infinity Channel Swimming Crew members:
infinity Channel Swimming Crew members:
Pilot, Motivator, Support Swimmer
‘If there is anyone who embodies the spirit of open water swimming while possesses the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for in a genuinely humble and understated manner, it is certainly Pádraig Mallon of Ireland’. Steven Munatones
A good crew member needs a wide range of experience. Infinity Crew Member Pádraig Mallon has grown up in on and around the water. He has an array of achievements to his name including a solo North Channel Crossing, solo English Channel Swim and a Trans Atlantic Crossing.
Event director, triathlete, IRONMAN, ice swimmer and channel swimmer is multi-talented, multi-faceted and multi-focused. With a sincere humility and obvious joy in his stroke, Pádraig puts his handprints all over the global open water swimming map. He became only the third person in history - other than the venerable Kevin Murphy and Allison Streeter - to complete the North Channel and English Channel .
Co-organiser with Aoiffe, Jacqueline and Catherine of two Guinness World Records in the local community the greatest distance relay swim at Camlough Lake and the greatest distance relay run at Newry running track. He has served as the chairman and of the massively successful Camlough Lake Water Festival, Newry Triathlon Club and sits on the board for the International Ice Swimming Association.
Pádraig works at a feverish pace year-round with leadership for infinity and with his brothers at M&M, he plays a part in others success as much as his own. If the water was cold, rough and jellyfish-strewn, Pádraig is a game. Pádraig became Northern Ireland’s first certified ice swimmer and participated in the Russian Winter Swimming Championships in Tyumen, Russia. He is one of the very few to be an Ironman Iceman having completed a full IRONMAN and swam a mile in 3.5ºC (38.3ºF) a rare achievement and a challenge to the mind and body in uniquely different ways.
Helping others achieve their own dreams is part of his very DNA. He brings the joy and challenge of the open water to others: neoprene or bioprene, competitive or fitness. For his commitment to the sport, for his unselfish attitude and joy in bringing others to the sport, and for his own athletic accomplishments in the cold rough waters, Pádraig Mallon was the worthy nominee to the WOWSA World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year. Pádraig recently summits Kilimanjaro with Team Conor raising funds for the Northern Ireland Children Hospice with higher mountain plains and far away oceans in his sights.
Fun in on and around the water is his job and his hobby – imagine working at what you love doing! How cool is that? infinity is one of his dreams come to life - opening the water to everyone from 0 to 100+ if you have the joy to live that long. Having sailed the world and travelled to remote parts to help others Padraig has uses these skills to build the same infinity ethos in others, glory comes from daring to begin. He is happy on the water piloting swimmers to their dream come true, challenging limits at HITtheWALL on their swim day and at every opportunity. Pádraig is who you want on your team.
He drives himself with profoundly simple but audacious ethos: "If your dreams don't scare you, you are not dreaming big enough" and he achieves his dreams with a lock-down focused goal-setting character: "Mental ability is more important than the physical ability. If the mind fails, you will never make it but if the mind is strong, you have the finish line in sight."
Pádraig enjoys being in, on, or around water but most of all being at play in the sea with swimming, kite surfing and sailing as some of his accolades. He has two Guinness world record titles for team participation in ‘the greatest distance open water relay’ and ‘the greatest distance relay run’. If not organizing a fantastic event on water, Pádraig can be found helping other event organizers with their calendared events marshalling, at registration or often just before the finish line to encourage others in achieving their goal.
Born and raised in the townland of Carrickbracken and Carrivekeeney in Co. Armagh he is the oldest son, born to Bridgeen and Mick Mallon. Both parents are long-distance swimmers; his father a veteran Ironman triathlete and his siblings all successful in endurance and open water swimming events.
MOTIVATION If your dreams don't scare you-you are not dreaming big enough.
ADVENTURE explore the environment we have around us. Master your own challenges within the confines of your own natural environment.
PREPARATION is everything. Poor mental preparation leads to failure – mental ability is more important than physical ability. If the mind fails, you will never make it, but if the mind is strong, you have the finish line in sight.
