Monday, February 10, 2014

9km Cole Classic

So, as soon I got back to Sydney I started thinking about the 9km Cole Classic swim from Dee Why to Manly. This seemed out of reach for two reasons:
(1)   It requires you to have a support vessel (motorised boat of more than 3.8m); and
(2)   The entry form makes it appear as though you have to have done a 10km open water swim or a timed 10km pool swim;
neither of which seemed obtainable.

Whilst I had trained adequately for the double 5km swim I hadn’t trained adequately for the 9km. So I put the idea to one side. Until fates came a knockin’. Do not try this at home!
The 9km had been called off twice last year. They were keen for swimmers. So the organisers called Nick who had entered last year and let him know that swimmers of the same pace were now allowed to share a boat. Enter Fyso.
It turned out our previous 5km swims were enough to get us entered and SJ and husband Matt came to our rescue with the boat. I was keen to have a crack at the solo, but we had the option to convert to the duo if our respective injuries came to the fore.
Race day dawned utterly perfectly. Full of nervous excitement Fyso and I headed to Dee Why and meet fellow 4season swimmers Pete and Nick. Seriously great company on the start line.
Race start for 9km is a very slow affair. Normally everyone attacks the water as hard as possible. But for 9km everyone is conserving energy so only the young guns aiming for a place go hard. We head to the first buoy to meet our boat. No boat. We wait 10 minutes and then head to the second buoy off Long Reef. No boat. We hang with the jet ski and prepare to be told we have to swim in as it’s a strict race rule you have to have a boat. Somehow, miraculously, another boat comes to our rescue and agrees to crew us. At this point we’re 15 minutes behind the peloton and were already the slowest swimmers so the course sweeper can both crew us and pick up the buoys as we pass.
We are unbelievably stoked at our incredible luck but about another 1km in we realise this means no duo option and swimming 9km without any of our carefully planned hydration / nutrition.
Recalling Coach Kingy’s stern “HTFU” whenever I stood at the side of icebergs in the pre-dawn winter gloom I dug in for the long haul.
And what a haul it was. The water was glorious, the view stupendous, the real estate verging on the obscene as it verged onto the cliffs of the northern beaches. We cleared the Curl Curl buoy (half way) at about 1.5 hours and were between Curl Curl and Freshie when I realised we were flying not just swimming. The currents and tides were all in our favour. Our best case scenario was finishing at 11:09. (21 mins / km). The best case scenario was fast becoming a worst case scenario.
Come into the Freshwater buoy Fyso takes a longer line and all of a sudden we’re no longer going stroke for stroke. I make sure he’s in sight, enjoy the view with a bit of backstroke until we hit Queenscliff. I expected to hit the wall at 7km. Instead, I felt the best I had all swim. So I decided to buckle down and go for it. My stand in coach for Can Too that week, Victor Lee, had finally managed to teach me how to breathe properly, breathing into the pocket of air created by your bow wave during the week so I focussed on this and my stroke and put the hammer down.
At the last buoy we said goodbye to our fantastic boat, and the swimmer ahead of me decided to have his final feed. Sucker.
I crossed the line 3rd last in 2:51. 18 minutes ahead of my [very] stretch goal and an hour and nine minutes ahead of my “don’t get disqualified” goal. Fyso crosses 2 minutes later. We are both on cloud 9 (km swim).

Thanks to all of the amazing support. Including Cap’n Matt whose noble vessel failed to launch and the incredible boat who came to our rescue. And especially Fyso. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Palm to Whale and the Penrith Swims

So it turns out there are well run 5km swim in Sydney. They’re just not well advertised. And held in Penrith.
The first of these was the Bridge to Bridge on January 27 – the day after Palm to Whale. I’ve written extensively about Palm to Whale before so I’ll quote facebook statii and talk about the Little Big Swim. Last year was the worst head space I’ve ever had going into any swim. I was knackered from getting endlessly slammed in the break zone with my mentee Silpa. See photos:

“Well today was a case of mind over matter. And matter nearly won. It was a case of go hard or go home. And I just wanted to go home. But wearing the Can Too cossie meant having another crack. And 9 minutes, 3 tries and 4 start waves later I finally made it out. Turns out I Can Too. I am so proud of everyone who turned up - in weather like this you deserve a medal. I don't care how far you swum - you're all heroes for not going back to sleep!”

So Silpa and I faced the Little Big Swim with some trepidation this year. She was a trooper, facing 6 foot surf I struggled through in a wet suit. And she rightly pulled the pin when she stood of the precipice of getting out and got swept backwards by a big ‘un.
At which point I faced one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I was through the break, along with Margie and Kay and decided to keep swimming with them. Thank goodness for the Can Too coaches who stepped in to make sure Silpa was okay.
Margie was off like a shot so Kay and I swam on, collecting friends and followers. Kay has phenomenal surf instincts and so she, Gail and I navigated the return break like pros whilst those ahead of us got completely, totally and utterly slammed by enormous sets. Such horrendous luck. Once we hit the sand bar the surf threatened to slam us again, but thanks to one of the Can Too coaches we navigated it with ease. Then we were running up the beach – smiles wider than the surf zone.


My turn – Palm to Whale. Had another hard time getting out. But didn’t panic, took it easy, and despite badly misjudging the required depth, got out in reasonable time and was rewarded with making Basically – ocean swimming celebrity. Woot.

Started reeling in those ahead of me. Caught Sophia going round the first buoy. Super smiley buoy. Caught Kellie as she was involved in a three swimmer pile up because some doofus didn’t look where he was going. Cheered Mel around the final buoy. And then I was home.
And for the first time I’d enjoyed Palm to Whale. So it was all about the finish.

Including a few double dips at finishing.

Onto the Penrith swims.

These are held at the International Regatta Centre. The water is a bit manky and it’s fresh so no buoyancy assistance whatsoever. There is quite a bit of weed, which I imagine is much like being attacked by a Grindylow out of Harry Potter. Thus justifying post-race Hermione style hair.
Bit tricky backing up after the Big Swim so I went out really easy from the deep water start. 3km loop followed by 2km loop. Was feeling really good coming into the 4th km and ramping up when, 60m short of the turning buoy water safety came up and told me that half an hour had expired since the winner crossed and my time was now up. WHAT THE? That makes the time limit 1:33. Jeepers!
They let me swim home, and given I was then 100m short they not only recorded me as having finished, but I also won my age category in both the 3km and 5km swims. (Technically I guess I also lost my age category but whatever).

The second Penrith swim was the Western Sydney Open Water swim on 8 February and it was brilliant. $10 for 5km. $2 per km. Unheard of. This time they provided caps and bussed us to the start of the rowing straight and then we swam around the island. Nice scenery and the rowing lanes can be sighted under water making staying straight a breeze.
I whinged about the water quality last time, but actually it’s fine. And compared to the dirt solutions I’ve subsequently swum in – crystal clear.

A seriously enjoyable swim. And the race numbers were top notch. As was the bacon and egg roll afterwards!