Lough Ine is a saltwater lake. Basically, the tide comes in and rushes down this ‘river’ and into the Lake. It’s an absolutely gorgeous location, surrounded by hills and forested areas.
I was just so darn excited for this swim, I could barely contain myself!
Last year, we started at Tragumna Beach and swam out to sea and in through the inlet, down the rapids and into the Lough. This year, because of safety reasons, Ned had scheduled us to start at the Lough, swim out to sea, hang a left and head into Tragumna Beach. It’s approximately 5 km.
We started out, the slow folks first. The lake was so warm. Ireland has had the nicest stretch of weather ever. Sun, sun and more sun! It’s been incredible! Right near the island in the middle of the Lough we must have hit a spring because it was bone chillingly cold. My teeth were aching. But it was only a few moments until we were onto warmer water again (I think the temperature was between 13 and 14 out in the sea.).
Huh… so far I hadn’t seen any jellyfish.
It wasn’t much further until we got to the rapids. Last year, we had been promised that the rapids were the best part of the swim, but they had been entirely anticlimactic, hardly any rushing water at all. But this time the water was whipping and rushing through the narrow way. We had to get out, walk around the rapids and then we all sort of stood there for a moment – not sure what to do. Ned had said the water would be rushing out to sea and that we would be able to swim them. And he didn’t really want us dawdling. But there just wasn’t any way I was going to miss this, and I leapt into the water and rode them down to the end and clambered back out again.
We had to walk a little ways to get past the rapids to a sheltered area where we could more easily battle the tide as we headed toward the open ocean. The sky was just beautiful, the sunlight bouncing off the cliffs that surrounded our little body of water. We passed through two ships anchored in a little cove and I wished, wished, wished I had an underwater camera. There aren’t words to describe how beautiful it was, how small I felt, how big the sea was… just beyond the cliffs and the rocks and ships. The sea and the sky.
Thomas and I were pretty steadily swimming along together. It was a comfort. Although… I still hadn’t seen any jellyfish.
We made it out to the open ocean. The water was still, smooth as glass, and the waning evening sunlight mirrored off its surface, coloring it in silver and lavender and pink so you could not tell where the sky ended and the sea began. Last year, we had battled through massive swells and waves, such very, very large water – all the while climbing over jellyfish that bounced off your face and scooped back with every pull of your arms.
And I still hadn’t seen – oh! There’s one! The pink, fluffy creature, a vast contrast to the deep green of the sea, floated past just out of reach below me.
And then Tragumna wasn’t so far away. An island blocked our view, but you couldn’t really miss it either. The kayaker was very helpful, and we had a cover boat off to the one side to watch out for us as well.
It was an entirely different swim from last year. I felt bad for those people who missed it, for whatever reason. Perhaps they were apprehensive of the jellyfish stories from last year, perhaps they had to stay in the Lough, perhaps they were too tired to make the trek so far. I was so glad that I got to swim it, that I didn’t have to stay in the Lough. I was ready for torture, but what I got was, by far, the best reward I could have ever had.
I think I will always remember that swim. I will always remember flying down the rapids and the forgiving lift of the sea and the vivid array of colors that overloaded my eyes and almost brought them to tears. That’s the reason you have to live the adventure, for the moments like that when everything is perfect. For all of its opportunities to go awry, or to miss the mark of your expectations, or to foul up, open water swimming has these oh-so incredible moments of achievement. You can get to the other side and say that you made it. From there to here. You did it. And you can do it again. And maybe next time there will be 10,000 jellies. And maybe… maybe it’s a perfect sunset swim. But whatever the conditions, there is vast confidence to be found when you find your feet beneath you again on the other side.
So far, Lough Ine is my favorite swim.