Sunday, January 30, 2011

From Palm Beach to Whale Beach, the big swim redux

The Big Swim. 2.7km around the headland between Palm and Whale Beach.

This is the headland that doesn't end, my friends. Or at least it feels like it.

Last year my googles leaked, I got seasick, sun burnt, stung and struggled to get up the beach at the other end.

This year my brand new googles (cheers to Swim shop for their voucher!) were brilliant, travel calm and antihistamines kept both seasickenss and stingers at bay and my brilliant Can Too rashie provided sun and sting protection.

Start was glorious thanks to all the extra tips I picked up joining the beginners a couple of weeks ago at training. I had been porpoising all wrong which was why I was having such trouble getting out through the break leading to panic attacks.

Took a nice wide course, avoiding all the chop next to the headland and only joining up with the main body of swimmers as they rounded the headland. Was utterly convinced I had misremembered the headland as I didn't feel tired by the end of it and thought I had much further to go. Finally found those teeny tiny intermediate buoys I'd searched for last year and then the final buoy much too soon. I was having fun!

I did a warm up at both Palm and Whale beaches which meant I picked the gutter going out of Palm and knew what the waves were doing at Whale. Caught three broken ones into the beach and sprinted for home with two cheer squads on either side of the finish line cheering my name: The Can Tooers, especially Alice, Toby and Allison on the left and then Tom, Em, Elizabeth and the Garsias including Anna on my right.

Best 15 minutes of fame ever!

Now onto that Coogee to Bondi monster!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'Stralya Day

You could celebrate Australia day by getting boozy with it the night before. Or you could do it the right way by kicking of your day with some serious exercise - a 2.5km swim around Farm Cove with the likes of Geoff Huegill and Tony Abbott. I picked the latter.

Farm Cove was the site of my first ever panic attack in deep water - being unable to see the bottom rendered me unable to put my face in the water and I swam the whole 400m of the BRW triathlon without breathing in the water. It was that experience which partly inspired me to join Can Too.

I returned to the site of my original panic attack by way of a deep water start from the Man 'O War steps to Lady Macquarie's chair and then along the farm cove wall. Totally fine. Amazing what Can Too can do.

Got a little lost turning around the buoy, but so did Mr Oceanswims so it's okay. Finished last in my age category - not uncommon but in a respectable 50:17 beating Tony Abbott by about 5 minutes.
How 'straylan can you get?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bluebottles Attack!

Presenting the sadistic blue bottle
Red equals sting, white equals three different kinds of stingoes and ice equals pain relief.

Although I have contemplated pulling out of many an ocean swim, I have only pulled out of two. Both due to blue bottles; to which I am mildly allergic making a painful experience even more so. I have to say both times, I've been back on the beach within 3 minutes of being stung. These lifesavers know their stuff.

The mighty Mona Vale marathon last year was grim, overcast and had an incredibly intense surf. This year it seemed Avalon and Mona Vale had swapped.

I had a few goggle issues getting out but otherwise it was quite an enjoyable swim. I'd discovered travelcalm during the week that includes an antihistamine for all those bitey things in the ocean to which I am allergic. Consequently, the chop out the back didn't worry me. Hurrah for pharmaceuticals!

Swam along nicely until the final buoy when the water safety directed us in as close to the buoy as possible due to stingers. I swam in close to the final buoy but whilst rounding it got bluebottle tentacle across my face. The pain was intense. Whilst treading water to try and pull the tentacles off the sadistic bastard got me across the arms, chest and back. I started screaming from the pain. Some lovely swimmer, on the home stretch when you're most competitive asked me if I was okay, to which I replied no and raised his arm for the rubber ducky to come rescue me. I felt like such a goose. I was so occupied trying to get the damn things off I hadn't raised my arm. Not sure but I think that's grounds for stripping you of your Australian citizenship. They hauled me into the boat, and another Can Tooer in my age group who'd been stung into the boat, brushed all the tentacles off and zipped into the shore. Raced up the beach, faster than I ever have at the end of a race in search of first aid.

