Archive for May, 2013


Well, that was quite a cliffhanger, wasn’t it? Sorry – the post was getting out of hand and I wanted to give you all something to read around here!

So here goes the rest of the story.

I hopped in the water straight off the boat…Bel swam in and we did a high-five to tag half way and then I started swimming.

First thing I noticed was that the water was a great temperature. It was pretty windy and cold on the boat, but it was beautiful in the water…I’d say a touch above 20 degrees or so, which I think is perfect for racing in.

I did find the boat entry a little strange. Probably just because I’ve never done it before in a race. I didn’t think too much about it beforehand, as I’ve spent a bit of time on boats and dived off them, but I think it was really just a bit of a psychological thing. I’m used to entering and getting a feel for the water…usually with a warm up to acclimatise and calm the nerves, and and settled in  then the actual beach start. I did find myself feeling a little anxious as I struggled to find my pace. I think jsut not having that other stuff to think about and having to get straight into it.

Soon enough, though, I found my rhythm and settled in for a long swim.

The water was cloudy and deep, so there wasn’t much to see at all under the surface. the view to the left, though, was another story. Words really don’t do justice how gorgeous this course is. The cliffs are stunning and there are two picturesque lighthouses.

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After I settled into a rhythm following those few inital anxious moments, the next 4kms or so were just great. I felt good and strong and  happy with my pace. I was sneaking peeks to the left checking out the view and to the right making sure the boat and I were still inseparable friends. I found myself in a bit of a zone, actually, of just me and the swim, thinking about technique and trying to keep it on track, making small adjustments to the course and to my swim, and trying to keep up a consistent pace.

At about the 4km mark my shoulders started feeling a little tired. I’d made it to the heads, and the currents meant I had to swim harder to stay on track, and that lovely southerly swell that had so generously pushed me along up the coast now deserted me. I also suspected I had swum a little wide out around the heads. I could see a bit of chop and swell and waves breaking at the point, and had deliberately planned on swimming a little wide, but I felt like I had overdone it (and the GPS later confirmed this to be true).

As we rounded the headland I had an initial surge of (false) hope as I spotted camp cove and thought I was nearly done. It didn’t last long as I realised that I still have further to swim.

It was becoming increasingly obvious, too, that the swim was going to be longer than the 5km I had signed up for…and trained for.

I was pretty right up to about 5.5km. Things started to get quite stressful for our little team. There was a lot of boat traffic around that area and they were all oblivious to a swimmer in the water. I couldn’t see any of this, but the team on the boat saw some vessels heading right towards me in the water. they then tried to wrangle me in closer to the shore to keep me safe.

I, on the other hand, could see under the water that we were getting into shallows territory and that there were some big rocks that could have caused some problems, so I was trying to head out deeper.

A few hairy moments there, but luckily nothing went wrong on either count.

After about the 5.5km mark I definitely started feeling it.  hadn’t trained for this distance and it was the furthest I’d ever swum. My shoulders were aching and I was feeling dead tired.

then we passed the point and suddenly we were in the bay! Bel hopped back in the water to swim into the sailing club together. we stopped and got clearance from water safety to cross the ferry path, and negotiated the two buoys, and then the finish line was in sight!

I normally get a little sprint up at this point in a race. Any fuel left in the tank should be used to put the pedal to the metal. Today though, I was (to continue the metaphor) running on fumes. I kept pace but couldn’t find it in me to sprint to the end.

As we got closer to the slipway and the finish line banner we could start to hear the cheers. One awesome thing about this type of finish was that we could actually see people to either side on the jetty to the right and on either side of the slipway. I spotted some familiar faces amongst the cheers and it made my heart glad.

Then finally, 4 hours and 12 minutes from Bel’s strong start from the beach at Bondi, we crossed the finish line together at Watsons Bay.

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I may have been tired and sore, but all the supporters  there, their cheers and smiles, coach Kingy who I squarely credit for teaching me all the decent stuff I do when I swim looking proud as punch, and Mr Nemo taking photos at the finish line, and the sense of achievement…well…I can’t remember ever being happier!

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After months of planning and preparation and training, the day of my 2013 goal event – the South Head Roughwater – had finally arrived.

I woke up easily – the nerves got me up and going without even pressing the snooze button.

Best news of all was that the weather was looking bloody fantastic! I checked approximately 74 gazillion weather and surf reports, and all signs were pointing to conditions being ideal…a southerly swell to push us up the coast, and a change of tide around the right time to push us around the heads. Brilliant!

