Category: Can Too


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!

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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.
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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….

 

The Bondi Bluewater seems to have been a long time coming this year.

Originally it was slated to be the 1km and 2km Can Too goal swim in February. There was some sort of problem with the council so it was rescheduled for later, only to have it postponed again due to poor weather and conditions.

The thing is, this race is to support the Bondi surf club (as opposed to the North Bondi Surf club who run other Bondi events). So this is to support the amazing men and women who volunteer their Saturdays all summer to provide the all-important water safety for the Can Too swim program. So even though the Easter Sunday swim wasn’t the most convenient, I was still very keen to do this event.

Since there was a combo entry to this with a previous event, I have also been entered forever to double up. However, when Sunday actually rolled around, I was (due to an insane number of things packed into my Easter) kind of exhausted. I did manage to drag myself out of bed, but took an executive decision with myself to bail out of the earlier 1km event, and show up for the 2.1km long course.

Once I arrived at the beach, it was, well, a little somber. The usual buzz and atmosphere of an ocean swim event was a bit lacking, and numbers were definitely down. To add to that, it was a little overcast and grey.

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But you know, it was home turf and once in the water, all was right with the world.:-)

I’ll start with the water temperature….it was just perfect!

The water was clear, and there were a few little rolling waves into the shore for a nudge at the end, but no sign of chop or anything too tricky at all.

The race was well organised and the course was clearly marked, and the fruit and water set-up at the end of the race was excellent.

I raced, well, OK. Not bad, and last season I would have been happy with my time. this year, however, a little quicker might have been possible, but there are a few events left on the calendar for me to see what I can do about finishing the season with a PB.

A very good effort from Bondi surf club, though, despite all the challenges…well done!!

 

I woke up on Sunday, and it could not have been brighter or better!

After the…errr…challenging conditions at the first Can Too Goal swim at Palm Beach, it was brilliant to see the sun shining, the tiny shore breakers the only waves lapping at the beach, and the smiles more common than furrowed brows on the orange-clad sea of Can Too swimmers buzzing on the beach.

As for the race, well the water was clear and the course was well marked. The main thing of note with the race was just how crowded it felt out there. In particular, in the 1km the wave start I was in was men and women 30-39. In a race this size that was a lot of people. It felt like you were swimming and being jostled the whole way along. I twas hard to overtake, and it felt like you were being pushed from all sides as faster swimmers passed. In the 2km this was slightly improved as they split the start group by gender, but it was still a big group. And it still felt super crowded out there. I’m normally a fan of not stretching the start times out too far (Cole Classic anyone?) so that the water safety people don’t have to be out there for hours, and people aren’t having to wait too long on the beach at the start and the end, but I did really feel this race went to the other extreme.

Other than that, though, the races were great. The water was clear and there was minimal swell.

As usual for me lately, I got no joy out of the 1km race. I’ve just been working too much on distance to have any idea how to sprint…and it was never my strong point in the first place. I seem to also overthink it…worrying about whether I’m going too hard so I’ll lose it in the longer race and then worrying I’m going too slow and don’t need to. then somehow I do these completely rubbish times.

The 2km, as usual for me lately, was a sheer delight. I felt good and strong and kept a fairly good line and came out with a PB for that distance even if you account for the fact that the course was a little short.

I’ve added the GPS maps for each race below…and thought it’d be interesting to add the 1km from a couple of weeks ago…just to show that a 1km course isn’t always the same thing…even at the same beach only a  couple of weeks apart!

Ah, ocean swimming, my passion, my joy and keeper of my sanity.

I love it so much, and think that if everyone did it the world would be a happier place 🙂

But how do you get started if you don’t already do it?

You can read my personal story over at my How did I get here?” page but the short version of the story is that there are a few different ways the people I swim with have gotten into it.

  1. Can Too Swim programs seem to be a pretty big part of it. It’s how I started and a lot of my friends  There’s a lot of crossover here in Sydney with coaches and captains and mentors and water safety people involved in the Can Too Programs, but also in more regular swimming groups. It’s a well structured program that begins with the basics and builds up skills and confidence to the end point of a goal race…and is definitely enough for many, many people to catch the swimming bug!
  2. Follow on programs from Can Too. This year 4SEASons is offering the 4SEASons 8 week Coogee Wedding Cake Island Swim Program that starts this week. If you’re reading this and thinking you’ve missed out on Can Too but would like to start now…here’s your chance! I cannot recommend this group highly enough for anyone who is or wants to be an ocean swimmer.
  3. Friends of friends. Goodness knows there is enough to chatter about with ocean swimming, and if you get a few of us together out of the water the excitement can be contagious. I’ve certainly roped at least one sister and a few friends into giving it a go…and nobody has regretted it yet!
  4. Some swimmers have been involved in the sport forever, too…they may have lived by the beach growing up and/or been involved in Nippers, or surf lifesaving or swim squad at school. You can always tell these people as they seem to take to the sport like….well….a fish to water!

So there are plenty of paths to the water! If you’re thinking about it, you should do it!

