Irish hospitality and open water swimming, what a great combination for a weekend away. I should say a “grand weekend”, according to the Irish. The open water swim took place beneath the shadows of Connaughts highest mountain in the Waters of the Killary Fjord. Killary fjord is located in the west of Ireland, in northern Connemara, and on the border between Galway and Mayo with outstanding scenery. It really is an outstanding landscape. A vast expanse of water with mountains guarding, protecting and giving everyone who visits great views from all directions.
I met Maxine when I went on my Swim Smooth Coaches Coach Education Course in Majorca in May. I was very honoured to be part of Maxine’s squad Aqua School Ireland team with my honouree hoody for the weekend and seeing 27 swimmers that Maxine has coached, putting their newly learn’t skills to practice by embracing the challenge – The Gaelforce Great Fjord Swim.
With Dublin only, an hour and a half away from Luton airport it was an easy flight in and then it was a straight three hour drive down to Killary through the amazing Irish countryside. We chatted so much that the journey flew by. Being with someone who has the same passion and operates on the same page as you allow for easy relaxed company. Thrashing ideas around to make both squads fabulous, learning from each other’s mistakes and off course our South African roots made us laugh even more.
Killary Adventure Centre offers youth hostel accommodation and is located in a magical location nestled in the Connemara mountains, directly overlooking stunning Killary. The hostel is built to blend into the spectacular landscape and to be kind to the environment by not disturbing the beauty.
The Gaelforce swim started in the rain, then we had sunshine where the reflection of the impressive mountains created great photo opportunities. More rain and to our joy a massive rainbow. No leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you were in doubt of getting a Dry Robe, Ireland is the location where it will be used loads.
The Gaelforce event was very well organised from start to finish. Easy booking on line, easy registration with no long queues and smooth transition from bus ride in town to boat trawler. The chatter and build-up of excitement started with the bus ride to the fishing trawler. More excitement on the trawler and can you believe there was warmed juice ready for us. The noise levels on the trawler were louder than an Ibiza night club. When open water swimmers get together we certainly get rather excited!!!
I was quite worried about the 13 degree water temperature and jumping straight off the trawler into the icy water. Water that cold will certainly give you a huge wakeup call or open water shock if you’re not careful. I stayed warm before the swim. I was one of the first swimmers to get into the water and I planned this, as I always take a bit longer to acclimatise and can’t stand that horrible out of breath feeling. So glad I did the acclimatising because it allowed me to have a super swim.
The buoys were big so sighting was easy. There were course maps on all the tables on the trawler.
Coming into the finish, the safety crew and spectators certainly made you feel like you had just come in first.
Whenever you do an event, it’s always good to learn from your mistakes. Now my mistakes should not have happened. I of all people should know!!! I got bad neoprene chaffing on my neck. First mistake not pulling my wetsuit up properly, wearing a borrowed neoprene cap that was too small for me and hardly any glide. Swimming in the sea you should always add extra glide. I really should know better.
Swimming in 13 degree is serious and you definitely need to train or at least experience that water temperature before your event. The safety crew and medics worked so hard. It’s not a pleasant experience seeing swimmers being taken out of the water with pale unresponsive faces. Cold water is serious and needs huge respect.
Only in Ireland would you get a tot of whiskey after your swim to warm the cockles of your souls. Never before been given soap and bread as well. Fabulous and delicious!!!
10/10 rating for the swim.
We of course hit the pub on Saturday night. Paddy Casey was performing a private gig to raise funds for the much needed equipment for Matt, who only last year became paralysed after a fall at work. Matt was amazing and swam 750m double arm backstroke. Huge admiration. In the pub Maxine also asked her swimmers to submit their satellite Strava results and the winner was the one who swam the most extra distance and the most zig zagging.
Head to Ireland, explore and soak up the Irish fun!!!