Andrew, my age group nemesis, showing how it should be done

We had entered this two-day swimming gala on a whim, more to support the promoting club and to have a little adventure mor than anything else. I had looked at the program and seen that crawl and butterfly were well represented. I entered the 100, 200 and 400 freestyle and the 50 and 100 butterfly. I felt confident about four of those events, but I was very nervous about my nemesis event of the one hundred butterfly. I was yet to complete that distance at that stroke at a competition despite putting in a lot of time practicing.

The first surprise was that the pool was not heated. More accurately the heating had been turned off a few weeks ago when the pool was closed, and no one had thought to turn it back on again for the competition. The temperature hovered around the high teens; it was cold to get in but after a few lengths I found it reasonable. I was probably helped by hours and hours of swim swimming in less than pool temperature sea water. Others were complaining bitterly and not warming up properly.

My first event was the fifty-meter butterfly. I was reasonably confident that I could complete the distance, but I was not sure if my newly found and fragile prowess in the stroke would stay the course. I recently worked out how to take more than one stroke without breathing and that had made things a lot smoother.

I stood on the side of the pool and prepared myself. My strategy was to make as much distance as I could with the dive, reducing the amount of butterfly I would have to do. I leapt and kicked and came up in front of the others in my heat. This gave me a small boost. I quickly got into my stride and stung a few strokes together before reverting to my old breath every stoke style. The end of the pool took a long time to get to but I did remember to finish with both hands on the side.

A few minutes after the heat I suddenly found that my services as the fly swimmer in the medley relays were in demand. I went from being safe in the knowledge that I only had one more freestyle event to do to having two more fifty-meter fly legs in relays to do. This was not in my plan. I managed to get through the relays in a similar style to the individual fifty butterfly. I was tired by the end of that and not sure how I was going to do the one hundred butterfly tomorrow. I felt that having a few drinks and a good night’s sleep would help. I achieved neither

Day two started with a four-hundred-meter freestyle event, two of us in the last heat of this we meant to be swimming in the one-hundred-meter fly directly afterwards. We both appealed to the organisers for clemency, and they adjusted the running order so that we had a little rest between the events. I felt that the four hundred freestyle went well considering the temperature of the pool. It acted as a good warm up from what was to come.

The start of my nemesis event came quickly. Before I knew it, I was standing on the blocks looking down to the other end of the pool. I had no doubt that I could get down there, getting back was a whole different question. I readied myself for the start and tried to make the dive last forever by kicking furiously underwater. That part of my strategy worked, I came up ahead of my competitors without doing a stroke, whereas they had already done two. I then tried to settle into a rhythm of two strokes and a breath. I was also trying not top hold my breath underwater. I could not hold both these thoughts at the same time without something going very wrong. Halfway up the pool I reverted to one breath a stroke and to hell with breathing out. I reached the end slapped both hands on the wall and turned. On the plus side I was ahead of my competitors, one the minus side I still had fifty meters to go and this fifty was a lot longer than the last one.

I reverted to survival fly after the first few strokes. I hoped I could just muscle it out and get to the end. I no longer thought about the friendly rivalry I had with the person next to me. All I wanted to do was finish. I had been told last week that when everything goes wrong, concentrate on the kicking. Everything was going wrong, so I concentrated on the kicking, something that up until this point had worked correctly on its own. The moment I started thinking about it, it added itself to the list of things that were going wrong. All pretence of getting to the end finished as I tried to duck my head in the water at the same time as taking a breath. I stopped, I did not care that I was ahead at this point, I just could not go any further. I watched the others finish the race and then made my way to the end of the pool. My nemesis event had beaten me again.

I was told later my one of the judges that if I had not stopped and got a DNF I would have been DQed for a bad turn and reverting to flutter kick a few moments before I stopped. At least it was not three DQs in a row

Andrew, my nemesis, still going long after I’d stopped

I had heard of the MurrayMan as my club organises it, but I never thought of entering it because of the running part. I have long since come to terms with the fact that an accumulation of injuries over my running career means that running any significant distance is never going to happen. I was delighted to find that there was an aqua-bike option, I could do the swim and the cycle and totally dispense with the run. This appealed to me. There was also the vaguest of possibilities that I could qualify for the worlds but that depended on no one in my age group entering and me doing a blistering time. One of these prerequisites required me to do some training and the other required luck. As I said it was the vaguest of possibilities so not really worth thinking about.

