Popular swimming coach enjoyed choppy conditions
Beloved Bray swimming coach Jennifer Murrin provided the best inspiration for her students last Wednesday evening when winning the Siobhan McKenna Cup at Bray beach.
The race was part of the popular handicapped Leinster Open Sea Swimming Series and hosted by Half Moon Swimming Club, who are based at South Wall in Dublin.
A 1600m circuit was set up in choppy waters, with swimmers going off at 15 second intervals, the slowest first and the fastest last, some 15 minutes after the race had started. The finishing positions are then as they are as swimmers cross the line - their time handicap having been applied before they start.
In a break from the tradition of the series, men and women raced together for gender-based prizes, and Jennifer was given a handicap of 5 minutes and 30 seconds. A former Leinster Open Sea Swimmer of the Year, this was her first race of the season, and she went into it lacking fitness, but said that she was spurred on by having the swimmers she coaches on the beach watching.
“Some of my swimmers were there, and that made me really not want to give up, because I knew they were sitting at the finish line in their chairs watching,” she said. “I loved that it was really choppy, because that suits me, and I was glad of the distance, because I had extra time to catch up. I remember realising that I’d no more women ahead of me as I was now surrounded by men. That gave me the confidence to keep going, because I was thinking at the time that there’s a long way to go and I’m not swim fit.”
With renewed resolve, Jennifer powered down the home straight to the last turning buoy, which would leave her with only around 100m to swim into the finish line. However, it was not all plain sailing.
“I got stuck in among a group of men and couldn’t get out,” she said. “I didn’t want to slow down to get out, so I said I’d stick with them until the last yellow buoy and then get out. But I didn’t get out there either and they swam over the top of me into the finish.”
There was a nervous wait as results from the electronic chip timing filtered through to confirm Jennifer’s win, but when they did, they also showed that her Dublin Swimming Club team mate Siobhan Young had won a prize for her age group, and Jennifer, along with Siobhan Young and twins Dee and Grainne Gavigan had won the Women’s Team Prize, which goes to the club whose first four swimmers finish the highest up the field.
Jennifer celebrated with her team mates on her home promenade and ranked this win as her most special.
“Last time I won a Leinster Open Sea race, I was brand new to the scene,” she explained. “This time was much better because it’s where I always swim and so many people I knew there. One woman I coach was thinking she wouldn’t do the Killary Fjord Swim in October, and now she’s a bit inspired to go for it. That’s brilliant.”
She added: “I’m from Donegal, but have lived in Bray for nine years and I came here only for the sea. We were living in Blanchardstown and I said, if I’m living over here, I have to live by the sea, so I drove around Bray until I found us a place to live. I can’t be away from the sea.”
Jennifer beat Aoife O’Dea from Glenalbyn Masters, who had a handicap of 3 minutes and 45 seconds, with Louise O’Farrell from NAC Masters finishing 0:05 seconds later, having started with a handicap of 4 minutes and 30 seconds.
The men’s race was won by Colum Murphy from Sandycove Swimming Club.
The series returns to Wicklow in August fo the Healy/O’Kane Cups in Wicklow Harbour, hosted by Wicklow Swimming Club on August 21, and again on Saturday, September 3 for the Kilmartin Cup, again hosted by Half Moon.