What a strange feeling waking up with a soft mattress under my back. I finally had a good sleep. Shelly Brady and James Hughes kindly allowed us three stinking river rats to sleep in there beautiful house.

We headed to the Red Lion at Wainlode to start this second last day of swimming. Just as I was jumping into the river, a massive boat came down the river. Many barges and boats use this stretch of river and it was something we were on the look out for. That feeling of the cold river water running down the back of your wetsuit is something I still haven’t gotten used to. You just have to get in and start swimming without thinking about it too much.

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Mentally tough to get yourself swimming in cold water

It was very lonely on the water. We had Kev Brady with us yesterday for about three hours, but today it was just Patch and myself. We stopped after one hour and Patch said that we have travelled 5km. “Thats ridiculous”, I said. The river was in full swing now, and the flow was consistently strong.

We reached a fork in the River Severn, where it goes left into Gloucester or goes right down to Gloucester Weir. They are both technically the River Severn, but the ‘True’ Severn was to the right. We were warned by Kev that the Gloucester Weir was only about 100m from this fork in the river. We could hear it before we saw it. The weir seemed to be sucking us in worryingly fast.

We jumped out before the weir to have a look at how we could go around it. No way we were going over it, as it was far too powerful. We checked out the right bank and walked about 1km up to see could we get passed and then down to the river. No luck! We had ferry glide over to the left bank into someones property in order to get past this vicious looking weir. This was quite a sketchy moment as the power of the water was incredible and was trying to suck us into the weir.

We eventually got up the left bank and met the owner of the land we were trying to walk across. He proceeded to explain how dangerous the river was from here on in. He didn’t need to tell me this, Patch and I could see it first hand. The river had turned into an angry monster screaming at us not to get in.

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One stroke at a time!

Just as we were about to jump back in, we heard thunder. It had already taken us about 45 minutes to get over this weir, and now we had to wait out the storm, once again.

Once the storm finished, we were preparing ourselves to get in. I couldn’t help but think of my mother back in Cobh, in County Cork as I was jumping into this treacherous water. She worries about her three sons every minute of everyday. I thought to myself, “Christ! Thank god she is not seeing this”. She would have passed out I’d say. She sent me a message the other day saying:

I am so so proud of you, my chest is expanding with sheer pride for what you are doing and what you have achieved so far…I am, as a mother always dubious and will worry everyday about each of my sons, so I find it hard to express and get excited about it… But you are simply amazing..

This is the kind of mother I have. Unconditional love sums up my mother perfectly. Mam you are the best!

Like a light switch and stopped thinking about my mammy back in Ireland, and was in pure survival mode. This had nothing to do with swimming ability, it was just about keeping ourselves alive. Mother nature was roaring at Patch and myself, and we both knew, we were going to lose every time if something went wrong.

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Gloucester Weir in full swing

We snuck past the turbulent water that was churned up by the weir, but the flow was still insanely fast. The River Severn was allowing us to pass unhindered for the time being, but in situations like this, things can happen so fast. I wasn’t letting my guard down at anytime.

I simply love doing endurance swimming. This is why I wanted to swim down the longest river in Britain. I’m certainly not an adrenaline junkie, far from it actually. I get nervous on merry go rounds. I was well out of my comfort zone and was feeling very nervous.

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Bombing it down the River Severn

We carried on and were travelling at the fastest pace of the whole trip. I felt like I had no control in the water and certainly couldn’t find any rhythm in my swimming stoke. I just wanted this day to be over fast.

We reached about the 22km mark. My body started to shut down for the first time on tis adventure. It was probably becasue I put so much energy into staying alive back past the weir, that I was now mentally drained. I tried to use mind over matter, like I had been doing for the last 15 days, but it wasn’t working for the first time. My arms were crying out now and I had to stop. I told Patch how I was feeling, and we looked for our next exit point.

We had planned on stopping at the Severn Bore Inn, but instead stopped at Minsterworth Ski Club. It turned out that the ski club was only 100m upstream of the Severn Bore Inn, but i just had to stop. For the first time on this trip, my body was broken. I was a wounded soldier, and today had been the toughest day of my life. I try to keep smiling when things get tough, but I just couldn’t make that shape with my mouth right now. I was in a dark place, but kept telling myself that tomorrow is the last day of swimming and thats what was getting me through.

Tomorrow will be the last day of swimming as we will be finishing in Newnham for the swimming section of this adventure. So far I have travelled a total distance of 301km in 15 days. 221km of this has been swam in 12 days, averaging at 18km of swimming a day.

I have surprised myself on this trip, and truly believe that we are all more capable of more than we think. Just put yourself in a position to prove to yourself how capable you are, and you will shine every time.

If people would like to donate, you can do so by visiting my Just Giving page, it’s really simple to do. All monies will go directly to Motor Neurone Disease Association.


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Start Location: Wainlode
End Location: Minsterworth
Distance travelled: 24km
Exercise Duration: 6hr:09mins
GPS Track: //connect.garmin.com/modern/profile/RossSwims

Day 15 – River Severn Adventure