Race nerves hit me early in the day, I had got up early as I needed time to gather my thoughts, have a minimal breakfast of a biscuit and a cup of tea and then make multiple visits to the loo. I stood on the grass beside the lake feeling quite empty inside.

I was one of the very few in the long course races who had decided to tackle the swim without the aid of a wetsuit. I felt a little out of place dressed in just a tri-suit amongst all the neoprene clad seals. I had been for a swim in the lake the day before and I was more than comfortable swimming without neoprene. In fact I think that if I had worn my wetsuit, I would have resembled a boil in the bag swimmer by the end of the swim leg. I waited until the last moment before taking my sweatshirt off. It was not cold but there was a breeze coming off the lake that had the power to chill. I did not want to get cold before getting into the water. The wave before mine went off and I took this as my cue to enter the water. I had no desire to be mixed in with the fighting fast swimmers. I found a bit of space on the right-hand side and settled in amongst the seals waiting for the hooter to signal the start of swimming.

Getting out of the water ready for the bike

The swim course went out to a buoy, that looked a long way away. We then had a long swim past one buoy and onto a turn toward the shore, here we rounded the buoy and headed back to the middle buoy of the long straight before turning left and repeating the last part of the swim again. I had read all this in the race manual, but it now seemed all very real now that I was standing waist deep in water. The hooter started and I started walking forward, some started swimming but it seemed a little pointless until the water was deep enough. I settled into my stroke soon enough. At first, I was overtaken by a lot of seals who were in the euphoria of the start. I did my usual settle in slowly. It did not take long for me to start overtaking seals. This gave me an enormous sense of satisfaction. I got a little annoyed at seals who could not swim and sight at the same time as I nearly swam over them. I was passed by the leaders from the fast men who had gone in a wave before mine at about three quarters of the way round. This felt about right, I was on course for a reasonable swim.

The swim seemed to pass for too quickly, all too soon I was shambling towards transition to prepare myself for the bike. I had laid out my kit in the order I needed to put it on to make the process easy. I still had to sit on the floor to put on my shoes, this felt normal. I was quite pleased with my transition. I was a lot faster than my teammate who in her words “faffed about”.

Heading out for the first time not knowing about the wind

I got on the bike and felt strong. I had expected it to feel a bit strange after the swim but the journey through transition seemed to have been long enough to get ride of that feeling. I passed a few others on the way out of the village and powered along the side of the lake. I was not sure where the power was coming from, but I was thankful for it. The reality of the situation hit me in the fact the course worked its way round the lake. The wind was brutal. The return leg of the lap was a struggle against the wind. I found it hard to hold the time trail position on the bike as I was going too slowly. I was so thankful to make the turn at the end of the lap. I made full use of the wind as I now knew what was to come.

The windswept and chaffed return

My tri-suit is quite old and has lost some of its elasticity. This is not normally a problem but on a bike leg of this length it started to have consequences. It was after sucking down my first gel in the middle of the third lap. My “soft organs” were trying to escape down my left leg. This led to a lot of friction being generated. At this point my main concern was that the saddle was resting under the joint of my right leg. I tried to rearrange the contents of the lower part of my tri-suit, but the relief was only temporary. It did not take long for my “soft organs” to try and escape down my left leg. After a while I just gave up and tried to ignore the chafing. I knew that I would pay for it later but the struggle against the wind took my mind off it.

I passed the first few houses on the edge of town and knew that there was not far to go. The last bit was reasonably sheltered so I got down on the bars and pressed on to the end of the race. All I had to do now was rack my bike and take a slow jog to the finish. It was over and I was pleased with my time.

The short jog to the finish line

The pain from down below hit me in the recovery area whilst I was laying in the massage therapists table having my legs pummelled and being told that I was dehydrated. She declined to apply any remedial therapy to that area.

