Category: Sighting


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

Another beautiful Saturday morning rolled around with sunshine and balmy water. For a bit of a change, coach Zoe conducted the session from a paddle board.

A group doing lifeguard training conveniently had a couple of cans out, so we mainly worked on sighting for the session. It all seems so easy. In theory.

In practice, however, when you’re only head-high out of the water, and if there’s a bit of a swell, those things can look tiny and be impossible to find.

The photos below were from the beach,and even from that perspective you can see just how small those suckers look!

DSCN0448 DSCN0449
You can only imagine how much ore difficult it can be on a rough day. However sighting well and therefore swimming straight can really make a lot of difference on race day, so we tend to seize any opportunity to practice the skills needed.

With a coach on a board it was the perfect opportunity to do the exercise where we swim towards a moving target. It’s a lot of fun, and feels just like being in a school of fish changing direction as a whole!

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!

 

I swear I didn’t plan it that way but the big weekend of the Huskisson Triathlon was on while we were on holidays camping nearby at Cave Beach. I’m not a triathlete, but apparently it’s quite a big deal.

I also didn’t know (significant other suggested the holiday destination, not me) that there was an ocean swim on Friday night to get people into the swing of things before the bigger events started on the weekend.

I did hear about it a few days before.

I tossed up whether it was the right thing to do, but on the day of the event, my beloved came down with a toothache, and took some painkillers and settled into the tent for a long sleep. At that point, I figured I wasn’t actually sacrificing any “together” time, so jumped in the car, drove the 10 minutes to Huskisson and did an on-the-day registration.

The race was a bit of a funny one. It was a 1km course in a triangle and the water was pretty well dead flat. The majority of the swimmers, though, were triathletes. And triathletes tend not to put too much emphasis on the swim portion of their training as it generally doesn’t make up that much of the overall race.

It was very interesting sitting on the beach and overhearing snippets of conversations. There were a lot of very fit people on the beach who were quite worried about a pretty short race in pretty easy conditions. I was trying not to be smug…especially given how I would feel if faced with a triathlon!

The race itself was pretty good. I’m so not a sprinter, and it’s been bloody ages since I did a race that short without following it up with a longer one straight after. So decided to consider it a sprint.

For all of the nerves, it was a reasonably paced race. I couldn’t resist and did a bit of a comparison with a more specific ocean swim race of the same length with a similar number of competitors and the tri race was faster at the winners end, but otherwise the finishing profiles were surprisingly similar.

Here’s a bit of a chart with the male and female fields split out….

Husky Analysis

Sorry – I know it’s super geeky, but I honestly didn’t expect to be racing. I didn’t have my camera with me, I didn’t have my garmin on, and since we did a deep water start I forgot to so much as hit the button on my stopwatch!

It was a nice swim, though, with lots to see in the water…we even swam over the top of the least-timid wobbegong I’ve even seen!

Update – Yep, in response to a few questions I’ve had…lot of them wore wetsuits and tri suits. More than you’d get in an ocean race, although I guess that’s understandable. IMHO, though, would’ve been bloody hot!

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, Palmy to Whale. It’s such an event and such a big part of the Can Too journey, It’s literally the “Big Swim” (unless you’re doing the Big Little swim). Advertised as 2.5km, it’s generally longer along one of the most beautiful courses you can possibly imagine. It’s tough enough to be a challenge for just about anyone and just achievable enough that anyone with a decent training plan, good coaches, proper preparation and a bit of a stubborn streak can manage it. It is also the long-course goal swim for the Can Too Swim program.

I loved this race last year. It took everything I had to finish it ( it was my goal last year) but I was really elated at the end. I was feeling fitter and better prepared this year, plus a few of my mentees and some of my friends were attempting the race for the first time so I was really looking forward to it.

Then I woke up and looked out the window and saw this.

20130205-161507.jpgNot just raining. Pouring. Absolutely bucketing down. windy and cold and wet and miserable. And definitely not what I had wished for my nervous new swimmers.

Still after double checking everything was still going ahead I channeled that stubborn streak of my own, added a brolly, and headed down to my lift.

It’s a fair old drive up there from the inner west and took a while, but thanks to our ever-patient driver Ean we were there in plenty of time to register and set ourselves up and check bags and cheer for the 1km event swimmers. Lovely to see so many orange swimmers in the brand spanking new shorter event as well, and I was so proud to see so many of them survive what was a really, really tough event. Possibly the toughest 1km event I’ve ever seen!

I’ve had more camera issues (new one bloody well leaked! Again!) so I’m afraid I’m a bit low on photographs from the day. There are a couple from my phone…but with it being that wet you really needed a waterproof feature even on the beach!

