Category: aspirations


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!

Advertisements

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!

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.

Hey readers, sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been floored with the flu for the past week and haven’t managed to do much of anything at all.

In fact the closest I’ve come to swimming is watching Finding Nemo on DVD from under a doonah on my couch.

I’m feeling on the mend, today, and hoping to get back to training on Wednesday.

In the mean time, here’s someone else’s thrilling open water swimming story. It’s pretty inspirational and includes winning the event…something you’re unlikely to ever read about from me!

Back soon.

🙂

As I mentioned when I was writing about last Saturday’s training, winter is finally here..and that  means the new Icebreaker Challenge!
This year the rules have been tweaked a little this year….
The challenge runs from the 1st of June – 31st of August 2013.
You will earn points as follows:
  • 4 points – nude ocean swim ( aka no wetsuit ) with water temp under 20 degrees
  • 2 points – nude ocean swim ( aka no wetsuit ) with water temp over 20 degrees
  • 2 points – ocean swim in wetsuit with water temp under 20 degrees
  • 1 points – ocean swim in wetsuit with water temp over 20 degrees
  • 2 points – Icebergs Monday session with water temp under 20 degrees
  • 1 point –  Icebergs Monday session with water temp over 20 degrees
  • 1 point – Victoria Park Pool session.
Bonus points may be awarded by coaches for any swims deemed difficult or for acts of bravery or craziness.
You will qualify as an Icebreaker when you meet 20 points over the three month period of the challenge – and we will celebrate at the end of the challenge.

Last year I swam without a wetsuit whenever possible and ended up with loads of points. I wonder if that means I have a reputation to defend? Should I be setting myself a stretch goal? Or is that asking for trouble?

Regardless, it should be a good winter with the extra souls in the squad and a new challenge to keep me motivated!

Icebreaker!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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!

DSC_0039

DSC_0043

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….

 

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!

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: