Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tour of Booees, Pier to Perignon, Rotto, et al...

We hear everyone had fun at the Pier to Perignon, particularly in the vanilla slice shop at Sorrento afterwards. Rotto was hot, glorious, but slow. People so far are positive about Long Reef, except for @_Perama who turned up first at Freshwater and wondered why there was no swim in evidence.

Tell us what you thought... your experiences... Use the comments button below...

Pier to Perignon ... swimming with the Premier

Swimming in the Pier to Perignon event is a season highlight for many reasons.
It's a great swim - 4.5 km from Sorrento front beach along the coast til you hit Portsea front beach.
It's hard to get into - only 700 spots which filled up within a day of entries opening.
It is an extremely beautiful part of the world. Gorgeous coast, clear water.
This year has been a bad season for ocean swimming down south because of terrible weather - lots of rain resulting in awful water conditions.
And an added bonus for me this year was meeting my on line swimming and tweeting colleagues AquaGirl and Dolphin Jo.
We caught up on the start line and it was lovely to have some new swimming buddies to bond with.
For a change this summer, the weather forecast was promising, high 20s and light breezes.
So my swimming buddy and I got down the night before, had our pre race pasta and wine at a friendly Italian bistro in Sorrento and got an early night.
Registration opens at 9.30. We were there at 9.15 as excited as kids on a school excursion (no, more excited, I went on some pretty boring school excursions).
Conditions were really picture perfect. Calm, sunny and benign.
Thanks to our buddy, Age journalist Russell Skelton, who had written about a competitor swimming over a shark, my sb was in a state of mild anxiety, but the organisers assured her it was a dolphin, not a shark, that the swimmer saw in a year gone by (well they would say that wouldn't they).
P to P does things a bit differently. We all wear pink caps and we all go off together. Well sort of together. Lots of competitors (you know who you are) ignored the organisers pleas to get back towards the shore and started walking out before the start signal. So it was a water start as we all followed them to get that extra what, 10 seconds? advantage of not starting on the beach.
It is quite an occasion. Bands, fly overs, in previous years even a cannon. This year, I presume because we had the Premier (who started the race with a mate over 20 years ago) swimming, we also had a water rescue boat. As you might remember, we lost Prime Minister Harold Holt in water not far from there (but way more dangerous) several years ago. We don't want it to happen again, which is unlikely as Big Ted is a really good swimmer. He finished in a handy 45 minutes. Meanwhile the rescue boat brought up the rear.
Swimming for 4.5 km really allows you to get your act together. Plenty of time to get into a good rhythm, think of sharks, dismiss thoughts of sharks, wonder how far you've got to go, wonder why you can't see any lifesavers, wonder if you are going the right way, wonder if you should be swimming closer to the shore or further out to take advantage of the current.
This is my fourth crack at this swim and I was reasonably confident that I knew what I was doing. I decided to stay out wide and go with the flow. I felt well trained, ready and raring to go.
My goal with this swim is to beat an hour - the first two years I didn't and last year I did it in 56 minutes. Last year was also special because I swam it with my brother who came out from the UK to do this as a 50th birthday treat. He beat me, as usual, but it was great to have that sibling rivalry alive and well after so many years.
There are probably as many opinions on how to do the event as there are competitors - go wide, hug the coast, swim through the boats, swim around them.
I decided to go out and take my chances, and keep my eyes on the pack in front.
This year, I did have some swimming neighbours who were within sight for the whole course. Last year it felt like I did the whole race on my own.
It really is a simple course. Get in at Sorrento, turn left at first buoy, follow the coast, turn left at next buoy - which is at Portsea - pass third and final buoy close to shore and you're there.
It gets a bit choppy around Point King, and you want to watch out for boats and the Sorrento ferry, but there really are no hazards with this one.
No jelly fish this year. And I didn't see any lifesavers either. I guess they were there, but not within my sight until I turned for home at Portsea front beach.
A few minutes of strong stroking gets you to the finish line - tide not impossible this year.
Corssed the finish line at clocked in at 52.22. Very happy. A PB and way faster than I could ever swim in the pool. Got to love that strong current.
It was a very long walk to get water - the whole length of the front beach and then up into the reserve where there was a long line of thirsty and hungry competitors. But how can you complain when they give you bottles of water, muffins, free sausage sandwiches, a cap, and t shirt for bragging rights.
That's the last swim of the season I have scheduled and it was a great season ender, unless I'm tempted by a few more while the weather permits.
Finished off with world's best vanilla slice in Sorrento. And decided to sleep in and miss squad tomorrow. But I will be back on Tuesday. Promise, coach!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Swimming the heads - vainglorious or just glorious?

