As many of you may already know, Swim Ireland and Triathlon Ireland have teamed up to offer dual memberships. You can read more about this here. Marijke Beltman, undoubtedly one of the most active, inspiring people I’ve ever known, decided to take the plunge, and she’s written about her experience below. Enjoy.. –JJ
Jump into the deep end-taking on the challenge of Leinster Open Sea swimming
When Swim Ireland and Triathlon Ireland offered a linked membership at the back end of 2016 I though: ‘Sure why not’. I registered for both (and Belpark!) and didn’t really think about it anymore. Fast forward to May and an email landed in my inbox announcing the Leinster Open Sea Swimming Calendar for the 2017 season.
The process was simple: go to howdidyouswim.com, register, get a race number and then just show up. And so I did.
My first race was the race on the June bank holiday weekend at the Great South Wall – Organised by Half Moon Swimming Club. Not knowing the process, I was a bit nervous but those nerves were gone quick enough as everybody was very welcoming. At that point Belpark was not yet registered as a swimming club which meant I was racing as a special member under Swim Ireland as a club. As such I was expected to race in a wetsuit but as I was planning to swim in skins. They were very good to me and gave me a handicap so that I could start in the normal race.
Let me explain the handicap: this is a time at which you start, basically the idea is that you then chase the people that start ahead of you and pass then and potentially win. As all the ladies around me were way more experienced OW swimmers than me (I had met a few at the Vampire swim and also at the Turgursius Island swim in Lough Lene) I knew I would be happy if a I wasn’t last. My handicap was 6.5 minutes meaning that I would start 6.5 minutes after ‘GO’ which is the start (handicap 0). 6.5 minutes seemed a lot… either way I was too early but that meant I could watch and see how the system worked as then men started before the ladies (this is always the case).
The men bunched up nicely (meaning the handicap system worked) and before I knew it the safety briefing for the ladies was on. The water had gone a bit choppier and we were told they were going to pull the buoys in for us for safety reasons (have to say they are extremely safety conscious-the races don’t start unless they have 3 ribs in the water). Before I knew it the handicaps were called out, 6.5 minutes came and I was off. Slow and steady with a bit of sight seeing due to the buoys being moved but I made it around and wasn’t quite last. Happy days. The timing systems is very much like that of Parkrun: at the finish you get a token which is your position, this then later gets attached to the time that is kept by the timer and that is it. Simple but effective!.
As most weekends there was another race the next day, at Lough Lene in Westmeath. This is probably one of the nicest lakes in the country, completely clear and flat as a pancake. I know the lake quite well, this is the place where I did my first middle distance race (the notorious CXIII which no longer exists). I kept my handicap and made it around this one as well. At this point news started to filter through that Belpark would get registered as a swimming club pretty soon which was a nice prospect as that meant that anyone swimming under Belpark as a club could now qualify for the Dun Laoghaire harbour swim and the Liffey Swim (which special members cannot). Too bad both races clash with other races I already planned this year (surprise!).
Fast forward to the first weekend of July and again I could take my pick of multiple races: Seapoint on Friday (postponed due to the swimming ban), Docklands/Liffey on Saturday and Portmarnock on Sunday. For the Docklands/Liffey swim, the course was one of 2 loops, starting at the Jeanie Johnston, heading across the Liffey to the far side, downstream under the Samuel Beckett bridge, across again and back up. My handicap was coming down to 6min 15 sec-whatever extra I would gain in 15 sec?! Pretty cool to have both the Jeanie Johnston and Convention Centre as sighting points! The Liffey at this point was surprisingly salty (more sea than river – I have only ever swam at Islandbridge where it’s fresh water) and there was a bit of pull in the river. I wasn’t last again but close to it, partially because I had problems with the glaring sun and could not see where I was going and partially because I just was slow…
Overall: these swims are really good fun to do, the OW people are nice and welcoming. Yes you will have to let go of the safety of a wetsuit which does make a difference on speed but in a way it’s like swimming with drag shorts: you’re so much faster and it feels so much easier when you have your wetsuit on in a race if you have trained/raced in skins!!! Anyone interested to take on he challenge register on howdidyouswim.com to get a number and check Leinster Open Sea Swimming on Facebook and Twitter for updates on races!
Go on, go on, go on, you know you want to!!!