ENGLISH CHANNEL SWIM – TEAM CAMLOUGH 14th July 2009 Distance: Time: Boat pilot: Reg Bricknell Team Name: ‘POKOS STAG'. Team: Milo McCourt, Aoiffe McCourt-Lynch, Micky Lynch and brothers Sean Mallon, Martin Mallon and Pádraig Mallon. During this period in 2009 whilst preparing for ‘POKOS STAG’ Channel Swim, the Camlough Lake Water Festival was born and has developed since into a successful annual event with swims including The Battle of Carlingford Lough and The Smile Mile held in local waters.
GUINNESS WORLD RECORD 9th – 19th September 2009 Pádraig is one of three masterminds with Aoiffe McCourt and Mick Lynch who successfully planned the Guinness World Record open water relay in Camlough Lake. The support of the entire community was immense. Guinness World Record Distance: 680Km non-stop relay swim (Still held 01.10.2013). In the ‘World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year Awards’ out of 9,133 votes cast by fans around the globe, 2,003 individuals voted for Camlough Team of Ireland.
CHALLENGE BARCELONA October 2010 Maresme Spain Finish Time: 13.33.46
ROBBEN ISLAND TO MOUILLE POINT SOUTH AFRICA 3rd February 2011 with Cape Long Distance Swimming Association Finish Time: 4 Hours 55 minutes.
NORTH CHANNEL SWIM - A SECOND TEAM SUCCESS 22nd August 2011 Distance: Time: Team Name: 'Camlough Lake' Irene Kennedy, Paul McCambridge, Aoiffe McCourt/Lynch, Micky Lynch, Martin Mallon, and Pádraig Mallon.
IRONMAN AUSTRIA Klagenfurt Austria Finishing time 13.23.25
NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN SAILING April – June 2012 SAIL ON SAILOR with husband and wife duo Terry and Carol Hogan. From: Nassau, Bahamas To: Lagos On: 'COMMON SENSE Catalina c42'. Distance: 4078NM taking in the Bermuda Triangle Time: 39 days.
KEEPONRUNNING GUINNESS WORLD RECORD Newry July to August 2012 Team really of 200 runners. Total distance: 3504.28 miles nonstop over 16 days.
RUSSIAN WINTER SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS Siberia, December 2012 Venue: Tyumen Siberia Water Temperature: 0.5 degrees. Air Temperature -33 degrees
While attending ILDSA awards event in Fermoy, Co. Cork with Milo McCourt, the invitation came from Nuala Moore and Anne Marie Ward to travel to Russia to compete in much acclaimed Russian Winter Swimming Championships. He trained for this event with Micky Lynch and Andrew Coyle who would become the 2013 CAMLOUGH LAKE ICE TEAM. Pádraig placed 3rd in one of the Russian Winter Swimming Championship events. ‘Freezing to the face, feet to ice and hands to ladder’.
ICE SWIM CAMLOUGH LAKE 1800m ICE SWIM on his own doorstep January 2013 Pádraig would become Ireland's third overall and first Male Ice swimmer and International Ice Swimming Association member - Number 35. Venue: Camlough Lake , Co. Armagh N.Ireland. Water Temperature: 3.7 degrees C. Distance: Micky Lynch, (1000m) Andrew Coyle (1610m), Pádraig Mallon (1800m).
ENGLISH CHANNEL SOLO SWIM 06.07.2013
Date: 6th July, 2013 Crossing: 14 hours 48 minutes.
Support by way of written whiteboard comments where a mental boost for Pádraig during his crossing. Having had many texts and messages from friends and family prior to the English channel Pádraig could relate to what was written. Some had a huge effect on his mindset including one comment from Nuala Moore - at one point when Pádraig was feeling really tired her comment ‘leave it all in the channel’ gave him the boost to do just that and timely enough as it was he seen through the midst – the French coast although it would be another 3 hours off at that point. Once finished there now would be no teaching like the experience’s that Pádraig and the team could report on the swimmer Pádraig was only one-quarter of the story - Clare, Bridgeen, and Aoiffe had been by his side the entire journey.
