Tag Archive: race strategy


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….

 

Friday night. T minus two days to the big event.

Around Wednesday the forecast for race day was looking like it was a worst case scenario. 3.5m waves….a very scary prospect. Up until that point, I’d been feeling reasonably ok with the event. I knew it was going to be tough, but I wasn’t scared about it. Seeing that forecast, though, the butterflies swooped straight to my stomach and set up camp there for the duration. Bel and I exchanged a few text messages and some of them may have contained swear words….

By the night of the briefing, the forecast had improved slightly, but it was still looking as though race day was going to be a battle. On top of the nerves from that, and all the questions running through my mind that I was hoping would be answered at the compulsory briefing, my motorbike broke down as I headed home from work! Luckily it was close enough that I could walk home, grab my car, and leg it up to Watsons Bay Hotel just in time to make the briefing.

The briefing itself was good. Answered most of the questions that had been buzzing around my head…in case you’re interested, the answers were:

  • Solos start at 9, duos at 9:10 and teams at 9:20
  • There will be 2 white marine rescue boats providing support, plus the organiser’s boat.
  • A sign on the boat with the team number is mandatory and needs to be sighted and registered with one of the support boats before the swimmer will be allowed to proceed to that boat and on with the race.
  • For duos/teams, anyone who isn’t starting from the beach can be on the boat.
  • Swimmers must stop and check in with marine rescue at camp cove before crossing the ferry path.
  • The finish line was clarified as the surf club causeway.

We also received our lucky team number – 51, and our fetching hot pink caps for duos….

BelJacki Briefing

 

Apparently, if you imagine our hands as fluffy ears, the caps look like koala faces!

Then it was home for another pre-race alcohol-free high-protein early-to-bed exciting evening!

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

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.

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