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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

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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

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From this pub…

I like handicap events as there is always a chance that I might actually win. It is a very small chance but a chance nether the less. I try to be reasonably honest when I give my times but there may be a slight stretching of the truth to give myself a slight advantage. I don’t think that I’m unique in that respect.

The first part of any handicap race is to complain about the handicap. This was the main topic of conversation whilst waiting to start. I didn’t join in too much but I was amused by one swimmer telling anyone who asked a different time up to the point where he forgot his own time.

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Registration and source of all handicaps

We were sent off at 30 second intervals, I needed to get wet before the start or else it would have been a very slow start. I went for a splash around at one side whilst the slower swimmers started off down the course. The one thing I liked about this swim was that in was in a straight line. We got in at one point rounded the buoy and went straight down the beach. We wouldn’t we going around in circles.

I stood with six others waiting for us to be called forward. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. In theory all these people swam at the same pace as me so I should be with them all the way. In practice however in practice one or two of them would be faster and a few would be slower. I decided to enter the water at the back of this pack and see what happens.

Our time came and a few ran forward, I sauntered behind. Once I got in the water all intentions of starting slowly went too the wind. There were people ahead of me that I needed to overtake. I passed a few before the buoy and on rounding the buoy set about reeling in a few others. I spent a long time beside one swimmer trying to get passed. I feel that they were on the same mission.

PubToPub (4)

The end is down there near the jetty

I saw the last buoy coming up and felt that I’d done well. It slowly got larger and larger. I prepared myself to make the turn, right up to the point where I realised no one was heading to the beach. I had got the wrong buoy. The correct buoy was way in the distance but I’d lost the will to carry on racing. It took a long while to get back into the rhythm again.

As I neared the last buoy the sea started to get a bit crowded. I was catching the slower swimmers and the faster swimmers were catching me. I felt that rounding the last buoy was going to be a little troublesome but in the end, it turned out to be relatively easy.

The last part of the swim raised the usual dilemma of when to stand. A few in people in front of me got up and then dived in again. I opted to carry on swimming until it got to shallow. I’ve no idea which method was better.

In the end I came in the middle of the pack both on handicap and on time but more importantly I was ahead of Roman on both.

PubToPub (1)

…to this pub

I’ve always fancied sampling a route that the professionals are going to use and this Audax route promised just that. It followed a stage of the Tour Down Under but in typical Audax style it added a few café stops and some kilometres to make the total distance 200km. This seemed like an ideal way to sample a race without participating and without being surrounded by hundreds of other cyclists with the same ambition.

It started in a 24-hour bakery close to where the actual stage would start. Just like the professionals we made sure that our nutritional needs were taken care of before the five of us hit the road. As we set off the organiser casually mentioned that gorge road, the first climb on the route, was closed for roadworks. We decided to gamble on being able to get through.

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Quality nutrition

We dodged round the road closed sign and ignored all the other signs that suggested that forward progress would be impeded at some point. Instead we enjoyed the feeling of being on a car free road. This must be something like the feeling professional cyclists get all the time whilst racing. It was rather nice not having to worry about cars trying to pass in the most ridiculous of places. Our reverie was brought to a grinding halt by a large man, covered in tattoos and wearing a skull ring on every finger. He was a man with a mission and his mission was not to let anyone pass the hole in the ground. We tried to use the power of persuasion but that was a lost cause. He had orders and a complete lack of compassion. We turned around and headed down, there was another way to get us back on route but that required a bit of climbing

I had been up Montecute Road before but that was on a mountain bike with much lower gearing. It is not a momentously steep hill but it just goes on and on. The others were far better climbers than me and soon they were snaking away into the distance. I knew the road got steeper near the end and that meant I would go slower. I struggled to the turning where the others were waiting vowing to do something about my gearing. The irony of doing this climb was that we now had to lose a lot of the height gained to get back on route. This involved a descent of the aptly named Corkscrew Hill. It was one of those rather scary descents that scares the sensible and that the reckless call fun. I used my breaks a lot.

Now we were at the bottom of the hill we had to gain the height all over again by climbing up gorge road to the reservoir. Yet again the group started to lengthen as those with climbing prowess speeded up and I slogged my way up. I thought that the climbing would be over by the time I reached the reservoir but I was cruelly mistaken. The road just became more undulating. I was able to catch the group on the down hill sections only to be distanced whenever the road went skywards. I started to get the feeling that it was going to be a long day in the saddle.