The ultimate goal would always be the North Channel with the only obstacle in its path (the English Channel) now out of the equation, a date could be set. Clearly, it was evident that his journey in life, the coincidences, the challenges achieved, the learning and the adventures would bring Pádraig to this point. Rest until next season? – no chance the North Channel would not be in 2014 it would be in 6 weeks. As a team they knew their approach was 99.9 % correct. The same preparation and event schedule for the crossing and their approach to Pádraig would apply for Channel 2. Clearly the motto you rest you rust was true. Phone calls were made, the team regrouped, fresh in their minds their duties, the homework and learning outcomes summarised, and in private the date was set – the North Channel was mission possible.
NORTH CHANNEL SOLO SWIM 16.08.2013
Date: 16th August 2013 Crossing: 12 hours 49 minutes.
Once the date was planned, a short swim in the sea at Donaghadee gave Pádraig the reassurance’s that he needed. His mental attitude was clear and focused, the sea would take him safely on his journey. Asking permission from the sea was agreement that needed to be made after all he would leave himself open to all the elements of nature. The North Channel, (Irish Channel) which the most challenging of the “Oceans Seven swims” lies between the North of Ireland and the Mull of Galloway and is a distance of 18.6 nautical miles (35 km.) Reference Admiralty chart number 2198.
Well before dawn on the morning of 16th August after a bowl of hot porridge, Pádraig left Camlough with his team for Bangor – there was no doubt given the weather, wind and wave forecast that once left Bangor the next stop would be Scotland. Having previously worked with Bryan Meharg and Bangor Boats Pádraig had full trust in him and his team to help guide his journey.
Cold and miserable, Pádraig did not get the most perfect of tides but agreeably in life you play with the hand of cards you are dealt. He wanted this finish line the most and was determined more than ever to reach it.
TWO CHANNEL CROSSINGS WITHIN SIX WEEKS 06.07.2013 AND 16.08.2013
Pádraig is the 3rd person to have swum the English Channel and the North Channel in the same season - remarkably only 6 weeks between his two swims. The 1st person to complete this successful duo was Kevin Murphy in 1970 followed by Alison Streeter in 1988. (From currently available information).
Even extreme marathon swimmers need ‘me’ time – Pádraig has been kitesurfing in amazing venues like Byron Bay, Vietnam, Capetown, Thailand, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Egypt, and Lake Garda as has amazing backdrops close to home in Cranfield and on the West coast of Ireland Favourite stop: Achill Island.
Lanzarote To Fuerteventura
Mallon completed a 15 km crossing across the Strait of La Bocaina (or La Bocaina Strait between Fuerteventura and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands off the west coast of northern Africa in 5 hours 1 minute.
Around Ireland Yacht Race
Mallon was crew member on board Serena with team circumnavigating Ireland in 10 days and even managed to get a swim in during a bit of calm water and no wind on the west coast of Ireland
The nomination for the Step Out Of The Ordinary Blue Letter Campaign by Pádraig Mallon reads, "Pádraig Mallon and the team at Camlough Lake push themselves to extraordinary distances and depths. With channel swimmers, Ironman finishers, triathletes and ice swimmers on this team they know well what it is like to set personal challenges and realize their own dreams and the potential sporting abilities of others. The 'Step out of the ordinary' Blue Letter campaign is a means to encourage others to identify and welcome a new challenge, any challenge. In the 'Step Out of the Ordinary' event, the CLWF team share their joy for life and adventure with others, inspiring them to step out and step up to a challenge within their grasp, but yet somewhat out of their comfort zone. For this uniquely inspirational and personalized campaign, for its highly effective means to motivate people to achieve their own dreams, for its innovative creations in the open water world, the Camlough Lake Water Festival's Blue Letter Campaign is a worthy nominee for the 2014 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year."
Video by Pádraig Mallon at the 2015 Ireland Ice Swimming Championships, hosted by the Camlough Lake Water Festival and sanctioned by the International Ice Swimming Association at Wild Water Armagh (Conroy Pond) in Northern Ireland.
