Tag Archive: swimming straight

Wow, I do tend towards the complimentary on here, I admit it. I love this whole ocean-swimming kit and caboodle, and I tend to get a bit excited.

This Saturday, though, It was a touch overcast, and I was tempted to stay in bed, but I try to think particularly of the Saturday ocean sessions as my non-negotiable staples.

So I got out of bed and I did the Saturday double. And I’m so glad I did. Even if I was to exaggerate it wouldn’t be enough to explain just how mind-bogglingly amazing it was out there.

The first session was a swim safari around the south end to McKenzies. Not the point, the inlet around they way. It’s about half way to Tamarama without the difficult an and/or out. There were plenty of fish around and lots to see, but the real highlight was this guy:

Object larger than it appears in this photo!

Object larger than it appears in this photo!

He swam directly underneath me, and he was pretty damn big. Because of his size I originally thought he was an eagle ray, but a bit of research seems to indicate he was probably a big common sting ray. Regardless, he was amazing. So graceful and quicker than you would think!

As the second session began, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Perfect for a journey swim to the North end! How lucky am I to get to do both swims in the same day?

Well, if I thought the massive ray and all the fish were spectacular, the north end was something else agin. The water was literally swarming with all manner of fish. It almost felt like swimming with the schools. There were so many of them and they were all moving so fast that they were impossible to photograph properly, but this horrible picture gives at least some concept of how many little fishies were letting us share their space.



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

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

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

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

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

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

I woke up on Sunday, and it could not have been brighter or better!

After the…errr…challenging conditions at the first Can Too Goal swim at Palm Beach, it was brilliant to see the sun shining, the tiny shore breakers the only waves lapping at the beach, and the smiles more common than furrowed brows on the orange-clad sea of Can Too swimmers buzzing on the beach.

As for the race, well the water was clear and the course was well marked. The main thing of note with the race was just how crowded it felt out there. In particular, in the 1km the wave start I was in was men and women 30-39. In a race this size that was a lot of people. It felt like you were swimming and being jostled the whole way along. I twas hard to overtake, and it felt like you were being pushed from all sides as faster swimmers passed. In the 2km this was slightly improved as they split the start group by gender, but it was still a big group. And it still felt super crowded out there. I’m normally a fan of not stretching the start times out too far (Cole Classic anyone?) so that the water safety people don’t have to be out there for hours, and people aren’t having to wait too long on the beach at the start and the end, but I did really feel this race went to the other extreme.

Other than that, though, the races were great. The water was clear and there was minimal swell.

As usual for me lately, I got no joy out of the 1km race. I’ve just been working too much on distance to have any idea how to sprint…and it was never my strong point in the first place. I seem to also overthink it…worrying about whether I’m going too hard so I’ll lose it in the longer race and then worrying I’m going too slow and don’t need to. then somehow I do these completely rubbish times.

The 2km, as usual for me lately, was a sheer delight. I felt good and strong and kept a fairly good line and came out with a PB for that distance even if you account for the fact that the course was a little short.

I’ve added the GPS maps for each race below…and thought it’d be interesting to add the 1km from a couple of weeks ago…just to show that a 1km course isn’t always the same thing…even at the same beach only a  couple of weeks apart!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Umbrellas. Yep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a difference a year makes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smooth sailing - Warriewood to Mona Vale

Smooth sailing – Warriewood to Mona Vale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not exactly.

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

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

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

My internal monologue was going something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wort every second. 2 thumbs up!

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Photos courtesy of Steph!

Sunday was the Bilgola 1.5km event. It’s about an hour’s drive away and OTB (Over the Bridge) from my house, so Allison and Ronene and I carpooled and drove up to the Northern beaches.

There had been some internet chatter about a “southerly” couched in terms of doom, but we were pretty happy on the way up. The sun was shining, it was so warm we needed the air conditioning on, and we could see the sun sparkling off the flat water.

We made it in good time and pulled up into the rugby club carpark and lined up for the courtesy shuttle bus down to the beach.

And then the southerly arrived. Just. Like. That.

The cloud rolled in, and the air turned cold and the wind picked up. Literally in the time it took us to get to the beach, things had turned nasty.

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Most importantly, the wind was whipping up the waves. And then blowing the tops off them spraying water all over the place.

After last week I did my best to calm the nerves and assure myself that I do relatively better in rough conditions and that I would be totally fine. That I know what I’m doing when I’m out there. That it’s just one buoy to the next, and one arm in front of the other.

And that’s kind of what happened. Plus mouthfuls of water, and not being able to see the buoys because the waves were too big and the wind was blowing so much water off the top of them that it felt like it was raining hard.

I actually had to stop 3 times during the race…and I can’t remember the last time I had to stop even once. The first time because my goggles were a bit fogged…and I was having so much trouble seeing anyway I needed all the help I could get.

The second stop was because I managed to inhale/swallow what felt like the contents of a small lake. I swallow a bit of water on a regular basis and it doesn’t really freak me out any more…but this was a different volume altogether. Enough that I had to stop and cough. And maybe gag just a little.

The last stop was literally because I was so horribly lost. I knew I’d gone off track after the first main can and had gotten myself back on track to get out the back and that had cost me too much time already. The field was so spread out, and no matter how much I sighted I couldn’t see a buoy. I kept swimming in vaguely in the direction I thought I was supposed to be going, but when I started seeing waves breaking onto rocks ahead of me, I decided that wasn’t a course I wanted to continue. 2 guys who had been swimming nearby also stopped for a look. “Where the hell is that can?” one asked. “No idea” was my response.

