Category: GPS


I’m not going to get tooooo ambitious and start making proclamations about summer having arrived. I will, however, go out on a limb and say that it looks as though winter is definitely over.

10 signs winter is over at Bondi:

  1. The car park is full.
  2. There are 2 sets of flags – Bondi and North Bondi
  3. Bikinis everywhere (winter tends to seem wetsuits and one-pieces)
  4. Ditto on the Budgie-smugglers
  5. The queue for coffee gets out of control
  6. We have to fight for a table at the coffee shop
  7. The Cyclists come out to play – you can tell by the full bike-racks.
  8. The tour buses get out of control. On the upside, less people taking our photos as there are other people swimming, not just us.
  9. You have to fight for your body-surfing waves
  10. It’s hard to avoid mowing down tourists in the shallows when you do catch a wave in. Not on purpose of course, but once you’re on that wave…..

The set consisted of getting away from the crowds a bit, with a swim to the south end point and back. The faster swimmers went via the north end as well, and there was a shorter option as well for the swimmers who are just coming back after a winter hiatus (*cough* *chad!*), but the focus was on trying to swim in a straight line.

I don’t think we did toooo badly…

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I did the shorter course, not out of laziness, but because I may have had some very special sisterly duties to perform after training….assistant wedding-dress-shopper! Squee!

What a different a week can make. Last week it seemed the water was warming up, and winter (what there was of it this year) was a distant memory.

This week it was foam sweet foam.

DSCN1059There was a lot happening at the beach. Some sort of surf lifesaving competition, helicopters and banners. And a lot of foamy, foamy waves.

We did an initial swim to acclimatise (side note – the water has dropped a couple of degrees!) and found it was pretty hard work, but the waves were catchable, although not easily.

We tried the north end, and then split into two groups. Thos who weren’t as comfortable with the waves stayed further north, and the brave/foolhardy souls headed back to the middle of the beach to tackle the surf. I’m usually one to err on the side of the foolhardy, so I headed back south, and am glad to report I didn’t come to regret it.

The waves were messy. It was foam galore out there like I’ve never seen. It was definitely hard work, the kind that takes your mind off everything else in the world and keeps you completely present in the moment. Well, it’s that or cop a mouthful of salt water.

Sadly, I’ve somehow managed to have my 4th “waterproof” camera in 2 years leak on me. I at least had the forethought to go with the extended warranty (consider this lesson learned). Apologies in advance if the posts are photo-challenged for a couple of weeks while I tackle the red tape of a warranty claim. Sigh. I guess waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean as waterproof as it takes for someone like me to use a camera as often as I do the way that I do. I bloody loved that camera, so i’m going to have a go with a third incarnation, but feel free to add to the comments if anyone has a better suggestion.

In the mean time, get ready for the next best thing: Garmin maps!

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Party Wave!

God, I LOVE bodysurfing. It is my absolute favourite thing about ocean swimming. Saturday’s training was all about catching some sweet, sweet waves. They were bloody amazing….picking up around chest high so you could jump straight off the bank and ride them right up until the sand starts exfoliating your forehead.

We may have peer-pressured coach Tamera into deviating from her recent hardcore ramps sessions (using the ramps from the boardwalk to the sand as markers for ins and outs up and down the beach – lots of sand running and cardio) and taking us for a journey swim. Really, the weather was glorious, the water was stunningly clear, and the day was crying out for a swim safari to see some fish!

Ignore the bit where I forget to stop the GPS until I'm in the Bondi Surf Club change rooms!

Ignore the bit where I forget to stop the GPS until I’m in the Bondi Surf Club change rooms!

It was pretty glorious. And then we started catching waves. They were perfect! The conditions are a big part of catching a decent wave, but there are a few tips that have helped improve my enjoyment and the distance I manage to surf a wave. So I thought I’d share my top tips.