I just noticed that one G Greer (Germaine?) posted a message criticising OsC and his friends' trans-Heads swim, saying the chances of being eaten are greater over the depths of the channel and that a shark-induced fatality would set back the cause of ocean swimming.

He/she suggested this was a vainglorious and selfish stunt.

I'm not one to jump thoughtlessly to OsC's defence, particularly after being called a professional Pom by him (I'm an amateur Pom/Aussie), but I thought this a tad harsh, on the facts at least.

Given that the channel between the Heads is deep and that a lot of nasty snappy bitey things go in and out of the Heads, does this make it more likely that an attack will occur? I'm not so sure.

Admittedly, you don't see many swimmers between the heads but most shark sughtings, attacks, etc seem to happen in shallow waters. The only fatality in Sydney since the war was in the harbour in knee deep water. The attack on a diver last year was off Garden Island - in the close vicinity of two ocean swims this year.

And I seem to remember some guy having a small chunk taken out of him in the river at Parramatta about 10 years ago.
Certainly sharks breed at near the Spit, so they have to go past Balmoral to get there - scene of another ocean swim in March.

Let's face it, there are sharks out there. Your chances of being eaten are improved by going out at shark dinner time (dawn or dusk), looking like a seal in a wet suit (so they say, whoever they are) and swimming alone.

Does deeper water and a busy channel equate to greater risk for a group of people in budgies, swimming outside feeding time? I'm not so sure - and call me vainglorious but I'd love to do such a swim, if I had the stamina. And I'd gladly increase my shart attack risk a tad by weraing a wet suit if it kept the stingers away.



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim - Looking for Nirvana

Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim Canberra 5k 20th February

Looking for Nirvana from the muddy banks of the Molonglo ...

Sri Chinmoy spent his life practising sport to express his philosophy of self-transcendence.
Being an old sceptic, I usually don't have much faith in this philosophy.
Still, I do try to go to keep an open mind when I go to these kinds of events that are organised by people who are committed to their beliefs.

The evening before

My first mistake was to drive down to the lake on Saturday evening to check out the conditions. I knew about the algae warnings, but I didn't expect the water to be so brown.
My previous experience swimming in Lake Burley Griffin was the Sri Chinmoy Capital Swim in 2009.
Lovely cool clear water then. It would be different tomorrow.

I arrived early at Yarralumla Bay on Sunday morning and registered for the 5k lake swim and lined up at the start with the small group of purple-capped 5k swimmers. The course being 2 laps around a 2.5k circuit.

I was a little hesitant to enter the brown water. Finally I dove into the murky water and pushed off.
My suspicions were confirmed - Zero visibility - Well almost zero anyway, maybe about one foot. I could see my arm about as far as my elbow, then my forearm and hand disappeared into the gloom.

Nursing a shoulder strain from a week of tough pool training, my plan was to take it easy for the 1st lap.
I knew I could push through shoulder pain on the 2nd lap if the shoulder blew up.
I find mentally the 1st half of a long swim is always the hardest. It seems to take me ages to relax and get into a rhythm. So usually after nearly an hour of swimming I'm doing it tough, knowing that I have still at least double the distance to go to get to the finish.
A couple of times I thought I might get out after completing just 1 lap (2.5k) and blaming it on the conditions. But then put my head down and got back into a repetition of stroke-stroke-breathe, and that negative creep went away.

After completing the 1st lap and passing the halfway mark, I was feeling much better. The 2nd half always seems to be easier, like swimming downhill, with the end in sight.
A northerly wind had come up and was starting to chop up the course.
I had tried to avoid swallowing any of the brown and algae water, but now there was no escaping it, with the chop splashing my face as a turned to breathe. I tried to spit out as much as I could.

