Archive for December, 2012

Wow, yesterday I was up early. Very excited about getting to go diving with my friends Matt and Rebecca at a super secret military location…super luxurious beach to ourselves!

The diving was a little average, but the spot was pretty sensational and it was lovely to be back in the ocean…especially with water as warm as it was yesterday…


Then they dropped me back at my brother’s house where I borrowed a car and headed to Coogee beach. Yep, you read that right, there’s a beach here called that too, though apparently it’s pronounced differently. I met up with the lovely Claire Green from 4SEASons who has recently moved over here and we got in a bit of a swim session.


It was pretty stunning…warm water, white sand and clear water. We did have a giggle that there were at least a dozen lifeguards on duty for about 35 swimmers, tops!

The beach was a pretty cool location. Two pontoons…one with a slide on it, were moored just off shore, plus there was a great jetty with different ladders and spots you could climb up and jump off. It was really well set up and we had a lovely swim around pontoons, followed by the mandatory post-swim coffee on the beach.



So that was a pretty full on day. A swim, and then a post-swim swim. I was looking forward to some food and a shower and getting out of my swimmers.

Until I got home and these two talked me into a dip their backyard pool!


How could I say no?

Happy Holidays!

Hi everyone, break in normal programming..and training. I’m currently in Western Australia for a ginormous family Christmas. I’m managing to fit in some fabulous pool swims…working on those tumble turns, a splash in the dam with the yabbies, plus my sister in law dragged me along to a KiMax class. On a related note, did you know you can get sore forearm muscles? It’s very odd!

I’ve been splitting time between my brothers place and sister’s farm, so my attentions have been very focused on some kind of cute kids I don’t get to see very often. I’ve quickly become a master of coloring in, guess who, and hide and seek! Internet is a bit limited too, but the camera has been working overtime and I’ll be back with plenty of new posts in the new year!

Enjoy your holidays, however you celebrate, and just keep swimming!

One of the things I struggle with on here is to really try to give a sense of what it’s really like in the water. It’s such a multi-sensory thing and so different every time. The way it looks, the way it feels, what it’s like to try to breathe when it feels like you’re in a washing machine, the perpetual taste of salt, the sudden quiet and focus when you dive under the first wave of the day…and so much more.

I usually use a lot of words to try to describe it, but this week, there was a confluence of events such as feeling a bit ill all week, having a relatively new camera (spoiler on the review – it’s awesome!) and not really feeling up to doing a full training session on Wednesday. So, the upshot is, I took a lot of photos at training with my new camera, figured out some new shooting techniques, and finally felt like I at least managed to capture some sort of essence of what a good pool session actually looks like.

So…what’s it really like? Hard to describe. What’s a pool session look like to a swimmer…maybe something like this:

Sunday was the Bilgola 1.5km event. It’s about an hour’s drive away and OTB (Over the Bridge) from my house, so Allison and Ronene and I carpooled and drove up to the Northern beaches.

There had been some internet chatter about a “southerly” couched in terms of doom, but we were pretty happy on the way up. The sun was shining, it was so warm we needed the air conditioning on, and we could see the sun sparkling off the flat water.

We made it in good time and pulled up into the rugby club carpark and lined up for the courtesy shuttle bus down to the beach.

And then the southerly arrived. Just. Like. That.

The cloud rolled in, and the air turned cold and the wind picked up. Literally in the time it took us to get to the beach, things had turned nasty.

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Most importantly, the wind was whipping up the waves. And then blowing the tops off them spraying water all over the place.

After last week I did my best to calm the nerves and assure myself that I do relatively better in rough conditions and that I would be totally fine. That I know what I’m doing when I’m out there. That it’s just one buoy to the next, and one arm in front of the other.

And that’s kind of what happened. Plus mouthfuls of water, and not being able to see the buoys because the waves were too big and the wind was blowing so much water off the top of them that it felt like it was raining hard.

I actually had to stop 3 times during the race…and I can’t remember the last time I had to stop even once. The first time because my goggles were a bit fogged…and I was having so much trouble seeing anyway I needed all the help I could get.

The second stop was because I managed to inhale/swallow what felt like the contents of a small lake. I swallow a bit of water on a regular basis and it doesn’t really freak me out any more…but this was a different volume altogether. Enough that I had to stop and cough. And maybe gag just a little.

The last stop was literally because I was so horribly lost. I knew I’d gone off track after the first main can and had gotten myself back on track to get out the back and that had cost me too much time already. The field was so spread out, and no matter how much I sighted I couldn’t see a buoy. I kept swimming in vaguely in the direction I thought I was supposed to be going, but when I started seeing waves breaking onto rocks ahead of me, I decided that wasn’t a course I wanted to continue. 2 guys who had been swimming nearby also stopped for a look. “Where the hell is that can?” one asked. “No idea” was my response.

Not exactly a straight line....

Not exactly a straight line….

Next minute a really big wave came along and from the crest all 3 of us spotted the buoy at the same time. A quick swear word later and we were all off back in the right direction (and swam basically together for the rest of the course).

So in the end, I finished. That’s about the best that could be said. My time was atrocious (47:45) and I was sloshing full of seawater.

A couple of our 4SEASons swimmers didn’t finish and there were plenty  of people who obviously struggled as much as I was far from last.

I’m off on holidays from next weekend so that’s the last swim for me until the new year. Let’s home the conditions give me a decent one soon, because that Billie swim with a southerly felt like hard work!

Saturday morning was week 5 for Can Too. The mid-way point is sneaking up on us fast (just like Christmas).

This week I did some very specific mentoring by swimming with the lovely Anne, who is actually quite a good swimmer, but was having some anxiety issues to do with swimming the ocean.

