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We Broke The 30KM Mark Last Night

Swim Start Time 22:48

January 6 2021

Causeway Coast

Charity AWARE NI

Swim Distance 1.76km

BUT, this was never about the distance. Swimming 100km, albeit in the dark is not what this is about. The struggle is much more psychological than physical. It is overcoming the comfort of home, the little things telling me to just leave it until later on etc. Thats where the real challenge is. Staying fit, healthy and fueled every single day so that I can swim over and over again. The distance is not that important, its the continual return to the sea to clock up a little more water time and a little more discipline regardless of whatever else has been happening in daily life thats important in reaching the end, at some point.

And its not just me, my lifeguard Mark and other support team have to do the same. They leave their families and kids, the warmth of their home and put on a wetsuit and go out to the beach with me to keep an eye on me and make sure I achieve my goal. When I'm pushing hard to hit new distances etc Mark slows me down into the pace I need to keep this up. We are almost a third of the way through now but no doubt have a lot of swims still to do.

Last night was DARK. the moon was non existent. A low glow from the lights of the town of Portstewart illuminated the heavy cloud cover somewhat out to the east. That was all the light there was. There was no wind. A light skiff of snow fell as I entered the water, the dark night making the water seem even blacker and more forboding than normal. The inconsistent surf offering very little to guide my way.

As I slipped into the water and began to swim, the first crack of a wave breaking on the sand bank just beyond me startled me for a moment. I didn't see that one before I heard it. Some nights the swell lines break the glow on the horizon towards Donegal and Portstewart and allow me a second or two to prepare but last night the waves weren't breaking until they were close to shore so I was more focussed on the water movement and sound than what I could see. A deep gulley between the near shore sand bank and the next dissipated the waves energy before they again broke, once more. It was in this gulley I found my way. However, there was a lot of current pushing against me last night. The church spire on the hill, I use as a mark up point, seemed almost unreachable for several minutes. I considered turning and going with the flow but knew that usually only helps for a short period of time and there will be another current that will be in my favour further into the swim. Once I finally broke through the eastward flow I slipped in to the flow to the west for a few minutes before again being stopped almost dead by another current flowing off the sand bank in front of the Guysmere Building. I had in mind that I wanted to break the 30km and so I wanted to get along the coast enough that my swim in the second lap would all being well allow me to reach that goal. Its much easier to build psychological goals along the way when tackling something much bigger, I find. Small battles win the war so to speak. When I turned to start the second lap, all was good and I wasn't faced with an opposing current until I again reached the sand bank adjacent to the pier. Even in small conditions water surges off it to the west and into a deeper channel. It held me back for a while.

Next swim

This morning the northerlies are back. That means potential for dirty river water among other things forced ashore. So I wont swim until it passes at some point in the next 36 or so hours. As much as I'm chomping at the bit to get in and swim I have to be smart and not risk getting sick or hit by something in the water.

Unbelievably you guys have now breached the £2000 mark and are sharing the message widly! Thank you to each and everyone of you. We are in the midst of very challenging times and every single person has their individual challenges they are facing. None of us know the true depths the next person is facing so please look out for each other and keep in mind the services at Aware NI. They have programs for individuals and groups and have adapted to put lots of it online. In one of my books I tell of the time I lost my Dad. When things were getting on top of me and I needed to find a way, I personally didn't find talking as something that crossed my mind. I wrote. If you are struggling with something and you are finding it hard to talk or simply don't want to for whatever reason, try writing. It doesn't need to make sense, be spelt correctly or any of that. Just write. It can be a great way of making sense of things that are going on and may be the first step to moving forward.

Frame grab by Leigh Hawthorne @keto_kiwi_

Info - I am swimming a total of 100km through the darkness, in the darkest and coldest months of the year off the North Coast of Ireland. My inspire those who may be struggling in dark times to keep going. I also aim to raise awareness and funds for the depression Charity Aware NI. We all face dark times in life at some point and it can be extremely overwhelming.

Safety - Please don't think that because I am doing this that you too should do this or something similar. I am very experienced in the sea with knowledge that is only gained through many years of exposure to the sea in all her moods. I have a safety and location system in place including continual contact with people on land every time I swim.

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