Urgh, I don’t say it very often, but I really didn’t enjoy training tonight. I’d had a kind of weird day at work, and the weather was crap (really crap) and as much as I’d like to blame it on those things, I think it just came down to the fact that I was just in a bit of a mood. I like to believe it happens to us all. Crickets? ? ??? ??? Just me then? *Sigh*

Anyway, I’ve had the odd day like this before, and usually I know myself well enough to know that if I make myself go to training, all those feeling seem to melt away as I dive under that divine first wave, and the quiet and the challenge and the focus on just keeping swimming take over…and I have never yet had that not work.

Not until tonight.

Well, it was working OK. I was swimming without a wetsuit, as usual at the moment…it’s too much of a hassle getting the thing on and off, the water is warm enough I don’t even miss it, and I have enough trouble carrying around stuff for work, for swimming, and stuff for motorcycle riding (including all the required wet-weather gear for today) that it was the last thing I wanted to pack.

So the training session would have been fine, except for the bluebottles. Yep, the nasty things, good for nothing other than the dubious honour of being turtle-food (and not even terribly good at that) were infesting the beach. Out of the group swimming today (8 of us, I think) Allison was the only one who wasn’t stung, and the ratio of wetsuits to news was 5:3.

I’m a bit lucky, I suppose, in that I don’t actually seem to react too badly to stings from the nasty blue guys. I’ve been stung plenty of times at Bondi, and plenty of times as a kid (perhaps that’s part of it) and it never seems to be too bad after the initial shock of the sting. Tonight, however, I discovered that getting stung in the underarm with the tentacles wrapped down around my arm, over my shoulder, and up around my neck, is a touch more painful than in other places. In fact, it hurts quite a lot!

I pulled the perpetrator off my skin, and I did keep swimming for the rest of the session…which I’m kind of glad to admit didn’t go for the full hour tonight (something about the rain and the recurring jellyfish stings, perhaps?). I can’t honestly tell you that I enjoyed the rest of the session though, The thing is, once you’ve been stung, the rest of the session you do have a bit of a tendency to get a bit jumpy and edgy at every bit of seaweed, and every stray wave that laps at your toes. I know it’s all a bit pathetic compared to some of the full-on marathon ocean swimmers who get stung repeatedly by much nastier creepy crawlies than that, but I’d like to make the disclaimer that I’m saying I didn’t enjoy myself, not that I couldn’t have kept going if I’d really had a good reason to.

Anyway, we did call the session off a bit short, and then everyone pretty much split and headed straight home. I had an equally miserable ride home in the pouring rain and freezing cold, and was feeling more on the verge of a Claire Danes Cry Face than my usual post-swim sense of happiness, joy, wellbeing and elation.

After a hot shower to help with the stings and thaw out, one I was perched on the couch in my dressing gown and slippers I did have a bit of a chance to reflect on the evening. Even though it was one bad session, it doesn’t mean there were no lessons in it. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. It’s interesting to note that even when you love something, it’s never perfect all the time. Helps put in perspective the things that are perfect less of the time.
  2. Ocean swimmers are tough! And brave! We kept going several rounds even after pretty much everyone had been stung and was hurting, and not one person gave up, stopped swimming or opted out til we called the session (admittedly a touch early) at the end.
  3. Tough training days like this help keep things in perspective during races. It may be a little rough or not as nice a weather as I hope or somehow suboptimal, but I’ll still know I’ve survived worse!
  4. Bluebottles are actually kind of interesting creatures when you’re out of reach of their tentacles. My trivia-loving partner had a bit to do with that one when he got home. He knew, for example, off the top of his head that they are actually made up of two different organisms, and that where the bubble part of their bodies (the sail, apparently) joins their tentacles, they can change the orientation to ‘sail’ with the wind. Also, according to the combined efforts of the 4SEASons crew, I now know that they are popular food for turtles (and a few other things).
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