Archive for March, 2013

Never let it be said that I don’t do things wholeheartedly.

After the decision on Friday to call a personal end to the travel, bad weather, general laziness and minor illnesses that have kept me from training (and racing) as much as I’d like, I have been back to training. 3 times in 24 hours. As you do.

After a very odd Friday swim, I made it for the double dose on Saturday morning. The water was still definitely on the chilly side, but didn’t seem quite as bad as the night before.

The first session was a lovely point to point…just what you need when the water is flat and you need to keep moving to stay warm. It was crystal clear and the water was a beautiful emerald green…nicely offsetting my hands as they got wrinklier and whiter in the cold!



On the beach it was lovely, though…sun shining as we finally got some decent weather on a weekend.



Something our coaches took full advantage of…

4SEASons Conference meeting centre location ever!

4SEASons Conference Rooms….best meeting centre location ever!






Plenty of these guys around….always is. Polarised goggles are the key to being able to spot all the interesting things down on the bottom and swimming around.




All in all a particularly lovely (if chilly) day to return to the my Saturday double ups.

It also helped that the first session was a point to point, and then by the second session some helpful person had put out a couple of cans.

Since you should never pass up the opportunity to train with a real marker to swim around, we did circuits out and around. Nice to have something different for the second session!

I know I said I’d stop with the whingeing, but seriously…what’s with the weather?

Friday all day was beautiful and it was hot and I was dying for a swim.

Then I left the office and the heavens literally opened and there was thunder and lightning and a deluge from above. I sheltered a little and debated what to do.

And the rain cleared again. I headed for the beach.

It was still damn hot…the rain hadn’t stuck around long enough to really cool anything down. The beach still looked great, and we headed down for a swim.

Oblivious, we had walked into quite a shock…the water temperature had dropped sharply and suddenly and it was bloody cold!!

Now, to be clear, I generally don’t have too much of an issue with the colder water. I prefer swimming without my wetsuit, whenever I can manage it, and I do find that once the shock of getting into the water passes it can be quite pleasant to swim in cooler water. That being said….a certain amount of mental preparation is necessary, and to find the water temperature had dropped several degrees was kind of shocking.

In addition, the storm was still visible (well) offshore, with the odd flash of lightning, and the light was downright weird! I had my camera, but found it struggling with the strange light conditions…have a look and you’ll see what I mean…

I particularly love this one of Bel S sharing a story about Friday drinks…completely oblivious to the surprisingly apt wineglass-shaped cloud behind her….


Friday drinks...reimagined....

Friday drinks…reimagined….


Fittingly, the temperature may have been a little challenging, but he waves were definitely not. They weren’t huge, but they were those great ones that you can catch by throwing yourself off the second sandbank….completely safe but very catchable and with just enough oomph to give you a decent ride right up to the sand. Excellent opportunities for party waves for as long as our frosty toes allowed!

(Excuse the photo quality…light was a little odd…but I’m sure you get the idea!)

OK, whinge over, holiday over, blogging hiatus over!

I’ve been down in my home town in Tassie. It was too cold for swimming, plus (surprisingly given the whole state is an island) it is actually a bit of a drive to the beach (and swimming in that river is definitely not an option). Besides which I was far too busy spending time with fabulous people, and eating and drinking some fabulous food and wine.


But now I’m back home and back at work and it’s Friday afternoon and it’s 30 degrees outside. Get me to the beach pronto!

God, I feel a bit like this blog, and my swimming, and the weather and everything else are all over the place at the moment?