I had done all my packing and preparation the night before, so the morning was devoted to breakfast….scrambled eggs with plenty of white bread toast. As I was doing the second leg and therefore wouldn’t be swimming for a couple of hours, I really tucked in to get those carbs into my system, without having to worry about digesting in time.

Then I dressed and grabbed my gear. I picked up Ronene and headed off towards Rose Bay where I was due to meet the boat and then head around (giving me a nice preview of the course) to meet Bel at Bondi.

I managed to take wrong turns 3 times on the way to Bondi. You know, that place I drive to every single weekend. I may have been nervous.
Boat_rose_bay
At Rose Bay we met Bel and her sister Karen and Brother-in-law Simon who were to be our crew for the day. I hopped on the boat and Ronene then took Bel in my car to the start line at Bondi.

We set off around the headland. I was looking backwards off the boat, checking out the course and looking for things to sight off during my swim, so it was a great opportunity to get a sneak peek of what I was in for.

That process of concentrating on something was also a good distraction from the fact that I was feeling pretty nauseous at that point…I really don’t get seasick, so I think it was all down to nerves.

It took us about 40 minutes to get around to Bondi…the fleet of support boats was easy to spot…and completely chaotic! Luckily the marine rescue guys knew what they were doing so we were soon checked in and had our team number 51 registered as there. We stayed outside the main area since there were about 60 soloists that would be clearing the area in the first wave, figuring we would move in a bit closer after there was a bit more room. Only about a dozen duos were registered, so that turned out to be an advantage. Still, I couldn’t believe just how difficult it was. There were boats everywhere. I think when you’re the one swimming, it’s such a different visual perspective. Since you’re head-high out of the water, everything seems larger than lie. When you’re the one on the boat, everything in the water seems smaller.

Then, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably closer to 20 minutes (from when we arrived there) we spotted our fearless first-leg swimmer Bel…looking strong and powering through the water.

DSCN0702Once we cleared the flotilla, which happened surprisingly quickly, it was time to settle in and let Bel just swim.

She looked amazing in the water, strong and consistent. The sights were absolutely worth seeing as we settled into a routine of keeping the boat close to Bel in the water.

Meanwhile I was in the boat. It was quite cool, but I was well rugged up. I had a million types of supplies with me, but really stuck to water and coconut water, and a couple of jelly beans. I was tracking Bel’s progress via Garmin and we had bright signs to hold up as we passed each kilometre.

Bel did a fantastic job, coming in at pretty much the same time as her pool swim, and she swam what looks to me like a pretty good course.

SHRW - BelThen, before I knew it, it was time for me to switch over. I figured it was too late to pull out now, so geared up and jumped out of the boat into the water.

Watch this space for part two….

 

T minus one day til the big event!

The nerves were still bothering me, but I knew what I needed to to…

Go for a swim.

I think I’ve written here before about my very favourite thing about ocean swimming. It’s that moment when you dive under your first wave of the swim. All of a sudden it’s quiet. All the chatter, the excitement on the beach catching up with friends, the crashing of the waves…all of that just goes quiet and it’s just me and the water.

It was a bit of a challenging day, the Saturday sessions lately have been really flat and full of destination swims. Not today. The waves were big and messy and the only thing for it was a good session of ins and outs.

Just what I needed!

The thing about a day like that, is you need to be really focussed or you’re going to get cleaned up by a wave. You need to be looking ahead, watching the sets roll in, getting under them, and then straight back up looking for the next one and hoping to get a few strokes underway in between so you make some forward progress.

I didn’t take my camera out, figuring it’d be too difficult to take pictures under the circumstances, but I did get to try out the Garmin 910 I’ve generously got on loan for tomorrow’s event. I mentioned it when I did my follow-up review of my Garmin Forerunner 10, but I just like I need to say again…that thing is awesome. It’s so on my birthday list!

I came out after only the first session (no double-ups for me today on taper) feeling much calmer than  I had gone in. My realisation? It’s just swimming. Tomorrow might be swimming a long way, but it’s just swimming, and I can do that.

Try not to laugh too hard at the pace...it was rough and I was on taper!

Try not to laugh too hard at the pace…it was rough and I was on taper!

Friday night. T minus two days to the big event.

Around Wednesday the forecast for race day was looking like it was a worst case scenario. 3.5m waves….a very scary prospect. Up until that point, I’d been feeling reasonably ok with the event. I knew it was going to be tough, but I wasn’t scared about it. Seeing that forecast, though, the butterflies swooped straight to my stomach and set up camp there for the duration. Bel and I exchanged a few text messages and some of them may have contained swear words….