  1. You need to be in the right spot. Watch the waves. It is possible to catch a wave that’s not yet about to break, or one that is already broken, but ideally, the best waves are the ones you catch just as they’re about to break and the top is just starting to spill over.
  2. Speed. You want to be going as close as possible to the speed of the wave when you catch it. That means springing and diving forward if you’re catching a wave from a bank, or swimming hard if you’re deeper.
  3. Timing. Too early you’ll miss the momentum of point 2, too late and you’ll miss the wave. I can’t 100% explain this with words. It’s partially watching the wave (and the other sets on the day) come at you, partially hearing it, partially feeling the tug ahead of it, part luck and a lot of practice.
  4. Head position. Most of the time you want your head tucked down with your chin against your chest. this puts your body and legs higher in the water, on top of the wave instead of dragging inside it. The exception of this is if you’re on the face of a wave where you want to pull up so you don’t end up with your legs pushed up into a somersault and a spectacular dumping.
  5. Kick! A lot of people get caught up in the excitement when they catch a wave. If you keep kicking, and possibly even some one-armed swimming strokes, you’ll stay on that wave a lot longer.
  6. Don’t panic, and hang in there. The longer you can avoid lifting your head to breathe, the longer you’re going to stay on that wave.

You’ll absolutely know when you get it right, and I promise you it’s one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world!

With the end of the Ocean swimming season and my goal race now behind me, there will be no more race reviews for a while.

I did think, though, that it might be worth touching on a few more general things about racing, rather than the individual events.

Pre-race preparation is a big part of getting the best out of your performance at any event. I’m not talking about training or necessarily what it takes so that your fitness is up to scratch, but more the short-term lead-up to optimise your performance on the day.

Here’s a bit of an overview of what I did in the lead-up to my goal swim, the South Head Roughwater. This is the big prep I do for a big event. In the height of summer when I’m swimming every weekend, and the distances are shorter, I do an abridged version of this, but the basic principles are the same.

A week or 2 beforehand.

  1. Stop drinking alcohol. I probably don’t need to do this quite so early…but mentally it helps me focus and feel really prepared.
  2. Really focus on my diet being nutritious and high in protein. Cut out any junk food. I try to eat at home during this period so I can cook healthily rather than eating out and not knowing how much oil or fat or salt is in my food.
  3. Taper. About a week out I still swim, but start taking it very easy. At this point I don’t want to wear myself out or risk an injury, and any training really isn’t going to add to my fitness.
  4. A trip to my osteopath. I have a dodgy shoulder, and swimming generally helps, but if it needs a tune-up I’d rather do it a few days before a big event. Before the SHRW my shoulder was definitely niggling so I went on the Wednesday before. I see Grant Brush at City Clinic near my office and he’s a genius. He’s a keen swimmer as well so kind of gets what I do and how to work with it.

The night before

  1. Pack my bags. The last thing I need to be doing early morning before a big stressful event is looking for stuff (or worse…finding out I forgot something once I’m there and need it). I make sure I have everything I need, plus spares, and warm gear for after the race.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Obvious, but easy to forget if you’re a bit nervous.
  3. Carb loading! I love my carbs, but generally try to keep carb-heavy meals as a “sometimes food”. The night before a big event, however, game on!
  4. Goggle prep. Goggles are a pretty key part of any event. If they leak or fog or are uncomfortable they can bother you the whole time. My pre-race routine may seem a little over the top, but it definitely works. I used this method before the SHRW and did not have to adjust my goggles a single time in 2 and a half hours of swimming.
    • Wash well in dishwashing liquid, focussing on the lenses and the seals. This gets rid of any residual sunscreen, sand or salt that can cause problems with the goggles sealing.
    • Thoroughly dry with a clean tea towel.
    • Spray liberally with anti-fog spray into the inside of the lenses. Rub around well with a clean finger.
    • Rinse well with clear water. The film will remain but you don’t want any of that stuff ending up in your eyes.
    • Let sit a couple of minutes and then dry thoroughly again with your tea towel, and you’re ready to go.
  5. Garmin – make sure it’s fully charged, any previous records are downloaded, and it’s ready to go.
  6. An early night. It may seem elusive due to nerves, but it’s good to have a decent night’s sleep behind you on race day. I find a cup of chamomile tea helps send me off.