What’s it all about? Well, a couple of things. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love a list, so here goes:

  1. The freaking weather. it’s messed with way too many races this season. I haven’t raced in a month, and although a little of that is due to other commitments, the weather this year has been very inconvenient! Mostly on the weekends. It’s messed with a number of races I’ve been entered in. Bondi to Bronte and Bilgola were pretty hard work. Palmy to Whale was the worst I’ve ever seen it. Caves Beach was postponed and the Bondi double postponed til Easter. Freshwater just called things off cos the forecast was too scary and there were no days left free in the season.
  2. On top of that….Tamarama to Clovelly (my favourite race last year) told us early on they were going on hiatus for this year.
  3. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely.
  4. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.
  5. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. Do they have any idea how long and hard I trained for this event?
  6. It’s not all bad news. I’ve been doing my advanced dive training. Pity the freaking weather got in the way so that I had to do it over two weekends instead of one!
  7. Work is just mental. One of those big corporate things that I wish didn’t affect my work/life balance but does at the moment.
  8. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. How bloody hard is it to keep motivated when they take away your goals?
  9. There’s quite a lot going on with me this year. There was the camping holiday, I’m flying to Tassie in a couple of days (and again later in the year), I’m getting together the world’s most awesome team for the MS Megaswim (remember how cool last year was? think that multiplied by 4!)
  10. Coogee to Bondi is postponed indefinitely. Far out. Not happy, Jan!
  11. other stuff going on on the home front…just sold a house I’ve had in Tassie for a million years (or a decade of so. I forget which is longer), and we’re doing some reno work on the place we have here in Sydney, looking to sell up and move into something more aligned with our lifestyles. Negotiations are underway on exactly what that meansI can tell you right now that I am not a contender for the block. I’m OK with doing the work, I’m just really not gonna love it like some people do. Swimming on the other hand…..
  12. Phew, that’s a long list. Embarrassing much?
  13. Oh, OK. 5 points were pretty much the same thing. Probably time to move onto plan B, I guess. Watch this space!

So, the point is? Besides a bit of self-pity? I’ll be back on track shortly…I always get there. With my little hiatus down South to my hometown I’ll even have a go at getting up to date with the posts. In the meantime, 4SEASons is getting bigger and better so talk amongst yourselves. And if the weather would like to get its shot together…well that’d be just fine too!

Tuesday training – endurance set as usual. Or not.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the endurance sets. They’re hard, but really rewarding and deliver results like nothing else I’ve ever done. It’s great that I now have the hang of the, and that I trust them so much that I push myself, knowing that they work.

Seems it’s possible I’ve become complacent, though.

Coaches Kingy and Zoe had something new in store for us…and it wasn’t pretty. particularly for me. Since they chose the one thing I am absolutely the WORST at! I really, really, really suck at this. After 2 and a half years of training, and managing to get my technique a little better and my time trials up to medium, I still do so more strokes per lap than anyone I know. that means I’m outputting way too much effort to get where i’m going…probably due to some still-outstanding issue with my technique that means I’m likely causing more drag than I need to. I have a few theories, but I’ll trust in the Wednesday technique sets to work on things piece by piece and keep chipping away at things like my front-quadrant swimming, my high elbow, my too-high breathing, my bottom-heavy position in the water…the list never ends! Lucky that means I’m unlikely to get bored with this any time soon.

When I’m feeling like this, immediately after I spend some time with my inner monologue getting angry for a bit, I start to calm down and actually think about what’s going on with me at that moment.

So, here are the conclusions I came to:

  1. This was outside of my comfort zone. I’ve been doing these endurance sets for a while, and whilst they’re bloody hard work, I know they work. they really work. So why mess with it? (answer: if you always do what you’ve always done….guess what you get?)
  2. See point one. It’s worth mentioning twice.
  3. It’s ok for things to be hard, and challenging. sometimes they will be emotionally challenging, too. And I have to let that be OK. Everything really tough for me in this sport has been the result of hard work and effort. This is no different
  4. Some day’s, no matter how much you love the sport, you’re just not gonna feel the love. Check the archives, it’s not the first time this has happened. Nobody loves everything all the time. Nobody, nothing.
  5. the last thought is one I come back to time and again, particularly when I hit a hurdle with technique stuff. Even elite athletes do technique training. People are people and nobody does it exactly right all the time. It takes work and practice and you need to make each and every little millimetres of your body and mind about muscle memory and good habits. I may feel like it’s a job that’s never done, but in reality that’s because it’s a job that’s never done.


