Winter Whales Swim

Posted: May 20, 2018 in Swimming
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I’d been told that this was a fantastic swim so there was no doubt that I would do it. The logistics were a little complicated but it gave us an excuse for a long weekend in Byron Bay and that is always an incentive to deal with the minor complications of travelling over a few States. We left a wet and miserable day at home and landed a few hours later in a warm and sunny land. Just the change of weather meant that this was going to be good.

We spent the pervious two days swimming parts of the route as part of the regular group that meets at the surf club. This was a vital part of our preparation as it allowed us to acclimatise to the warmer water and gave us access to the vital local knowledge. More importantly we had the opportunity to stop and look at the myriad wildlife in these waters. There is something lovely about swimming with dolphins and turtles that requires time and idleness to appreciate.

After registration we were bussed round the head to the start of the race. It was only a 20-minute walk but I opted for the bus as I’m lazy. We gathered on the beach and watched the waves. I have never started a race by running into waves that usually used for surfing. I found the prospect a little daunting even though I’d practiced the day before.

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I watched the first few age groups set off into the waves. It became obvious that running into the water was a complete waste of time as the first wave they hit tended to even everything up. Wading the next couple of waves looked like the best tactic. Those that dived too early seemed to get washed back towards the shore. The time to dive in was when the water was at about mid-thigh and the next wave was bearing down. The first buoy was about 200 meters out and signalled a left-hand turn. Those that started too far to the right had to struggle against the current whilst those that started on the left were just carried round. I decided to start on the left.

It wasn’t long until I had to put the theory into practice. I lined up with people in my age group and watched the starter count down. A few charged down the beach whilst I strolled to the waters edge and into the water. I felt like I was last into the water but the next wave sorted that out. I carried on wading until a large wave loomed in front of me. It was now or never. I dived and prayed at the same time. The water washed over me and I came out unscathed on the other side. I took a quick glance behind to see that a few hadn’t. It was time to start swimming. As I had expected the current washed me towards the buoy, I was glad that I’d spent the time watching the previous starts.

After the turn things started to settle down, the frenetic start moved into a more relaxed swim. People started to spread out and there was much more space to just get on with the whole process of moving forward without getting tangled in other swimmers. A few fish flashed by underneath me just to prove that I was swimming like a fish out of water.

Up to now I’d be surrounded by people wearing green hats but as we rounded the point hats of different colours started to appear. This raised my heart as it meant that I would not be the slowest on the swim. These were the hats of the waves that had started before us. I could feel like a fast swimmer for a while as I passed these guys. The feeling didn’t last long, the fast ones from the younger age groups made short work of catching up with me.

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I got into a small tussle with a man that wasn’t wearing a swim cap. I first noticed him as he bumped into me. He then matched me stroke for stroke. It suddenly dawned on me that I could ease off slightly and benefit from the draft. I have a feeling that he had the same thought at the same time. The only difference was that he was able to act on the thought. He was really starting to annoying me now. My thoughts turned to how to get rid of him. The key was a slower swimmer in front. I used them to cleave him from my side by passing them as closely as I dare on the side of the hat-less swimmer. He had a choice, break off or drop back. He broke off. I put in a massive effort and pulled away. I quick glance back confirmed that I’d left him trailing in my wake. This made me happy.

Getting into the water through the waves was something I had practiced. I should have practiced getting out through the waves as well but I didn’t. That’s why I managed to get pushed over by a wave at the very end of the race. It wasn’t the most dignified way to leave the water but I didn’t care, I’d just had a fantastic swim.

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