Not exactly a straight line....

Not exactly a straight line….

Next minute a really big wave came along and from the crest all 3 of us spotted the buoy at the same time. A quick swear word later and we were all off back in the right direction (and swam basically together for the rest of the course).

So in the end, I finished. That’s about the best that could be said. My time was atrocious (47:45) and I was sloshing full of seawater.

A couple of our 4SEASons swimmers didn’t finish and there were plenty  of people who obviously struggled as much as I was far from last.

I’m off on holidays from next weekend so that’s the last swim for me until the new year. Let’s home the conditions give me a decent one soon, because that Billie swim with a southerly felt like hard work!

This week I did the early Saturday 4SEASons session before Can Too. It was every bit as gorgeous as Friday night with the sun shining and the gentle waves. Gorgeous morning for a point to point!!

I did a bit of an abridged course so I could finish a bit early and be up at the surf club for when the Can Too crew arrived.

It was a pretty quick and straightforward swim, nice to stretch out.


Last point to point - a little more wobbly!














Interesting to compare it to the last point to point and see how much easier it is to swim a straight(er) course when the waves are smaller.

Still not as straight as I’d like…guess there’s always room for improvement!

I doubled up on Saturday training again this week, and it was a touch easier. I’ve done this twice now, and I’m starting to realise that the double-up is a bit of a different proposition to the training I’ve been doing so far. To clarify my thinking, I made a list of lessons I’ve learnt so far.

  1. Protein. I need to have some sort of high protein snack in between sessions for fuel. I’m researching and thinking on this topic and write more as I figure it out.
  2. Hydration. I need to focus more on hydrating between sessions. It’s a long time to be out in salt water and sun (ha!) if I’m not hydrated well enough.
  3. Rinsing off. It was a hard lesson to learn…figuring that I was basically going straight back in the water there wasn’t much point queueing for a shower. Except we started session 2 with a beach run. Let’s just say one word and leave it at that: Chafing.
  4. Afternoon naps. Not in between sessions, but afterwards. Now things are kind of in full swing, i find I’m getting up even earlier on Saturdays and Sundays than I do during the week for work. That means literally no sleep-ins. If I want to catch a few extra zzzs, a disco nap is my friend.
  5. Sunscreen reapplication. Another Lesson I really need to get better at remembering. I’m religious about sunscreen, I wear it every day, year round, whether I’m out swimming or heading into the office. Problem is, most sunscreens really don’t cope too well with two hour-long sessions of swimming in the ocean with the water and the salt and the sand. Reapplication is the only answer. And as the Australian sun gets stronger and stronger throughout the summer, invisible zinc is the only thing I’ve found that can cut it.
  6. Staying warm between sessions. I’m still figuring this out. I don’t want to have to get back into the wetsuit at this point…It’s too much of a pain to get on and off, I feel bad wearing it when all the Can Too crew are going in news, and I get too hot. If I tried to get showered and changed and dressed, I’d have to turn around straight away and change back into swim gear again so that’s not going to work. I only have finite room to take gear on the motorbike, so I’m limited about what extra kit I can pack. I think this will get easier as the days warm up, but for now, I’m thinking a beanie might be part of the solution. And maybe a thermos.

The session itself was a cracker. We did a point to point…North to south and back again. That’s one of my favourite things to do at Bondi. It’s very satisfying to swim from one end to the other, and I remember it being one of my proudest moments the first time I did it.

About half way across the sun finally made an appearance for the first time in over a week. We could finally see that the water was clear and the light bounced along on the shifting sands on the bottom to a lovely effect. It lifted the mood immediately.

I was feeling great…two weeks into the ramped up training plan and I’m feeling faster and stronger and capable and confident. We were a small group…Jane who is fast, Jimmy and Claire who are medium, and two others who did a shorter course as one is pregnant and the other new. I’ve pretty much been a down-the-back swimmer since I started 2 years ago…but today I graduated tot he medium group and kept up the whole way! Small victories make me happy!

Point to Point

Point to Point




That’s what Saturday was. One of those days that makes you want to sing and jump up and down and you feel like you can’t get the smile off your face.

You know, the conditions weren’t perfect….the waves were pretty big, and there was a nasty rip heading out the middle that may have given coach Zoe a few early gray hairs. But I was having a ball.

I felt good and strong and the neck issues didn’t rear their ugly head at all. The sun was shining, and I was surrounded by great company and good waves and body-surfing! What’s not to love?

I also had my new gadget to test out properly – a Garmin Forerunner 10 (Green). I’m still getting hte hang of it, and as you can see I may have forgotten to switch it on right at the start which is why my swim appears to start right out the back in the middle of the Bondi bay. Still, it’s done a pretty good job of tracking the course of my (somewhat haphazard) swim on Saturday.

Swim Course

Note to self: take own advice on swimming straight.

It also seems to have done a pretty good job of proving I need to take my own advice on swimming straight!

Still, should be great for the upcoming race season….I’ll be able to see how well I’ve kept to the course, what sort of pacing I’m doing, and share all of this with my awesome readers! I can’t wait!

I also took the Pentax out for some great shots…but forgot to take it out of my swim bag so I’ll post photos later.

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