Ah, Palmy to Whale. It’s such an event and such a big part of the Can Too journey, It’s literally the “Big Swim” (unless you’re doing the Big Little swim). Advertised as 2.5km, it’s generally longer along one of the most beautiful courses you can possibly imagine. It’s tough enough to be a challenge for just about anyone and just achievable enough that anyone with a decent training plan, good coaches, proper preparation and a bit of a stubborn streak can manage it. It is also the long-course goal swim for the Can Too Swim program.

I loved this race last year. It took everything I had to finish it ( it was my goal last year) but I was really elated at the end. I was feeling fitter and better prepared this year, plus a few of my mentees and some of my friends were attempting the race for the first time so I was really looking forward to it.

Then I woke up and looked out the window and saw this.

20130205-161507.jpgNot just raining. Pouring. Absolutely bucketing down. windy and cold and wet and miserable. And definitely not what I had wished for my nervous new swimmers.

Still after double checking everything was still going ahead I channeled that stubborn streak of my own, added a brolly, and headed down to my lift.

It’s a fair old drive up there from the inner west and took a while, but thanks to our ever-patient driver Ean we were there in plenty of time to register and set ourselves up and check bags and cheer for the 1km event swimmers. Lovely to see so many orange swimmers in the brand spanking new shorter event as well, and I was so proud to see so many of them survive what was a really, really tough event. Possibly the toughest 1km event I’ve ever seen!

I’ve had more camera issues (new one bloody well leaked! Again!) so I’m afraid I’m a bit low on photographs from the day. There are a couple from my phone…but with it being that wet you really needed a waterproof feature even on the beach!

Here are a couple I snapped back up the beach while under the marquees set up for registration and pack collection:

Umbrellas. Yep.

Anyway, what can you do, but what we train for.

I did a bit of a warm up and watched the earlier wave starts. It was quickly obvious that there was quite a sweep from right to left, so my place at the start line was definitely hard right. And then we were off.

Funnily enough, although the start was pretty rough, I must have timed it just right and gotten the line spot on. It felt like a couple of porpoise moves and I was through the worst of it and off and swimming.

This seemed to be backed up by the fact that for the first part of the race I saw several people pass me who I know are much faster swimmers than me. Only a good run through the break would have put me in front of them

Before I knew it I was at the first can, feeling good, pulled around it and I was off and headed south.

I found this out-the-back part pretty hard work last year. It was pretty much the first event I’d ever down that was out around a headland and there was quite a swell, so I was swimming in conditions that I wasn’t really used to.

What a difference a year makes.

This year, I have a number of swims like this under my belt. I’ve trained all winter, and trained hard with races like this in mind. I’m fitter and stronger and have been working on my technique. It wasn’t a matter of whether I would finish, so I decided to put the boot in and see if I could push myself. I spent a lot of the race counting strokes and doing regular surges. I didn’t want to completely wear myself out, so I’d count out 30 strokes at my regular pace, and then 90 hard. Over and over. It wasn’t a bad way to stay focussed, and it kept me from getting distracted by the view!

The view…ahhh…even in the rain that is one beautiful swim.

I had hoped to finish the event in under an hour. Around the last can I had a peek at my watch and realised it wasn’t going to happen for me (not this year, anyway 😉 ). Undeterred, I decided to finish as though I was just about to make it!

I went out very, very hard. I may have slightly gone off track a bit as I discovered a little late I was sighting at something that wasn’t actually the finish line. D’oh! Rookie mistake! I came in a bit to the left of the finish line..which wasn’t too bad in the end, as from the reports of other people, coming in right at the finish line was pretty tough work.

I did manage to kind of catch a couple of waves for a nudge in where I was, though. They were already broken and really, really frothy and messy, but they were all going in the right direction so I figured I’d jump on for whatever ride they’d offer.

I learnt my lesson from last year, and did a few foot flexes before trying to stand up. It certainly helped as I managed to navigate my way from horizontal to vertical without planting my face in the sand on the way. Win!

As usual, there was a noisy orange-clad cheer squad. It is so great to have that motivation at the end when you’re tired and just need a little extra boost to get you out and over the line.

Despite the weather, it was a great race, as usual. People who were scared at the start were smiling at the finish line, and we managed to brace the rain and celebrate at the Can Too tent afterwards! I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Finally, a massive congratulations to any and all of the Can Too participants, particularly those who were doing this race for the first time, and even more particularly those who were in my mentor group and stepped up from their initial plan to do the Bondi 2km and pushed themselves to take on this challenge. I am so proud and have found the mentoring journey one of the most rewarding things ever.

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