I was thrilled and impressed to see how much Anne achieved and how much progress she made in one session in spite of how scared she was. It did get me thinking about the whole fear thing. In ocean swimming it is a real and genuine thing…you’re kind of putting yourself in a challenging situation by definition. That’s kind of the fun of it, but being scared is something that happens to all of us at times, no matter how long we’ve been swimming.

There are a couple of pieces of advice that I find myself giving to myself and to others who might be feeling a bit (or a lot) scared in the water, so I thought I’d try to get them all down here as they might be helpful. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

  1. It’s OK to be scared.
  2. Just keep swimming (sung, Dory-style).
  3. You can’t control how you feel. what you can control is what you do with that.
  4. You can do more than you think you can. This is almost always true.
  5. Just keep swimming (sung, Dory-style).
  6. If you can’t imagine swimming all the way (to the end, to the buoy, to wherever), swim half way. If you can’t imagine swimming half way, swim 10 strokes. If you can’t imagine 10 strokes, just do one. Then another one.
  7. Just keep swimming (sung, Dory-style).
  8. Even the longest swim is swum one arm in front of the other. One stroke at a time.
  9. Just put your head in the water and swim. Don’t look too far ahead and don’t over-think it.
  10. Just keep swimming (sung, Dory-style).
  11. Can Too would never put you in a situation that isn’t safe. Stop worrying about what could happen and…..Just keep swimming (sung, Dory-style).

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Well done to Anne, who didn’t think she would ever possibly make it around that buoy. She did. Twice!!!

The Can Too Pool session this week was a tough one, and a good reflection of how far our swimmers have already come in just a few short weeks!

We did some pacing, and in lane 3 where I was swimming we did 20 x 100m! That’s 2km that people are already swimming. It’s truly amazing and inspiring to see how fast people are improving and how far you can come with the right motivation, and a good program!

We had another amazing guest speaker this week, too…a physio. There were plenty of questions, including some very pertinent ones from Ronene who has been through two calf injuries in two months! Nothing like having a real-life example to talk about.


I didn’t make Monday night at Clovelly (again!) due to a Can Too mentor meeting. Next week it will take wild horses to keep me away!

Instead I went to the endurance session at Victoria park. It was kind of funny as I’ve been swimming in salt water for the last couple of weeks and being back in chlorine was kind of weird. Still, it was good to be stretching out and having a good distance swim. Definitely what I need if I’m planning on trying to step up to the Coogee to Bondi 5km in April.It’s always such a balance between technique, beach skills, fitness, interval training, and keeping the sense of joy in swimming.

Coach Kingy introduced this set as a “pyramid” set. I’ve written about pyramid sets before, and they’re usually pretty standard, varying only in how far it is to the top of the pyramid. Tuesday, however, Coach Kingy mixed it up a bit, and may have invented swimming’s first “Mayan Pyramid” drill.

mayan pyramid

mayan pyramid

See the similarity?

Swimmers Hair

I’ve written here already about my crimes against fashion. Unfortunately, on top of that I have some pretty major bad hair issues. Swimming is a bit of a problem for hair to start with. Chlorine is the worst for hair, but if you add in salt, sand, lot of sun, sunscreen, swimming caps, and throw in a bit of dodgy motorbike-helmet-hair for good measure then it’s pretty much a recipe for disaster.

I have a few things that I do, however, to try to keep things from getting completely out of hand. (Like before my last haircut when I was at the movies seeing Argo with my significant other and realised I had the exact same colour and style hair as Ben Affleck. In a movie set in the 70s) Some of it might even be considered advice. If you see me on a good day you might even believe that it’s reasonable for me to be giving hair advice.

  1. I keep my hair pretty short. Total laziness and I realise it’s not for everyone, but it does help. It also means a lot less time in changerooms and washing my hair in pool/beach showers.
  2. Moroccan Oil/Argan Oil. I’m not endorsing any particular brand because I’ve used a couple now and they are all awesome. I came a bit late to this whole movement, but I’m a bit of a convert. My super dry, brittle, straw-like hair actually feels like hair again.
  3. Apparently you should rinse your hair in fresh water before you put on your cap to swim in chlorinated water. I totally don’t do this, but it’s what I’ve read. Feel free to weigh in in the comments.
  4. Disguise. Headbands, hats, beanies. I have a large collection of all of the above, and I’m not afraid to use them! Go back and check the archives if you like…if I’m not actually wearing a swimming cap, chances are I’m wearing some form of headwear.
  5. Embrace your inner brunette. I change my hair colour fairly frequently, and definitely notice that bleaching your hair dries it out to start with. If you’re adding the wear and tear of swimming on top of that, your hair will suffer. I’ve been sticking with brunette for a couple of months and thinks have definitely improved.
  6. Don’t take silly photos of yourself with the crazy hair. And certainly don’t publish them on the internet for posterity. That’s a terrible idea!


Whew! Apparently it’s not all just about training harder….

I found this great article on a few simple principles for increasing speed and comfort in the water.

It’s Not About Swimming Harder

It’s a very quick one-pager set out with 8 different points. Definitely worth the couple of minutes it takes to read.

I particularly found the point on strength training interesting as it has come up in a lot of my recent reading. Not only is strength training apparently a good idea for swimming, but it ‘s invaluable for “burning more calories, losing fat and seeing more tone and definition” according to this different but related article I read this morning (I think the universe is trying to tell me something).

Hmmm….might have to start doing some strength exercises at home in the lounge room of an evening. Do you think carrying cases of wine and restocking the rack for Christmas counts?

… there’s a real sense of fun in everything the do, from their prints and designs, right down to their labels.


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