Charles is a member of Red Bay Lifeboat serving as Helmsman and Station mechanic. Charles has spent many years within the marine Industry. He is a commercial Yachtmaster, Power, Advanced Powerboat instructor, VHF Radio Instructor and is qualified to teach theory to Yachtmaster level.
Charles Stewart established in 2007 an RYA recognized training center for powerboating. He has competed in various RIB events throughout Scotland and Ireland and has completed a navigation around Scotland and Ireland.
Charles local knowledge of the North Channel is unrivalled. Charles has piloted many successful North Channel solo swim and relay crossings.
“You can sleep when you are Dead”
Father of four and husband to the amazing ‘mummy house’ Antoniette.
Brought up in on and around the water Milo is infinity the infinity Godfather per se. His history and knowledge of the swimming makes him infinity Channel Swimming’s key motivator on board helping numerous swimmers across the channel.
His always has a watchful eye and words of wisdom. There are not too many experiences in on or around the water that he has not been involved in. His passion for all aspects of open water swimming, triathlon and sport is what makes others what to get involved and want to strive for success. Milo loves to inspire the next generation into the open water - teaches, trains, challenge, race is how he sees progression and growth.
Having Milo on your team is a winning combination. Milo has completed several relay channel swims, competed in the Ice swimming world championships in China, Germany and his home turf Ireland. He is one of the founding members of Newry Triathlon Club in the early 80’s and has completed several IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events throughout the world.
Completing IRONMAN with both my sons and daughters
“Stopping is not an option”
Proud father of 2 young men, has been involved with local sport from a young age particularly swimming. Having lost his leg in an accident at a very young age he remained focused and continues to inspire able and less able people to take part in sport regardless of their circumstances.
David coaches swimming as part of Newry Triathlon club. He has taken part in several relay swims on the English and North Channel and recently has taken up ice swimming preparing himself for his first marathon distance solo channel swim.
David is a very reliable and professional crew member knowing what it takes and the mindset required to achieve a goal.
Becoming an RLSS Lifeguard
“I’m the fastest amputee in the water”
Father of four beautiful girls and husband to Jennifer.
Stephen like many of his family members has been involved with local sport from a young age. He is an intricate part of Newry Triathlon club and CLWF.
Stephen has competed in numerous IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events throughout the globe taking to extreme sport with completion of CELTMAN, SWISSMAN and the toughest NORSEMAN triathlons.
Stephen is a very reliable and professional crew member knowing what it takes and the mindset required to achieve a goal.
Receiving his black t-shirt at NORSEMAN
“Anything worth doing is worth over doing”
Afreen works as an Accountant Analyst for a Multinational company.
She has a kind heart, attention to detail and a no messing attitude. Afreen has the key ingredients for you for as swimmers crew.
Afreen has been part of the infinity team for many years who ensures all the finer details is looked after so that things go according to plan.
Coco channel team reaching Scotland. The determination and will power of the girls was unbelievable & being a part of their crossing was something I’ll never forget!
“keep her lit”
Gary McCourt is an expert carpenter / joiner with skilled hands in the footsteps of his father a master craftsman. With a young at heart attitude and still youthful years, he is helpful and quick to lend a hand of support. Gary has worked with infinity for a number of years now. He was on board as crew for many the pioneering swim successes and has excellent qualities as a swimmers crew.
Gary is an adventurer with IRONMAN 70.3 and SWISSMAN on his record. He loves mountain running and is proud of his achievements big and small. He is the chairperson for Newry Triathlon Club developing the club from strength to strength.
It's up to you how far you go. If you don't try you'll never know.
Nicky has been on the sea from he was 12 years old and has sailed many of the worlds oceans. His love for the ocean and Sailing is unrivalled particularly his knowledge of the Irish Sea.
Nick can be seen crossing the Irish Sea between Ireland and the Isle of Man almost as frequently the Minx Ferry.
Nicky spent a long number of ears as fire service committed to the safety of others.