Here are a couple I snapped back up the beach while under the marquees set up for registration and pack collection:

Umbrellas. Yep.

Anyway, what can you do, but what we train for.

I did a bit of a warm up and watched the earlier wave starts. It was quickly obvious that there was quite a sweep from right to left, so my place at the start line was definitely hard right. And then we were off.

Funnily enough, although the start was pretty rough, I must have timed it just right and gotten the line spot on. It felt like a couple of porpoise moves and I was through the worst of it and off and swimming.

This seemed to be backed up by the fact that for the first part of the race I saw several people pass me who I know are much faster swimmers than me. Only a good run through the break would have put me in front of them

Before I knew it I was at the first can, feeling good, pulled around it and I was off and headed south.

I found this out-the-back part pretty hard work last year. It was pretty much the first event I’d ever down that was out around a headland and there was quite a swell, so I was swimming in conditions that I wasn’t really used to.

What a difference a year makes.

This year, I have a number of swims like this under my belt. I’ve trained all winter, and trained hard with races like this in mind. I’m fitter and stronger and have been working on my technique. It wasn’t a matter of whether I would finish, so I decided to put the boot in and see if I could push myself. I spent a lot of the race counting strokes and doing regular surges. I didn’t want to completely wear myself out, so I’d count out 30 strokes at my regular pace, and then 90 hard. Over and over. It wasn’t a bad way to stay focussed, and it kept me from getting distracted by the view!

The view…ahhh…even in the rain that is one beautiful swim.

I had hoped to finish the event in under an hour. Around the last can I had a peek at my watch and realised it wasn’t going to happen for me (not this year, anyway 😉 ). Undeterred, I decided to finish as though I was just about to make it!

I went out very, very hard. I may have slightly gone off track a bit as I discovered a little late I was sighting at something that wasn’t actually the finish line. D’oh! Rookie mistake! I came in a bit to the left of the finish line..which wasn’t too bad in the end, as from the reports of other people, coming in right at the finish line was pretty tough work.

I did manage to kind of catch a couple of waves for a nudge in where I was, though. They were already broken and really, really frothy and messy, but they were all going in the right direction so I figured I’d jump on for whatever ride they’d offer.

I learnt my lesson from last year, and did a few foot flexes before trying to stand up. It certainly helped as I managed to navigate my way from horizontal to vertical without planting my face in the sand on the way. Win!

As usual, there was a noisy orange-clad cheer squad. It is so great to have that motivation at the end when you’re tired and just need a little extra boost to get you out and over the line.

Despite the weather, it was a great race, as usual. People who were scared at the start were smiling at the finish line, and we managed to brace the rain and celebrate at the Can Too tent afterwards! I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Finally, a massive congratulations to any and all of the Can Too participants, particularly those who were doing this race for the first time, and even more particularly those who were in my mentor group and stepped up from their initial plan to do the Bondi 2km and pushed themselves to take on this challenge. I am so proud and have found the mentoring journey one of the most rewarding things ever.

I’ve never done the Mona Vale swim before. It has a reputation as being a tough one, but definitely didn’t live up to it’s bad boy reputation this year.

The usual carpool suspects were all out of action – Ronene’s been jetsetting for work, Fiona’s been out for a little bit (something to do with a  big story about having a baby), Vanessa has been sick, Sonja had plans, and Allison already had a ride. So I rode the motorbike up the coast for a change. Made parking a breeze!

There wasn’t a huge contingent of 4SEASons swimmers there. I kind of get it – it’s a fair way to go for a 1.6km event.

I rocked  up and spotted the motley band in orange and blue waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to Warriewood (race is a destination swim from Warriewood to Mona Vale). I ducked into the change rooms to get my motorbike gear off and my swimming gear on, and when I came back out the bus had arrived and was full so I had to wait for the next one. All on my own!

By the time the next bus came, we got down to the beach, did a bag drop and a quick dip, it was time to start! All a bit of a rush really…I usually like just a little time to collect my own thoughts! Should have walked around if I’d known how long that second bus was going to be, so it was my own fault really.

The race itself ran smoothly. There wasn’t much in the way of surf or swell or chop. The buoys were easy to spot and the course well marked. I felt pretty good and arrived at the other end before I knew it!

So all in all it was a pretty good event. I just came away from a bit dissatisfied and it took a bit of thinking to figure out why. I think that really where i’m at right now, a 1.6km isn’t enough of a push for me. Or I need to really dig in and consider that sort of distance a sprint. Just something to mix it up and make sure I don’t phone it in. Time to make sure I push myself in the shorter races as well, I think!

