Swirling Water and Lampreys
This evenings swim is at Muckross Lake in Killarny, it is a 90 minute drive to the lake, as we drive the skies darken and the temperature begins to drop, I have my eyes locked on the temperature reading in the car, each time it drops a degree it is like a dagger to my heart, arrrhhh sounds inside my head and heart, on the outside I am silent. Just Robbin and I are in the car tonight, Alan is off on his adventure to Dover.
The air temperature continues to drop, now 12 degrees C ( 53.6 F), we arrive at the lake, park and gather round our fellow swimmers for Ned’s debrief, the lake itself is stunning.
Finally we are in the water, Ned begins thrashing around yelling he has been hit by a lamprey, it is quite a dramatic performance, I could swear he had rehearsed it, it lightens the mood, we all laugh ( well maybe not Jowita) and with that we are off.
Tonight’s course is oval shaped, that means we will be swimming 2.5 km straight down the lake, I pull alongside Ned and instantly fall into a cruise pace, strong, steady and aerobic, I feel great, when it clicks you feel like your body is on autopilot, your body is running like a finely tuned machine, all cylinders firing in perfect harmony, strong and steady, a good push yet in control, I feel like we are thoroughbreds on the track, I feel on top of the world. Ned pulls up and asks ” are you good for 6km”, “Yes”, I blurt out in reply, almost in unison with my reply the skies darken further and it begins to rain, poring rain, I can feel it on my head while I am swimming and pounding on my back, it is cold rain, the temperature feels like it is dropping, nonetheless Ned and I power on, straight back into the rhythm, we pass the white house and swim on eventually scouting across the lake, when we get to the other side I notice the temperature drop just as Mike had said and when I breathed to the right the water seemed to pass and then roll back past my mouth and drop in , it was the strangest thing, I am fascinated and play with it for a bit before following Mike’s wise advice and throwing in some left side breathing.
It is a wonderful feeling swimming in this Lake, the scenery is beautiful, I think about the Lampreys, I have swum in a Lamprey Lake before, Lake Champlain in Vermont where I train and currently live is said to contain Lamprey, I have seen there ferosuos mouths in photos in the local newspapers, they are considered a pest, posing a threat to the fish.
Lampreys are a jawless fish, they are sometimes called lamprey eels, they have a toothless, funnel-like sucking mouth, they are well knowen for boring into the flesh of other fish to suck their blood ( some species are non parasitic and never feed on other fish). They pyhsically resemble eels in that they have no scales, they can be 5 to 40 inches long and have large eyes, one nostril on the top of the head and seven gill pores on each side of their heads. Here is how they feed….they attach there mouthparts to the target animals body and then use their teeth to cut through surface tissues until they reach blood and bodily fluid, from there you do the math…” I want to suck your BLOOD!” They generally don’t attack humans unless they are starved, I don’t yet know this but someone is going to get bite tonight, but who!
Mike gave us the ” how to” on removing these blood suckers should we find one attached, ” get a good grip close to the head, twist then pull hard”, well I now feel more relaxed, how about you! Actually I do feel relaxed, I have swum round these little devils before, never a bite and if I get one tonight I fully intent to tear the little toad off and toss him away, the funny thing is Lampreys have long been used as food for humans, they were highly appreciated by ancient Romans, during the middle ages they were widely eaten by the upper classes throughout Europe and check this out, on March 4th, 1953, the Queen of the United Kingdom’s coronation pie was made by the Royal Air Force using Lampreys! Ned had shouted revenge of the Lampreys when he was thrashing about in the water when we started, perhaps tonight is the Lampreys turn!
Amongst all the excitement of Lampreys and fun swimming the air temperature has dropped, my head has been aching cold for some time, I choose to ignore it, my feet got cold earlier and I lost feeling in them, I choose to ignore it, my hands have clawed up, I ignore that too and swim on, I am thrilled that my speed is holding it together, but still something doesn’t feel quite right. I have been fighting this annoying cold all week, each night I have had a fever, burning hot, causing me to sweat, my clothes and sheets dripping wet 2 or more times during my 4.5 hour night sleeps, by day my sinus’s have ached with green mucos stuck inside, pulsing, sometimes I am able to blow some out causing theblood vessels inside mu nose to crack, breaking open so my nose drips with blood. I have been ignoring all of this, I have purposely kept training any time I have got sick over the last 16 months, I am used to the feeling, this thing is not going to stop any of my Ireland swims, if anything adding a bit to the challenge. Still something doesn’t feel quite right as I am swimming the last stretch of this oval loop, I had asked Ned earlier ” can you check my speech at the 5km”, it gave me some comfort knowing he could hear me talk and notice if I take a rediculousl long time to reply to a question or get tongue tied trying to talk.
Sprint to the Finish
Mike had told us of a big tall rock that would be our land mark to make the right hand turn to swim back across the lake and into the beach, our finish point, we come across a rock and swim on…not that one, we come across another lake and swim on….not that one, man how many rocks are there? There were indeed quite a few but eventually we made it to the biggest one, our turning rock WAHOO!
Ned sights the life jacket hung on the tree our landmark for the beach, we take off, I am feeling chilled from the outside inwards, my head, hands and feet are the most painful, I am excited that my stroke remains strong and long, Ned picks up the pace I chase, he is well practiced at sprinting to the Shore of France, I dig my hands deep into the water, firing the muscles in my upper back and abdominals I pull hard with each stroke, it offers me a glimmer of warmth in my midesction, this is good. Iss the slippery rocks appear under my face, next I feel them, WE MADE IT1.
Next up getting out, back to the slithering on my belly, I pick my head up, it has got quite darkish out, Owen and Robbin are on the beach waiting with blankets and towels, Owen looks distressed, “hmmm what’s up I wonder, have I got Lampreys hanging off me”, nope, not that, unbeknowen to me my lips and chin are covered in blood, ” it looked like you were in a horror film”, Robbin later tells me, poor Owen I must have looked frightful, my nose had been bleeding while I was swimming, when I stops and stood up it all ran down my face, oh well, onwards, Robbin wraps me in a towel, Ned throws a blanket around me and we walk rapidly up to the car, I am thrilled because I can walk and navigate the windy path uphill, EXCELLENT PROGRESS, I am doing better than after many of the other swims.
Into the car, changed and out for a hot drink, ” you don’t want to be out here”, says Ned, instantly I see why there are what seems like thousands of little biting bugs swarming around me, I jump back into the car, we drive a few miles down the road park and gather around Ned’s car for hot drinks but the midges follow and many of our fellow swimmers are chowed. We all pile into cars and are off for the 90 minute drive home throught the pouring rain, into bed after a hot shower, 20 minutes of Yoga and some food, the alarm is set for 4:45am, up again in 4.5 hours.
So did someone take a hit from a Lamprey, YES, Gary from ” up North’ has bite marks, just a half circle, looks like the Lamprey didn’t get a good hold on him and did Jowita complete the swim, yes she did it, did she like it NO, but I tell you what a couragous person, she faced her demons head on and conquored the lake, awesome job Jowita.
Next up: Sandycove Island 6am and I have a plan……what is it I will tell you tomorrow.