Tag Archive: aspirations


I made it back to a pool session this week for the first time in a few weeks. Work and illness and a birthday got in the way for a couple of weeks, so it’s the first time in a while I’ve done an endurance set.

I felt as though I was doing pretty well. I got a bit excited when I was moved out of the slow lane after a few laps, that maybe magically I’d been promoted to the fast lane. Til I recognised swimmers the next lane over and realised we had expanded into 3 lanes and I’d been promoted to the medium lane.

Based on my Garmin results (did I mention I’ve upgraded to the 910?) , though my times are pretty dismal at the moment. The whole broken-ankle hiatus, and general slackness in getting back into it on my part have really left me coming into the new season well off my peak form. The geek in me loves the Garmin, but my self-deluding side hates it as there’s no lying to yourself in the face of all that measured data.

There are a couple of things that I think might help get me back there, though, so I’m trying not to get too depressed.

  1. I had my final physio appointment earlier on Tuesday. I have been cleared for all activities, including starting to jog, even on sand. Guess I no longer have any excuse for skipping the hard part of those ramps sessions.
  2. Daylight savings! This changes a lot of things – later opening hours for pools, and opportunities for after-work swims!
  3. Spring training timetable changes. 4SEASons October pool sessions will be on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from next week, instead of just Tuesdays. My chances of getting back to a minimum of 3 swim sessions a week just got a whole lot better.
  4. It’s only a few weeks until the first couple of ocean swims of the season. Nothing motivates like a looming deadline!

Let Operation get-Jacki’s-lazy-butt-back-into-shape begin!

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this!

So, the other day this happened.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 11.47.06 PMYes, you read that right. Probably the second time as you may have wondered what the hell it was you were looking at.

I’m equal parts petrified and excited (hint: a cr@pload of both) about this. I’ve been contemplating it for quite some time, and decided I needed to get in while the limited entries were open before I could back down or change my mind.

I’m unbelievably amazed by the fact that this is going to happen (and questioning my sanity in entering the non-wesuit category), and then trying to reassure myself with the fact that it’s not actually that cold (around 15 degrees Celsius) or actually that far (2.4km), It’s just the combination of those things that’s kind of freaking me out. And the jetlag. And the sharks (a myth to scare the prisoners, right?). My recent research Google search suggests that there are sharks in the bay, but not man-eating ones, and that there has never been a recorded attack on a person by a shark there. Whew!

So why would i do this to myself?

Well, apart from the California holiday I’m planning for myself after the event is done (assuming I survive!) I’m doing it as my goal swim. This year I’ll be mentoring a new long swim program for that brilliant bunch of crazies, Can Too.

If you happen to be in a position to join me, you can sign up on the Can Too website now.

If you’re not interested in swimming (very hard for me to believe!), you can still get on board and support my fundraising efforts via my Can Too Fundraising Link.

And wish me luck…escaping from Alcatraz!

Winter swimming. Even in this conducive climate, most people think us ocean swimmers are nutters for heading out there every weekend (at least), rain, hail, shine and frosty water temperatures.

Well, there are a whole lot of reasons we do it (hint: it’s awesome!) but for me, one of the most stunning things about winter swimming is the water clarity.

A lot of it comes down to a couple of reasons:

  • Hardly any tourists out there stirring up sand etc
  • Hardly any tourists on the beach leaving their rubbish and crap to be washed into the water
  • Non-breeding season for all our ocean-dweeling friends like jellyfish and fish and sea grasses etc

It’s a bit hard to describe just how beautiful it is to swim in that water. Especially on those crisp, clear, sunny winter days. It’s also pretty hard to photograph faithfully, although I know I’ve certainly tried.

Luckily for everyone, there are better photographers out there than me. One of the best, in my opinion, is the talented Bondi resident eugene Tan of Aquabumps. On top of taking the kind of photos I’d possibly trade a limb or a family member to take, he has some great techniques he uses to great advantage. Like taking aerial photos of Bondi to stunning effect. I’m a bit of an addict of his daily email, but Wednesday’s really struck me as a brilliant example of just how clear that water is out there.

Do yourself  a favour and head over to check it out.

Stuff like this:

AquaBumps – one of my photography idols

Now tell me that doesn’t make you want to jump in for a swim.

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.
Boat_rose_bay
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….

 

Tuesday’s pacing session was a good one. I hadn’t dropped as much as I’d thought (I’ve been focussing on distance, rather than speed lately, for obvious reasons) and it was good to get into that rhythm and focus on pacing. Less than two weeks out to the goal swim, it was nice to stretch out and remind myself what pace feels like,   what going hard feels like, and what tired feels like. I’m pretty damn sure those things are all going to be very important next Sunday.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I had attended a Tuesday session, and it was a pretty busy session, with quite a lot of swimmers. It really highlighted to me the importance of good lane etiquette. Lane etiquette makes things run much more smoothly and everyone can get on and do their thing and get a good workout. With many swimmers in a lane, even if they’re supposedly keeping to a particular pace each, you do get differences in speed and in pace. Some people swim faster or more variably or more consistently, and it really brought home that the etiquette is there for a reason, and that the reason is that it works.

