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

 

Last year I’d sat on a boat and acted as support as two friends had taken it in terms to do the crossing from Cottesloe to Rottnest. Last year I’d not been able to do the swim due to an accident that resulted in three broken ribs and a punctured lung. Last year I saw the spectacle and wanted to be part of it. This year was different. This year I’d entered, this year I’d not had a debilitating accident, this year I’d trained to the exclusion of other sports. This year I was going to do the crossing solo.

102 Me Greasedjpeg

Greased up and ready to go

The nerves started the day before. There is a mandatory briefing for competitors and as I sat there looking out to sea and pretending to pay attention the enormity of the task hit me. Out there in the distance I could see Rottnest Island and tomorrow I was going to swim there. The confidence I’d been feigning for the last week evaporated. For the first time in a while I started to doubt that it was possible. I left the briefing and swallowed down the negative thoughts. This was not the time for that sort of thing. This was the time to make sure that the team was ready and knew what they were doing. This was the time to hand out event merchandise to everyone who would be supporting me throughout the day. Once all that was done, I could then quietly panic by myself.

The day started early. I’d slept fitfully through the night and woken before the alarm. I couldn’t sleep so I got up and started the preparations. As with every morning it started with a cup of tea. Then I dived into the bathroom for the date night shave. I wanted a clean and smooth chin to minimise abrasion on my shoulders. I’d forgotten this aspect on a few of my longer training swims and ended up with two rough and red circles on my shoulders.

After seeing the boat crew off to the wharf I had a few minutes to spare before I needed to be on the beach. I filled the time by flicking through the television channels and flushing the nerves down the loo. It was a very long twenty minutes.

The beach was alive with people when I arrived. Swimmers were preparing, paddlers were getting into place and people were running back and forth doing important things that organises do. I joined the throng and went looking for my paddler so that I could give her my food and a watch.

I had a “greaser” on the beach to cover my lily-white skin in zinc. I was going to be out in the sea for a long time and the last thing I needed was sunburn. She covered all the exposed areas in a thick layer of white goo and then followed it by slathering Vaseline over anywhere that was likely to chaff. I was so well covered that some people wanted to take pictures.

There was about ten minutes to go when I wandered down to the beach edge to join the other swimmers in my wave. Some looked confident, some looked nervous but none of them looked as covered in zinc as me. I pulled on a black arm warmer. This was to help my paddler and boat find me. My plan for the start was to let those that want to rush off to do just that. I walked into the sea splashed some water over me and started swimming. I saw no point in trying to shave seconds when the event was going to last hours.

The first objective of the start was to find the paddler. The other reason for delivering food in person was to make sure I knew what she was wearing. I spotted her when I was halfway to the buoy that signified the point where swimmers join the paddlers. Others were not so lucky. They kept stopping to look round. This was particularly annoying when they did it in front of me. It was especially annoying when they did that just after steaming past me. I wove my way through the melee and joined my paddler. That was the first hurdle jumped, we were on our way.

The next milestone was to link up with the boat, we could not go beyond the sailing ship without the boat. We had a problem. They were looking for a blue kayak being paddled by someone in a red top. My paddler now had a purple kayak and was wearing a white top. We’d not had time to tell the boat of this change. We just hoped they would see the black arm and realise it was us. We saw the boat before they saw us. It took a bit of waving and shouting before they noticed us. It was a relief when they started heading our way. We could now set off across the channel.

The first sting was annoying, it was sharp enough to know that it was there but small enough to ignore. I’d not seen a jellyfish, so I wasn’t really expecting the sting. I’d hopped that the preceding waves of swimmers had pushed them out of the way. The next few stings were a little sharped but nothing to be alarmed about. I wasn’t happy about being stung on the lips. I had a momentary thought that if I was stung on the lips too many times that I would end up with a trout pout. I thought I’d got through the sting zone when I was hit full on the arm by one of these malevolent beasts. There was only one thing to do, swear, swear loudly and swear repeatedly. There were a lot of boats around me at the time. None were left in any doubt of my feelings on this particular matter.

102 from boat

The boat, the paddler and if you squint a swimmer to

I wasn’t sure when my shoulders started hurting but by the time I got to nine kilometres it felt like it had always been there. It was at the front, just where my chin would touch my arm and it was slowly getting worse. What started as a mild inconvenience became the totality of my world. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I was hitting a low spot. I started to doubt whether I could actually complete the swim. I started to consider packing it in. All I had to do was swim over to the boat and slap the side. My internal monologue was going wild. One part of me was all about giving up, another part was all for swimming through the pain. The giving up side was winning the argument as it was aided by the rising pain levels. My distress must have been obvious from the boat, I was asked if I was alright, I told them I was sore, they asked if I needed pain killers, I gave a one-word answer, Yes. Two massive pain killers appeared on the paddle at the next feed. I had no hesitation in swallowing them down. Over the next fifteen minutes the pain went from dominating my world to a mild distraction.