The after race pummelling
The calm before the storm that is my attempt at swimming butterfly

I had been practicing since my last attempt at doing butterfly in a swimming gala. At the end of every session in the pool I had added a little bit of butterfly and on each length, I had diligently practiced touching the wall with both hands. I now felt confident enough to give it another go, only this time I hoped that I would get to the end of the race without being disqualified. I entered the maximum three events in the gala, I would start with the four hundred meters freestyle, follow that with a fifty butterfly and then move onto my nemesis of the one-hundred-meter butterfly.

I had swum four hundred meters freestyle many times so there were no monsters hiding in the water for this race. Someone I knew was in the next lane and I did not want to be beaten by them. I lagged by about half a body length for the first three hundred meters but that was fine. I could see that he was tiring. I had matched his fast-beginning effort with my slow start. I had plenty left in the tank and he was fading. I started to ratchet the speed up and he started to fall away. I could see that he was now racing me, but I had made a gap and I was holding it. I touched ahead of him and felt happy. The first race was under the belt and I was settled in. Now all I had to do was the butterfly.

The next race was the fifty-meter butterfly, and this was a bit of a rematch from my first ever fifty-meter butterfly. Andrew was in the lane next to me as he was in that first race when he beat me by a few seconds. We had chatted at various events since then and he was always interested in how the Butterfly was coming along. We were, after all, in the same age group, so we were effectively racing each other for points. Andrew was late to the start; everyone was ready to go by the time he arrived. Although our rivalry was fun, it was only a small consideration. The main thought I had going up the pool was to hit the end with both hands. The was back was harder as I was running out of energy. I sensed that Andrew was behind me but doubted it would last for long. I was overjoyed that I reached the wall moments before him.

My next and last race was my nemesis, the one-hundred-meter butterfly. I was in lane one this time as everyone else in the race had a time that was at least half of mine. I knew that they would all be waiting for me to finish at the end of the race. As I walked to the blocks, I realised that I was not wearing my goggles. I went into a minor panic as they were nowhere to be seen. I borrowed a pair from another swimmer, but that little incident did nothing for my nerves. I stood on the blocks and waited for the hooter. It came far too quickly. I was confident that I could complete the first fifty as I had recently done the distance. I made sure to touch the wall with both hands and started on the third lap. Things were starting to get hard. My timing was going and when that happens everything starts to go wrong. I planted my hands on the wall and started the last length. Everything was starting to hurt, all I had to do was keep it together and get to the other end. The last few strokes were painful, but I had made it. I was last but that did not matter. I had completed my first one-hundred-meter butterfly.

I learnt that I had been disqualified a few minutes later, a marshal wandered over to me and explained that my kick had gone to pot during the last leg. Instead of looking like a graceful dolphin I was more like a cod on the deck of a fishing boat. The official term was “scissor kick”. A least my hands had been planted correctly on the pool wall.

The sea was washing over the reef as the course was being prepared

There was a five-kilometre swim on offer and normally I would have done it but when I entered, I realised that I would be on holiday the week before and would not be swimming. I had opted to do the two-and-a-half-kilometre version instead. Looking at the conditions on the day I was glad that I had had that lucid moment. The sea was at the top of the tide, which in theory meant I would get a push from the current doing down the beach, but the wind was coming from the south and that would make going down the beach harder. It should make coming back easier but then I would be held back by the current. The water was a little choppy and that was the main topic of conversation on the beach.

The start was chaos. The one kilometre and the two and a half kilometre events started at the same time putting a lot of people on the start line. As usual, some people who should be at the back as they are not particularly quick crowded to fount and generally got in the way. The hooter sounded and the chaos began. I do not like swimming over people, but I did not have a choice. I was hemmed in on both sides and had nowhere to go except over the swimmer in front. I suppose I could have stopped and tried to swim round them, but I am sure that stopping would have ended up with someone swimming over me.

I thought I was in clear water when someone tried to swim over me. Their timing was not perfect though and they caught on my arm as it rose out of the water. The had the effect of lifting them and throwing them to one side. I do not think they were expecting that.

I was in clear water by the time I reached the pink buoy, but I had the feeling that I was being followed. I pushed on through the chop and against the wind. It was hard going but I was enjoying the challenge. My feelings about being followed were confirmed when I felt a hand brushing against my feet. It was worse than being followed, I was being drafted. I tried all the techniques I knew to shake my passenger but none of them worked, I was stuck with a shadow.

