Monday, May 19, 2014

B2W: KP’s how to guide

I struggled through the Bronze Medallion. I continue to struggle with surf rescue boards. And I have wound up in hospital because of them (through no fault of my own).
All of that was worthwhile to be supported by Bondi IRB (Inflatable Rescue Boat) during my Bondi to Watson’s race.
JP (my driver) arranged my boat at his own birthday party in January. That may seem ridiculous for a race in May but without a boat, your race is sunk before it’s even started. Without a boat there is no point in training.
Bondi IRB do a bloody incredible job during the season. They’re the ones we call upon when conditions are too rough for any other rescue craft. Two eyewitness examples:
  •      I was in the tower and had to call it in when a bunch of North Bondi Nippers got caught in the break of a 6-10 foot set that broke in what had previous been beyond the break. North Bondi couldn’t get out. Bondi did.
  •     I was having lunch at Icebergs when one of the strongest littoral (horizontal) currents I’ve ever seen (I’d been on patrol in the morning) dragged someone from the flags halfway down the beach in the blink of an eye. In huge surf the IRB had him safely in the boat within moments of him leaving the safety of the flags.

With Bondi IRB at my side (JP driving and Liz crewing) I started training and lining up the rest of my support.

Pick the person with the best outlook on life you know. I was having a conversation about a recent birthday girl and mentioned how much I admired her outlook. She was the natural choice to be my paddler. She shares the same spirit of adventure and joy in the beauty of the ocean that motivates me. Thankfully Pia said yes.

Coaches and training buddies
Since I started with Can Too in 2009 to overcome my open water panic attacks I’ve had the benefit of Kingy and Zoe’s guidance. In 2012 they started the bloody brilliant 4SEASons swim squad. They’ve created a program that accommodates nervous nellies through to those who’ve essentially become aquatic. They’ve been stalwart supporters and a fantastic resource in planning and executing my training regime ahead of B2W. Thank you!
I train with 4SEASons and I train outside of 4SEASons with a few great training buddies, also aiming for solo B2W attempts: Adrian, Liam and Pete. If you train solo for something like this you will lose motivation and possibly go a little spacco. Especially if you’re as social as me. Having fellow swimmers to chat to, bounce ideas off and generally make swimming social makes the world of difference.

I wasn’t taking any chances this time. I went and saw a nutritionist (Sarah Dacres-Manning, who is an ocean swimmer herself) and got a tonne of helpful hints and a really scientific nutrition plan for the race. Everything for race day was tried and tested and worked really well.

My aim was 10km recovery weeks, followed by 15km, 18km and 20km. Repeat ad nauseam. I combined pool sessions with longer ocean swims. I did whatever ocean swims were on offer. I did laps before and after training sessions. If I was feeling unmotivated I would swim in my favourite places: Bronte, Bondi and Icebergs. Or I’d arrange to meet a training buddy. I worked on my stroke with Tamera (another supporter from go to whoa and 4Seasons coach) and through drills. I did intervals, pyramids and every other kind of set imaginable. I tried not to just do laps in the pool, leaving long consistent swims to the ocean. The most useful training sessions were swimming around Ben Buckler to view the course with my paddler and swimming against a 4m tide in Bundeena.
I have still never regretted a swim.
I tried to do cross training, strength and core work but I have to admit I wasn’t very good at keeping this up.

Injury prevention
My shoulder was pretty stuffed for most of 2012-2013. I see Mike Allen at Physio on Bronte to keep it in shape. He’s married to my swim coach so I’d also check in with her at the same time (multitasking for the win!). My shoulder held up remarkably well.

I was back in the water the next day. Loving it.

The system works. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bondi to Watsons: or swimming treadmill

I think what I love most about marathon swimming (anything above 10km counts so I’m claiming marathon swimmer status) is the sense of adventure. Each time you are exploring, pushing boundaries and discovering something new.

There was a moment in the 9km Cole Classic (about the 7km mark) when everything clicked, everything felt good and I thought “this is what I’m meant to be doing”. I’m not fast, I’m not a born swimmer, I was once overweight and totally sports averse. So that was a pretty profound realisation.

I just effing love it. 

This was to be one hell of an adventure. Swimming past the safety of Bondi bay, around Ben Buckler, along a very long sheer cliff to the heads of Sydney Harbour, through the heads to the protected harbour beach of Watson’s Bay.

More importantly, this was going to be a shared adventure. I knew 8 of the solos on the start line and 1 x duo and 2 x teams. I knew all of the IRB guys supporting the swimmers and 3 of the paddlers. Party swim!

 But I couldn't do it without my incredible support crew. People who are willing to give up their own time and effort to help you achieve their dreams. They are just incredible.

To Pia, my paddler, JP my driver and Liz my crew - thank you!!!

Race day dawned with perfect conditions. Flat, still and not a breath of wind. I was quietly confident. I got down to the club early to help with IRB set up. I had a precise timetable of where to be when, when to eat, when to drink and when to sunscreen up. This helped get the nerves under control. Even when my cap split on the start line and I was about to have to swim in my 4Seasons cap I had underneath. (Lesson learned from Joe’s experience – always double cap).

We’re off. We head to NZ to meet up with the boats, which thanks to the 4seasons flag is a breeze. I recorded this as 1.5km off the centre of the beach and that was the last time my watch worked accurately. We then swam for an hour to get back to Ben Buckler. We started rounding the cliffs at the 1.5 hour mark. The previous day we had swum to the same point in half an hour. Demoralising to say the least.

Belying the outwardly perfect conditions the current was running against us at about 2-3km / hour. I swim 3.3km / hour at time trial (pool swim of 1km) pace. At times I went backwards.

The IRB crews direct us further out from the cliffs to try and avoid the currents. We’re making creeping progress and I’ve pulled ahead of Adrian and Liam, surprising the hell out of myself.

It would be fair to say that if I never see that bloody North Bondi smoke stack again I will be happy.* There’s an antenna to the north of it which I made, took a feed, ended up back at the stack and had just pulled past when the lifeguards came by to say the 4 hour time limit was up and I had to jump in my boat to be taken past Hornby lighthouse.

I jumped in the boat, sipped some tea, ate some of the cake I’d baked for my team (greatest endorsement ever of my baking was the speed with which the other IRBs returned when word passed around about the cake being shared), sang some Whitney Houston with Liz and warmed up. A quick IRB trip later, with Pia being towed behind on her board and having a whale of a time we passed Hornby lighthouse inside the harbour and I dove back in.

Such a relief to be making progress again. I put the hammer down and headed for home. One by one I swam by my fellow 4Seasons duo and team swimmers. Such an encouraging sight.

The finish line was one of the more incredible experiences of my life. I swear my supporters from 4Seasons, Bondi surf club, Can Too etc. had literally taken over Watson’s Bay. I was completely overwhelmed by a thoroughly gorgeous mob of hugs. Many of whom hung around to relive and recount the experience. I am still overwhelmed at the support I received. Special thanks to Harriet who provided life support – hot chocolate and a towel.

4:40 minutes of swimming alongside some of the nicest people and the most stunning scenery. Can we do that again please?

Next year, Gadget, next year.

*Interestingly, I would hear the exact same sentiment in San Francisco three weeks later from Simon Dominguez who had the same experience.