Category: Amazing


Water Babies!

Water Babies!

These two cuties are my nieces. I think it’s fair to say I can safely assume they share my love of being in the water!

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I’ve been doing a bit of house-hunting lately. Sadly that seems to involve Saturdays which is a horrible clash with training. Someone should do something about that!

This weekend I wanted to attend an auction. I was cutting things a little fine, but figured I could still train…until my bike battery went flat and I had to do a tricky jump start to get me to see the helpful guys at Battery World Tempe instead. With that out of the way, and an unsuccessful auction behind me, my friend Steph and I decided there was nothing for it but a trip to the beach. She’s moving back to the States this week (despite me not so subtle hints that she should stay) and this was a last-for-a-while visit to Bondi.

Wowee! Bondi beach on a hot day on a long weekend is crazy-town! Let’s just say that there were a lot of people there. And all their friends and family.

The main Bondi flags section was particularly packed and there were no waves at all, so we headed for the North end. There was a cute little break running off the bank. Perfect for catching a long ride into the shore!

After a while, we retired to do the tourist thing and lay on our towels and read for a bit. It was different for me. As much time as I spend at the beach I really tend to send it in the water (or at the coffee shop afterwards), so lying on the sand to dry off is a bit of a novelty. Of course I realised the implications of this afterwards, in the locker room, when trying to dry off after a shower with a soggy sandy towel!

Anyway, it was a fabulous day, wrapped up with raw vegan cakes and icecream and a fitting farewell to my scuba buddy and all-round top-chick….

Super-Steph!

Super-Steph! Not actually from the October Long weekend….

See you in San Francisco!

This week was the latest in a line of gloriously sunny Saturdays. Sadly my camera is still out of action (probably dead) and I discovered after I arrived at the beach that my Garmin had a completely flat battery.

I love a good gadget, but Saturday’s swim was gadget free and technologically unfettered. I have to admit it was kind of nice to swim it out and not have to worry about fiddling with the camera or remembering to start the timer.

There were two choices for a swim today….point to point, or half of that and then some time back at the beach body-surfing. It was a tough call, as the water looked gorgeous out the back, but I’m pretty much always going to choose the latter if there are waves there worth surfing.

We’ve had a few days like this recently, and I really like the way they really show me one of the best things about this crazy bunch of people I swim with. We really love being in the water. We don’t have to be great athletes or super competitive (although that’s OK too) because even being out there enjoying the day, enjoying the waves, the water, the sunshine and being outside is enough.

How many other sporting groups out there hang around after training is finished, just for the sheer joy of doing some more?

So, the other day this happened.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 11.47.06 PMYes, you read that right. Probably the second time as you may have wondered what the hell it was you were looking at.

I’m equal parts petrified and excited (hint: a cr@pload of both) about this. I’ve been contemplating it for quite some time, and decided I needed to get in while the limited entries were open before I could back down or change my mind.

I’m unbelievably amazed by the fact that this is going to happen (and questioning my sanity in entering the non-wesuit category), and then trying to reassure myself with the fact that it’s not actually that cold (around 15 degrees Celsius) or actually that far (2.4km), It’s just the combination of those things that’s kind of freaking me out. And the jetlag. And the sharks (a myth to scare the prisoners, right?). My recent research Google search suggests that there are sharks in the bay, but not man-eating ones, and that there has never been a recorded attack on a person by a shark there. Whew!

So why would i do this to myself?

Well, apart from the California holiday I’m planning for myself after the event is done (assuming I survive!) I’m doing it as my goal swim. This year I’ll be mentoring a new long swim program for that brilliant bunch of crazies, Can Too.

If you happen to be in a position to join me, you can sign up on the Can Too website now.

If you’re not interested in swimming (very hard for me to believe!), you can still get on board and support my fundraising efforts via my Can Too Fundraising Link.

And wish me luck…escaping from Alcatraz!

Birthday Bliss

It was my birthday this week, and it was sensational. I wouldn’t normally mention it on here, but this year I’m hoping the Easter Claus Fairy (hedging my bets) brings me my latest object of lust, the recently announced Nikon 1 mirrorless waterproof.