After rounding the buoys at the far end of the course I had the wind behind me, and the waves were going in my direction. This should have made things easier, but it did not feel like it. My shadow decided that it was time to move and drew up beside me. I felt that I now had the perfect opportunity to be dragged along the course, so I tried to tuck in behind him. It worked for a few hundred meters but then I was distracted by the fish on the reef to my left. The moment I lost concentration the string broke and my shadow was free to swim his own race.

Just before the turn buoy by the jetty I spotted a blue plaque on the bottom. I wanted to dive down and have a look but then I had to remind myself that I was meant to be racing. I made a mental note to return to this beach for a proper look around the reef.

I rounded the final turn. All I had to do was swim to shore, but it felt as if I had hit a brick wall. I was not making much progress and I felt as if everybody was passing me. I struggled on until my hand touched the sand. It was a hard race but fun all the same.

The team
The finish, where we all wanted to be

I was not going to enter this race, I held out until a few hours before the deadline before deciding that it would be a good idea. I was not sure what was putting me off, I just had a feeling. I had been in the race last year, but it was held a little further up the coast, not that that mattered much, a one-kilometre loop is the same regardless of which part of the beach that it is on.

We arrived early, because we had been warmed about a lack of parking, and then joined the ever-growing throng of swimmers all of whom seemed intent on discussing the sea conditions. The tide was falling which meant that the current was going down the beach, but the wind was blowing up the beach. The wind always seems to win in these parts so most people guessed that the first half of the loop would be into waves and hard work whereas the return part would be a bit easier.

I had a quick chat with our club coach before the start. After the usual pleasantries he asked me if I had a plan. I wasn’t sure if “swimming round and round until the end” was what he was after, so I dressed it up as “swim all three laps at an even pace”. He felt that I should modify that to “and swim the last lap faster”. Following his plan would require skill and fitness, whereas following my plan required stubbornness. I opted to decide which plan to follow at the start of the third lap.

A lovely day, but what about the swimming conditions

Apart from getting round I had two objectives. The first was not to be lapped by the one-kilometre swimmers who were starting a few minutes behind us. It felt doable with a head start. I almost missed the start due to taking photographs, the hooter went as I reached the line, so I didn’t have time to consider where on the line to start and to have a few moments of idle banter. I just had to go. I battled against the wind and waves all the way to the turnaround point. I quite enjoyed that. The return journey felt so much easier. I was nearing the end of the lap when the first one-kilometre swimmer passed me. As I rounded the buoy, they were all around. One tried to swim over me, they had a practical demonstration of what happens when a yacht hits a supertanker.

My second objective was not to be lapped by the pointy end of my race. I was near the end of the second lap when the front man came steaming passed me. That was rather disheartening. I know I’m not that fast, but I didn’t realise that I was that slow either. At least this time the turn was not plagued by a swam of fast people.

Some fat bloke, at the finish, happy with his swim

I saw stripy woman come passed me at the start of the third lap. I thought about trying to chase her, but I could not raise the motivation. The idea of raising the pace on the third lap was just that, an idea. I continued at the same pace all the way to the end.

It was after the race that I remembered why I didn’t want to enter. The presentations in the surf club were disorganised and seemed to go on for ever. It really took the shine off the whole event.

A lot of these people were faster than me
Looking over to Brighton Jetty
A lovely day for a swim

Normally this swim is a handicap swim, but this year things were a little bit different because of the virus. The handicaps were gone and along with it the wonderful pre-swim game of complaining about the handicap. Apparently, this aspect of the race was abandoned to stop the crowding at the finish. Instead, we had a point-to-point race with a mass start. It is beyond me what the difference is between a mass start and a mass finish but there must be one.

It was a lovely day and the water looked very inviting, almost too inviting. It was almost a shame to be racing. A gentle splash up and down would have been much more fitting for the weather. We all traipsed to the water’s edge and into the warm sea water. Some people had opted to wear a wetsuit and that seemed strange to me. I had a feeling that they would feel like a boil in the bag meal by the end of the swim.