My personal favourite guide to lap swimming etiquette in general is via this link that I’m reasonably certain i’ve put up before. If I haven’t, I should have. It’s an excellent general set of guidelines for if you’re new to pool swimming, particularly lap swimming.

What it does say is spot on. However these were written with straight up lap swimming involved, and I suspect they were based on random strangers making the best of self-regulating in public lap swimming.

 

Pacing sessions, on the other hand, are similar but different. Pretty much all of the general rules apply but there is the added complexity of the “rest” (in inverted commas because most of the time those seconds are the shortest 10-15 seconds of your life)periods at various points in the set.

My additional tips (my personal option only as usual) for these sets are based on the things that I know really work, because the squad I swim with are pretty good at these things, and our coaches believe in enforcing the same principles as they really make things easier and better for everyone.

So Jacki’s extra rules for pacing sessions are….

  1. Start with the basics. All the general etiquette for lap swimming still applies.
  2. Keep to the plan. The coaches devise a set and if everyone sticks to it, the faster swimmers head off first, if there’s a spread they may end up passing hte back of hte pack, but it shouldn’t happen more than needed.
  3. That includes the rest periods. In my experience, pretty much everyone gets the hang of the swimming part quite easily. the first big challenge is in the rest periods of 10 or 15 seconds. I understand it…you’ve been swimming hard, and if it’s near the end of the set you’ve been doing that for quite some time. It’s really tempting to take a few seconds extra to recover. And a few more, and a few more again. Problem is, if everyone starts doing their own thing here, the order gets all out of whack. Nobody wants to get to the end of their lap, have the person in front still resting when you’re due to take off again, and have them pass you…every. freaking. lap.
  4. On that note, either get a watch you can wear in the water and read, or learn how to read the clock. I get why this is hard. The more tired I get the less capable I am of even counting, let alone calculating lap times. It’s not really that complicated, though, and generally you have somewhere in the vicinity of 50-100m metres to think about it. Even I, at my most stuffed, can work out my start time plus 2 minutes….
  5. Listen to the coach. It’s kind of related to point 4…in that if I have enough of a hard time counting as I get tired, I don’t need to be worrying about trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing next. Let alone disrupting the swimmers around me by stopping them to ask them. OK – I admit I’m not always 100% good at this…but I’m trying!
  6. Other than that…common sense is always a good idea. In life, the universe and everything. But especially in swimming.

 

If you’ve arrived here without part one of this post, you can read it here. the upshot is that Bel and I were at the pool, down to the wire, to see how we would go swimming 5km in one go as a final deal-maker or -breaker before entering as a duo in the South Head Roughwater.

The event has a cutoff – 5 hours.If the team can’t complete the race in that amount of time, they will be recorded as a “DID NOT FINISH”. That’s a long swim to record a “DID NOT FINISH” so, as you can imagine, we really don’t want that to happen. My goal for this pool swim was to complete the distance in under 2 hours…just to give us plenty of wiggle room (plus Bel is quicker than me) to account for conditions on the day.

I wore my Timex, which will record up to 50 splits. This had the double advantage of keeping track of how many laps I’d done (I get bad at counting the more tired I get), and collecting the times for each of those laps. And if you know me, you’ll know I love data nearly as much as I love to swim.

And my favourite thing to do with data is? Put it in a spreadsheet! Chart it! Analyse it!

So that’s what I did. Click on the chart below to get the full view of how the swim went, numbers and commentary (otherwise known as the little voice in my head when I swim) combined.

 

5km chartAs for the time I swam? 1 hour, 59 minutes and 4 seconds! I did it!

Bel and I finished up with a coffee and getting our entry in. Seems it’s all going to actually happen!!!! I’m equal parts excited and scared, but looking forward to the challenge.

The bit I haven’t really touched on too much is that this is all for a good cause (other than providing your reading material). If you’d like to support the valiant efforts of Cure Cancer Australia you can help me reach my fundraising goal here.

 

Exactly 2 weeks out from the South Head Roughwater. Crunch time.

Since the end of last season I’d been thinking about pushing myself a bit further and the Coogee To Bondi 5km kept popping  into my head as the event to do it. By the start of the season I’d decided that I wanted to train for the event, and that’s exactly what I did. Double-up sessions back to back , and keeping focussed on consistently training 5-6 times a week.

I was doing pretty well and on track to be ready when in February, 8 weeks out, the website advised the event was postponed with an alternate date to be announces. A bit later this changed to the event being cancelled altogether for the year.

