By French Coach Sebastien Locteau Lough Mask is a mysterious lake, full of unexpected featured in both shallow and deep water. You can see an amazing under water scenery that you would not expect. The swim was the most interesting experience that a skilled swimmer could imagine.
The swimmers group met their kayakers at 10am. It was a great atmosphere similar to an ultra run or an ironman, where things looks like to be in a slow calm motion to reach the perfection in the last moment of preparation. The participants were calm, relaxed and kind to each other swapping Vaseline to avoid burns from the wetsuit, or should I say reduce the amount of burns. A nice swimming cap was given to each participants sponsored by Treacy’s pharmacy and the silicone quality was brilliant to keep our head warm in the cold water.
The organisation made clear that you needed to have a Kayaker following each swimmer and even if some talented swimmers thought they could brave this swim alone, the organiser did know better and those swimmers like me had to face their own ego in this swim, simply because without the kayaker, the swim could have end up in a nightmare where most swimmers would have wet their pants!
The swim started in the calm bay of Cushlough and the weather was humid but lovely and fit perfectly the mystic atmosphere of the first ever crossing of Lough Mask. 3 different starts were planned and brought a nice touch of the 25 athletes and kayakers.
The health and safety plan had been prepared with precision, some could think it was maybe too much with ambulances, first aids from the start to the finish which includes Red cross boats, extra kayakers, lifeguards and certainly more that I did not notice. Well, well, well! Obviously this safety has been thought professionally and was prepared for the unexpected to happen. Not as a major disaster but simply because the Lough Mask had no intention to make the first cross of his lake easy for us, “he” and some of us will call him “he” in the future as a real entity, gave us the hardest time of our life to any experienced swimmers, and kayakers.
The first mile going around the bay was a perfect warm up, nice and calm and most the swimmers certainly thought “a piece of cake this swim”. At the turn to “the main land” of the lake they certainly got surprised by the strong current in which some of us could not swim against and kept been washed away. A real fight with Mother Nature started. The swimmers also experienced waves in which they could not see their own kayaks only 5 meter away. I am not sure if the waves where that high but they did look like it, some kayaks struggle with the waves going over their head and I am sure their swimmers would acknowledge that they felt bad for them even if they were the swimmers…..what did we do to them to punish them and follow us when they could kayak away and get their cup of tea. But they did not, and I express my thanks to them as volunteers and friends to be there all the way and luckily for them they could not hear us under the water when the water was tough.
You have to believe how happy we were able to complete this event, and even if some people have been stopped for different safety reasons such been in the water for such a long time, they would still heroes of the day, just by attempting and swimming most of it. As a sport professional I definitely acknowledge that the finishing of this event was not the challenge but attempting it and trying to fight the natural surrounding was definitely the achievement, being a good swimmer was essential, but how many good swimmers have this survival instinct against the powerful law of the nature.
The swim is 7km, which some of us thought was 8km and felt it was a 10km. But this is not important; we did not turn up for the distance, but for the challenge. Who thought that a cyclist could organise a professional swimming events? Padraic Marrey did with his team and can be proud of himself, nothing has been neglected from the start to the finish. The last 500m certainly the easiest was mixed between enjoyment and tiredness, were you feel that racing is not relevant at this stage, we passed many swimmers and kayaks, braved the water and now it just did not matter. The competition along with the adrenaline has been transformed in the serenity of just standing up and going home to rest.
We stand up in on a “beach” of Paddy’s bar and friends, family and spectators clapped at us and waved and brought my emotion to a high level of intensity, a wee bit like finishing your first marathon, Ironman or first 10km swims. Personally I lost this for many years and never thought as a accomplished athlete I could feel this again. Thank you for this all of you!
From the location, safety to the support crews, the finish, cup of soup, sandwiches, tea and a lovely presentation every part of this swim was arranged to perfection. Paddy’s pub owners and staff were so nice and helpful, it was like they understood, the cup of soup sandwiches and tea brought the final touch of the event and this is actually another important part of it. Again the organisation was simply perfect, and people who know me in the world of sport do know how I am a hard task master.The Padraic Marrey crew demonstrate two things: the love of the sports and the dedication to other participants.
Lough Mask did join forces with Mother Nature on the day. Sometimes you don’t need words to communicate or listen.
Lough Mask swim experience talked to us and were stronger than any words and said “Don’t mess with me you only are a small creature in the lake, don’t think you are stronger than what you are”.
Well, we will discuss this together next year.