After a bit of bobbing around between the two buoys we were off, racing down to the jetty. All I had to remember as to pass the last buoy on the right, the rest were just markers. The start was the usual confusion of bodies jostling for position. I always want to do well but I am a long way from the pointy end of any race, so I hung back and let the fast one’s battle for position before getting into my stride.

The water was as clear as glass giving me a lovely view of the sea bottom a few meters below. I was swimming over fields of sea grass boarded by clean sand. At one point I saw a white symmetrical pattern lurking in the sea grass. At first, I thought it was a ray of some sort, but the tail looked a little too thick. Had I not been in a race I would have circled round for a closer look. I was told later that it was a Port Jackson Shark although I am still not sure.

I saw the stripped swimsuit about a third of the way into the swim a few meters to the left. We were going about the same pace. Every now and again she would disappear but a few minutes later she would return to the same position. We passed people and people passed us but she became a constant in my watery world. I tried speeding up, she kept with me, I slowed down so do she. It was like having a stripy shadow. As we passed the last marker buoy, I latched onto another swimmer and go a tow for a few hundred meters, that was enough to lose my shadow but not enough for me to feel comfortable that she wouldn’t return. I made the turn and went hell for leather for the finish. I stood up when the water ran out and found that I was right, my stripy shadow had been right behind me.

What a find bunch of people to go swimming with

Butterfly

Posted: December 18, 2020 in Swimming
Tags: , , ,
Waiting to start the first bout of Butterfly

Butterfly is the stroke that looks good when done well but is extremely hard to do well. I first tried to swim it about six months ago and the results were predictable. What I thought was a graceful movement through the water was a classic demonstration of synchronised doggie paddle. The coach was left speechless and by club mates tried not to laugh. I should have given up at that point and stuck to what I knew but the little voice inside me told me that I could master this stroke. Luckily, I knew someone who was willing to induct me into the dark art of the butterfly.

Over the next six months I obsessed about how to perform the stroke. I watched videos, I read books, I asked for advice. The end of most of my swim sessions ended with a little more practice. Some days it felt that I was making progress, others it felt like I was going backwards. I slowly worked my way up to something that looked reasonably competent and that would take me the length of a short pool. I tried to ignore the minor inconvenience of not being able to catch my breath at the end of the length.

I decided that I needed a goal, something to achieve using my newfound skill. It would have to be something short as I was not capable of going long. I found a swim meet that fitted the bill. I entered the twenty-five- and fifty-meter butterfly events, ignoring the fact that I never quite swum fifty meters of butterfly. I was sure that it would come right on the day. I entered the four-hundred free as well as it was the first event. It felt like that could act as the warmup.

A week before the event I was told that starting in the water was probably not acceptable for strange and obscure reasons that I did not fully understand. I am not that keen on diving into water, I can do it, but I prefer not to. It is a combination of not liking to get wet, the aftermath of a high diving incident in my youth and a healthy respect of cold water. I formulated a plan. I would try a dive for the first event and then if it went wrong, I would hide in the toilet until the end of the meet.

I was feeling nervous when I turned up to the meet. I tried to hide it by chatting to everyone around me. It’s a thing that I do when I’m nervous. A few minutes later we were allowed into the pool for a warmup. It was a small pool and there were a lot of people, so it made for a slow warm up. That was exactly what I wanted. All though my laps I could feel a certain pressure building down below. This was the other symptom of nerves. I had to visit the loo; I had no choice. This is where I found that wet skin and toilet paper are not a good match.

The four hundred free was the first event. I had no plans to stand on the blocks, that would have been a step too far. I felt that my first dive in years should be from the side of the pool. I steadied myself at the starters command waited for the horn and leapt in. It felt alright and I emerged still wearing my goggles, which was a bonus. Now all I had to do was swim up and down trying to keep count of how many lengths I had done. The swim seemed to take a lot longer than I expected but as I was only using it as a warmup for the main event, I was not that worried.