Smooth sailing - Warriewood to Mona Vale

Smooth sailing – Warriewood to Mona Vale

Last Sunday was the North Bondi Roughwater. It was the first race back after Christmas (let’s just say I’m still struggling to get back into a decent training routine) and my first double up (1km and 2km race at the same event) this season. I’m hoping to be in good enough shape by April to swim the Coogee to Bondi 5km  (like how I slipped that major bit of news in there without too much fanfare since I’m still kind of feeling a bit weak at the knees whenever I think about it) so I’m really needing to do distance swims wherever I can at the moment. That means double training sessions and race double-ups.

Doing a race double up is kind of a funny thing. It can totally mess with your head. Do you treat the 1km as a warm up? go hard? go easy? conserve your strength and energy or stretch out and try to find your pace early? Just so you now…those aren’t rhetorical questions! If you know any of the answers please let me know!

What I do know is that I didn’t get it right at this event. Well, the first part anyway. The 1km took me over 28 minutes. To put this into context, this was my very first event ever ever ever 3 years ago and my time was 29:20. My time for my third attempt was not a whole lot faster. You’d think I’d have some sort of analysis or theory to present as to why I swam so poorly, but I don’t. There was a lady swimming right next to me with quite a serious and distracting wardrobe malfunction, and I did find it kind of hard to focus during that part of the race….but honestly, that’s just clutching at straws as far as excuses go.

The truth is, it was a touch choppy out the back, and I didn’t really have a clear strategy about whether I would go hard or easy so i kept changing my mind. And I kind of went in with a bad attitude. I don’t know where it came from and I wish that nasty little negative voice that occasionally crops up in my head would shut the hell up.

Anyway, I knew it the whole race, and I knew it when i finished, and I knew it when I was waiting to line up and do twice the distance. To be perfectly honest, I was in such a crappy headspace that it would not have taken a lot of convincing me to give up and go home for a nap.

Fortunately (sometimes), I’m kind of stubborn. I put on my big-girl pants and figured I would hop in and at least give the 2km a go. Did I mention it was the first ever race for the inspiring first-season-swimmers Chad and Sonja who I had at least some hand in influencing into their idea to take up this crazy caper? Making me apparently the person who was supposed to be the example or the good influence or something). I had also talked my dive buddy Steph into coming to support and a bunch of mutual friends of everyone was there. You might think that I’m about to tell you how that all shamed me into swimming properly for a change.

Well, not exactly.

What did happen, was that the combination of those things got me back in the water. The funny thing about swimming is that it’s very much your own race, every time. And somewhere around the second can, inexplicably, I realised I was having fun.

The awkward rhythm and inability to get into a reasonable pace were gone. All of a sudden i was focussed and enjoying myself. It was amazing!!

Others around me were stopping or breast-stroking to sight and figure out where they were, and where the were going. I felt like I was on track without any effort at all. I let go of overthinking things andmanaged to get full focus on my technique.

My internal monologue was going something like this:

  1. Toes – brush big toes together.
  2. Legs – 2 beat kick. (Yes, unlike pool swimmers, ocean swimmers generally do a 2-beat kick…various reasons I should write a whole post about!)
  3. Knees; Stop bending them too much. Kick with the hips for the love of everything that’s holy, Jacki.
  4. Back and shoulder blades. Up and back. Good body position.
  5. Elbows. High.
  6. Hips: Rotating.
  7. Arms….hold. hold. hold. Big thing at the moment for me is this so it was pretty front of mind.
  8. Over the barrel.
  9. Palms down: No stop signs!
  10. Don’t cross that midline with your arms, Jacki! And not too wide either!

And most importantly, don’t over think it! If you get too tense you sink!

Believe it or not, this is a good thing for me. It sounds like a lot, but remember this is over 44 and a half minutes. If I’m thinking about this stuff it leaves a whole lot less room in my head for negative bullsh1t like:

  1. thinking about how much it hurts
  2. or how tired I am
  3. or that I’ve been sick. however long it’s been
  4. or that I’ve been injured. however long it’s been
  5. or why I can totally justify giving up and getting one of those nice water safety fellows to tow me in.
  6. or what else I should be doing, or who’s cleaning my house, or whether my husband bought milk so I can have a coffee when I get home…or, or, or, or……

Yeah….so where was I? Negative self-talk = boo, focus on the moment = yay. Bondi roughwater 1km = boo. Bondi roughwater 2km (same day) = Yay!

So what’s the end verdict? Well…the day was actually about a lot more than just the ridiculous voices in my head. For a lot of amazing and inspiring people it was their first race and they were ah.may.zing! Whatever my issues with a half-goo half-bad event day were quickly eclipsed by seeing so many people having so much fun.

Wort every second. 2 thumbs up!

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Photos courtesy of Steph!

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