Apparently we had one of these:












Oops! Sorry – I’ll make sure to follow the rules in future…no feeding the Mogwai after midnight, don’t get them wet…was there something else?

And if you never mention that last weird post again, neither will I!


Oh my. I think my eyes are a bit leaky. Must totally be an allergy or something. It couldn’t be this:

27th version of these. Someone cared enough to go through 26 different attempts at helping another living creature who needed it. And didn’t give up after one, or two, or 7 or 15 or 20, or 25….

In the immortal and eternally universally truthful words of Dory…Just keep swimming.

After writing the post about Jessie’s experiences at Saturday’s training, I checked in with Jessie before publishing to make sure I had it right and that she was ok with her experience being put out there into the universe (OK, the internet, but it’s kind of the same).
Her response was so great I thought it deserved its own post! So here it is…..
[I’m] happy for others to learn from my experience!
Thanks for being so nice about it, and thanks again for your help!!
If you want to add something from me I think the main thing I learnt is was to swim to how you’re feeling in the day.
I got pretty cocky with the big waves given that I grew up swimming on the surf coast in winter. I figured nothing Bondi could throw at me would be worse than Bells Beach in July.
BUT, I wasn’t feeling 100% on Saturday [and]wasn’t as comfortable in the water as I am normally, in hindsight I should have played it safer.
Did milk it for all it was worth on Saturday night though, by the end of the night the waves where 30ft, I was under for 2 minutes and you were aided in my rescue by some pro surfers paddling past.

It was a Saturday morning and the sea was angry. I wasn’t even supposed to be swimming today…it was supposed to be the first day of my advanced dive training, but the weather was so bad they pushed that back! So apparently, if the weather is too bad to dive, you go swimming instead! It was slightly better than last week – less stinging rain, for a start. We did a similar training session…swimming the channel from the Bondi flags to the new North Bondi Tower (pictured below on a better day a couple of weeks ago).

Not in any way indicative of the conditions on the day of training!

Not in any way indicative of the conditions on the day of training!

It was tough, but as usual on rough days it was actually a lot of fun and nowhere near as bad as it looked. We did have one go at getting out the back. I was swimming along and using all my best rough day swimming techniques. I was very focussed on getting under the big waves about the back (and it was pretty dark and scary underneath them!). I’d assumed that I was following someone as usual, and was swimming Nicole who has swum the last 2 winters with me. At some point I stopped and turned to Nicole to check….was there anyone actually ahead of us??? As the waves were pretty big, it took a few sets for us to get a clear view up ahead and we realised that there actually wasn’t. For the first time, we were int he lead and responsible for deciding when was a good point to turn around…everyone was following us! At that point, an extra big set came in and the waves were looking really big! the first couple were OK and we turned and started making our way in. Then a really nasty one came along. I jumped on it, to catch a bit of a ride in, and realised it was a bit rough and tumble…and that there were a few people being knocked around in there.

When we came up for air, one of our swimmers, Jessie…who was one of my mentees this year so it’s her first year swimming, had taken a bit of a knock. Nothing major, just been thrown around enough to give her a bit of a fright. We were still a fair way out so it was a bit of work to get back to the shore. Jessie, despite being a newer swimmer, did all the right things for the situation, and so did the swimmers around her.

Firstly, Jessie didn’t panic. Well, she might have a little…but didn’t go into that panicky behaviour that can get you into worse trouble out there. Second, she let people know that she wasn’t feeling great…and gave them the opportunity to help her out. a bunch of swimmers stuck around to make sure she was comfortable and supported as we slowly swum in, and to give plenty of warning as new waves approached…there’s nothing worse, when you’re already still a bit shaky from a wave, than to get slammed all over again!