By the night of the briefing, the forecast had improved slightly, but it was still looking as though race day was going to be a battle. On top of the nerves from that, and all the questions running through my mind that I was hoping would be answered at the compulsory briefing, my motorbike broke down as I headed home from work! Luckily it was close enough that I could walk home, grab my car, and leg it up to Watsons Bay Hotel just in time to make the briefing.

The briefing itself was good. Answered most of the questions that had been buzzing around my head…in case you’re interested, the answers were:

  • Solos start at 9, duos at 9:10 and teams at 9:20
  • There will be 2 white marine rescue boats providing support, plus the organiser’s boat.
  • A sign on the boat with the team number is mandatory and needs to be sighted and registered with one of the support boats before the swimmer will be allowed to proceed to that boat and on with the race.
  • For duos/teams, anyone who isn’t starting from the beach can be on the boat.
  • Swimmers must stop and check in with marine rescue at camp cove before crossing the ferry path.
  • The finish line was clarified as the surf club causeway.

We also received our lucky team number – 51, and our fetching hot pink caps for duos….

BelJacki Briefing

 

Apparently, if you imagine our hands as fluffy ears, the caps look like koala faces!

Then it was home for another pre-race alcohol-free high-protein early-to-bed exciting evening!

Ah Wednesday night technique sets. Nothing gives me more insight into what I’m doing to make things more difficult for myself. Luckily there’s also nothing wrong with the idea of getting faster, or better, or being able to swim further with no extra input of energy.

This Wednesday we were focussing on kicking.

I don’t know if I’ve done much on here about kicking. As a general rule, in endurance swimming, kicking isn’t a major component of our swim technique. If you watch shorter distance sprinters swim, you’ll see some crazy 6- and 8-beat kick rhythms that really are part of propelling the swimmer through the water. With endurance event, though, we tend to aim for a 2-beat kick. The reason for this, as I understand it, is that the muscles we use in our legs to kick are large, and therefore use a lot of energy compared to the amount of propulsion you get in return. Your arms, in contrast, have a much better return on investment of energy. In a sprint this is OK, but for endurance events, it just means you wear out quicker.

That being said, bad kicking technique can have implications for other parts of your stroke. And I stand up and am the first to admit that I have bad kick technique.

In fact, I use the photo below as my Facebook cover photo. It’s a great photo, which is why I use it, but I have to confess that every time I look at it I cringe a little at my bent knee…I’ve added lines in to show what I’m talking about….

knee bend

Ideally, that knee should be pretty much straight. More like the lovely example below…

Much Better

The good news is, that there are some really good drills you can do to work on your kick. We did one before we even got in the water. There was a set of stairs leading up from the pool to the grassed sitting area, and we did some practice of good kicking technique with one leg standing on the step sideways, and the other swinging clear. This was great for the coaches to be able to check technique and for us to feel what good kicking feels like (engaging the glutes!).

We did various other drills in the pool using fins, and focussing on pointing our toes and not bending our knees. I did feel like it really helped improve my kicking technique (although it will take some time to embed that as a good habit), and as an added bonus, I found that the improved kick helped with my biggest technical challenge -my body position in the water. I tend to have to fight very hard to keep my legs and lower body from sinking down below the surface, and therefore creating unnecessary drag. Working on my kick noticeably improved that, so it’s doubly useful!

I get a lot of traffic here from people looking at my review of my Garmin Forerunner 10. For the full review, please click on the link and go read that first, but a few months on, I have a few more insights to offer, so I thought I’d add this follow-up post.

First point I’d like to make is that I have a couple of friends who also purchased this product and have given it a go swimming. I seems the issue with calculating the distances is worse than I initially thought, and that everyone I know who has one of these experiences the same thing. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to it at all.

The rest of the points I’m going to mention are because of the fact that I recently borrowed a generous friend’s Garmin 910. That watch, although quite a bit more expensive is worth every penny. The distances were detailed and spot on and could more sharply contrast with the forerunner 10.

I also loved the haptic feedback of the watch vibrating when it found the satellite and if it lost it. One of the main problems I have with my Garmin is that I switch it on to find the satellite, and then forget to hit start. This is completely not an issue with the 910. I also loved the extra features of the 910 in how it understands swimming, including your stroke rate.

So, sorry to my poor old Forerunner 10, I think I’ll be passing you on to a runner who might appreciate you more than I do, and adding a 910 to my birthday list.