The Morning Of

  1. Early rising. I like to get up earlier than I need to. I hate feeling rushed. It also gives me plenty of time to…
  2. Have a good breakfast. And let it settle. I need something in my stomach before I swim. My go to is a slice of toast and a hard boiled egg from the fridge (I usually do a batch and keep a couple handy for the weekend). Alternately, if I’m home on my own on Friday nights my go-to meal is a frittata or quiche. If there’s a leftover slice floating around they make a good pre-swim breakie too. The key is to not try anything new on the morning of an event…the same thing I eat for breakfast before training sessions is the same thing I’ll eat on the big day.
  3. Check the conditions. Actually this one belongs in all the categories… I have a collection of weather and surf condition apps and websites that I use. I don’t know that it helps, but I like to feel prepared, mentally, for what’s out there.
  4. Mix up sports drink etc. My philosophy is that I’ll only use sports drinks sparingly, and only if I’m swimming longer than an hour. My preference is for coconut water (Cocobella plain), but I’ll also use Staminade from powder as both are lower sugar than the other options out there.
  5. Leave early so there’s no rush to get to the beach (or wharf). The last thing I need on top of nerves is to be worrying about running late!

So there you go…mostly common sense, but it’s a routine that’s done me well in the 30+ events I’ve swum over the past 3 years!

 

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….

 

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.

Last Sunday, though I did the Shark Island race, I saw neither an Island nor a shark.

Seems the term “Island” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more of a rocky outcrop, that’s exposed at low tide. It wasn’t low tide for the race, so all I saw was a bit of white water as waves were breaking on my right when the coast was on my left (ie I was swimming between the “island” and the shore.

Ah Cronulla, I do love a good race South of the bridge. There was a bit of competition with 3 different races on in the greater Sydney area for what is effectively for most (sane) people the last racing weekend of the season. The 4SEASons crew were split and managed to represent at all three locations. For my money, though, being from the inner west and making so many treks OTB (Over the Bridge) to the North shore every summer, I do like to support any events on the South Coast.

I can’t say I was disappointed.

Autumn put on yet another fabulous display of weather and conditions. I was still not 100%, but I had a very good reason to represent. the 4SEASons summer challenges consisted of individual and team challenges…individuals were challenged to complete 20km total race distance across the duration of the season, and teams of four were challenged to make 100km tota

Given the number of races scheduled pretty much every weekend over the summer and early autumn, it seemed like a pretty reasonable thing. In reality, however, with the crazy conditions, postponed and cancelled events this season, that was tougher than it had looked. Last weekend of the season and Ro needed to do the double up to hit her 20km, and if we both did a double we could hit our team goal.

The race itself was a good one. The pre-race registration was a little odd…the 1km and 2km registration and tag pick-up venues were in different locations. And there were different messages for double-ups in different age groups (Ro was given her timing tag and cap for both event, but told to come back after the 1km to have her second number written on her arm! Huh?). I caused all sorts of confusion (in both locations) because I headed straight to pick up my tags before heading down to the beach. As I was still wearing my motorcycle boots, I declined the  offer of the volunteers to put my tags on my ankles for me. It’s OK, really, I’ve done it before and take full responsibility for my own tag, guys.

On the up-side, I did really like the idea they had, which I haven’t seen elsewhere before, that we wear both tags for both races and  then get them both cut off at the end of the second event. As someone who has lined up for the start of the second race only to realise I hadn’t put on my second tag, I thought this was a stroke of genius.

Of course, this was offset by the second “bright” idea of having different cap colours for categories in different events. Yes, two crappy latex caps in different colours and needing to remember to change them in between. Gold. Or not.