Nick has been part of the team for many years and is not afraid to give his wealth of knowledge to all who are on board with him or in the water beside him.
Proudest moment with infinity Channel Swimming
First successful channel swim from Isle of Man to Ireland by relay team TRISKELION.
“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”
Father of 2 boys and husband to Denise. Kieran works as a Fulltime firefighter with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service with 20+ years of experience in on and around the water with an ever focused mind-set to save and protect life. Kieran is a swimming teacher at infinity Swim Academy.
Kieran is a key player as crew on channel swims and at HITtheWALL, loving the priviledge of meeting adventurous people from all over the globe. He has been on board for many successful swims with infinity Channel Swimming
He enjoys cycling and taking part in extreme adventure races having completed Coast2Coast nonstop, Mizen head - Malin head and Malin head - Mizen head 24hr Relay.
Every time I put Firefighter uniform
“Pressures for Tires”
Yoga & Meditation instructor
During HITtheWall Shirli provides specifically focused yoga and meditation for open water swimmers to help maintain and keep injury free muscles and learn to become goal focused prior and during the achievement of their life goal or challenge.
Shirli trained in a traditional Ashram in India, is Yoga Alliance certified and has continued to achieve accolades to advance her knowledge and practice.
My recovery back to fighting fit after life changing injuries from a serious car accident.
“Change never comes within our comfort zone”
Richard offers over 30 years marine experience on and around the North Irish Channel, Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
He is a qualified commercial skipper earning his livelihood in on and around the sea's off the coast of Northern Ireland and has piloted many successful North Channel swims
Richard operates at PADI Dive centre providing diving courses and sea safari.
Proudest moment with infinity Channel Swimming
Piloting the first two way relay team of the North Channel
“Just keep moving”
Father of four, husband to the amazing Paula. Ian is owner of Wild Water Armagh offering newcomers an opportunity to learn and develop and others to develop and perfect their swimming skills at their swim school and natural swimming pond - a centre of excellence.
Ian has been observing and crewing on the North Channel for 3 years, on relay, solo and two-way swims.
Wild Water Armagh which hosts to Ireland Ice Swimming National Championships which Ian and Paul have hosted since 2014.
“Get over yourself”
Barry works as a Fulltime firefighter with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service with 20+ years of experience in on and around the water with an ever focused mind-set to save and protect life.
Barry organises races for the local community and fundraises for local charities and always there to lend a hand for a good cause.
Barry enjoys taking part in adventure races having completed a number of marathons including Berlin and enjoys the challenge of triathlon completed numerous races all over the globe.
Receiving my long service and good conduct medal with the Fire Service
Successful summit of Kilimanjaro
“When I die I want to die Alive”
From good beginnings come all mother of six and grandmother to a whole lot more lives her life inspiring her children and grandchildren that anything is possible with a bit of guts and determination. Mother of infinity’s Padraig, Sister to infinity’s Milo Aunty to infinity’s Aoiffe - she is a cornerstone to all things infinity.
Bridgeen is a swim teacher and infinity Swim Academy showing new-borns right up to the most adventurous grandparents a gentle and guiding hand into the swimming world. Bridgeen a triathlete has offered her support to her husband, brothers, sons and daughters on countless channel swims, IRONMAN, ice swims, marathon swims and extreme adventures.
Bridgeen knows how to hug you and then kick you in the ass and tell you to get on
Bridgeen knows what you’re thinking before you even think it.
The birth of every one of her children and grand children
“Get up and get on with it”
Safety Personnel and Support Swimmer
In the water she is FAST! With a competitive pool based background technique perfected by her mum an amazing swim coach. Olive is Ireland’s youngest ice swimmer and holds the record for the youngest ice mile in Ireland.
Olive has been on the swim team for numerous pioneering relay teams crossing the Dal Riata Channel and the Isle of Man to Ireland Channel opening these swims up as possibilities for others. She has a quite but confident approach to the sport and is always encouraging. Olive has been a support swimmer for numerous solo channel swimmers.
She knows what it takes to be a good crew person on board with a good eye to detail and a no sh*t attitude.
