Swimming the Irish Sea

A few years ago I decided to run/walk to Dublin from Cardiff. Why?? Why not really, I thought it’d be a good adventure of which it was. I shopped for a decent sized rucksack and tent, filled it up and tried to keep it light for obvious reasons but as I put it on my back I realised it was actually really heavy! However, I decided I was going to give it a go anyway.

 

I left my house and started to run and it wasn’t long before I realised that my backpack was so heavy there was no way I could constantly run so I decided to run a little then walk a little and it worked out a treat. My route was the A48 heading west and I got to Port Talbot on my first day. The plan was to camp in my tent but my legs were in bits and I really needed a hotel where I could get an ice bath just so my legs were in good enough nic the next day to keep moving forward. I booked into a room and phoned down to reception for some ice to which the receptionist said “no problem sir”. I told her that I didn't want just a enough to cover a bottle of wine I actually needed a black bag full for the bath which meant I had to tell her the reason for my strange order of ice before she thought I was going to attempt to build an igloo in my room!!!

 

The ice arrived and I stayed in that ice bath for a good 20 mins and it worked a treat. I ordered some food and went to sleep ready for day 2. After some sleep, I put my backpack on my back and carried on heading west towards Fishguard where I’d be catching my ferry to Rosslare to start the Irish leg of my run/walk up to Dublin. I spent the next few days camping in fields by the road or if I was in a little town I’d B&B it. My feet were in complete agony due to the weight of my backpack so much so I had to visit a Go Outdoors shop to get rid of the trainers I was wearing and invest in some proper walking/trek shoes. They helped a bit but I honestly think the damage was already done especially on my left foot but they were better than my trainers so they had to do. 

 

After 3 days I finally arrived Into Fishguard and jumped onto my overnight ferry to Rosslare where I’d arrive at 6.30am. I arrived and I remember it being a really nice sunny morning and spent the day running/walking up the east coast of Ireland, which was ace. On my way north to Dublin I had friend Nial Deef Mc Carthy help me out on a place to stay and feed me which was nice of him. 

 

After 6 days I had arrived into Dublin smelling a bit and in a bit of agony and I got down on one knee and asked my girlfriend Ciara to marry me of which she said yes. That night we had a big party and then I spent the next few days relaxing and resting up at her house.

 

After a few months I’d realised I’d damaged my left foot by my toes and its still not the same today but hey ho these things happens I suppose. After looking back at that trip I’d really enjoyed it and my mind started ticking again as I started to think about cycling the same route. I chose my date, filled my backpack again and jumped onto my bike and made my way west down the A48, destination Fishguard for the 2am ferry. I thought I’d left with plenty of time for me to get to the ferry port on time but as I got to Swansea I realised I was really pushing it for time and started to panic a bit and the further west I was going the hillier and slower it became. It then started to get dark and the weather was unusually cold for the time of the year. I’d had all the right clothing on but I was still cold! I also had all the right high viz clothing on so the cars and lorries could see me clearly in the distance. Even with all the right clothing on it didn't make much difference in my mind as the road narrowed all I could feel were these lorries screaming past me (they were all obviously off to catch the same ferry as me) and I’ll be honest I was pretty scared.

 

I eventually arrived at the ferry port with 30 mins to spare before the boat was about to sail so I’d made it just in time. I got on board and managed 2 hours sleep. Once again I arrived at Rosslare at 6.30am and then on much nicer roads and big cycle paths I made my journey up to Dublin. I cant remember how long it took me but I’d covered the distance of 210 miles with 2 hours sleep and once again Ciara was there to greet a very sweaty, tired but a happy me.

 

I’ve run and cycled from Cardiff to Dublin and of course you can imaging what my mind was thinking next………..SWIMMING. I spoke to my brother Trigg and he said the same “you’ve run it, cycled it now to complete the full triathlon you're gonna have to swim it” and I totally agreed with him. Swimming the distance of 45 miles is a massive ask, but thanks to people like Sean Conway (swam from Lands end to John O’Groats) they prove to you these things are possible.

 

Swimming the Irish channel has played on my mind ever since and now after reading Conways book it seemed very possible. When I get something in my head I wont be happy until I put it into practice so it was just a matter of when really.

 

Well, a few months ago I’d signed up to the Dublin marathon and initially the idea was to catch a plane then it entered my mind that I’m still raising money for my £100,000 challenge which I started in March this year so I thought what a great opportunity to go for the swim now and get there in time for the marathon.

