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What a lovely beach

I’d been told a lot about this swim so I was quite looking forward to it. I’ve not swum off this beach before and a new venue is always a good thing. It was also the last event of the open water swimming season and that made me a little sad.

We arrived early, as usual, to deal with the registration formalities and to gather in the lee of the surf club so that we could chat and look out to sea. We watched as the surf live savers put out the buoys. Then we watched as one of the buoys slowly bobbed its way underneath the jetty. A few minutes later the life savers returned in a little rubber boat to put the buoy in the right place and to anchor it more securely.

The course appealed to me. It was one loop, it started on the beach and headed out to the reef, after a quick left turn it followed the line of the reef to the buoy at the far end and then it returned to the start. I’d heard tales of people accidentally swimming through the reef to be greeted by large fish. Luckily a boat had been posted at the gap to stop this happening. That made me happy.

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Noarlunga jetty without a buoy going through it

The sea looked a little lumpy today. The pool swimmers would not be too happy but the ocean swimmers were visibly looking forward to getting into the waves. Waves that give them an advantage over the pool swimmers. We all knew that going along the reef was going to be challenging today.

We started just off the beach and headed for the buoy next to the reef. I’d decided that this time I was going to hang back a bit and take the buoy wide. I was fed up of the constant first buoy fight and felt that taking it wider would avoid it. For once I was right. Whilst the people on my left seemed to be involved in a boxing match I was left free to glide round the wide line.

Then the struggle started. The waves were determined to make life hard. I found it almost impossible to see the buoys or for that matter any other swimmers. There were points when I worried that I was going in the wrong direction. I saw someone to my right and hoped that they had a clue where they were going as my plan was to follow them. The plan failed as I was a slightly faster swimmer. It’s hard to follow someone behind me. Luckily, I spotted a group up ahead and stared trying to catch them. It dawned on me that I had just reached the point where I was warmed up and ready to go. It takes a while. It occurred to me that I really should warm up before these events but I quickly assigned that thought to the stupid bin.

A few meters before the turning buoy I spotted the trunks that Roman wears. The game was on, could I sneak past him without him noticing to take this one from him and redeem the loss of the last time we raced? I drew level but to my dismay he started to speed up. He had noticed me. The next plan was to draft him but he was going a bit faster than normal. This was a bit of a surprise. He slowly pulled away. I hoped that I’d get a second wind or that he would fade but the hope was groundless. He stayed ahead

The swim back was lovely. Now that the waves were pushing me to the finish I could pretend that I was actually a good swimmer moving swiftly through the water. The illusion was heightened by passing some slower swimmers from a shorter event. I felt good as I approached the finish. I would be coming back to this beach.

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The finish line and the reef 

During the post-race chat over water melon pieces I found that Roman had drafted a faster swimmer almost all the way round the course. That explained his unusual turn of speed. I took heart in the fast that he may have beaten me in this race but I had won the series.

The rivalry will be rekindled next season.

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Such tempting waters

The open water swimming events seem to be coming fast and furious at the moment. This week I was down in Port Elliot for the event there. This one was a little different to the other swims. Firstly, it started in the afternoon and secondly it wasn’t based along the same stretch of coast line that most of the other area.

There was a big throng of people in front of the surf club. All the usual people were there, including Roman my pretend arch rival in swimming. The topic of conversation seemed to centre around the sea conditions and the placement of the buoys, the sea looked deceptively calm and flat but it wasn’t, that much was obvious from the water splashing over the breakwater at the edge of the bay. The buoys were pitching about in the swell and seemed to be further apart that was necessary for the distance. It didn’t matter we would all be swimming the same distance, just not the exact distance advertised.

After the briefing we headed to the water to do the sea entry dance, the movements of which are dictated where on your body the water hits. Eventually the dance and ritual complaining gives way to a dive into the water and a few practice strokes. It wasn’t long before we were lining up between the buoy and the jetty. Instead of hanging to the side I tried starting behind the fast boys. I was hoping that they would disappear in a splash of foam and I would be left to make progress unmolested.

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A buoy on the beach

The first part of the swim was a short dash to the first buoy. The convergence of everyone on the first buoy completely ruined my strategy of starting behind the fast boys. Rounding the buoy was a crowded and confused experience.