TDU (1)

Refuelling

The first café stop came as a welcome relief, well it would have done if the café had been open, we had to carry on a little to find a temple of calories and fountain of hydration. Just like the professionals we took care of our needs, unlike the professionals our needs included a bacon and egg roll and about a litre of coke. I was amazed at how much I was drinking. It was a hot day and I’d been dripping with sweat but to go though two bottles and a litre of coke before breakfast was for me, unheard of. At least I felt ready to tackle the next park to of the route.

The route kept its undulating character but now we were in the country and surrounded with fields of ripening corn. It was all very beautiful and for a while took my mind off the many small rises that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I had no idea that long steep hills could be hidden so well in the countryside. We got to the top of one where the views were spectacular, it didn’t even look like a proper hill. It just got steep without appearing to get steep. I don’t like this sort of hill.

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Heading for the hills

We came to a sharp corner, it housed a tree that someone had lived in one hundred years ago. Something like that is always worth stopping for. It also gave me a chance to recover slightly, finish the last of my water and have a stretch. I prayed that the next stop was as close as I though it was. It wasn’t

The next control was in a pub. The first glass of coke didn’t touch the sides. In fact, I’m sure there was some steam rising as I downed the drink. I had some crisps to slow down the flow of the next glassful. Even though I had filled by body with quality nutrition I still felt like I’d gone through the mill. I think it was here that it dawned on me that I was going to have to climb the Corkscrew in the next section. I suddenly felt rather weak.

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We should have stopped here, I needed a cuddle

The way to the bottom of the hill was mainly downwards with a few little lumps. That didn’t make the feeling of trepidation any better. Ive attempted the Corkscrew once before and it didn’t go well. This time I was hungry, dehydrated and tired. There is a whole world of difference between climbing when fresh and climbing with over one hundred and fifty hilly kilometres in my legs. I went as far as I could before grinding to a halt. I stood for a while gave myself a good talking to and them carried on for some meters and stopped again. I repeated this for a while before throwing in the towel and walking, there had been no cars on the road up to this point, now they came streaming passed all of them laughing at my inability to get up a hill. I tried to save face by cycling the last one hundred meters. It didn’t work

I met the others at the top of the climb. The official route took us down the hill to climb up another. There was no way that I was going to climb another hill. If I went down that road I fully intended to freewheel directly to my house and lay in a darkened room for a large number of hours. I didn’t care that it would be the first time I’d ever failed on an Audax. Luckily the others had no intention of descending and knew another route to our final control that involved less climbing.

There was still a lot of climbing and I was slowly coming to a halt on each climb. I lost count of the times I stopped to give myself a very good talking to. I was having a massive sense of humour failure due to the lack of sugar and liquid. This needed to be addressed urgently at the next stop. Two packets of crisps, two large glasses of cola and a packet of nuts later I started to feel a lot more human.

If I was a professional cyclist I would now get onto the team bus, participate in post-race interviews and probably be banned by the commissionaires for taking the wrong route. However, as I’m not I had to make my own way back to the city. It wasn’t far and it was mainly downhill. At last I could free wheel down the twisting road and admire the view over the city.

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Mission accomplished

This was the hardest ride I’d done in a long time and in retrospect I think I enjoyed it. It took a long time and a few bathfulls of water to recover. There is one thing that is certain. I will be glued to the television when the professionals go the same way.

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It took how long?

Racing Roman

Posted: December 24, 2017 in Swimming
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Racing Roman (4)

The start, before the mayhem begins

Roman and I have a friendly rivalry. It started a few years ago but now I have moved to the area it has become more intense. I beat him in the last swim by quite a margin and he was looking for revenge at the Port River Swim.

The course had been changed since last year, instead of a big loop that went under the bridge the course was now three loops in front of the café. I’m not that keen of multiple loops. The race HQ was in a riverside café that served the most wondrous breakfasts. I resisted the urge to fill my face and instead stood outside and made polite conversation with various people. This was interrupted by Roman. It was time for trash talk.

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A truly wondrous cafe

After the race briefing we all filed down the gangway and dropped into the water. It was pleasantly warm but disturbingly there were quite a few jellyfish bobbing about. As we waited for the start the jellies hunted people down and cruelly bumped into people. Every now and again someone would jump out of the way and make jellyfish has just touched me sound. Luckily for us they didn’t sting, they were just slimy.

After a short period of floating about the hooter sounded and we were off. I like to start slowly and build up so I tend to start behind the fast ones and wannabees. I picked my way through the other swimmers and headed for the first buoy. It looked like a long way but it soon came and with it the crush on the turn. I was quite close to the buoy but I wasn’t expecting someone to swim over me as we had all been asked to be nice in the briefing. Roman obviously hadn’t listened. He came storming round and swam right over me. I knew it was him, I don’t think he knew it was me.