There was bad news and good news on Saturday. the bad news was that there’s no more Can Too training for the season. The good news was that lots of Can Too swimmers showed up to do the 4SEASons swim on Saturday morning. I’m certain the 9am start, and the title sleep-in it allow for helped! As did the looming goal event for those doing the 1km and/or 2km the next day at the North Bondi Classic.

Above all, the good weather stuck around, giving us a glorious day for getting in the water. The sun was shining and there were even pods of dolphins swimming in the bay! I was hoping they might come over for a bit of a closer look at the crazy humans thinking they could swim (it’s happened once before), but for today we had to be satisfied with watching them from a distance.

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We swam a medium distance, with a slightly shorter session. This was for the benefit of those really wanting to save their best for tomorrow’s race. There is benefit to a bit of a taper in training if you have a big event you want to do your best at. It means you’re going into the event at your peak, not tired or sore from training. As a general rule, you don’t gain any extra fitness in your last two weeks of training, and hopefully by then any tweaks to technique are well and truly embedded, so it’s a matter of eating well, not drinking too much, and doing any last emotional and psychological preparation you need to. Keeping up your presence in the water is part of that, and I have to say, it was a pretty easy task on a day as lovely as Saturday. Especially with the return to beach training of the truly-inspiring Fiona!

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On Friday afternoon it started raining. Really raining. I really don’t have a problem with swimming in the rain (see: Palm to Whale swim), but I was at work, travelling on the bike and didn’t have my wet-weather gear with me. It would have been a pretty miserable ride to Bondi and an even more miserable ride home putting on wet clothes…so I bunked off. As did everyone apart from the coach and two other swimmers. Can’t say I’m even sorry…

Saturday morning, however, there was no way I was going to miss. Even though it was still raining. Although it was the final Can Too session, it was definitely the roughest day we’d had this season, and i had plenty of messages and emails asking about whether we were still on. About the point I was heading ot bed, I thought I would head the queries off at the pass and sent of an email to my mentor group letting them know that there’s always training on.

So many people don’t get it, don’t get training in suboptimal weather, cooler water, rain, or anything other than what we grow up with thinking of as “beach” weather.

Well, have I got news for you.

Revelations galore.

  1. Big surf is where you learn to handle…ummm…big surf. Practise makes perfect and all that. I talk a bit about how to deal with rough conditions on here, so it may surprise you to know that it was definitely not something that came easily to me. There was a really lot of hard work and two winters worth of swimming in tough conditions to make me comfortable and confident. then one day you turn around and realise that you have somehow become one of those crazy people who enjoy the rougher conditions. And you’re not entirely sure how that happened!
  2. Once you get in, you pretty much never notice whether it’s raining or not. OK, there have been one or two days I’ve trained where it was raining so hard that I couldn’t see the waves coming at me. but that’s a different thing altogether and I’m really just talking here about the sort of weather that you might think gives you an excuse for a sleep in…not a national emergency!
  3. I know you’re going to be dubious here…but whether you believe it or not, the truth is, those crazy surf days tend to be some of the most fun you will ever have. Overcoming your fears, discovering the joys of surfong a big wave, getting through to the back and realising how beautiful it is out there, and skipping the whole tourist crowds….those are only the beginning. I wouldn’t have believed it from anyone else a couple of years ago….but it’s true, regardless. It just is.
  4. As evidence, there was a particular Can Too person who posted about assuming training would be off and organising an alternative pool session. A certain mentor may have kind of done a bit of a guilt trip. And they came along. AND LOVED IT!!!!
  5. A good coach is never going to do anything crazy or dangerous. Yes it was rough, so we put our efforts into embedding some of those roughwater skills. “Hold the line” was a good example. We spent a good part of the session standing in one spot, well within wading depth, in a long line. the goal was to stay where you were, despite the waves rolling in. We had to learn to dive under those waves, stay down long enough to not get dragged backwards, and get under early enough. I can’t even tell you how many people told me how much they’d learned. Simple focus on one particular skill. It should never be underestimated. *One day I’ll fill you in on how I mastered these skills in detail….but the short version is that it was one little thing at a time.

so…don’t be scared….have a little faith. That’s where things really start to make sense: outside the comfort zone.

All good things must come to an end. Apparently.

Sad as it it, last Wednesday was the final training session for the 2012-13 swim groups, including the inaugural Andrew Boy Charleton pod. the good news is….we made it!!!!

It has been such an immense pleasure sharing this amazing experience with my mentor group, friends old and new, my entire pod, and all the people who have come along on Saturdays to the Bondi sessions. It makes my heart so glad to see people come to love the sport that makes me so happy, and see them do and achieve amazing and challenging things.

We did a bit of a training session, although a bit shorter than usual as we are officially on the “taper” now. And then the all important final event.

A Relay! With Pool noodles! My only sadness for the day was that I’ve been having camera issues (yes, again…). There were some magnificent performances and techniques, although I’m going to go ahead and call it that the highlight was seeing Tri coach Gordo complete his leg doing butterfly!

Thanks to all my amazing Can Too friends, this season has truly been a blessing and an amazing experience. I look forward to seeing you all at Bondi on the 10th…on for amny of you I hope you’ve caught the bug enough that I’ll see you at future sessions and races and beyond!