Now we were on a long straight down to the second buoy. It seemed like a very long way, the swell made it seem even further. I enjoyed fighting against the wobbly bits but it made sighting interesting. If I timed it wrong all I saw was water. There could have been people within meters of me and I wouldn’t have seen them. Timing it right and I got a panoramic view from the top of a swell.

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The pre swim throng

I rounded the far buoy and looked back down the course to the third and final buoy. It looked even a very long way away. Luckily, the melee had sorted its self out and I was more or less on my own. This is when I start to enjoy the swim. I set off down the course at a nice steady pace happily working my way up the swells and sliding down the side. It was a surprise to see other people as I approached the next buoy.

Rounding the buoy, I started the second lap of this triangular course. This should make it familiar territory but for some reason it felt a lot different. The short leg seemed shorter and the long legs seemed to be much longer. The swell was the only constant.

As the end loomed I noticed that someone was pulling level with me. He looked into my eyes and I looked into his. We both understood, up to here had been the warm up, the race was about to start. We matched each other stroke for stroke to within ten meters of the beach. I was just about to give up and let him go when he cracked and fell behind, two more strokes and that would have been me.

I left the water happy, until I found that Roman had left the water 12 seconds before me. For the first time this season he had finished in front. Grudging praise was due.

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It’s a Jetty not a Yetti

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The buoys we needed to swim round: it looked a long way

It had taken me a long time to decide which distance to do in this race. I would have liked to have done the 10k but I didn’t feel that I was fit enough. I wasn’t organised enough to be in a relay team and I felt that I should do something longer than the 2k. This left the 4k so I entered that. It sounds easy when I write it down but that process took about a week.

I wasn’t feeling the love when I turned up for registration. I’d been out the night before and had drunk a little more than I should. It was probably not the most sensible thing to do but at the time it seemed harmless. I toyed with the idea of downgrading to the 2k but my principles rallied against it.

There was a long time between registration and the swim start. I felt hungry but didn’t want to eat something that I would later empty into the sea. In the end I relented and had half of a cheese and tomato sandwich. I hoped I wouldn’t be seeing it later.

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Heading out to collect swimmers from the jaws of death

The swim was two loops of a two-kilometre course. Southwards was against the wind and current. I knew that that would be the fun bit where I could fight against the sea and drag myself through the waves. Going northwards I would be pushed back to the start.

I always start slowly and today was no different, I watched the faster ones disappear forward and got knocked around a bit by some of the other swimmers. I’m never happy at the beginning of a race, I like it more once it has settled down and I have a little more space. I passed the half way buoy and I was happy. I’d relaxed into the swim and I was enjoying the waves, all except the one that forcibly filled my ear. It was almost a shame to turn round and start heading back.

The elements started pushing me north. It made me feel like a good swimmer moving many meters in one stroke. My only thought was to make sure that I was aiming for the buoy down near the jetty. I am notorious for veering to the left. I saw the water cover guys start gesturing to me. I didn’t think I was off line but then I never do. They kept waving. I looked round, people were heading to the shore. This could only mean one thing: Shark. I turned to the shore and swam in. It was race abandoned

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The sadly underused finish arch

Later we found that a shark had been spotted a few kilometers away and heading in our direction. Unfortunately, the helicopter had to be refueled so it couldn’t monitor its movements. Based on this surf live saving felt it wasn’t safe to have over one hundred people in the water so took the decision to pull us out. Although a lot of us were disappointed no one felt it was an unwarranted decision.

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The swim course being used as a rowing lake

I feel that I have to do at least one triathlon a year to maintain my status as a triathlete so I chose this one. I knew that the run was going to give me a bit of trouble owning to my ongoing achillies problems so I entered the longest of the events on the rational that I could make up time on the swim and bike. I’d visited the physio the day before to have my legs beaten into shape and I’d promised my loved one that I would walk on the run if I felt I needed to

I turned up at the venue with plenty of time to do all of the things I need to do before a race. It was all very relaxed and low key. It seemed that nearly everybody knew every one else. I’m new here so I didn’t know anyone, that didn’t really matter, I just went around doing my usual routine of checking where everything was and making sure that I was as light as possible before the race.

We were all herded up for the briefing. I always listen to the briefing even though I heard most of it before there is always something important in there. I’m always amazed how little attention people pay to these briefings, up to the point where some people nearly missed the start of their race.

