Friday, May 27, 2011

Another New Beginnings End

2010-2011 Another year of swimming tragic

.. But I'm not the only one


Eight Ball

Bondi Beach, Australia

Ocean swimmers are an independent bunch
While the rest of the world follows calendar years, or summer and winter seasons
I love it that we've decided that the Australian ocean swimming season finishes at the end of May and starts again at the beginning of June
For no real reason, other than the sea water on the south east coat of Australia is usually warm-ish from November until May, the cool-ish from June to October

I have enjoyed some good swimming over the last 12 months
Followed pretty much the same regime as last year with pool training and ocean swim races most weekends in summer, but ventured a little further afield and extended with some longer swims and some adventure swims
Some glimpses of improvement in swim times, not getting slower anyway
Total distance swum in open water races was about the same as last year
I got off to a slow start with no swims entered in October, while I completed a lifesaving course.
And then ditched a couple of the crowded swims that I didn't enjoy from last year
Although did end up doing more 5k longer swims than last season

I don't think os.c is giving out the results of the Ocean Swim Tallies until the presentation nite next month, I'll have to wait and see if I'm in the running again for Magoo's Distance Tallies Trophy. I did hear that some other swimmers had made a late charge with some longer swims this month.

Highlights from last season ...

- Magnetic Island to Townsville swim 8k -
Loved completing a challenging long swim in tough conditions, Loved the rolling celebration party afterwards - From the Surf Club, to the Waterworks Hotel in Townsville, to the Sun Ferry, to the Picnic Bay Hotel on Magnetic Island - Remember what happens on the island, stays on the island

- Pan Pacs Masters Open Water Swim 5k - A fun swim around a small lake on the Gold Coast - Took home a gold medal (team) and a silver medal (individual). Sometimes race selection is more important than swimming ability

- Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim Canberra 5k -
Not what I was expecting - heavy rains had brought muddy brown water and a strong wind chopped up the course. A good challenge and I enjoyed finishing

- "Bold & Beautiful" Manly Swims -
Some good informal swims with B&B Swimmers - including a "10k" harbour swim and "10k" ocean swim, both swims supported with paddler and fully catered with a teddy bear's picnic at the halfway mark

- "Across the Heads Swim" with B&B Swimmers and - Tough conditions, a little nervous, a good challenge. I never thought I would be doing something like that when I started ocean swimming a few years ago

- Around Cape Banks Swim - Little Bay to La Perouse - Informal swim with Murray Cox ( - another good adventure

- Coogee to Bondi Redux - An Informal swim with my Seas The Limit training buddies - Good confidence booster to complete a swim 5k in big seas, rough water and 2m swell

- South Head Roughwater Swim - with Murray's team - spectacular scenery and quite fun actually

- Swimming at Coogee every weekend (almost) all year round with my old swimming friends

- Swimming in an ocean swim event somewhere up or down the coast most weekends in summer with my new friends from ocean swimming

Thanks coach Chad for keeping the training fun and interesting and helping me with the confidence and mental preparation needed to take on longer and more challenging swims

Every swim is still an adventure for me

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Awaiting winter

Two different swims over two days -- Sat'dee, the Noosa swim, then Sundee, the 2nd Inaugural Bondi Bluewater Challenge. Smooth water with slight offshore breezes at both, but very different in setting and water.

Noosa's water was muddy. Indeed, when we swam on the Fridee, literally you couldn't see the hand in front of your face. It was slightly clearer on race day, but not by much. They've had a lot of rain up there, and it washes out through the river and in run-off. But we had a lovely couple of days staying with friends. We've done this swim four times now, and we've always struck murky water. It's not dirty or polluted, just cloudy, murky. They tell us it was perfect last year, but we missed it. But for a Sydneysider coming out of the cold that's been Sydney the last week or two, it was reassuring to exit the plane at Maroochydore into such balmy, near summer temperatures. Rained a lot, especially overnight, but the setting at Noosa is idyllic, with the national park forming a backdrop to the swim which, despite the murk, was run in very good water.

Main swim was 2.48km, according to the GPS-in-plastic bag, not 2km as advertised, but there's nothing wrong with that. We like a bit of extra distance. The booees were set very far out to sea.

Then Sundee at Bondi... Cooler, urban backdrop, smooth water still which was clear through the break, but murky once you moved out to sea, not a muddy murk, just a white, opaque murk. Nothing unpleasant about it out there. It just wasn't clear, although we did see the stark white float of the shark net marker hovering a couple of metres below the surface just past the far out turner off Mackenzies Point. It seemed like farther than the advertised 2.1km, but the GPS on Mrs Sparkle's back told us it was absolutely spot on 2km.