I noticed that every now and again all the boats disappeared and then came back into view. The fact that I’d hit the mid channel current didn’t really hit me. I was just amazed at how my world view changed from seeing only sea though to seeing the entire event. I really was just living in the present.

Throughout my training I’d had one reoccurring thought, how to pee whilst swimming. I’d tried various techniques but none of them had worked. I just couldn’t reduce the size of a swelling bladder whilst swimming. I’d only taken a small swig of water at each feed stop but the inevitable had to happen. I had to stop and lower my trunks for some blessed relief. Once the flow started, I found that my legs were floating toward the surface. I didn’t want to stop by I didn’t want to be seen doing the fountain either. I’m sure that everyone in the boats around me knew exactly what I was doing.

102 the end

It’s not pretty, but it is the end

I got an amazing lift when my paddler pointed out the fourteen-kilometre buoy. Suddenly the end seemed achievable. It was the equivalent of swimming between the jetties and I’d done that most weeks. I felt a smile cross my lips, there was no way that I wasn’t going to finish. All I had to do was to keep going and I’d get there.

We had agreed beforehand that the paddler would give me a gel and a sip of water every forty minutes. I’d settled on this routine after trying it in training and as it is roughly equivalent to swimming two kilometres. I’d lost track of how many feeds I’d had so it was useless for working out where I was. During the last section I was convinced that the feeds were coming quicker and quicker. I didn’t register that it was because I was getting slower and slower.

The paddler left me with a kilometre to go. I could see the finish now, so it was just a case of plodding along on my usual zig zag course past the water cover and onto the beach. I stood up and the fatigue of swimming for over eight and a half hours hit me. I was empty, I needed food, I needed water. I got a big shiny medal and that made up for everything.

102 hat and medal

A big shiny medal and another swim hat for the collection

 

101 Henley Beach

The finish line under moody skies

I was meant to be tapering before the big swim but the towel-hunting mission also meant that I had to do this swim. I’d swum in these waters yesterday at about the same time, so I had a good idea that there would be a strong current and that would catch many people out. I felt that I could do well in this swim as I was on the tail end of a lot of training and my body was benefiting from the relative rest.

I’d not done this swim before so it was nice to do something different but as it was based in the stretch of sea that I do most of my swimming it wasn’t that different. The course was an oblong, swimming close to the beach on the way up and out in the deeper water on the way back. We started close to the jetty and went around and around.

Just before the start, someone had asked me about the current. I’d told them that coming back to the jetty would be the tough part of the course. I was wrong; the tide was going out so the current was running the other way. Despite all the obvious clues such as everyone drifting towards the jetty, I was still confused as to why the start was so hard. It seemed like I was trying to swim through treacle. I put a lot of effort in for very little gain. If this was meant to be the easy part the hard part is going to be, well, hard.

My error became clear when I turned toward the jetty and hurtled down the course. With the wind and current with me, I flew towards the jetty. I even overtook a few people. The star of the next lap was as hard as the first but at least this time I knew it was meant to be hard, this knowledge made all the difference.

I finished with two others who wanted to make a contest of it. They started sprinting to the shore. My impulse to do the same was massive but I held back. I’d damaged myself before by being over enthusiastic to get to the line. I didn’t want to put next week’s swim in jeopardy.

101 team HB

What a strange selection of people

100 MS Swim 01

The idea of the swim was for a team to log as many laps as possible in 24 hours. The minor restriction of only having one person in the water at any one time meant that the rest of us could have a rest and something to eat. The objective of the swim was to raise as much money for the MS Charity as we could, that was something we had to do outside of the pool.

The swim club entered a team and someone who was not me took on the task of scheduling people in for different time slots. This weekend was also meant to be my last long swim before I travelled out west for my attempt at the Rottnest swim. I wanted to check that I was comfortable with my feeding regime and that my body was still happy with swimming long distances. I told our team captain that I was more than happy to swim for many hours and what’s more, I would enjoy doing it through the night. I know that no one likes getting up in the middle of the night to go for a swim. She instantly scheduled me to swim between midnight and five in the morning. That made us both happy.

100 MS Swim 02

We turned a long time before my start time, as I wanted to make sure that I was ready for the swim. I’d spent most of the day doing a lot of very little and I had intended to do the same until the start of my session. I found our club tent and laid on the air mattress. I didn’t think that I’d slept but the time went past very quickly. The pizza’s arrived at about quarter past eleven. I knew that I would regret eating one but that has never stopped me being silly about this sort of thing before. I devoured a whole small pizza in very little time. I was hungry.

