Tag Archive: swim


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

But what can you do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short story –

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

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

*not actual number

Freshwater 1.5km 2013

Freshwater 1.5km 2013

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!

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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.

Saturday was Australia Day. Regardless on where you stand on the politics of the day, everyone pretty much agrees that if it’s at all possible, the thing to do on Australia Day is head to the beach. Unsurprisingly, Bondi is a popular choice and even early the beach was full of punters.

There was no Can Too session because of the public holiday, and just the one 4SEASons session….but we had invited along a bunch of our friends in orange and it was a pretty massive group that weaved its way between the sunbathers down the to the edge of the water.

After last Saturday’s run in with big waves, a few people were keen to work a bit more on that aspect of their swimming, and the weather helped out by providing some reasonable surf.

At the end of the session, quite a lot of people hung around. My friend Steph and sister had come down again, and we were joined by a few extras as we played in the waves and generally had a bit of fun. Such a nice thing to be able to do to celebrate a holiday!

I did a couple of wave-catching 1-on-1 sessions with Steph and Sonja who were still getting the hang of it. Seems they were both struggling with the same sorts of things.

My advice if you’re struggling with catching waves is that there are 2 key things.

  1. Timing. Get some practice somewhere you can stand, and watch the waves coming in towards you. Try a fraction earlier or later. See if you can pick how fast the waves are coming and get a feel for how the undertow tugs back just before the wave hits. These are all cues you can use to figure out the right timing to get on the wave. To early and you lose momentum, too late and you’ve missed it. Just right and you’ll be smiling all the way to the sand!
  2. Speed. Ideally you want to be going about the same speed as the wave. No point lifting your feet at the last second and hoping it’s going to be a sweet ride straight in. You need to really throw yourself into it. Dive horizontally as you jump on the wave. Push-off hard. And keep kicking, and stroking (one-handed works for me) while you’re on that wave to really make the most of it.

There are plenty of other tips and tricks once you’re on a wave, but if you’re really struggling I’d start with these. Getting there is a good part of the battle! Once you get it right, you can feel it working and running you all the way to the shore. It’s pretty amazing….for me pretty much always followed by wanting to do it all over again!

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