 

If I complete it not only will I become the first person to do the Cardiff to Ireland triathlon but I will also become the first person to travel to the marathon via swimming the Irish Sea, and whilst doing so raising much needed money for my £100,000 challenge.

 

I mentioned to my mate Navarra that I wanted to do it and he said that he knew of a guy with a boat who could see me over. I had a meeting with him and he said that he’d see me over for free which I thought was a very kind gesture. All he said was that I’d have to find 2 experienced sea kayakers, a defibrillator and we were good to go as long as the sea and weather conditions were perfect. Lets be honest, I was taking a big gamble here with the weather as its notoriously bad at this time of year so it was a big ask but I’ve always been a gambler and decided to take the risk. If anything it was a good excuse to put some long swimming hours in ready for it. My next mission was to find the kayakers so what better place to go and ask than Ben at Cardiff white water rafting centre in Cardiff. He’d given me some good contacts and not only that he gave me permission to do some open water swimming at the centre to get used to the cold water training which was very kind of him. 

 

I started doing my research and calling and e mailing various people and I’d luckily got in touch with Leanne who's a very experienced sea Kayaker and was bang up for the mission and to help out so I was happy to have my first kayaker. A few days later thanks to Ben at Cardiff white water rafting I’d got hold of Pete Bray who was the first man to Kayak from west to east of the Atlantic Ocean and he said he was really up for it which was ace. I’d got my team together and we arranged to meet at No6 Swansea and have a Skype meeting with the skipper of the boat Matt. During the chat we set a start date of October 24th which will give me enough time to cross the channel and make my way up to Dublin in time for the marathon. I was buzzing, not only had I got a great team together the dream was getting closer and all that was in my way was of course the weather and sea conditions but there is nothing we can do about that and I knew that so I was prepared for the worst but hoping for the best! 

 

I’d spent days training in that freezing CIWW rafting centre at 8.30am most mornings and just counting down the days really. I went for a training swim with Leanne in her kayak at Coney beach Porthcawl and the sea was so much warmer than CIWW so it was good to know I was training in colder water than the sea. Don't get me wrong, I know way out in the middle of the Irish Sea its going to be bloody cold but thanks to the kind people of Patagonia they donated one of their top of the range winter suits for me to wear and believe me after training with it on it made a massive difference. No disrespect to triathlon wetsuits but they aren't made for the middle of the Irish Sea so I had to up the thickness of my suit. City Surf shop Cardiff helped me out a great deal too by giving me good wetsuit boots to keep me feet warm and some bits to keep my hands warm to so I'm more or less covered from head to foot and ready to go.

 

I got given a website address so I could check the weather and sea conditions out in the Irish Sea and became a bit of a geek with it constantly looking at it and praying that it’ll be perfect for the 24th Oct. Wednesday I looked on the website and couldn't believe what I was seeing, the weather and sea conditions were getting more perfect by the hour from Monday the 24th onwards with a 0.5 meter swell which is more or less a mill pond in the Irish Sea. Wooooooooo hoooooooo I then knew that this challenge was on and that my gamble was about to pay off. I’ve always been a jammy git when it comes to gambling but this is one I really wanted to win and by the looks of things the weather and sea gods were on my side.

 

HOWEVER, i phoned Matt the skipper and he said the guy who owned the boat that was going to take me across was now unavailable. My heart sank and all that excitement just got wiped off my face. He said he’d done some phone calls and there was a better boat actually moored in Fishguard and is available to take me so I thought “great” not all lost… I phoned the skipper and after a fairy long conversation for him to take me across it was going to cost me £9,000 and that was a deal he was giving me, as it was a charity challenge.

 

Once again the smile got wiped off my face because I haven't got £9,000 to pay a skipper to see me across the Irish sea. I got on the phone to a few influential people who may be able to help or have some idea of how to get 9K in a matter of a few days but to no avail.

 

SO, basically this essay and story that I’ve given above is basically a call to anyone out there who knows of someone, a corporate business, a lottery winner etc etc to see if any is prepared to help me get 9K before Monday October 24th. 

I know its a massive ask but as the saying goes “if you don't ask you don't get”.

 

It’s also a big challenge for me but like all my previous challenges it’ll be one I’ll put 100% into. I don't like things beating me so I’ll fight all the way. I have the right experienced people with me so I couldn't ask for more. Sean Conway’s inspired this one and I’d like to be able to phone him from Rosslare “IF” this mission gets off the ground.

 

THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH for reading the above, sharing and maybe helping me get to the start line. If this doesn't happen then I’ll be going to the Dublin marathon via airplane which is far less adventurous then swimming to it!!

 

Chow for now

 

Pritch