I started just after midnight. My plan was to swim 40 lengths and then stop for a minute to take a gel and a sip of water. I placed my selection of gels by the side of the pool, which raised a few eyebrows. As ever the swim to the first break seemed to take forever. It wasn’t helped by the little cheese and pepperoni burbs that was all that remained of the little pizza.

100 MS Swim 03

I’d bought a whole selection of gels from a bike shop. One of the objectives of the swim was to work out which ones I liked. In a previous long swim, I’d eliminated a number of flavours because they contained apple and were therefore disgusting. I’d also go a selection of brands so that I had a choice of consistency. Each session started with the taste of the last gel in my mouth, this was lovely if I liked it but annoying if it wasn’t. Somewhere in the middle of the session, the taste would be replaced by the lingering taste of cheese and pepperoni. That pizza lingered for a long longer than was desirable. When I was about five or so lengths from the end of the session, I started looking forward to the next taste test, hoping that it would get rid of the reoccurring pizza taste.

100 MS Swim 04

I was relieved from swimming duties after seven sessions. I’d enjoyed swimming through the night and I felt good. I could have quite happily swum for another hour or so. I thought that I would feel the weight of the swim when I left the pool but that never happened. I sat for a while, counted lengths and chatted with people. I felt surprisingly awake. The smell of bacon coming from the BBQ may have been responsible for this. I had a massage after breakfast and fell asleep on the table.

100 MS Swim 05

99 jetty jetty 01

Setting up for the finish

Today’s event was in the waters I know well, I’ve been swimming between the jetties for quite a while now and sometimes more than once. On one hand, it seemed a little silly to fork out some cash to do a swim that I do frequently and alone with hundreds of others, on the other this was yet another episode in my towel-hunting odyssey so it had to be done.

I’d recently bought a new pair of googles. These were special open water goggles and not the kind I usually wear. I’d bought them for my impending big swim as I felt I should have a nice, comfortable and reliable pair of googles. This had all been brought about by a painful experience with an ill-fitting pair of goggles a few weeks ago, that had left me bruised and sore. I’d bought them immediately after this experience with the idea of getting my face used to wearing them. They had been fine for the first few swims but then they had started leaking. Always the left side leaked. It would slowly fill with enough water to notice but not to do anything about. Then, all of a sudden it would fill up and cause a lot of stinging. At this point, I would have to take them off and empty them. This then heralded free reign on both sides to leak. I hoped that this would only be for the “running in” period. After a while, it seemed like they had stopped leaking; only they hadn’t. They were just lulling me into a false sense of security in preparation for washing my eyes with more salt water. This swim was their last chance. If they leaked on the journey to Henley Jetty, they would be consigned to the bin.

We started the swim in age group waves; I wasn’t old enough for the first but easily qualified for the second. I waded out into the water with all the other green hats and bobbed away at the start waiting for the hooter to signal us to swim. I’d injured myself a few weeks ago by attempting to learn how to swim butterfly. This had resulted in a pulled muscle. I’d pulled back on the training for a couple of weeks in the hope that if I ignored it, it would go away. Overall, this approach had been reasonably successful, as my arm had stopped hurting. This swim was the first real test. I would not be happy if I finished with a sore arm. I decided that it would be silly to get involved in the start melee. I hung back a bit to let the people who wanted to fight go ahead before taking the course wide to avoid the possibility of contact. I could have been accused of being over cautious but I had a bigger picture in mind.

I had a very pleasant swim down the beach. It was lovely to have many familiar markers on the beach that I could use to monitor my pace and know where I was. Having the end of the jetty to sight on was another lovely feature. It was high up and very obvious from any point on the course, unlike the yellow and pink buoys that have a remarkable tendency to become invisible the moment I get into the water. I was close to the Jetty when the trouble started. Instead of the slow filling, the left side of my goggle suddenly filled. I tried swimming with one eye closed but that wasn’t really a viable option. I had to stop and empty them; many people swam past whilst I did that.

I rounded the Jetty and saw the finish line no more than fifty meters ahead. Then I didn’t. The goggles had filled with water again. I closed my eyes and hoped I was heading for the finish. It then dawned on me that my ability to swim in a straight line was limited and I was probably going to miss the finish arch. I stopped no more than twenty meters from the finish to empty the goggles again. Many people swam past. At least I had a chance to reset my route and swim under the in water arch.

99 jetty jetty 02

The team that took all the prizes

On the plus side my arm didn’t hurt, I used that arm to throw the goggles in the bin.