I’m proud of all the successful swims I’ve been a part of and how much I’ve learnt alongside the swimmers who have succeeded and those who haven’t.
Safety personnel, support swimmer and Motivator
Jack is an Accountant Analyst for a Multinational company he is also a swim teacher.
Jack is one of infinity Channel swimming key motivators and safety crew both on board the channel swims and at HITtheWALL.
Jack was part of the first relay team to complete the Dál riata Channel where he set a Blistering Speed of 10.4km per hour (with the help of the tide ! on fire that day !)
Jack has an endless source of energy and a fantastic can do attitude.
In 2016 he set a new record for the longest distance swam in under 5°C with a distance of just over 3.2km.
Holding record for longest distance swam in ice water.
“Pull like a dog”
Aoiffe Lynch Mother of 4 is one of infinity Channel Swimming’s Directors.
From a young age Aoiffe grew up in, on and around the water taking part in triathlons, open water swims throughout the island.
In 2009 Aoiffe was one of the main brain Stormers in the creation of the Guinness world record held at Camlough Lake to set a new world record for the longest continuous relay in open water, taking part over 9 days with 220 swimmers.
As well as being an amazing mum, Aoiffe also Plays waterpolo for Donegal Diamonds and also represented Ireland at international Level. She Competes in IRONMAN. events across the globe and loves to travel. She was a member of relay teams to complete the English and the North Channel.
Aoiffe teaches and coaches swimming as it is her passion.
Each one of my children.
“Don’t F*^k it up”
Jacqueline is one of infinity Channel Swimming’s Directors, ensuring smooth operations behind the scenes and takes utmost pride in inspiring children and adults to set small seeds as firm foundations, the essentials to achieving their goals.
Jacqueline has competed in IRONMAN, IRONMAN 70.3 and triathlons across Europe, ice swimming world championship in Russia, Estonia, Ireland and Germany and has completed several relay channel swims and open water swims including the North channel. She was invited guest at the WOWSA world open water summit for infinity in San Francisco and has escaped from Alcatraz ! Jacqueline was co - organiser with Padraig Aoiffe and Catherine of two Guinness World Records in the local community the greatest distance relay swim at Camlough Lake and the greatest distance relay run at Newry running track. She volunteers in and is an active member of Newry triathlon club, Camlough Lake Water Festival, Crooked Lake Triathlon and is Chairperson of infinity Swim Academy. Jacqueline has crewed for infinity on many pioneering swims under the guidance of Pádraig and is extremely knowledgeable on the skills to help your swim journey - both swimmer and swimmers crew – the team with no ‘I’ in it. Preparation is key to success. Preferring to shy away from the limelight, she shines bright. Her ability to organise and communicate is renounced worldwide throughout the open water swimming community. She travels globally to crew for other swimmers including trips to Southern Europe and USA. She has recently completed a project to open infinity Swim Academy in Pokhara, Nepal bringing swimming to new people and giving new opportunities.
Proudest moments with infinity
The day Milo turned the first sod for infinity Swim Academy
Padraig’s first successful NC crossing as pilot
To be part of the team giving a loud cheer from the boat as Elina Makinen stood up having made landfall in Bangor successfully finishing pioneering Fast n Frozen 2 way north channel relay.
“In giving we are receiving”
Mallon has completed triathlon and half Ironman events including the (Canberra 70.3 Half Ironman 2011, 12th female (AG); Husky Long Course 2012 and 2014, 12th female (AG); Husky Olympic 2011 and 2013, 2nd female (AG); ITU Sydney Olympics 2011 and 2012, 9th and 10th female (AG).
