In the covid summer of 2020, I took a trip to Connemara and cycled a lap around the national park. It was one of the best cycles I have had in a long time. The Connemara region is magnificent. As I was cycling, I came across the Killary Fjord that borders the counties Galway and Mayo. Over the last couple of years, I have started to enjoy my open water swimming recently and decided to stop for a swim, and that is what my blog entry is about. I hope you enjoy it!
“What is wrong with you? Get your act together!” I thought to myself, only ankle-deep in the body numbing water in the Killary Fjord. I take another step further in and whimper once again.
“Come on, Callum, another step. It’s a nice warm day.” I hesitated once again before taking another step deeper, and another few inches of my once dry, warm skin submerged in freezing cold water.
“What on earth am I doing? Normal people don’t punish themselves like this!” My body shivers slightly at the thought that I could soon be fully submerged in such cold conditions.
“You have done this plenty of times before! Once you are in, you will warm up! Just throw yourself in!” But it wasn’t just the cold I was worried about, all my belongings were left by the waterside. I had been bike touring around the area with a tent, and I had many things with me.
“What if someone steals my stuff? What if I get cramps when swimming and drown?” I am now standing and staring at the water contemplating if this was a good idea. I was pretty sure the legend Jeff Buckley died from swimming in unknown waters. The water is now as high as my thigh and touching my boxer shorts (swimming shorts are for people more prepared).
“People swim here all the time! You’re a good swimmer. Stop being paranoid! Who the fuck is going to steal a couple of sweaty t-shirts and a €30 tent? Get a grip of yourself. There is no one in sight. Get in the water!” It was time! Time to emerge my whole body, no point in turning back this far in!
“Ready… Steady… GO!” I don’t move a muscle. My head says to go, but my body disagrees.
“OK… One… Two… THREE”. This time I wobbled a little like half of me made an effort, and the other half was just not interested.
“Seriously, this time is the real one… OK… One…Two… Two… THREE”. My body did not move at all. Disappointed in myself, I take another step forward in an attempt to make some kind of progress. I make a girly high pitch whimper as my body inches its way a little deeper.
“What is wrong with you? Just get in you wimp!” This time this was the real deal.
“One, Two, THREE!” I throw myself in so dramatically, finally fully entering the water. The freezing cold water takes my breath away. My head bobs above the water, and I start yelling.
“FUCK, FUCK, FUCK” no one was around to hear my foul language, so I decide to continue. After a minute, my body adjusted to the temperature.
“See! You do this every time! Was there any reason for that song and dance?”
The first few strokes were weak, almost as if the cold had got into my bones, then all of a sudden, I took off, gliding through the water at a more respectable speed. I looked around me at the stunning vast, rugged landscape and the huge rocky mountain backdrop that seemed to surround me. It kind of reminded me of past trips to Iceland. The surroundings were empty, no one, nothing in front of me, just bumpy multi-shaped ground, small lakes and a lone sheep that was highlighted against the plain scenery. I kept looking back behind me at my bags on the waterside, a slight niggle at the back of my mind was telling me that leaving my bags unattended was a stupid idea. The swim made me feel great. My body had fully adjusted to the temperature, and I could almost say that I was warm. I thought this was an excellent idea. I was swimming between counties not many people could say that. I started in county Galway and was on my way to county Mayo. Once getting to the Mayo side, I only stopped to feel the sense of accomplishment for a minute before jumping back in as I didn’t want to warm up and have to inch my way through the misery back into the water. As I swam back, I started to wonder about the almost unknown world below me. I had loved scuba diving in the past, seeing the wonders of the world that we don’t usually see, a whole world you never knew about, fish you never knew existed, the complete unknown.
“What if something pulls me under? What if there are sharks?”
“Get a grip, when did you last hear of a shark attack in Ireland? You are just being an idiot. Enjoy the swim!” The best thing about open water swimming is you get to see everything from a different perspective. I may have been cycling through the stunning scenery for the last two days seeing everything slowly rather than speeding past in a car, but swimming changes things again. You get to see things from a duck’s view. I was a dot in the ocean, and everything was a lot bigger around me, it was almost like the mountains had grown and were leaning over me. Everything was so much bigger, and I was a molecule in such a big world. My problems, worries, stories, achievements, failures, and life are minimal and insignificant. I reached back to the waterside and instantly started to shiver. I looked at the time on my phone and worked out that I had spent more time standing ankle deep trying to motivate myself to get in than I spent swimming.
I sat by my bike and bags, the sun beaming down on me, looking out over the waters I had been swimming in. I felt like a new man. All my worries had gone away, my hangover from too much Connemara whiskey the previous night had gone, cold water is always the best hangover cure. A mix of cold water, exercise, incredible scenery, a challenge and doing something new are the key ingredients to a carefree mind and a more exciting life. This is what life is all about! Life is about being carefree. Life is about being excited about all the possibilities of what you can do, see, discover and achieve. Life is about being happy and doing the things you love. Life is about being free! I stood up, took a final look over the waters, got back onto my bike, and continued my lap around the Connemara National Park.
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