Posts Tagged ‘open water swimming’


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.


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.


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.


It’s a Jetty not a Yetti


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


Happy people at the end


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.


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.


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.


Contemplating how well it could have gone

PubToPub (2)

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.

PubToPub (3)

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

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.

Racing Roman (2)

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


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.


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.


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


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.