Mallon was awarded runner-up for the 2014 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
"Between her coaching competing from Australia to Ireland, Colleen Mallon experienced another busy year as is the norm with those with the Mallon DNA. The fast-stroking (80 spm) endurance athlete was always steady, from motivating those athletes with whom she trains to her turbulent North Channel swim where she was swimming right on the edge with Force 5 winds and 3-meter waves. Never complaining, never questioning, Mallon is a greatly appreciated personality in the open water world, always rising to meet the challenges just as the rest of her illustrious family does. For her 9 hours 56 minute North Channel crossing, for her humble, calm personality that exudes confidence with a sense of adventure, for her competitiveness in ocean swims Down Under to Half Ironman triathlons, for her volunteer crewing in channels and the Camlough Lake Water Festival, for her motivational coaching of junior swimmers, Colleen Mallon is a worthy nominee for the 2014 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.''
1. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil), FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup Champion
2. Bhakti Sharma (India), Marathon Swimmer & Educational Reformist
3. Carina Bruwer (South Africa), Freestyling Flautist
4. Chloë McCardel (Australia), Marathon Swimmer & Coach
5. Colleen Mallon (Ireland), Channel Swimmer & Volunteer
6. Elaine Howley (USA), Communicator, Organizer, Swimmer
7. Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand), Oceans Seven Swimmer
8. Nataliya Fatyanova, M.D. (Russia), Ice Swimming Researcher & Physician
9. Pilar Geijo (Argentina), FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix Co-Champion
10. Sharon van Rouwendaal (Netherlands), 2-time European Champion
11. Sylvia Rybárová (Czech Republic), FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix Co-Champion
12. Susan Simmons (Canada), Marathon Swimmer with Multiple Sclerosis
Ok so it’s nearly a week now since the North Channel was swum - this is a short wrap up of how the day, weather and ocean treated me and the emotional rollercoaster afterwards.
The Build Up - At first it was all systems go for Monday 4th August and I was running around like a headless chicken on Sunday night trying to get organised and sorted for a 1 am start. At about 8 pm through the boatman, Brian Maherg (@bangorboats), called it off due to newly forecasted gale force winds - that was that and I was to be contacted that Wednesday / Thursday to see if we might go ahead. As it got closer to Wednesday Brian contacted me again and gave the go ahead and for Thursday, with a reasonable swim start in Donaghadee at 7 am. So this was it - all the training and preparation for 6 good months and now IT WAS ON!
Game Day - It all started at 3:30am with a big bowl of porridge, followed by a small bit of pasta which didn’t sit well. On the road with the team was AWESOME, Bridgeen (mummy bear), Alex (forever patient partner), Padraig (Brother + Mr “I’ve done this before”) and lastly, legend Keith Garry (training buddy and agony aunt) - ALL SYSTEMS WERE GO!!
Going up the road to Bangor (where we would meet the boat pilots) was nerve-racking but the morning was spectacular - I couldn’t have hoped for anything more and the sunrise was epic. We unloaded the car, talked more sh%te and waited on the boatmen to arrive. At 6 bells Brain Meharg (pilot) pulled up in Bangor with his co-pilot Mervin and we all bowl’d into the boat, our nerves clean wreaked. From here we drove to the starting point...Robbies Point in Donaghadee.
On our journey over everyone thankfully kept their distance and I had a wee bit of time (shitting myself) to give myself one last prep talk (as if I hadn’t got enough time on my own in the preceding 10 hours ffs). When Brian shouted there was 10mins to start my heart dropped - mummy began to grease me up with vasoline – “lash it all on” says I, and showed mummy that it had to be put over the scars on my knees as the cold just zaps everything out of them (2 x knee reconstructions will do that to you).
On my two arms in massive writing I had Alex write THANK (on right arm) and YOU (on left arm) - my biggest motivation tool being ‘GRATITUDE’ - for the ability to even dream about doing something like this and having the support, health and means - and being thankful not only for what was happening on that day, but also everything that has ever happened to me (good and bad) or will happen in the future.
"JUMP IN, SWIM TO IRISH LAND AND WE WILL BLOW THE HORN OF THE BOAT!" – said Brian the boatman – and from there, everything was moving in slow motion and my heart was going to bust with the pounding. I jumped into the water and “WOW”; there was a mixture of panic and relief – this is actually HAPPENING today and “FOOK” that’s cold!! I swum over to the Donaghadee shore to touch Irish land and before I knew it, with no time to fix my costume or pull it out of my ar&h, the horn went and....I WAS OFF!