Racing Roman (3)

A jelly fish, a wibbly wobbly jelly fish

In a few brief moments I formulated a plan. I was going to draft him for all my worth. He was going to drag me round the course and if I had the energy at the end I was going to swim off into glory. It was a simple plan and that is how I like them. Going down the back straight I discovered that Roman didn’t like his feet being touched. The first time was an accident. He kicked like a wild thing for a few strokes and them resumed his normal pattern. Odd, I thought. I touched them again, the same thing happened. This was fun. He thinks he is trying to ward someone off. I kept touching his feet for at least two circuits. He must have been really annoyed about it as the kicks got bigger and bigger.

At the start of the last circuit he stopped at the buoy, someone had objected to his strength tactics. Managed to not avoid him and swum right over him. I felt it was justified bearing in mind that he had done the same to me at the first buoy. I waited patiently for him to overtake so that I could resume my drafting and annoying.

As we rounded the buoy at the top of the course I knew it was time, I came out of the slipstream and pulled alongside. I could see that he was giving it his all. I upped the stroke rate and pulled away. It felt good. I had about three hundred meters to go and there was no way he was going to catch me. I even overtook a few other swimmers, this rarely happens. I slapped the finish and was happy, Roman was nowhere to be seen. I felt the energy drain from my body. I’d given it everything on the last section and now I was paying for it. I didn’t care. I’d beaten Roman

Racing Roman (1)

Some Industrial Archaeology because I didn’t take a picture of Roman

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The Seacliff beach hotel which overlooked the swim and hosted the presentation

There is an open water series of swims in my new adopted home and this was the first one. I was looking forward to competing even though my swimming has been a little poor of late. The event was a 1.6km (1 mile) sea swim. In past years it had been along the coast to a buoy near the jetty and back.

When we set out from hone the weather was looking a little unsettled. There had been storms over the last few days and the forecast for today wasn’t too promising. When we arrived, the sea looked a bit choppy and we were told that there quite a strong current running southward. It looked like my ideal conditions. The current would take me to the buoy and then I could fight my way against the wind and wave to the finish. It would also slow down some of the pool swimmers that only ever swim in flat calm.

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The conditions looked either good or bad depending on your view

After registering we went for a little pre-race nutrition or as it’s usually known a cup of hot chocolate and a walnut muffin. As we passed the time of day looking out to sea we noticed that the buoy near the jetty was being moved. What was going on. We could only speculate and all our speculations lead to one thing, the course was being changed.

The truth became known at the briefing. We would now be doing two loops, starting off against the current. I felt slightly cheated by this. I would have much preferred an out and back rather than loops. The rationale was that it would help the weaker swimmers complete the course. I had to reluctantly agree, not that I had a choice.

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Somewhere to hide from the wind

The water felt warm to me but others felt that it was nearly arctic. Water temperature is such a subjective thing. We all bobbed around in the water trying to find the idea starting position. I wanted the shortest route but I didn’t want to be caught up in the fast swimmer’s melee.

All of a sudden, we were off. I didn’t here a gun or hooter, there was just a fast surge forward. The swim was on. I started pushing against the current and climbing the waves. This was fun. This is what sea swimming is all about. Every now and then I looked up for the buoy and corrected my tendency to veer to the left. It took a while to get there but eventually I rounded the yellow blob. The sea conditions changed instantly. Now the current was pushing from the side but I was still climbing waves. The next buoy and the next turn came quickly. Now everything was pushing me down the beach. It made things far to easy. I felt relaxed and cruised down to the next buoy ready for the next lap.

The folly of my pre-race nutrition regime hit home a little way into the second loop. One moment I was happily fighting the current and climbing the waves, the next I had the taste of hot chocolate in my mouth. More worryingly I could feel little bit of walnuts as well. I had no desire to make this the first time I’d thrown up in the sea so I swallowed hard and concentrated on making progress. I now had the taste of salty hot chocolate and walnuts in my mouth. The harder a swam the more the feeling rose. It all disappeared as I rounded to buoy. The feeling passed, I felt relieved

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The finish, a good place to end.

The final leg went well, the weakening current pushed me all the way to the finish where the only hard decision to make was where to stop swimming and get to my feet. Despite the feeling of rising nausea I really enjoyed the swim. Hopefully the rest in the series will be just as enjoyable.