Category: summer


It was a Saturday morning and the sea was angry. I wasn’t even supposed to be swimming today…it was supposed to be the first day of my advanced dive training, but the weather was so bad they pushed that back! So apparently, if the weather is too bad to dive, you go swimming instead! It was slightly better than last week – less stinging rain, for a start. We did a similar training session…swimming the channel from the Bondi flags to the new North Bondi Tower (pictured below on a better day a couple of weeks ago).

Not in any way indicative of the conditions on the day of training!

Not in any way indicative of the conditions on the day of training!

It was tough, but as usual on rough days it was actually a lot of fun and nowhere near as bad as it looked. We did have one go at getting out the back. I was swimming along and using all my best rough day swimming techniques. I was very focussed on getting under the big waves about the back (and it was pretty dark and scary underneath them!). I’d assumed that I was following someone as usual, and was swimming Nicole who has swum the last 2 winters with me. At some point I stopped and turned to Nicole to check….was there anyone actually ahead of us??? As the waves were pretty big, it took a few sets for us to get a clear view up ahead and we realised that there actually wasn’t. For the first time, we were int he lead and responsible for deciding when was a good point to turn around…everyone was following us! At that point, an extra big set came in and the waves were looking really big! the first couple were OK and we turned and started making our way in. Then a really nasty one came along. I jumped on it, to catch a bit of a ride in, and realised it was a bit rough and tumble…and that there were a few people being knocked around in there.

When we came up for air, one of our swimmers, Jessie…who was one of my mentees this year so it’s her first year swimming, had taken a bit of a knock. Nothing major, just been thrown around enough to give her a bit of a fright. We were still a fair way out so it was a bit of work to get back to the shore. Jessie, despite being a newer swimmer, did all the right things for the situation, and so did the swimmers around her.

Firstly, Jessie didn’t panic. Well, she might have a little…but didn’t go into that panicky behaviour that can get you into worse trouble out there. Second, she let people know that she wasn’t feeling great…and gave them the opportunity to help her out. a bunch of swimmers stuck around to make sure she was comfortable and supported as we slowly swum in, and to give plenty of warning as new waves approached…there’s nothing worse, when you’re already still a bit shaky from a wave, than to get slammed all over again!

The last thing Jessie did was to just keep swimming, She’s been doing this long enough now and is a good enough swimmer, to get herself out of trouble so long as she simply does what she’s been doing all along….swimming!

It’s really that simple. I loved that when we got back to shore, I asked Jessie how she was and she shrugged it off…and pointed out where she’d gone wrong. She’s taken it on board as another experience and learned from her mistake.

We all have the odd moment when we get a little frightened or unexpectedly knocked around. It’s your attitude and how you react, that  determine how that works out in the end.

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Medium-Lane

OMG, it’s official! I’m in the medium lane! With the extra squad members picked up this season, many of whom are doing the Coogee Swim Challenge, our Tuesday squad now needs 3 lanes. My times have been improving since August, so I’m now well and truly middle of the pack. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Just goes to show that if you stick with something long enough and work hard enough at it, you can get the results…in fact they can even sneak up on you!

The session itself was an endurance and pacing set that I’m now very familiar with. I felt pretty comfortable maintaining my time trial average 100m pace the whole way. Given I felt I could have done a bit better with my time trial without my runaway cap issues, I’m even considering taking the drastic step of knocking a second or two off my pace from next week.

I know it’s an outrageous suggestion…so wish me luck!

The weather on Saturday was rough. Really rough. Oceanswims had made an early call on Friday afternoon to call off Sunday’s Bondi race. Very sad as they’d already postponed once before (meaning they weren’t able to be the Can Too Goal swim) due to issues with the council. A lot of us Can Too swimmers were very keen to support this race, too, as funds go to Bondi Surf Club and it’s their volunteers who provide all those hours of water safety that are so essential to the program.

So it was rough. And raining. That kind of rain that feels like needles on your skin. Of course we went swimming anyway. I did concede to the weather by driving instead of riding over in the morning, so it’s not like I completely ignored the inclement weather.

It’s just that rough days are like a lot of  things that seem hard until you actually do them. The water was a balmy 26 degrees and we did channel swims…not even trying to get out the back…which would have been a bit tricky since there really wasn’t any proper “out the back” to get to since there were waves and whitewater all the way out.

these sorts of days are actually great…if you prepare, front up and give it a go, the big secret is that these can be some of the most fun days you’ll have swimming (especially as you’ll likely have the beach to yourself!). You should definitely know your limits, but feel free to push them a bit.

And next time there’s a bit of chop in a race situation, you’ll be well and truly prepared!

As the old saying goes…”Be careful what you wish for”.

Remember that post where I was kind of hoping for a time trial? Well I got what I wished for. Of course it was the first swim back after a week on holiday (with a sneaky 1km race for good measure).