Shoulders were hurting as I passed the last turning buoy, with a 600m straight swim to the finish.
Just concentrating on maintaining a slow consistent stroke now, happy that I would be finishing today's race.

With 50m to go, I lifted my head and could read the writing on the FINISH sign.

Then from nowhere and without me thinking about it, a burst of energy filled my body. My kick grew stronger, my body flattened out and my arms were pulling harder with perfect technique. I didn't feel the weight of the water; it felt like I was skimming over the surface. I was smiling underwater as I flew through the finish gate.

It was certainly a good feeling to finish on such a positive high.
Most likely it was an unconscious reaction to me being happy to finish a tough swim in adverse conditions, and pleased to conquer my negative thoughts before and during the race.
Those who are more spiritual might say that, on a muddy lake in a strange town, I enjoyed a small part of the self-transcendence experience.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Different strokes at Malabar...

Just back from Malabar, which is a pretty cove, also known as Long Bay, in Sydney's south-eastern suburbs. Water was glorious, perfect even, apart from the fact that there were no waves at all. At all. It was a pool swimmers' swim. Flat, even, little current, clear, clean water, not even stingers -- ah, yes, one punter was stung by a bluey at the outer reaches of the 2.37km course. But that's not much, for the rest of us. Sorry for the punter, however.

It was stiflingly hot, too. Stiflingly. Race organiser Murray Rose promised us a southerly at 12 noon. And during the longer swim, as we stood in waist deep water, we felt a sou'-easter waft around our face, tantalisingly, teasingly. It was so stiflingly hot. Water temp c. 23C. Noice.

In water like that, there's not much point us sitting on turning booees out in the sea taking pitchers o' punters schlepping around the course. After we'd observed the starts, they all were gone, and there are only so many images of swimmers in flat water one can see before one screams. So we shot video again, and this time, for something a little different, we decided to focus on stroke technique. Not as a class, but as a demonstration of the vast array of strokes on display in an ocean swim. If there are 880 swimmers in a swim, as there were today, then there'll be 880 different strokes. Some of them weird, some of them wonderful (you work out which is which). Anyway, we'll post this video on our report page on later tonight (Sundee).

Hard to believe Malabar/Long Bay used to be one of Sydney's most polluted beaches, with the Malabar sewage treatment works pumping out the nasty stuff just around the point for so many years. The deep ocean outfalls changed all that, however. Now the nasty stuff is spread more widely, and comes in at Cronulla, albeit in far weaker strengths.

It's a long day. We left Casa Sparkle at 0700, and returned at 1600. It's a long day. But we took a bit of extra time afterwards to show our new friend, Aida, who's Mexican now living in Belgium, around the eastern suburbs. Aida -- first person we've met with an opera named after them -- is a friend of Shelley Clarke from the FINA world open water circuit. Aida picked up 1sts in her age group in both the 1km and the 2.37km today. That's Aida above. We had lunch in that cafe strip at Bronte. Aida ordered an "Aussie Burger", and couldn't believe the size of it. "How do I eat it?" she cried. No wonder we're going the way of the Americanos el Norte with obesity in Stra'a.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

To swim or not to swim in dirty water



All week the signs have been bad for today's Cerberus swim at Half Moon Bay. The EPA said water quality was poor, the weather forecast worse. And then it rained heavily overnight. Let's face it, the water in Port Phillip Bay is filthy.

I ummed and ahhed about whether to line up, particularly as it's the big season highlight next weekend - the 4.5 km Sorrento to Portsea swim. Fine athlete that I am trying to be, I cannot afford to get sick this close to the big event.

On the other hand, I needed a challenging lead up swim, and I had personal demons to overcome at Half Moon Bay. Last year's swim was my worst ever and I had almost vowed not to come back. Last year was also a wild windy day, and they changed the course so it didn't go around the sunken Cerberus, for fear of us all smashing into it. The start was way down the beach and I was late to get there - unheard of for Ms Organisation. But worse. jellyfish. My personal worst thing. Couldn't swim without running into them lurking a foot below the surface right where I wanted to stroke. I had to do a shallow very slow Aussie crawl and emerged a very grumpy competitor.