My next event was the twenty-five fly. I was sure that I would get to the end of the length as I had done it many times before. The only difference here would be the dive. Once in the water I had to remember that I should be doing a dolphin kick and not my usual flutter kick. I could be disqualified if I did not. The hooter went and I took my second dive for the day. I took a couple of dolphin kicks to remind me which stoke I was doing and then lifted both arms out of the water. One thought ran through my mind. I had to touch the end with both hands.

I had a bit of time between my first and second butterfly event and that gave me a little time to recover. I reached the end of the last event feeling spent and I was having serious doubts about achieving the whole fifty. These thoughts were still running through my mind as I stood on the side of the pool wait for the starter to set us off. I executed another successful dive, did a few kicks, and lifted my arms from the water. This time I had to concentrate. Head in, bum up, head in bum up. The wall came up I touched with both hands and turned. Now for the hard part, getting back. The return journey seemed a lot longer. It did not have the benefit of the dive or of me being fresh. Halfway down the pool the effort started taking its toll. Every stoke took more and more out of me. I could feel the energy draining from my arms and legs. I put all my effort into the last two strokes and hit the wall with both hands. I had done it, fifty meters fly. I had no idea where I had come or how fast I had done it. I did know that it was a personal best by default.

A Dip in the Pool

Posted: November 17, 2020 in Swimming
Tags: , ,

on your marks…

I’ve been avoiding doing a pool competition for as long as I can remember. I have an aversion to diving into water after an incident in Greece many years ago and I feel that my swimming prowess is not quite what is required to deal with a competition. Over the last year the club coach has been trying to persuade me to enter. I have wriggled out by throwing myself into the marshalling. I tried to use not diving as an excuse, but masters swimming events are not that fussed if you start in the water. I tried to use being inept at doing tumble turns as an excuse but far too many people pointed out that a lot of other people who did do these events couldn’t tumble turn either. Mainly, I feared being exposed. That one lane in a pool looked like a very lonely place were the eyes of the world can compare my inept splashing alongside people who could really swim. Over the weeks and months, he worked on me until the pressure was too much. I felt that the only way forward was to enter an event and prove to the world how bad I was. I decided on the long-distance event as that would counteract my complete lack of diving. Sprinting is not for me. I had hoped that it was going to be a long course event with a fifteen-hundred-meter event but COVID stamped on that and transformed it into short course event with the longest event being an eight hundred. I entered both the eight hundred and the two hundred freestyle. I was now committed, and it didn’t feel good. I now had to swim, that was not what I wanted.

I knew that I preferred a long slow warm up. I dipped into the warmup pool and started on an overly long and very slow warm up. I quite enjoyed just slowly splashing up and down, keeping one eye on the massive scoreboard that hung above it. My splashing got faster as the time rolled on. After about half an hour I felt that I was ready. I got out of the pool and headed to marshalling. I knew how this bit worked as I’d been in this marshalling area directing swimmers to the pool many times. It wasn’t long before I was led out to the side of the pool ready to start. This was the moment of truth and it was very likely that I was about to be found out.

I slipped into the water with the back strokers. I found that ironic as my backstroke is sketchy to say the least. I bobbed in the water waiting for the start and considering the ethics of having a quick pee in the pool. I didn’t have too long to think about it, the start gun went, and we were off. I was near the edge of the pool; on one side I had a very fast swimmer doing butterfly. I was very slightly faster than him.

I missed the first turn. The end of the pool was on a gantry so when I was looking down, I could only see water. I reached out for the wall and it wasn’t there. It was about half a meter a head. I felt a little bit silly about that. It preyed on my mind for the next lap. On the next attempt I missed it again, but this time by a little less. At least it was getting better. I hit the turn on the next attempt and felt good about it. From then on, I concentrated on hitting the turn each time. The unfortunate slide effect was that I lost count of which lap I was on. This isn’t normally a problem as I usually wear a lap counting watch. Unfortunately, this wasn’t allowed in this event. I knew that I’d swum a fair way, but I didn’t know how far it was to the end. The butterflyer in the next lane passed me. I hoped that was a sign of being near the end. Then I heard a whistle. I was confused. Was that the end or did I have more to go. I stopped. The timekeepers told me I had another lap. That was disappointing. I attempted to power through the last two lengths and reached the side in my favourite position: not last.