Nooooo

After the initial disappointment (eventually) wore off, I put my mind to finding a plan B. There are not many long course ocean swims around, and there was only one that was even as a possibility…doing the South Head Roughwater as a duo. That’s 10km total from Bondi to Watson’s Bay.

southheadmap

This, however,  presented a couple of challenges.

      1. I needed a partner to swim with me. Someone who was a good enough and fit enough swimmer to do the distance, but who wouldn’t be put off by my slower pace.
      2. To even enter this event, you need a support boat. It’s in the rules.

Proving, once again, that wine really does solve everything, a conversation at the post-season Can Too Mentors and Captains celebratory drinks resulted in a plan. Team BelJack was formed as Bel S and I agreed to swim as a duo, and we brainstormed a couple of support boat options. Right before we solved all the rest of the problems of the world. 😉

Fast forward to this weekend. We have our boat and driver (pilot? Captain?) confirmed, but have put off actually taking that step and entering our team. Whilst I’ve done plenty of longer swims and double-ups whenever I’ve raced this season, I actually hadn’t done the full 5km distance and I really wanted to get that under my belt before I could feel really confident that I’d be able to do the event. With that in mind we had talked about doing a 5km pool swim. Initial discussions had involved doing this at the Icebergs pool as it’s ocean water and same temperature as the ocean. Seems our choice of days was poor, though, as it was the launch of the winter season there and they throw ice-block in the pool for a penguin swim!

Des Renford

It seems we needed a Plan B to train for our Plan B.

Instead we headed to Des Renford Outdoor pool, where we were lucky enough to secure a lane each to ourselves.

So how did we go? How did I go? What time did I do? And what was that inner voice up to all that time in the water?

Watch this space for part 2 where all your questions (and some you haven’t even thought of yet) will be answered.

Finally. Finally!  Made it back to a weekday pool training session. It kind of feels like it’s been forever.

Funnily enough I did the same thing about the same time last year, for different reasons (tore an intercostal muscle….very difficult to swim with that. Or you know, breathe!) , but I kind of think for me it’s that same end-of-season thing where I’ve been pushing my body and getting up earlier on weekends than I do during the week for work for just long enough that I’m a bit worn out. Sometimes I need to be a bit kind to myself and stop putting quite so much pressure on (even though I still have the big goal swim to worry about) and take a bit of time to restore my energy.

The good news is, it worked! I’m feeling great and loving swimming and feeling like I want to do more again, instead of less.

It did get me thinking, though, about how much I need  to train.

It’s an interesting question. How much do I need to train for what exactly? To keep improving? To prepare for a big event? To maintain my current form? To keep from getting slower? To keep from forgetting how to swim altogether? To keep my love of the sport? To keep from going completely insane?*

The answer is as complicated as the question.

I have a couple (or quite a lot) of general rules that work for me….

  1. Three times a week is pretty much a bare minimum.
  2. Twice a week…I’ll be going backwards in terms of form and times, but pretty slowly.
  3. Once a week is better than nothing, but I will be going backwards nonetheless.
  4. 4-6 times a week and I’ll be making good progress and improving. More sessions=more progress.
  5. Sometimes other things happen. Guilt trips don’t do me any good. I like to aim for a certain number of training sessions per week, and (provided it’s more than 3) I give myself a “cheat” day I can use if I need for any session.
  6. Training has a seasonal aspect to it. I work on different things during the winter than the race season. I probably don’t need to train 6 times a week in winter…and should probably be focussing on different stuff.
  7. If I’m hurt or sick…forcing myself to go to training isn’t helping me get better. Appropriate treatment, and recognising the right time to get back to it is key.
  8. I’m allowed to forgive myself and move on if I’ve gotten a bit more sidetracked than I’d like. The important thing isn’t worrying about what I’ve missed, but getting on with it, and not feeling too daunted to get back to it.
  9. This is supposed to be FUN! I try to remember that.
  10. I’m not, nor will I ever be, an elite athlete in this (or any other) sport. My only competition is with myself. My only goals are my own. I need to figure out a good balance so that I can do this, and maintain the love and passion that will keep me doing this til a) I kick the bucket, b) they stop letting me enter (unlikely given the 85-year-old who swam at Cronulla on the weekend), or c)
  11. I try to remember, particularly on the tough days, that I pretty much never regret going to training. Being tired is not an excuse…I have more energy after training on a Saturday morning than I ever did the morning after Friday night drinks! All other dodgy excuses go pretty much down that same line of thinking if it really comes down to it.
  12. MOST IMPORTANT…training should be a habit not a choice. If there’s no good reason not to go, I go. And I mean a good reason. My mind plays tricks on me and tries to give me crappy excuses all the time. This rule, above all else, gets me there.

So ir you’re looking for an upshot, or a pithy conclusion…I’m not sure I have one. Except maybe…”find something you love, and do it as much as makes you happy”.

Actually, that’s not bad. I’m going into edit mode an gonna put that in the title.

*Swimming helps, but there are definitely no guarantees for my sanity. Not now, not ever.

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.

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