THERE is a competition in Irish open water swimming which seeks no such thing as swimming brilliance, but instead demands dedication, absurd perseverance, and a consistent state of average.
Behold, and welcome to, the Leinster Open Sea Swimmer of the Year league, a magical wonderland of mathematics, missed holidays, and mad dashes, that tests the most stable of stable minds.
The skinny is thus; From the end of May to mid-September, Leinster Open Sea (LOS) stages upwards of 30 swim races, in the Irish province of Leinster, largely in the Irish Sea.
The vast majority of these races are run as separate male and female events, with time handicaps allowing the slowest swimmers a head-start over the tuna fish and sharks.
The finishing order, is the final result and swimmers gain a sliding scale of points depending on where they finished, the minimum being three points, and the prize for victory set at 10 points.
There are then two Classics, Blue Ribands, Big Cheeses, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Race and the Jones Engineering Dublin City Liffey Swim, which offer the same sliding scale of points, but anyone achieving more than the minimum three points will actually be awarded double the normal amount for that placing – in other words, a swimmer could earn the same points as a winner of a normal race, by finishing 30th.
The Female and Male Swimmers of the Year are the two swimmers who achieved the most points across the season, battling time handicap fluctuations, varying form levels, conflicting commitments, and those blow-ins who only turn up to race on the day – imagine(!?).
In 2017, I won the Leinster Open Sea Female Swimmer of the Year title in a season of star-aligning quality.
In 105 days, I swam 26 Leinster Open Sea races, covering c38.8km for 131 points and a 9-point win. I work a lot of weekends, so managing to fit in 26 races, mostly on weekends, was no mean feat.
It meant late nights working before and after races, on top of mistakes, like losing a knee suit at a race, getting a flat tyre the morning of another, getting sick. Before one race, I hadn’t eaten for 24hrs. Before another, I hadn’t slept for 48hrs.
Near the end, I also forfeited a holiday – for two races, that were joyfully cancelled.
It was the hardest summer of my brain and body’s existence, and I did swear that victory once would be enough, but it turns out…