The shorter distances started first, Before the race I’d debated whether to wear a wetsuit or not. I’m not a fan of wetsuits and in water this temperature I think they are too hot. Others didn’t share my opinion. I may be slightly slower than them but my transition would be a lot faster.

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A calm and relaxed transition

We were ushered into the water in small groups to start the swim. It wasn’t exactly a mass start, more of a staggered start. It took a while to get into my rhythm, there were a lot of people who seemed intent on trying to swim over me. I’m not too fond of that. Slowly the swimmers thinned out and I started overtaking people in wetsuits, that made me happy.

I took the first buoy wide to avoid the usual crush but ended up being pushed against the quayside. I few nudges later and I was back on track. It wasn’t a beautiful swim but it was effective. I got to the finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, neither first or last. This was my ideal position.

I’d done a lot of cycling in the week before the race, this was probably a bad thing as my legs were a bit sore. I hoped that this would help me. The soreness disappeared the moment I got on the bike. I got onto the tribars put my nose in the wind and wound it up. It was a lovely course; all the corners were coned off so there was no need to slow down, the straights were long and flat and easy to speed along. I was overtaken by a few fast boys on flash bikes but on the whole, I overtook more than passed me. I got off the bike feeling content. It had all gone well. All I had to do was survive the run.

I knew it was doing to be slow. It has been a long time since I’d run off the bike and I’d forgotten the feeling. The memory slapped me in the face as I wobbled down along the path. I ran for almost as far as I could before breaking into a walk. My plan was to walk for a minute and then start again. It was amazing how many people came passed me in that minute, most of them offered the odd word of encouragement. I started running again and jogged along happily passing some of the people that had passed me. I saw them all again when I started walking again. I wasn’t happy with the run as I’d had to walk but my achillies wasn’t complaining so that was a good thing.

When I crossed the line, I was happy. The swim and bike had gone well and the run had gone as expected. The results confirmed my feelings. I don’t need to do another one for at least another year.

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The final step

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The fire boat display because we were HOT!

Normally I enter races where there are the fast people thrashing it out at the front and the rest of us plodding along in their wake, waging our personal battles. This time it was different. This was a charity swim and any mention of race had been removed. In fact, the only competition that was discussed at the beginning was who was going to swim the slowest. Somehow all the competitive juices had been removed and everyone had turned up for a nice swim.

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Still HOT!

The weather was lovely, warm but not too warm and the sea was kind, flat and motionless. I joined the one-kilometre swimmers and walked up the beach to the start. Out to sea there were a line of buoys marking out route and the start points of the various distances on offer. Once we reached out start point we had the usual safety briefing and then we set off.

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Being briefed, even the pink flamingo

Unlike a race we just wandered into the sea and started swimming. I felt no urge to go fast. A goo steady pace was all that was needed. I relaxed into the swimming very quickly and treated it as a Sunday swim. I passed people, people passed me. I wasn’t overly bothered by that. The thing that did bother me was my complete inability to swim in a straight line. At one point I was on the far right of the human shoal of fish and then a minute or two later I was on the far left. I have no idea how it happened. I carried on with my drunken route for the entire kilometre and wondered if anyone will ever let me into the secret of swimming in a straight line.

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Happy people at the end

Jetty to Jetty

Posted: February 3, 2018 in Swimming
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Nice hat!

It wasn’t a promising day. It looked very overcast and there was a hint of rain in the air. Getting wet shouldn’t matter when going for a swim but for some reason it does. This swim was between two jetties and that led to a dilemma over where to park the car, something that doesn’t need to be considered with a circular course. This swim had a bit of history as well. It was first run over one-hundred years ago but there was no one from the original swim to boast that they where there at the start.

 

After the usual mayhem of registration and a shouted briefing we all made our down to the beach. We had all been divided into age group categories and given coloured hats to show everybody how old we were. There was three minutes between each wave, which allowed enough time for each wave to realise that it was time to go and then wander into the water before being surprised by the starters horn. On the way out to the start we were all greeted by a seal playing under the Jetty. It didn’t have a swim cap on so it wasn’t in the race. This was probably a good thing as it could have beaten us all.

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From this Jetty…

I waited with the rest of the people my age at the start. The water was nice and choppy, just how I liked it. There were a few people complaining about the conditions. I did wonder why, if you want calm clear water a pool would be a more sensible place. The water temperature was almost the same as a pool so it’s possible that they were a little confused. After a bit of bobbing about we were off.