This year can't be as bad I kept telling myself. All week, my swimming buddy and I went back and forth, would we, wouldn't we.

Finally we signed up on line, though conditions kept deteriorating with the water quality. And today dawned hot and humid. What's going on? We don't do humid in Melbourne.

And I had a long trip to the start. I only live 15 minutes away, but my annual work conference was overnight at Healesville - that's a weekend away for me! I rang my sb anxiously on the way home because it looked like I would be late again. Fortunately we 'veterans" go off well after most others and I got there in plenty of time.

But again conditions were against us. Wild wind, strong northerly, wild waves, water impossible to see through. Course organizers had to modify the course- no swimming around the boat. And the Finish line fell over as well as a few marquees.

At least it was warm.

So us veterans all lined up together men and women. There were only 12 women in my group - only the mad keen would try it today.

And it was wild. Huge unpredictable waves. This is a bay beach acting like a surf beach. But once you surrendered to the feeling, it was fun. Waves smashed you coming and going and we all veered right towards South Melbourne. But there were plenty of lifesavers on Boards to point us In the right direction.

Out we battled, going up , over and through the waves. Within the first few yards I had swallowed my first mouthful. So I'm waiting to see what effect swimming in poor rated water has on the body.

But we crashed and bashed on, rounded the buoys and then got some lovely wave assistance on the short leg home.

Very satisfying to hit that finish line. But could I put in a request to the swimming gods for some decent conditions next year. It would be good to get around that boat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

KAOSVIC gets out of the ocean and into the lake

Not much swimming to be had the the Bay this weekend, with the EPA forecasting dire consequences if you dared to take on flood affected, Yarra infused local beaches.
Lucky there was an alternative, even if it was only for the invited few.
I travelled about 90 minutes out of town to Daylesford for the second annual Lake Daylesford Swim Classic.
An old school friend lives there, and her brother and a few mates organise this boutique swimming event - a good reason to catch up with old friends and try a different type of swimming event.
It's swim at your own risk, no liability, but two of the organisers are local doctors.
I was keen to give it a go, never having, to my memory, ever swum in a lake.
As close as I have been to Lake Daylesford is to walk around it building up an appetite for tea and scones at the tea house, or looking over it from the special occasion Lake House on its shores - which claims to be one of Australia's best restaurants.
It was a chilly start to the day in Daylesford. Could it have been 7 degrees in summer? Definately a wet suit event.
At 10 am 15 of us lined up - up from 12 entrants last year. We all got a number on our hand, and we were all to go off together in the 1.3 km course.
The race briefing was simple. Swim to the first red flag at the other end of the lake, turn right to the next marker with balloons, cross the lake, hug the shore past the tea rooms and home via the little beach (patch of sandy stuff. not really a beach)
Sounds easy, but local knowledge is a fine thing. Who knew you can't see a thing in the lake? All the locals took off at a good clip, leaving me to enjoy the scenic view in my own time. Don't believe I have ever swum past gum trees before.
Not a hard swim, nor a fast one for me. In fact everyone else was home and hosed by the time I did a few gentle breaststrokes to finish (never never breaststroke in ocean races, but was a little scared of what a freestyle stroke might strike on the bottom of the lake).
Lots of prizes for the participants. Winning guy - James Cooper - did it in 14.17; winning girl - Emily Gartland - did 18.28. I got the Esther Williams encouragment prize for my graceful stroke.
Peter O'Mara, Beth Quinn and Greg Stewart ran a fine convivial race. If you want an invitation for next year, let me know and I'll introduce you to the committee.
The swim co-incided with local producers gournet food day at the Lake House. Post event I started with samples of garlic paste; blueberries, honey, sourdough bread and oil and lunched on local wine, gourmet wood fired pizza and lemon tart. Happy drive home.

Bumpy and breezy at North Bondi...

Overcast, windy, weather from the sou'-east blowing straight into Bondi today, but it still was a good day. The water was a bit sandy close in, but crystalline once you got out past the rocks a bit. The Express was running full on today: see how everyone hugged the rocks to get out, and the farther out they went, the closer in they hugged. That was the rocks drawing them in in embrace.

We took video today and will post it a bit later in the evening, we plan.

What did you think of today's swims?