For those doing this epic event on 2nd October, have a read of some of the excellent tips that member Aidan Currie (who has swum the 4km distance 5 times and counting!) kindly shared with us last year, bear in mind some of these may be different due to COVID restrictions.
1: Beforehand: After parking and registering, head upstairs to the cafeteria. There are usually pots of tea available for everyone and you will run into other GTC swimmers. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk down to the start beach on stony/muddy trails, so old runners recommended. Bring your gear bag right down to the tent at the start line. The actual start has generally been all swimmers funnelling down the carpet into the water but this may be different due to COVID distancing.
2: Dress for success: Water temperature in Killary tends to be 2c to 3c colder than Blackrock, so suit up accordingly. I would suggest a neoprene thermal baby-bonnet style hat under your regular swim hat is a must. I always wear a thin neoprene swim vest to keep my core warm. Plenty of people wear neoprene socks and gloves. Err on the side of over-dressing – I’ve never been too warm there!
3: Practice the distance first. Killary is not an event to be hitting the distance for the first time. For the 4km, a couple of Blackrock to Grattan and back swims is excellent preparation.
4: Tide: Despite the organisers best intentions, we have always swum the first 2km assisted by the outgoing tide and then had it against us after the turn for the final 2km. For the 2km distance, it is a straight swim into the tide. Just something to be aware of.
5: Sighting: The first 200m of the 4km is straight out and then left and a straight swim to the 2km halfway marker. Buoys are visible and the steep sides of the fjord are a good reference to maintain a straight course. The return 2km retraces the route out – buoys on your left shoulder. If the sun is out (which it has been for every Fjord swim I’ve done !), this will be shining in your eyes and can make sighting tricky. Perhaps consider tinted goggles if it is a sunny day. Once you are halfway back, look for the bonfire smoke on the shore as a marker for the finish.
6: Finish: It is quite rocky at the exit, so avail of the volunteers that are on hand to assist. This is also prime photo territory so try to keep a smile going even if you feel otherwise! The actual finish line is at the top of the carpet, so keep going until you reach it.
7: After: At the risk of stating the obvious, get changed as quickly as possible, certainly before queueing up for the food. Easy to get on clothes, hat, gloves and a down / thermal jacket is a must. Pull-ups and a waterproof jacket on top can also help in warming up.
In summary, with some basic preparation, the swim is nothing to be afraid of. As the fjord is quite sheltered, the water is usually calm. The initial shock of the cooler water will have worn off after the first 200m meters. It is a great event to have as a target to keep your open water swimming.