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Following this route

I loved swimming into the waves. It didn’t take me long to get into my rhythm. I started slow with the intention of staying slow and getting slower. I watched a whole pack of people disappear into the distance. Some I would never see again, others will have started too fast and with a bit of luck I’d pass them in the latter half of the race. That was the theory, sometimes it works.

I have a tendency to pull to the left and on this swim, that would have taken me toward the beach and not to the end of the other jetty. I made an effort to keep sighting the buoys and the end of the jetty whenever I found myself at the top of a wave. The jetty was much easier to spot.

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We don’t want hooks in our backs or people falling on us

I felt I was going quite well and then I looked up. A meter in front of me was a large yellow buoy that I’d not noticed. It took me by surprise but at least it confirmed I was in the right place. The sea was really quite choppy.

A little further on I noticed that I was gaining on the woman with the bright pink top. This had happened a few weeks ago so I was reasonably confident that I was going to slowly pass her. One of us was either getting faster or slower, I don’t know which it was.

I started passing people with different coloured hats, the colour of older people. This gave me a lift as it meant that I’d gained three minutes on them. I live in a world were everyone else is faster than me as they are always coming past me, so it is always nice to have that illusion shattered.

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Round this jetty

I don’t know how it happens given the amount of sea we are swimming in but I always seem to be able to find someone to get in my way or to bump in to. Today was no different. They appeared by my side and tried to swim over me. I couldn’t be doing with that so I pulled back and let them get on with it. I sped up a bit and they tried to do it again. I got a little fed up with this so decided to give them a taste of their own medicine. They disappeared after that.

The end of the Jetty was getting larger and larger. I was also being passed by many different coloured hats. The end of the race was getting close. The view of the jetty changed from side on to end on and I rounded the finial buoy. I was now heading toward the beach with the waves coming from the side. After two kilometres of fighting the waves this felt a bit strange and a little disconcerting. It wasn’t far to the finish and I left the water feeling I’d done well.

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…and finish in the refreshment tent

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I hadn’t intended to do this swim but a few days before my Loved One received a mysterious phone call imploring her to enter. Whilst she was booking her place she asked me if I wanted to do it as well. I was sitting on the sofa at the time, feeling relaxed and happy with the world so I agreed. She entered me for the three-kilometre race. She mentioned a while later that she had entered the one-kilometre race. I wasn’t sure what to think about that.

I wasn’t feeling the love on the day of the race. I felt that I’d been yanked out of my happy and comfortable world of sleep far too early. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and fall asleep. This was not the ideal preparation. I think it’s called sleep inertia but I’m not sure it’s meant to last quite as long as it did.

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Send out the bouys

We arrived at west beach in time to secure a parking space close to the surf club. The sea was looking a bit lumpy. I felt that this was a good thing as I like swimming into the waves and current. It’s normally where I can gain an insignificant advantage. The pool swimmers around me had a different opinion.

The race started promptly at ten, I started a few seconds later as I had no intention of getting in the way of the fast people contending for the title of state champion. I really wasn’t feeling good on the first lap. Everything was hard work. I started contemplating at which point I could legitimately pull out of the race. I lined up a myriad of excuses that I could deploy as I dragged my sorry body onto the beach. I decided that the end of the second lap would be a good point, that way I was close to the changing rooms.

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Through choppy seas and against the current to the bouys

Things changed on the second lap. Once I started into the waves the old feeling of really enjoying it came over me. Just ahead was a small pod of swimmers and I was gaining on them. My competitive instincts kicked in. Now I was really enjoying it. I started to gain on them. This was good. I pulled past then. This was better. There was someone else ahead, I was gaining on them as well. I managed to overhaul them as I rounded the buoy.

The current took me down the course and the waves meant that I always felt like I was swimming downhill. About half way down I started passing the slower one-kilometre swimmers. They had started ten minutes after us. This raised by morale and took any thoughts of packing it in at the end of the second lap out of my head. I was now looking forward to fighting the current and waves on the next lap.

As I rounded that last buoy I noticed that I had someone beside me. They had noticed me too. Our steady strokes built up quickly into an all-out sprint. He definitely had white line fever and a much faster finishing sprint. I gave up with about twenty meters to go. He just wanted it more than I did.

The mystery of the phone call was solved at the presentation. My loved one was awarded with a trophy for her on going commitment to the local open water scene.

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Contemplating how well it could have gone