The last thing Jessie did was to just keep swimming, She’s been doing this long enough now and is a good enough swimmer, to get herself out of trouble so long as she simply does what she’s been doing all along….swimming!

It’s really that simple. I loved that when we got back to shore, I asked Jessie how she was and she shrugged it off…and pointed out where she’d gone wrong. She’s taken it on board as another experience and learned from her mistake.

We all have the odd moment when we get a little frightened or unexpectedly knocked around. It’s your attitude and how you react, that  determine how that works out in the end.

I came across this article online. It really resonated with how I’ve experienced people react to learning about the sort of swimming I do.

The bulk of the article goes like this:

When open water swimmers tell others what they do, they often are the recipient of the following question:


Non-swimmers want to know why another human would subject themselves to swimming marathon distances, or in the cold water, or with sharks, or subject themselves to jellyfish stings, currents, and waves. Or why someone would willingly swim at night or without a wetsuit?

Why do you do that? Why would you do that? Why you?

And many times, swimmers cannot eloquently articulate why they swim in the open water. They know instinctively why, but it is hard to explain their motivations succinctly and clearly to non-swimmers. Tell another marathon swimmer that you are doing the English Channel and they say, “Great! When? Who is your pilot?” They don’t ask why. They instinctively know why.

In contrast, tell a non-swimmer that you are going to swim 20 miles in the cold ocean at night with sharks and jellyfish and they ask, “Why?” But even with a reply, non-swimmers remain puzzled. They often continue their inquiry of you, “Aren’t you scared? Worried? Won’t you be tired? Cold? Stung? Eaten?” In general, the risk-oriented response from non-swimmers is completely different from the approach of encouragement, support and wonder from swimmers. Instead of facing questions of why, swimmers face statements grounded in optimism from other swimmers whether the planned swim is 1 mile or 20.

I loved this. There’s a great video on there looking at the more philosophical general concept of “why”, but this article inspired me to think about why I do this sport.

I’ve gone into detail about the how and what the process was of finding myself in this sport, so here’s a list of my top 10 reasons why I do this crazy thing.

  1. Ocean swimmers are nice people. Most people get into it through charity events or programs, and it just doesn’t be the sort of activity that attracts dickheads!
  2. I keep surprising myself with what I can ask of my body and have it actually do.
  3. It’s different every single time you go out there. My attention span isn’t always that good, especially for exercise, and yet I’ve been doing this for 2 and a half years now without a break and I love it more than ever.
  4. Swimming is very meditative. Whether I’m pushing myself for a particular pace in the pool, focussing on a particular part of my technique in a drill, or fighting my way through big surf, swimming is an activity that is by nature very “in the moment”. You really can’t be stressing about the bills or that unfinished piece of work on your desk when you need to concentrate on fundamentals. Like breathing. And not drowning.
  5. As far as exercise goes, one where I don’t have to be hot and sweaty the whole time works pretty well for me.
  6. It keeps me out of the pub. (Most of the time.) I can’t imagine being in surf with a hangover and wold never do it to myself. Since I like swimming more than I like drinking, it’s a pretty simple choice, and one that makes me feel good and doubles the health benefits of the activity.
  7. I feel brave and strong and capable out there. I do something regularly that makes most people at least a little nervous.
  8. I feel a little smug sometimes. Especially in winter and in horrid weather. I don’t back down or hit snooze on the alarm clock. I get up and go to the beach and give it a go. I’ve pretty much never wished I’d stayed in bed, and some of those days have actually turned out to be the most fun and memorable.
  9. There are some pretty amazing things to see out there. A whole world under the water…rays and fish and aquatic plants and rock formations. Even just the light dappling the sand moving around with the water, and the breaking of the waves above you. It’s beautiful.
  10. I just love being in the water. It feels amazing…the weightlessness, the buoyancy, the gliding and the diving. It’s just a little bit like magic.

You know, in case you were wondering.


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