Saturday training was another glorious day. After extending our swims around the south end over the last couple of weeks, Coach Zoe decided it was time to take it to the natural conclusions and swim from Bondi, around to Tamarama and back.

Brilliant! It’s been about a year since I last did this swim, and I have come a long way with my swimming since then. Last time I did it, I kind of struggled, ended up swimming by myself most of the way, and was so tired by the time I got there I hopped out and walked back along the path to Bondi.

Here was my chance….

Except not. Unfortunately, although I rarely make to many plans for Saturdays around swim time, I had a birthday lunch to get to. I’d figured it would be OK, since I needed to start tapering on my training anyway before next weekend’s big swim. Anyway, it takes longer than the standard hour (for me at least) to swim there and back, so today was not going to be my day. Ah well, there’s always another day…I’m sure my chance will come around again.

Not that it meant there was no swimming fun to be had. I swam out with the group to the point where we regrouped. I then headed in with some of the newer swimmers who weren’t yet feeling up for such a long swim, and we stuck together as a group and swam in towards the South end of Bondi.

Proving that the ocean always offers something different, we swam over a massive school of fish. I don’t mean a lot of fish swimming around, but literally a horizontal wall of medium sized grey fish, clumped together and stretched out for metres and metres. I managed one snap…it’s not a great one, sorry, but you can kind of see just the sort of density of wildlife I’m talking about.

After the initial puzzlement of trying to figure out what was going on, we all stopped just to have a look at the mass of life below the surface. They seemed completely unperturbed by us, and soon enough we set off towards the beach, and the school of fish continued on to wherever they were headed.

I love that the ocean can still floor me with awe and wonder, even after nearly 3 years of swimming in it as much as I can. It feels more like an adventure than a sport, sometimes, and that’s one of the many reasons I love it.

Tuesday’s pacing session was a good one. I hadn’t dropped as much as I’d thought (I’ve been focussing on distance, rather than speed lately, for obvious reasons) and it was good to get into that rhythm and focus on pacing. Less than two weeks out to the goal swim, it was nice to stretch out and remind myself what pace feels like,   what going hard feels like, and what tired feels like. I’m pretty damn sure those things are all going to be very important next Sunday.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I had attended a Tuesday session, and it was a pretty busy session, with quite a lot of swimmers. It really highlighted to me the importance of good lane etiquette. Lane etiquette makes things run much more smoothly and everyone can get on and do their thing and get a good workout. With many swimmers in a lane, even if they’re supposedly keeping to a particular pace each, you do get differences in speed and in pace. Some people swim faster or more variably or more consistently, and it really brought home that the etiquette is there for a reason, and that the reason is that it works.

My personal favourite guide to lap swimming etiquette in general is via this link that I’m reasonably certain i’ve put up before. If I haven’t, I should have. It’s an excellent general set of guidelines for if you’re new to pool swimming, particularly lap swimming.

What it does say is spot on. However these were written with straight up lap swimming involved, and I suspect they were based on random strangers making the best of self-regulating in public lap swimming.

 

Pacing sessions, on the other hand, are similar but different. Pretty much all of the general rules apply but there is the added complexity of the “rest” (in inverted commas because most of the time those seconds are the shortest 10-15 seconds of your life)periods at various points in the set.

My additional tips (my personal option only as usual) for these sets are based on the things that I know really work, because the squad I swim with are pretty good at these things, and our coaches believe in enforcing the same principles as they really make things easier and better for everyone.

So Jacki’s extra rules for pacing sessions are….

  1. Start with the basics. All the general etiquette for lap swimming still applies.
  2. Keep to the plan. The coaches devise a set and if everyone sticks to it, the faster swimmers head off first, if there’s a spread they may end up passing hte back of hte pack, but it shouldn’t happen more than needed.
  3. That includes the rest periods. In my experience, pretty much everyone gets the hang of the swimming part quite easily. the first big challenge is in the rest periods of 10 or 15 seconds. I understand it…you’ve been swimming hard, and if it’s near the end of the set you’ve been doing that for quite some time. It’s really tempting to take a few seconds extra to recover. And a few more, and a few more again. Problem is, if everyone starts doing their own thing here, the order gets all out of whack. Nobody wants to get to the end of their lap, have the person in front still resting when you’re due to take off again, and have them pass you…every. freaking. lap.
  4. On that note, either get a watch you can wear in the water and read, or learn how to read the clock. I get why this is hard. The more tired I get the less capable I am of even counting, let alone calculating lap times. It’s not really that complicated, though, and generally you have somewhere in the vicinity of 50-100m metres to think about it. Even I, at my most stuffed, can work out my start time plus 2 minutes….
  5. Listen to the coach. It’s kind of related to point 4…in that if I have enough of a hard time counting as I get tired, I don’t need to be worrying about trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing next. Let alone disrupting the swimmers around me by stopping them to ask them. OK – I admit I’m not always 100% good at this…but I’m trying!
  6. Other than that…common sense is always a good idea. In life, the universe and everything. But especially in swimming.