Two hot showers, and two ice applications later I was still in a lot of pain. More antihistamines and panadol and kindly ministrations of both friends and strangers and I was okay. However, even after a boiling hot shower, more ice and a nap my face still looked pretty angry.
See the welts below:

It's now 11 hours later and my ear still feels like it was lacerated by the tentacles. It's bright red.

My woes however were nothing to the poor bloke who was unable to walk unaided after being stung and due to anaphalaxis left the beach in an ambulance. I hope he's okay!

Please keep your fingers crossed for a blue bottle free run at Whale Beach next weekend!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Surfs Up at Avalon

There is very little in life that scares me but the surf at Avalon was pants-wettingly terrifying. The tide was going out making the waves bigger but the water to clear them less and less.
Six foot surfs are uncommon at Avalon.
During my warm up I caught one of the waves which was a thrill until I fell off the front of the damn thing. I'm pretty used to getting dumped and normally don't mind it - but falling off the front of the wave and through air into the wash below is genuinely terrifying. Names of spinal injury cases kept flashing through my mind.
Alice and I, Can Too Twoers that we are, elected to swim together and so, having stopped to meet up at the first buoy (I'm always slower to start) we swam stroke for stroke together. The water was surprisingly calm past the break. We were incredibly lucky in our starting wave (25-29 female) which had a fairly calm start. The blokes ahead of us got smacked by a set beyond the break.

I have no idea how we managed it, but we stopped and surveyed the sets behind us and managed to get a clear patch to get back in the beach. We crossed the line hand in hand before I made my debut as a Can Too spokesperson.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Bondi-not-quite-so-roughwater

This blog has testified to a fair bit of ocean swimming madness (taking up the sport in the first place for example). But doing a 1km race and then turning around to do a 2km race has got to be up there.

The Bondi Roughwater last year was the first time I got seasick whilst swimming. Yes. It is indeed possible.
Susie Maroney used to suffer from it (see the extract below from her interview with Andrew Denton).

ANDREW DENTON: How do you get seasick swimming?

SUSIE MARONEY: Oh I don’t know but I was the worst at being seasick. It was terrible, and I think because the cage, because I wanted it right next to the boat because I like to see faces like while I’m swimming and everything, and I think having it on the side did make it really really choppy, and that’s when I just swallowed so much salt water and I couldn’t keep anything down, I was just so seasick.

... Luckily I just feel nauseous, retch occasionally and have been known to become totally disoriented.

However this year Bondi was delightfully calm. Took the 1km as a warm up, supporting a nervous friend who did incredibly well to swim as far as she did given she wanted to bail, justifiably, 100m from the end. No shame in getting rescued - only in pushing ahead beyond your ability and endangering yourself, the water safety crew and other swimmers.

Got a good start and an easy rhythm in the 2km. Have discovered that if I try and swim fast I tend to swim slower than if I just ease into a strong, consistent and easy stroke. Bizarre. But hey whatever works.

Raced home, thanks to generous lift givers, to finish preparing for the "Tea for Too - Can Too" afternoon tea with Anna and raised a further $400 for Cure Cancer Australia.

Good Day!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Newport Pool to Peak

From pool ...

to Peak ...

... well almost!

I am reliably informed by ocean swimming experts that even the most nervous of swimmers eventually overcome their panic.

Having finally enjoyed an ocean swim from go to whoa (the brilliant Bilgola) I was feeling far more confident. That confidence was sadly misplaced.

The 2km ocean swim starts at 10:30am on 2 January making for a fairly tame New Years. Glorious day and a solid 2km course.

Worst start in forever. I didn't have time for a serious warm up and couldn't get a rhythm when getting out past the break. Eventually I just had to swallow sea water to try and lubricate my panic dried mouth. Eventually got into a decent rhythm and enjoyed the back stretch (despite being 400m from shore which feels like a very long way!) Struggled in the final stretch when it really felt like I just wasn't getting anywhere.

A very slow swim overall but very good to get a 2km race under my belt.
Also, great to get a 3km swim in the pool before Can Too training starts back properly.