4 hrs, 6 hrs or 10 hrs. I was going to sign up for 4 hours. But I overheard the lady chatting with the guy in front of me who was wavering between 4 and 6 hours. She said worst case you don’t go all the way to 6 hours and that should not be viewed as a failure. I am pretty sure he signed up for the 6 hour swim. I did as well.
Then it was time to get ready for the Ice n’ Dice. I was really dreading this event. We would get in and swim one lap which I think was about 1/2 mile. Then upon exiting you would sit in an ice bath for 40 or so seconds. There were some popsicles, some seaweed and lots and lots of ice. Oddly enough, I really enjoyed this event. After exiting the ice bath and jumping back into the ocean, the water felt so nice and dare I say warm! It was a nice perspective change in that there is always something colder. I swam another lap and did another ice bath, swam another lap and passed on the ice bath. I really should have gone for one more ice dip. I actually think it help my shoulders too! Alas I had my “6 hour” swim on my mind and wanted to be fresh for the next morning.
Monday Hit the Wall Beyond the limits
I was nervous going into the long swim Monday, not really feeling confident that I could handle 6 hours in 54-55 degree water. And we had not had the most favorable conditions over the weekend and Monday was no different. Our 10 hour crew was already in the water which included two housemates, Amy Gubsner and Ranie Pearce. Amy had already done a significant swim on Friday attempting the Dal Riata Channel. How she could pull out another 10 hour swim was just mind boggling. Ranie is preparing for her North Channel attempt so this swim is her qualifier swim and I know she is nervous. I am just in awe of these two accomplished swimmers! I figured we would see them out there at some point. They both accomplished their goal of completing their 10 hour swims! Absolute rock stars!!! I joined the 6 hr group which included Alice Ma from South End Rowing Club who is just the most positive person I know. We are ready to go on the beach and we set out on our swim. Shortly into the swim I ran aground on a sand bar which I gently climbed over and returned to swimming. Going into the swim I know we are going to be looping a bit which as noted, I struggle with. I also am wearing my watch which I typically don’t wear for any swims over 3 hours but that only works if someone else if feeding me on a predetermined schedule. Ideally I like to feed 45 minutes and then every 30 minutes thereafter. My feeds are just water, carbo pro and electrolytes in a half full water bottle. I supplement with Gu that I like to carry with me. Wearing a watch and knowing how long I have been in the water and if I fed on schedule can be my downfall. I was obsessing over the time and my feeds which taught me that I need to be more flexible. At about two hours I had two feeds off our designated boat. I had some Gu to supplement but by this point my mind had gotten the best of me and I was hitting my wall. I saw Jacqueline and Padraig’s boat and yelled that I wanted to get out and for the first time ever on a swim I was crying in the water. This has never happened to me even on much longer swims. Jacqueline asked why I wanted to get out and why I was crying. I was like I just need to get out. Then she pressed again and I answered “my feeds are all fucked up” as I sobbed away. She promptly shot over to the boat with my feeds and came back with a feed. I left and cried for a bit in my goggles. But as I left Jacqueline said “you aren’t even cold!” And she was right! I wasn’t cold. I don’t know why I had a meltdown but I know I can be stronger and I should listen to my own advice which is to give it 20-30 more minutes as these emotions go in cycles. Later in the swim I needed to do that as well and I did not. So at this point, I climbed over the wall and kept on swimming for another 2+ hours which I was pretty proud of. Around the 4 hour mark, I saw Amy and she tried to tell me a joke and I just said “uh huh?” and returned to swimming. Thankfully we laughed about that later. She is a true cheerleader and support of all in the water. I was definitely struggling against my own mind demons and feeling really cold. In hindsight, I know my coldness comes and goes in waves and have to again push myself over the wall. At about 4 hours 15 minutes I was mentally done and asked to get out. They said swim over there. But I didn’t really get back to swimming and just more paddled around for another 10 minutes which then caused me to get colder. Just keep swimming is real and you must just keep swimming or it can be a quick end as once that cold sets in, you are done. I saw another swimmer get out and promptly swam toward that boat to beg and plead to get out. And I was greeted with a yes I could get out. When we approached Jacqueline’s boat to pick up two additional swimmers, I saw the disappointment in her eyes. I told myself I was happy with 4.5 hours as I had wavered between the 4 hour and 6 hour swim. I was shivering like crazy by this point and we headed back to shore. On the boat back, Anna-Carin Nordin was helping to keep me warm. Later I learned that she was the first female to complete the Oceans 7! What a thrill to meet her! Next I was greeted by the crew on the beach and quickly taken into the mobile van to warm up. Chrissie took supreme care of me bringing me warm drinks and chocolates and just chatting. I see lots of open water swimming in her future and hope she can visit San Francisco so I can return the hospitality! David also helped to make sure I was ok and I am so thankful for the team that is Infinity. I just can’t say enough about the entire team!!!
The next day is when the disappointment really set in. My body felt quite good and my arms were hardly sore. I knew I did not push myself nearly has hard as I could have. I could have done more, I can do more and I will do more. I am stronger and more capable than I know. I have too many self-doubts. I have always thought I was mentally tough as I pushed through two challenging Ironman events in my prior life as a triathlete. Ironman Canada had a 25% did not start/ did not finish so I know I have mental toughness. However, mental toughness in marathon swimming is a whole other game! These are things that are hard for me to admit. I am incredibly hard on myself and one my amazing housemates asked me earlier in the week why I was so hard on myself. I pondered this… I think the middle child syndrome is real. At least in my mind, I always needed to do more, be better to get attention. This has evolved into my adult life and why I continue to push myself to do more, be better. While I am still disappointed I did not push through to the 6 hours, I know I can and I know I will. So Infinity, I WILL BE BACK! And I will be READY!
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