On the 23rd of July, Jim Wall and Stephen McCaffery will attempt to complete ten sprint distance triathlons in under 20 hours.
Rosslare Strand is the course where the two athletes will start and finish their epic challenge. At 4 a.m. the pair will be in the cold water starting their first of ten swims. They hope to have completed their challenge by midnight the same day.
This gives them a 20-hour gap to complete a cumulative distance of 7.5 kilometres (Km) swim in the sea, 200km of cycling and a 50km run.
This distance is to be covered by doing 10 consecutive individual sprint distance triathlons. This is a 750-meter swim followed by 20km on the bike and then a 5km run at the end.
Stephen and Jim have allocated two hour slots to complete each of the sprint distances. This will include a little break to recover for the next one.
One of the reasons they are doing it in two-hour time slots, is so people can come and participate. They are however, capping the number of triathletes to 40 people in any one slot. People will be asked to contribute to the chosen charities when entering.
Jim has chosen the Enniscorthy Hope Centre which offers support to people who have suffered from cancer whether directly or indirectly. Jim choose this charity because when his wife’s father passed away from cancer they offered her the support she needed.
“My wife’s father died from cancer, and she got a lot of support from the centre when it happened” Jim said.
Stephen is raising money for his brother-in-law’s niece, Shan, who is suffering from a rare form of cancer called histiocytosis X. This type of cancer affects the immune system, tricking the cells to attack the body rather than help fight infection.
This type of cancer only affects roughly 1 in every 200,000 and Shan can only get treatment in either Texas or Boston. Her last treatment was a few weeks ago and it cost €100,000.
“She had an operation in Texas a few weeks ago and they found out it’s a hell of a lot worse than they thought. She will have to get the treatment for a long time” Stephen said.
They plan to raise the money with the help of online donations through their Facebook page and through the page they set up on the website iDonate.ie. They will also be accepting donations on the day of the event and are using sponsorship cards.
Jim said, “social media is our biggest outlet…. we are hoping to raise as much as we can, there is no set target.”
The two met through Stephen’s brother who put them in contact when Jim said he needed a partner to go sea swimming with.
They decided to attempt this challenge after a sea swim they did without wetsuits in December 2015.
Jim said, “In the hyperthermia afterwards, you [Stephen] came out with this idea, ‘you fancy doing a challenge in the summer…. How about 10 triathlons in a day.’”
Stephen has done a challenge similar to this. Three years previous he did five triathlons in a day for the Tracey Lawlor trust fund. Last year Stephen also did an Iron Man distance triathlon in Wales.
Jim did the half Iron Man in Galway last year and has come a long way since, especially in his swim, which he said was a “shock to the system” for him the first time he swam in a triathlon.
Jim joked about his first experience in triathlon where he was thrown into the mass start of the swim which is like being put in a washing machine.
“I was prepared for the cold but it was the mass of people and everyone is just swimming over you. It went horribly wrong. I got an elbow to the face, my goggles went flying and I was in the middle of this river just drifting along.” Jim laughed as he remembered.
Although Jim is happy to say his swim has come a long way since thanks to the help of Stephen.
With the event fast approaching and the two men torn between family, work and organising the actual day, it means they are up at 5 a.m. to get their training done before its even time to drop the kids to school.
While Stephen said his training isn’t on schedule, he did say that he has been in the triathlon game for nigh on a decade. After his first child was born he gave up drink and that was nine years ago.
“I haven’t drunk since and I’ve been running ever since. It makes it a lot easier to get up at 5 a.m. and go training.” Stephen said.
Jim is training six days a week. “I’m very technical about stuff” he says. He keeps an eye on his form by logging all of his training sessions on an app called ‘Training Peaks’ where he can see analytics from his training efforts.
“The biggest concern for the day is the getting in and out of the wetsuit ten times”, Stephen said and Jim agreed. “They can become quite uncomfortable especially since they will be damp for the 20 hours.”
The pair plan to eat solids throughout the day over liquid energy. They will not have an official break but will take a few minutes in the two hour slots to grab something to eat. Steak sandwiches, chicken and peanuts will be consumed in mass.
The duo is sticking together for the entire event as it is not a race, it is a challenge. It is inevitable one of them will hit a low point and this is why the other is there to help them through emotionally.
“75 percent of me is looking forward to it the other 25 percent I haven’t thought about” Jim said.
By Nick Moloney
Photos by Sean Rowe