Admin aside, the race itself was nicely done. The course was well marked and water safety was plentiful and helpful. I had planned on going out super-easy in the 1km event, but around the first can I found myself next to Ms Priceless, who is usually much quicker than me, but was struggling with both a touch of the lurgy, and the fact that she had attended a wedding the night before. And had flown back in that morning only to head straight down the coast to Cronulla to race. That girl is dedicated!!

I do love having someone to pace off, and in particular love it when it’s someone I train with. (In fact it was the early-seasons Cronulla event I swam entirely with Ro…coincidence?) I resolved to see if I could keep up for a while, and ended up pushing myself quite hard as I found myself sticking with the pace all the way to the finish line.

The second event was particularly lovely. The “island” may not have technically been an island, but the rocks provided a perfect playground for critters and there was plenty to see. I was pretty happy and comfortable and managed to have a lot of fun for about the first 2km. On the home stretch I noticed a nasty twinge in my right shoulder. It got reasonably painful towards the end, so I didn’t finish quite as strongly as I would have liked to. I’m blaming the house-painting (it was my right shoulder) and praying it’s nothing serious 3 weeks out from my team tilt at the South Head Roughwater.

The day was so lovely, in fact, that Ro, Sonja and Marty (Sonja’s husband who is yet-to-be convinced to join in himself, but is a regular supporter) found ourselves some take-away burgers and chips and had a pretty divine lunch in the park. What a day!

You’ve read the review. if you’re really  interested, and/or were there on the day, I actually took a lot of photos. Or handed my camera to a couple of people who took a lot of photos while I was swimming (that’s kind of the same thing, right?) so thanks to my delegate photographers who did such an outstanding job/

So here’s the link to the full set of pictures from the fabbo day!

If you enjoy them half as much as I enjoyed the swim you’re in for  treat.

Ah Coogee…one of my favourite beaches and one of my favourite races. Swimming out and around an island is definitely fun. Once you get out near the island you can start seeing the bottom again, and all the fishies. And there just seems to be something kind of primal and basic about swimming out to an island. Inspiring the explorer spirit in all of us.

It was a beautiful day again. Autumn seems to be succeeding where Summer failed as far as delivering gorgeous weather for event days!

This was a pretty long day for me as I did the 1km event followed by the 2.4km. It’s the longest I’ve done, but the arms held up pretty well (despite a bit of a case of house-painter’s arm!).

The 1km was a bit of an interesting start. It was scheduled to start at 9.15 so just before 9 we headed over to near the start line for a briefing and a warm-up.

Well, it turns out the organisers decided to start the race early. 15 minutes early. Where was I when this happened? Out past the break still warming up! The start waves were divided into under 40 and over 40…so I had missed my wave start.

Well, there was only one thing for it, I cut across in a curve to intercept the pack. As this was a long event, I had already planned to take it a bit easier on the short course. The stuff up with the start wasn’t such a big deal for me, but it did mean I didn’t start my Garmin so there’s no map for that event.

The race went as expected. Plenty of breast-strokers…but you do tend to get a bit more of that with the short courses as those are the ones that the less -experienced swimmers tend to sign up for. Still, it’s the height of poor form in my book…I don’t care who you are. Breast stroke is for lanes in a pool, not ocean swims. I’ve been on the receiving end of more than one frog kick and can tell you it’s a downright danger to the swimmers around you. (Rant over!)

The 2.4km was much better on that front, and I managed to get to the line and start with the rest of the crowd this time!

Ah, I do love this race. There were a lot of people participating this year…all grateful that there are finally some swimmable events! I like the course, and it was well laid out. The water safety were plentiful and helpful. The only problem in the end was a stuff-up with results for a bunch of swimmers being left off. Oceanswims have done a great job of trying to figure them out from the photos taken at the finish line, but it’s really, really bad to have a problem like that in the first place…hopefully lesson learned for next time!

So all in all, a great day out. The season is winding down now….no swims next weekend (well, none close enough to be do-able), then 2 more to go. Time to start thinking about off-season training and winter swimming!

Coogee 2.4

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