A triffic thing they did at Bondi was to award little prizes to what swim spirit Cyril Baldock referred to as "the average swimmer" in each age group -- the average time. What they did was to take the swimmer in the middle of the age group, say 15th out of 30 swimmers in the age group, and give them a prize, too. If that swimmer wasn't present, then Cyril read down the list until they got someone who was there. It wasn't really the "average" swimmer, more the median swimmer. But the difference is immaterial. The gesture recognised the rank and file. "We want this swim to be the swimmers' swim," Cyril told the mob over the electric microphone. Indeed. We applaud the move.

A melancholic feel at the end of the day. We have two more swims in NSW -- at Evans Head on the June long weekend and Mona Vale on June 26 -- and Queensland has the 3.8km Caloundra swim next weekend. But the season now is as good as over. Noice to have life a bit easier, but sad to miss the good times over the past eight months.

Into winter now, into the Pacific... another favourite part of the year. Come to think of it, it's always our favourite part of the year. Not a bad way to be, perhaps.

Tell us about your swims...

Monday, May 2, 2011


I wasn’t there for the Blues festival, but I had the blues after the Byron Bay swim this year.
My third time and worst result. I did an awful 14 minutes slower than last year . I barely beat five other women in my age group.
Why why why?
It has been two months since my last event – the Pier to Perignon from Sorrento to Portsea. But I swam that event faster than Byron, despite the course being more than twice as long.
And I know conditions were not favourable at Byron this year. Everyone seemed to pull up slower times and the local paper reported that there was heavy chop around the point and a blustery offshore wind made it hard going in the home straight.
The home straight? The whole way if you ask me. I didn’t find it particularly hard to get out, but once around the point it was a slog the whole way home. There was a decent swell, which meant visibility was tricky. The pines of the surf club were even hard to spot. So I made the mistake of following some guys in front of me and they led my astray. We ended up to the left of either the fourth or fifth buoy and the lifeguards were sternly pointing us back to the buoy, about 50 metres to my right. I briefly considered not swimming around it, but I would only have been cheating myself wouldn’t I. Every time I lifted my head for a look for the finish, I seemed to cop a mouthful of salty water. By the time the finish line loomed I was sick of it. Sick of swimming, sick of stroking, sick of not being there yet. Finally I stood up when everyone else did, and was promptly dumped by a massive wave – a 360 degree forward roll dumping that filled my bathers and my nose with sand. When I finally got to check my watch there wasn’t much time left under the hour. Truly uninspiring.
And while I’m at it, the t-shirt was awful. Purple with all the sponsors’ names on the front. I totally understand the importance of sponsors but unless they swim with me, their names should be on the back.
There were some good things about the event. I got to meet the lovely and talented Seppo (Michelle from Brisbane) who won a place in her age group. I got to meet some Peninsula Pirates, who have been intimidating me for years in Bay swims, and I discovered they are not so scary out of the water.
And the rain that had dogged our visit to Byron finally stopped and we had blue skies for the swim.
But I must say I enjoyed the two pre race day swims with the locals much more than the actual event. On Friday and Saturday we met them on the deck at the club. A bunch of fit looking veterans, mainly men, led the walk down to the other end of the beach and then the swim back to the club. Lovely. Particularly on Saturday when we swam towards a complete rainbow. That was my swim highlight.
I have to come back next year. Pride demands it. I can do better.
That’s it for me this year. I’m off to the pool to work on my technique. But I’ll be back for the Brighton swim when the weather warms up again. See you in the water.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arrival of winter swimming

South Curl Curl, Byron Bay... they herald the start of winter swimming season. All around the coast, clubs with names like Icebergs, Splashers, Mackerals, Frigid Frogs got going this weekend in the winter swimming season, many of them at beach pools on beaches which, until now, have been the scene of ocean swims. The Byron Bay swim has been held on the first Sunday in May because, traditionally, that's the start of winter swimming (it's nothing to do with the Labour Day holiday in Queensland). Now South Curly is building a similar tradition, although their timing has been more to do with finding an empty Sundee in Sydney.

Port Macquarie was Sat'dee, too, and that was to do with the Port Macquarie Iron May. So, really, these swims have little to do with the start of winter swimming, outside Byron Bay. But together, that's what they herald.

And what a weekend! South Curly deserves credit for the courage they showed in going ahead with the swell as it was on their own beach. Curly is gnarly in any kind of swell, but when it gets up, it is one of the most dangerous beaches on the coast. So it was moved to Freshwater, next door, and what a lovely swim it was. Some very big swells rolling through, but the rip ripped us out to the gates, and it wasn't too difficult getting back. Ended up at 1.47km, with a couple of hundred of metres of that running into the sea.

The swell was from the east, which means Byron would not have had the protection it normally has from difficult seas, which usually roll in from the sou'-east. Port Macquarie switched their course into the Hastings River.

How was your swim this weekend...