Category: Races


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….

 

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!

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I’ve already done my race review of the Bondi Bluewater event from Easter. Seems a very clever someone immortalised the race their own way and did a magnificent job of it!

If you haven’t already seen it doing the rounds, please hit play on this…it’s a wonderful lens on the ocean swimming experience, complete with 4SEASons and Can Too swimmers and wardrobe malfunctions (fortunately not on the same person!).

If you happen to have come here wondering what it’s all about the video above is the best thing I’ve seen to show you (short of jumping in the water and giving it a go!). Well done to the very clever fellow who made it.

Ah Queenscliff. Finally. 🙂

After recent craziness in my life, I took the afternoon off after training Saturday morning, napped on the couch and actually watched a DVD. It was heavenly. In the evening Mr Nemo was out of the house, leaving me with sole responsibility for the remote and menu choices for the evening. Healthy dinner, no alcohol (after Freshwater I learnt my lesson) and an early night.

As a result, I woke up feeling like a million bucks!

Even better, the sun was shining, and the ride to Queenscliff was gorgeous. I arrived at the beach found my crew, and together we marveled at the beautiful day.

The first race was touted as an 800m event. In the end I think it was a little longer than that…and for me a little longer again as I managed to come in way wide of the finish line. Not entirely sure how I managed that as I had no idea I’d even done it until after. No excuses, either, the conditions were pretty friendly. I went hard in this and treated it as a sprint. I am so not a sprinter it was perhaps that that threw me out!

The toughest part of the Queenscliff event was the start/finish. I haven’t swum there before, so not sure if it was just because of a low tide, but the run out (and then back in at the end) was loooong and very bumpy. Anyone who managed to not stack in one direction or the other was definitely the exception rather than the rule, and I was certainly not one of them! It was also pretty hard work for people like me who are definitely more comfortable putting in their effort in the water instead of the sand!

The other trick was in the short course – keeping your cans in order. The way the course was laid out had one of the cans ready for the long course in a very awkward spot. Differentiating the difference in colours between orange and red wasn’t really that easy once you’re in the water and only head height!

Other than that, though, it was a cracking day. The longer course was also very enjoyable and it was so nice to be swimming in the sun again! It was a little odd for a while as there must have been a delay in getting the last wave started. 20 minutes in and I hadn’t been passed by the leaders of the age group behind me…I was starting to get a little paranoid that I was swimming way off course or something!

Overall a great race!

 

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!!

 

There’s a bit of a long story about the night before the Freshwater swim. It involves a photography course cancelled at the last minute (for the second time) and ends with a few more wines than was probably a good idea (especially given my pre-race routine usually involves none at all).

But what can you do?

It’s been ages since I raced due to the stupid weather and 100 million* reschedules and what would be an insignificant number of personal alternative commitments any other season. So a bit of a gee-up from a once-upon-a-time kind-of colleague (in that we worked for the same company and had mutual friends there but never actually worked together…is there a name for that?), had me signing up the day before.

I woke up on Good Friday. On the upside, the traffic to get over there was pretty much non-existent. And the weather was stunning. I really enjoyed the ride OTB and arrived to a beautiful day. As usual on the bike, I scored a primo parking position. and wandered up over the dunes….to find a nasty, nasty choppy angry-looking washing machine of an ocean out over the “always” calm Freshwater.

Pre-race I was feeling a little nervous. It’s been too long between races and I wasn’t sure I was in the right headspace.

And intra-race…well, I was also pretty sure it was a bad idea to be out there. It was as rough as it looked and choppy the whole way.

Around the last can, though, things started to look up. I spotted the signature flouro swimmers of the lovely Bel M….I thought it might be possible so sucked it up and put on a bit of a surge to swim with her. The last leg of the race was looking up. It’s a bit hard to explain how much you can actually communicate with people in a race in the water, but it’s a very powerful thing to find yourself alongside someone you know and have trained with and consider a friend, and in this case it really lifted my (somewhat queasy) spirits.

As we headed in, the waves were helpful..and not. they were good for catching in to shore, but they were also just a touch on the scary side.

Short story –

  1. Cleaned up by a massive wave
  2. Lost goggles. Finished event without goggles.
  3. Evil calf cramp. Bad one. Bad enough to stick with me for a while Baaaaaad one.
  4. Bel, who if she was uber-competitive could have left me and kicked my butt, hanging around to check I was alright. Highlight of my race. And making me remember, yet again, why I do this particular sport, with these particular people.
  5. Bel and Jacki crossing the finish line together! Finishing on a high note!

So, in the end I finished. Probably not my finest hour and certainly not my most impressive race. Lessons learned: 2. First, alcohol and ocean swimming are not a good combination. And second, never take for granted what the conditions will be like. Mother nature will throw you a backhand every time…especially if you tempt fate by ignoring lesson 1!

*not actual number

Freshwater 1.5km 2013

Freshwater 1.5km 2013

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