Still, I was OK with the idea. It’s been ages since I’ve done a time trial…although I’ve been on the other side of the clipboard with my mentor duties this season and can not attest to the fact that keeping track of multiple swimmers at varying paces can be least (if not more) challenging that actually swimming a time trial yourself!

So off I went. In this sort of thing a 1km time trial in the pool is pretty standard, but for various reasons, we started with a 500m trial and then stuck with it for a while for the sake of comparison. Seems this was the day to return to form…and double the distance!  Not a problem…and probably an advantage for me since I do relatively better with longer distances, but it can still mess with your head when you’re used to doing something and measuring yourself and how you feel a certain way. So that was a challenge, but not enough of one for me to worry.

I was completely certain that my times have improved markedly, so even with a week off, I was ready and raring to go.

And then my cap decided to go a bit weird. I know, I know. The story about the tradesman blaming his tools and all that. But it was seriously weird, man. (even weirder than me starting that last sentence with a preposition and finishing it with “man”). This was my official 4SEASons orange and blue printed silicon cap. It’s a great cap and I’ve worn it a lot over the past months. It’s generally done pretty well at doing the one job it was designed for: keeping my hair out of may face.

Tonight, though, I felt as though my cap had been watching Braveheart and had taken the cry of “Freedoooooom” just a little bit too seriously.

It was trying to escape.

You wouldn’t think that this would be such a big problem, and I guess it wasn’t a huge thing, but it definitely cost me some time. For a start I did have to break my stroke several times to try to tug the stupid thing down. I also skipped tumble turns after the first one as there was no chance that thing was staying on my head through even one single more turn. But mostly, my hair was was struggling out from under the front, but the edge of the cap was actually holding it down in my eyes. I couldn’t see much at all which made it hard to swim straight and impossible to pass.

So, although thwarted by a humble swim cap (you’d think I’d have figure out how to actually use one by now) I did manage to improve my times…quite a bit in fact, but given what I’ve been using for my endurance pace I’d kinda set myself up for a little faster.

Still…it prompted me to look back at the time trials I’ve done in the last couple of months (since August last year). If you don’t worry about the distance, and just look at the average 100m pace, I’ve dropped a whopping 16 seconds per 100m! Clearly the type and amount of training I’ve been doing has been working a treat. I may have started off dismal, and worked my way through plain old slow, but I’m well and truly on my way faster than I could have hoped….the medium lane! With a big thanks to coaches Kingy and Zoe from 4SEASons for running such a great squad that I actually want to train.

Onward and upward (perhaps with a remedial class in swim caps 101!)

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!

Cave Beach – Jervis Bay

I’ve been on holidays! Yay!

And I got to swim here every day…..

Met some of the local wildlife…..

Spent some romantic time with this bloke (it was our 10 year anniversary! Can you believe it?)

Just lovely! why are there not more ocean swims in this part of the world? It’s beautiful and the beaches were spectacular. The water was like crystal!

I did mostly relax, but managed one swim that I’d consider any kind of real training…and may have managed to sneak in a race…kind of!

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!

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!

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 11.58.35 PM

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again….Friday night swims are my favorite swims. We generally have a big weekend ahead of us, with at least one session (sometimes 2 or 3) on a Saturday, and most of the time a race on Sunday, so there’s no real reason to go too hard with things. It’s just an opportunity draw a line in the (literal!) sand of the week and let the weekend begin!

These swims, more than any others in the week, are about the sheer joy of swimming.

The perfect time to invite someone along to show them how and why we do it!

This week I invited along someone very special. 20 years ago I finished high school…and at that time I had a lovey friend call Penny T. As sometimes happens when everyone heads off in their own directions after finishing school, we lost touch. Then, a couple of weeks ago, due to the magic of Facebook, a little effort, and a change encounter in the Bondi surf, Penny popped up in my life again…visiting Bondi for a holiday from Darwin, where she now lives.

And somehow, good sort that she is, Penny let me talk her into coming along for a Friday night swim!

Penny & Jacki - a 20 year reunion!

Penny & Jacki – a 20 year reunion!

Luckily, Bondi put on its best for her….gorgeous conditions, the supportive, non-competitive environment of 4SEASons swim, and a little bit of a wildlife treat….a Wobbegong!

Wobbegong - watch out...shark about!

Wobbegong – watch out…shark about!

Sorry - the joys of trying to photograph a moving subject whilst in the waves...

Sorry – the joys of trying to photograph a moving subject whilst in the waves…

This was quite a treat…out near the open sand of Bondi. I’ve seen these guys diving before, and once at rocky Clovelly, but usually they like to hide under rock ledges and you only get a glimpse. This one was up and about swimming around in relatively shallow water.

The other joy that Bondi provided on Friday were some bloody beautiful body-surfing waves. Armed with a replacement camera, and a friend to take a few shots, I once have photographic proof that I can, indeed, catch a wave!

Look at me go!

Look at me go!

Just glorious!

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 1.01.35 AM just a fraction under 2km all up…including warm up and ins n outs at the end.

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.

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