The last day of the camp – 6 hour swim day. I woke to bright sunshine filtering into the van, and cooked up porridge, toast and coffee, plus juice and plenty of water. I packed up the van, ready to head up to Dublin after the swim, and drove down to Sandycove for the last time, sipping from a bottle of Maxim in preparation for what was to come. It was quite crowded down there –a good turnout for the final day. We were briefed about feeding (which would be from the beach on the island) and then lined up in the water, ready for the starting horn. I was feeling quite tired, but reckoned that swimming while fatigued would be good mental practice for the Channel. Unlike the previous day’s constantly changing swim course (in the interests of torment and confusion), the goal for the day was simply laps of the island – in my case, two an hour – a pace which I managed to sustain, with about 10 minutes in hand at the end.
This was a very uneventful swim for me. As usual, it took me a couple of hours to feel comfortable, and I was having a little difficulty getting the maxim down – there’s been a lot of the purple gloop in my life recently, and I think I’ve reached saturation point. Because it was such a sunny day, I managed to force about 500mls per hour down, supplemented by the occasional jelly baby (the swimmer’s friend), and a couple of bites of cereal bar. As the swim progressed, the sea outside of the cove became increasingly rough, and by my last couple of laps, it was becoming a bit of a fight, which was fun (if a bit hard on the shoulders). I don’t know how I would cope with that for hours and hours, but it was completely manageable knowing that I would soon have some respite in the lee of the island, where the water was flat and peaceful.
All in all, it was a lovely swim. Many thanks to Ned, Lisa and Ruth for spending many hours on the beach, always ready with the right bottle and some words of encouragement when we pitched up for a feed. It felt good to get another 6 hour swim done, especially on top of such a heavy week of swimming. A few of the other swimmers went on to do 8 hours, which is deeply impressive. I would have loved to have stayed in, but I was really conscious of the fact that I had to give myself time to recover and make sure that I was okay to drive safely up to Dublin, which takes about 4.5 hours in the van. So I called it a day at 6, changed, cooked up a pile of pasta to refuel, drank gallons of water, stood about chatting, and then finally forced myself to leave the lovely, light-hearted post-swim, post-camp atmosphere and headed north.
It felt like a long drive up, but after 10 days in the van, I was delighted to arrive at the hotel that colleagues at DCU had booked for me, where I had a well-earned beer, and then luxuriated in the joys of a hot bath, fluffy dressing gown, and a thick down duvet. Bliss.