No big panic, I tried to approach it nice and easy, find my rhythm – it was good water and weather conditions....all I had to do was swim. I had great trust in my crew that they had it all to get me to Scotland and I had the easy job... just swim!
Within the first hour there were 3 dolphins! (although they didn’t hang out for long and were just being nosy). I was feeding every 40mins after the 1st hour. The 1st hour flew by - everything was ace, I was in a great head space and the body was feeling good. I found myself going a nice comfortable pace, around Keith and my training pace of 1:30 – 1:31 per 100m.
The longest I had swum before the day was 8 hours in Brighton le Sands with VLAD swim squad in Melbourne, so anything after that who knew what my body would do!? I was aiming for 10hrs-13hrs (max, please god!) so I didn’t want to go out too crazy but tried to keep it nice and steady.
So I was ticking along, with good feeds between 30 sec to 1 minute, with very positive BUZZ words coming from my crew on a small white board. We were really moving and making nice progress and BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM ..3.5-4 hours into the swim the sh*t hit the fan! It began to get rough and believe it or not, kept getting gradually worse as we progressed. Mentally draining YES, but this wasn’t going to faze me - mother nature was my friend and many different scenarios were going through my head, like playing a computer game (super Mario Brothers specifically) - every time I achieved the next level i.e. my next feed, the level would get harder and harder. Believe me, I had used a couple of lives by the end of the journey too!
It got to a stage when I said “bring it on..!” and found a nice place in my head and felt the body was on autopilot - I was picking herbs and watering flowers; I even put a wash on and hung a wash out to dry, and had a cup of tea with Alex and mummy! That might all sound completely psychotic, but that’s the best way I can explain it! The inspirational words, names of close friends and family members - were being put up on the whiteboard to help keep me going, and then I could see Scotland (between 5m swell and massive DELICIOUS glops of salty water *vom, as the bow of the boat and large waves coming from the right-hand side kept generously pounding me).
The conditions deteriorated to a nasty 5m swell with gale force winds causing us to swim a 40km route, rather than most direct route of 35km, in a time of 9hours 56mins 27sec, stroke for stroke the last km was EVERLASTING. Eventually a note went up on the whiteboard that the overall course record was GONE and I was to relax and enjoy the end of my swim. So THAT WAS IT - I didn’t go in with the intention to break the record of 9hours 35mins, but had explained to my crew that if I was near it come the last couple of hours, please let me know and try and push me if I had anything left to give. The encouragement was wonderful but I left everything I had in the water and mother nature got the better of me - being 1km offshore with tides, waves and winds being reluctant to let me “land on the moon” (otherwise known as Scotland) was tough. But hey, that’s why this ocean is said to be the SWEETEST one to conquer - the unpredictable elements and how mother nature makes you feel so insignificant.
So I plugged along and eventually one foot found sand – I gave a great yelp as if I was starring in the final scene of brave heart AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! - while having my arms up facing god and saying THANK YOU!
Brian and Padraig were on the dinghy waiting to take me back to the main boat, but I wanted to find a few wee stones for my crew to thank them first. I could only find wee shells, but down the back of the cosy they went and I went back into the water to get my lift home. Padraig pulled me up into the boat, tears where shared, and I proclaimed loudly “Well THAT was HARD!” And I do admit it was the hardest challenge I’ve done to date, and I feel proud and privileged that this infamous body of water allowed me to cross it – I hope I have earned a bit of respect from it because it sure has earned it from me!
What next?? Who knows... but for now, my beautiful talented partner and myself are taking on Europe with our shoestrings and I’m sure there will be a few stories evolving from that!
THANK YOU to everyone who sent messages of support on social media etc – it was really overwhelming and it meant the world to me.
Summing it Up - All in all - Dreams do come true when you give it your all – thank you everyone who helped, supported, inspired, listened, loved and believed in me on my journey to conquer the Channel - you are every bit a part of my success and I will be forever grateful.