 

If you’ve arrived here without part one of this post, you can read it here. the upshot is that Bel and I were at the pool, down to the wire, to see how we would go swimming 5km in one go as a final deal-maker or -breaker before entering as a duo in the South Head Roughwater.

The event has a cutoff – 5 hours.If the team can’t complete the race in that amount of time, they will be recorded as a “DID NOT FINISH”. That’s a long swim to record a “DID NOT FINISH” so, as you can imagine, we really don’t want that to happen. My goal for this pool swim was to complete the distance in under 2 hours…just to give us plenty of wiggle room (plus Bel is quicker than me) to account for conditions on the day.

I wore my Timex, which will record up to 50 splits. This had the double advantage of keeping track of how many laps I’d done (I get bad at counting the more tired I get), and collecting the times for each of those laps. And if you know me, you’ll know I love data nearly as much as I love to swim.

And my favourite thing to do with data is? Put it in a spreadsheet! Chart it! Analyse it!

So that’s what I did. Click on the chart below to get the full view of how the swim went, numbers and commentary (otherwise known as the little voice in my head when I swim) combined.

 

5km chartAs for the time I swam? 1 hour, 59 minutes and 4 seconds! I did it!

Bel and I finished up with a coffee and getting our entry in. Seems it’s all going to actually happen!!!! I’m equal parts excited and scared, but looking forward to the challenge.

The bit I haven’t really touched on too much is that this is all for a good cause (other than providing your reading material). If you’d like to support the valiant efforts of Cure Cancer Australia you can help me reach my fundraising goal here.

 

Exactly 2 weeks out from the South Head Roughwater. Crunch time.

Since the end of last season I’d been thinking about pushing myself a bit further and the Coogee To Bondi 5km kept popping  into my head as the event to do it. By the start of the season I’d decided that I wanted to train for the event, and that’s exactly what I did. Double-up sessions back to back , and keeping focussed on consistently training 5-6 times a week.

I was doing pretty well and on track to be ready when in February, 8 weeks out, the website advised the event was postponed with an alternate date to be announces. A bit later this changed to the event being cancelled altogether for the year.

Nooooo

After the initial disappointment (eventually) wore off, I put my mind to finding a plan B. There are not many long course ocean swims around, and there was only one that was even as a possibility…doing the South Head Roughwater as a duo. That’s 10km total from Bondi to Watson’s Bay.

southheadmap

This, however,  presented a couple of challenges.

      1. I needed a partner to swim with me. Someone who was a good enough and fit enough swimmer to do the distance, but who wouldn’t be put off by my slower pace.
      2. To even enter this event, you need a support boat. It’s in the rules.

Proving, once again, that wine really does solve everything, a conversation at the post-season Can Too Mentors and Captains celebratory drinks resulted in a plan. Team BelJack was formed as Bel S and I agreed to swim as a duo, and we brainstormed a couple of support boat options. Right before we solved all the rest of the problems of the world. 😉

Fast forward to this weekend. We have our boat and driver (pilot? Captain?) confirmed, but have put off actually taking that step and entering our team. Whilst I’ve done plenty of longer swims and double-ups whenever I’ve raced this season, I actually hadn’t done the full 5km distance and I really wanted to get that under my belt before I could feel really confident that I’d be able to do the event. With that in mind we had talked about doing a 5km pool swim. Initial discussions had involved doing this at the Icebergs pool as it’s ocean water and same temperature as the ocean. Seems our choice of days was poor, though, as it was the launch of the winter season there and they throw ice-block in the pool for a penguin swim!

Des Renford

It seems we needed a Plan B to train for our Plan B.

Instead we headed to Des Renford Outdoor pool, where we were lucky enough to secure a lane each to ourselves.

So how did we go? How did I go? What time did I do? And what was that inner voice up to all that time in the water?

Watch this space for part 2 where all your questions (and some you haven’t even thought of yet) will be answered.

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