I’m not sure exactly how I’d fit it down the front of my swimmers/wetsuit, but both my latest waterproof point and shoot and my DSLR are Nikons, and I love them both dearly, and the new release looks pretty damn awesome.

But seriously, the real reason I thought I’d mention it is that I took a couple of days off work to have myself a little “staycation” for my birthday this year. The day of my birthday was reasonably busy, but the day after I had to scoot over to Coogee to drop something off for a friend.

So what’a a girl to do? Pack the togs and go for a swim of course!

My brag text to my friends stuck at work.

My brag text to my friends stuck at work.

I have to admit, the water was a touch chilly, I was on my own, and pretty much nobody knew where I was, plus the waves were a touch on the wild side. So I played it safe. Well, safe-ish. I headed out just to the edge of the break and spent an hour or so body-surfing. Have to admit I was a little proud of being the only woman out there with the one serious body-surfer, the half-a-dozen late-teens daring each other to catch a wave (standing in the wrong spot and squealing like girls at the cold water), and a couple of surfers I suspect took a wrong turn and ended up at the wrong beach.

The waves were great, but unforgiving. If you hopped on in the wrong spot or didn’t quite catch it right…well, let’s just say I got dumped once, and tumbled even getting under waves a couple of times. You know what, though, the more time I spend swimming in the ocean, the more I’m convinced that one of the main differences between a good swimmer and one who struggles (not necessarily talking about fast and slow here) is their ability to not panic. It’s totally the worst thing you can do but totally the first thing you turn to if you rely entirely on instinct and not experience. A couple of winters swimming through have really shown me that every time I’ve been dumped and found myself a little anxious, within a second or so (if I’m really unlucky it might get up to 5 seconds or so) that pesky wave has broken, the white water passes, and you figure out which way is up. The air in your lungs pops you up like a cork, whether you’re thinking about it or not, and you fill your lungs with sweet, free air. Easy!

No guarantees you'll have glamorous hair afterwards, though!

No guarantees you’ll have glamorous hair afterwards, though!

Saturday lunch with the successful Icebreakers was lovely, but the day wasn’t entirely beer and skittles. Or wine and pasta, as it were.

Seems there was another horribly atrocious difficult, challenging, bad-wather swim beforehand.

Or not!

OK,  it may not have been the most challenging session ever, but we did do enough to earn our lunch, nonetheless. The set consisted of ins and outs. These sorts of sets are great for a number of things. They’re pretty good cardio workouts, they’re great when the conditions aren’t suitable for longer swims, and they are fantastic for developing the skills you need at the start and the finish of an ocean swim race.

At their simplest, they involve just what you’d expect…in the water, out of the water. Repeat.

I think my Garmin map for Saturday shows we did a pretty good job of that. What do you reckon?

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 10.34.59 PM

Winter swimming. Even in this conducive climate, most people think us ocean swimmers are nutters for heading out there every weekend (at least), rain, hail, shine and frosty water temperatures.

Well, there are a whole lot of reasons we do it (hint: it’s awesome!) but for me, one of the most stunning things about winter swimming is the water clarity.

A lot of it comes down to a couple of reasons:

  • Hardly any tourists out there stirring up sand etc
  • Hardly any tourists on the beach leaving their rubbish and crap to be washed into the water
  • Non-breeding season for all our ocean-dweeling friends like jellyfish and fish and sea grasses etc

It’s a bit hard to describe just how beautiful it is to swim in that water. Especially on those crisp, clear, sunny winter days. It’s also pretty hard to photograph faithfully, although I know I’ve certainly tried.

Luckily for everyone, there are better photographers out there than me. One of the best, in my opinion, is the talented Bondi resident eugene Tan of Aquabumps. On top of taking the kind of photos I’d possibly trade a limb or a family member to take, he has some great techniques he uses to great advantage. Like taking aerial photos of Bondi to stunning effect. I’m a bit of an addict of his daily email, but Wednesday’s really struck me as a brilliant example of just how clear that water is out there.

Do yourself  a favour and head over to check it out.

Stuff like this:

AquaBumps – one of my photography idols

Now tell me that doesn’t make you want to jump in for a swim.

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….

 

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.

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