I felt that the two hundred should be easier as it was shorter. Again, I slipped into the water, confusing those around me who thought that I was doing backstroke. The start gun went, and I did an impression of powering off. My plan was to swim as fast as possible from the outset. This wasn’t a good plan, and the reason became obvious on the fifth length. I felt all the energy drain from my body. Every movement became an extreme effort. I felt like giving up but struggled through to the end. I looked up at my time. It was a lot faster that I’d expected but not as fast as it could have been. I had very mixed emotions about that.

I’d done it, a swimming gala, in a swimming pool, in warm water. I can’t say that I enjoyed it. I found it annoying and frustrating. I knew in my heart that I made mistakes and could have gone faster but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to have another go. My hope is that the coach will now stop the emotional blackmail and I can go back to doing what I enjoy. Swimming up and down in the anonymity of a crowd

104 jetty

Low water and a big swell in Horseshoe Bay

This was meant to be the glorious culmination of my towel-hunting odyssey, a wonderful swim in a lovely place to mark the end of a season long goal of being awarded a towel for participating in all the swims in the season. The reality was a little different. A message came through at about 10am to say that the swim was cancelled due to high winds. We decided to go to Horseshoe Bay anyway as we had arranged to meet friends that evening.

It was obvious why the swim was cancelled. The conditions were exciting. We toyed with the idea of going for a quick dip but we were seduced by the means of the offer of a drink to visit people form another swim club.

We went back to the bay the next day to swim. The conditions hadn’t improved that much and it made for a lively an interesting swim. At least the towel was in the bag. I just had to wait until November for it to be handed to me.

104 Bay

come on in the water’s fine

103 noar start

The start, looking out to the reef and the first bouy

I’d signed up for this swim before doing Rottnest Channel Swim as I’d had a suspicion that I probably wouldn’t do it otherwise. I was right. The deep-seated exhaustion of a long swim was still with me. If it weren’t for the towel, I probably would have stayed in bed. I took a long time to register as I dallied with the idea of doing the shorter distance. In the end, I registered for the longer distance as I feel that last minute changes are a pain for the organisers.

The course took us out to the reef and then ran parallel with it until the turning buoy. Those doing the shorter distance had a different colour buoy to turn round whilst the longer distance followed almost the full length of the reef. This made a delightful change to the usual swimming round in circles.

I lined up at the start with the others; I had no intention of a quick start or even being quick. My arms started aching the moment I started flailing them about in the water. I watched the start and then got on my way. Today was all about completing the distance, times and positions were immaterial.

103 noar course

A lovely stretch of water to have a swim in

I was surprised to find that I wasn’t last as I rounded the first buoy and into the wind. A small group around me seemed to be going at the same pace. Some of them were even sighting. I felt that it would be easier to follow them than trouble myself with the added complications of navigating. It was a plan that for the most part worked. I got a long way down the reef without going significantly off course. It fell apart when I started looking at the fish rather than the swimmers. There were many fish and some of them were quite colourful. None of them were going in the same direction as me and that required me to correct my course rather drastically.

It seemed like a long way to the turning buoy but I suspect that the wind had something to do with that. I certainly felt the push as I headed back to the start. My arms had accepted their fate by this point and had given up complaining. I took this as a good sign. I stared to notice different colour hats just after passing the other tuning buoys. They had stared ten minutes after me and done a shorter distance so by a process of simple maths I worked out that I wasn’t the slowest person in the water today.

I felt that I had fallen in with a small group of similar pace, all of whom were heading in a direct line to the last buoy. From almost nowhere a competitive urge kicked in. I had no idea where it came from, as it certainly wasn’t there at the beginning of the swim. I upped my stroke rate and pulled ahead. This suddenly presented me with a problem. I’d not really listened to the briefing so I didn’t know which side of the last buoy to pass. Getting it wrong would put my towel hunt in jeopardy. After a few moments of panic, I noticed that there were some swimmers between the buoy and me. All I had to do was watch them, this involved sighting far more often than I was comfortable.

Once the last buoy was out of the way, it was a simple matter of swimming to the shore. I finished satisfyingly low down the finishers list and almost last in my age group. That made me happy.

103 noarlunga team

A fine group of people to go swimming with