Trying something different 2 !

Galway Bay swim for Cancer Care West

Some are marathon runners or triathletes with a feeling of being invincible. Try open water marathon swimming. You will feel like a small vulnerable fish in the big big Ocean. Vulnerable is the best word to express my experience with mother Nature, a fragile human being, regardless off 28 marathons and 13 Ironman Triathlon.

18 years ago, I joined the coaching team of Galway swimming Club and played with Corrib Water Polo team. A lot of water went under the bridge since.

At that time, I was part of a big picture and was highly involved in developing the west Ireland of running, triathlon and open water community with clubs and events. From Joining the new Athenry AC Senior Club with Mick Rice to the first Connemarathon with Ray O'Connor, Co-founder of Galway Triathlon club and later Predator Triathlon Club. Today we see so many events in the West like Triathlons and running events in Westport, Ballinasloe, Athlone, Portrun, Roscommon, Sligo, Castlebar, Westport, Lanesborough, Galway, Salthill, Portumna and so on. I am proud to have been part of it and that I contribute a small bit to a better world. This is my drop of contribution in the Irish sports history which will be forgotten some days.

Recently I swam the Kingfisher Longest day swim 2016 organised by Brian Clancy and the Thomond swim in Limerick city. I swam around the world in a lot of lakes, rivers and oceans but Galway Bay is just different. I am a proud member of Atlantic Masters swimming club, we focus on open waters, the founders Helen Colfer, Mark Dwyer, Fergal Madden are part of the making of Irish sporting history.

So what is Galway bay swim and why on earth would you inflict so much pain to yourself?
When I decided to settle in Galway after a few years coming to Ireland. I received a warm welcome from the lovely people of Galway, certainly too many to mention but one Frances Thornton, deserves a special mention. Frances, was a welcoming person with great social skills who loved her family the way we all wish we would every day. Some people are just great role models to others and I believe are born kind, it's a gift. Some just can share their good vibes when you need it. Frances was one of them. When I was coaching children, dealing with parents was more difficult. I needed someone like her around to reinsure me that things will be ok, “It’s only swimming after all.”
Along the years, her children Claire, Fiona and Kevin grew up to be great role models along with many others of our young swimmers. I remember discussing this with Earl McCarthy, now UCD head coach and 1996 Olympic swimmer, after some of our early morning session getting coffee and watching people rushing to work at 8am. This was for me the best years with Galway swimming club at the time chaired by Eamonn Caufield.
At the time, I was sharing my passion for Triathlon with the swimmers and had a little group training in Salthill by 2000. I was involved and developing Elite coaching in Ireland and developing the coaching pathway for Triathlon Ireland with the National Coaching and Training Centre in limerick.

Things were going well. I created the first and oldest full time professional coaching services and while many thought I was going to fail, I battled my way to success which helped me to become an even better coach. Just never, never give up your dreams. People ask me so many times; How do you go to the Olympics? How can I be a high performance coach? I asked the same questions over 20 years ago. Believe, be honest with yourself, never give up, be committed and give it all you have. You will fail many times but your success will depend on how fast you will learn to stand up each time.

In 2006 I was suffering from major spinal issues some from birth. But when I was crushed in the 1999 Turkey earth quakes and survived while working as a nurse in the French Special rescue operation team, I thought my time was coming. The same year I lost my dear athlete Caroline Kearney. After months of agony and ending up in into a wheelchair waiting for surgery, I was forced to leave my swimming team in Castlebar which was quite heart breaking. What a great team I had and with Coach Marian English and Joe Moran. We had Nicholas Quinn coming up as a promising athlete and 10 years later swam at the Olympic games in Ireland, thanks to them.

In 2007 I was still waiting for my surgery and thanks to Mr. Devitt my orthopaedic surgeon in Merlin Park Hospital in Galway, I was able to walk again without major mechanical malfunction. This doctor had a different mind to others. He was a runner; he knew I wanted to return training and he had to find a solution. As he knew that “you can’t anymore” would not work with me. I am so thankful to Mr. Devitt who could just see more than just a broken body. That year Frances lost her fight to cancer. With my personal life issues, I only was informed of Frances’ passing a few months later during my own recovery. I lost touch since late 2005 and during those two years I lost contact with many people.

For the following years, I kept saying to Kevin who runs the Galway Bay Swim "I will do it, I have to do it." Unfortunately, it always fell into the Irish Swimming Calendar the same weekend that the Irish Swimming Age Groups Championship. I finally decided to do it and without wetsuit to make it worth it. Not just for me as a challenge but as a thanks to Frances for what she gave me, her courage and to bring a little bit of bravery to like all the people fighting cancer.
For all our fallen friends, families we lost to cancer, be aware that close family members, fellow friends, athletes are fundraising for it. This with mental health is important to me. It is around us; we can't ignore it.

I see a lot of good in people, the best of them even don’t acknowledge it for themselves “I am a good person, because I care and so I feel and suffer more.” We must grow as people, leaving all the grudge we have towards others, when competitiveness is worthless. Let’s be part of a bigger picture, let’s stop entertaining the sad world and focus on what can we make to make it better. If each of us make small changes it will make a difference, it starts with touching someone else’s life with greatness.

If you feel like donating even a small amount please do, I know we are all solicited every day to give to many good cause, so don’t feel bad if you don’t, it means you will for another cause close to your heart.

I wish to thanks SAP Galway for the amazing support I received from all my colleagues and amount of interest in that swim. One of the most interesting discussion was coming from a runner, who could not comprehend how you can look the grey water, seeing nothing but some jellyfishes in cold water, in a simple swimming tog “at least when you run or cycle you can look around or slow down even stop.” In the ocean, when you stop you are pushed from one side to the other keeping your head above, yes, it is lonely, cold and painful but it will never be worse than what any cancer patient can feel, it only gives you a small taste of it, and you know it will end today.

I hope the following short documentary motivate you to support Cancer Care west.
https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/11362839_cancer-care-west.html

If you want to know more, please watch this documentary:
Documentary about this amazing story: https://youtu.be/yL1N7eN59y0

Short video of the 2016 event: https://vimeo.com/176594221
Main Website: http://www.galwaybayswim.com/

Sebastien Locteau proud member SAP Ireland Team

Reviewed by Ciara Hanniffy with thanks