I wrote a bit of a long post yesterday about the Palmy to Whale, and realised I spent a bit of time comparing it to last year. It did set off a bit of a lightbulb moment for me, that although I didn’t have this blog at the time, I did write about it. I sent out a race report to a bunch of people at work who supported me while I was training and raising money.

With only minor effort, I managed to dig up the report, so thought it might be interesting as a bit of a comparison!

If you’re even slightly interested….here it is (completely unedited apart from the comments with the asterisks and italics):

Hi everyone,

There have been so many generous people who have been supportive of my crazy swimming activities over the past months who have been wanting to know how it all finished up, so I thought I’d put together a little wrap up!

For those of you who might not have seen exactly what has been involved, here’s a little summary….

Since the start to November I’ve been training with Can Too, topping up with my regular squad training, doing a few(!) races to prepare for a goal swim, and even getting out under my own steam on occasion over the holidays. You know I’m a stats girl, so here they are:

  • 10 – Thursday Can Too Pool sessions
  • 9 – Saturday sessions at Bondi with Can Too (that’s 9 Friday nights wine-free!)
  • 8 – Tuesday squad sessions in the pool
  • 5 – Friday squad sessions at Bondi….admittedly a nice way to finish up the working week!
  • 2 – sessions under my own steam

And 6 races (make that 7 by next week), including my amazing goal swim last Sunday at the Macquarie Big Swim – Palm Beach to Whale beach.

And most importantly I’ve raised (to date) $1600 for Cure Cancer Australia to fund research into projects trying to, well, Cure Cancer. (It’s not too late if you still wanted to get in, as I’m participating in another event this Sunday. Click here if you’re keen) *Updated with 2012-13 fundraising page link in case you’re keen*

As for the big swim, for those of you who have been asking, here’s my Race Report!

Let me start by saying I’m not that good a swimmer. I’m actually pretty slow when it comes down to. I have too short a stroke and I may have squandered my 20s and a good chunk of my 30s drinking wine and working too hard and not doing anywhere near enough exercise. The good news is that a year ago a was an atrocious swimmer, and I’ve worked my way to just slow. What I do have going for me, though, is that I’m stubborn (I know, you’re shocked, right?). I keep going no matter what. Even when I’m tired and even when it’s tough.

I also trained through the winter and think I’ve had plenty of practice dealing with some pretty tough conditions.

So believe me when I say that the Palm Beach to Whale Beach was EPIC!!!!!!

I was nervous at the start. Very nervous. There may have been 3 visits to the bathroom in too short a space of time for me to have really drunk that much water!

Me, pre-race. Can’t even manage a smile for the camera!

Me, pre-race. Can’t even manage a smile for the camera!

I did a bit of a warm-up and that helped – getting off the beach, away from the chatter and into the cool, quiet water.

Then lined up and started!

I’m in there somewhere!

I’m in there somewhere!

I battled through some decent waves at the start, and made it to the first can (that’s what we call buoys in my sport) OK. Then I turned and headed towards the headland.

And I swam. And the waves rolled up and down. And I headed along the headland. And the waves rolled up and down some more. And more swimming. And more waves. You can see where I’m going with this, so I’ll give you the cliff notes version.

I swam for a really long time. The headland is quite long, and because of a rip they extended the course for us to come in the other side of Whale beach. In total, the race was about 2.8km long. And like swimming crossed with riding a roller-coaster.

This is what it look like from the air (last year…clearly not my own photo)…..for me it looked crooked a lot, and like bubbles and splashes and fish and other swimmers!

p2w12 course

Finally I reached the second can. Then shortly afterwards the 3rd and 4th…they were all grouped together just to guide you in.

I caught a monster wave. Big enough to loosen my trusty goggles….so rather than lose them I pulled them down around my neck and finished the race bare-eyed.

Eventually, I reached the shore. I could hear the rest of the orange-suited Can Too Crew (and supporters) cheering so rallied for a last dash for glory. And of course got a cramp as a I stood up and landed on my face in the sand. Signature Jacki-move!

Undeterred, I hauled myself up, and actually managed a run up the beach, hands in the air, and with a massive smile on my face! I’d done it!!! 68 minutes it took. Well slow even for the average for my division…but I felt like the biggest winner!

With my team-mate Sally at the finish line! Exhausted but grinning! And looking particularly styling in my orange swimmers and green cap! Hint – ocean swimming is not the sport for you if you want to look glamorous!

With my team-mate Sally at the finish line! Exhausted but grinning! And looking particularly styling in my orange swimmers and green cap! Hint – ocean swimming is not the sport for you if you want to look glamorous!

After a drink and catching my breath, I joined the Can Too tent for a celebratory BBQ. Tired and beyond happy!

So my next challenge is to join my friend and Can Too first-timer recruit (you may remember a girl named Ronene? *Who swam this event this year, instead of taking photos*) for her goal swim – 2km at the *Other event I boycott for reasons* this Sunday. She’s doubly impressive for swimming her goal swim on her (I’m not telling but it’s a significant) birthday!!!

So thanks everyone for the sponsorship and kind words of encouragement! I couldn’t have done it without you!

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