This time last week the potential excuses were stacking up and by week’s end, in the wake of a five year overdue university reunion, my physical condition for ocean swimming was very much in doubt. After more than a year of pontificating on the blog about dipping my toe in I finally did. On Sunday I was woken at some ungodly hour by a mosquito which saw me snapping the sunrise at Clovelly an hour ahead of registration time for the limited entry Clovelly 600.
The event was organised by OceanFit as part of the “TamaCloey 2.5km” swim and was aimed at beginner ocean swimmers. It definitely delivered, helped no doubt by the near perfect conditions on the day. The worst bit by far was waiting around on the beach contemplating the awful scenario of getting a stitch or being sucked out to sea in a rip and having to be rescued. Or nibbled by something cartilaginous.
I was lucky to have some pre-swim counsel and advice from @coffeemumswims, a seasoned ocean swimmer, one of a number I’ve connected with on social media. I also paired up with another lovely lady called Sue who empathised on also being a first time ocean swim competitor. As it turned out this definition was a bit literal and really just to make me feel better; just because you havent done an actual ocean swim event doesnt mean you havent done triathlons. Anyway, she was very friendly and I appreciated her company on the start line.
I have to admit that the course instructions could have been a bit clearer, but then, I’m used to yacht races where detailed race instructions are issued with port and starboard roundings indicated for every mark. I almost had a heart attack when I mistook a turning mark for the 2.5km race for the seaward mark on our much shorter course. Needless to say the appearance of a closer pink buoy with yellow hatted fellow swimmers rounding it was a huge relief.
The swim out seemed easier despite the incoming tide, and Clovelly’s shallow waters enabled a great view of the sea life although I didn’t encounter the famous Clovelly Blue Grouper. Just after I rounded the buoy, as I stopped to catch my breath and check I wasn’t swimming to New Zealand, a friendly chap on a surf life saving ski asked me if I’d like a Martini.
- I’m not actually in this picture yet
But I should be in there somewhere
Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase. I really did enjoy the swim. It certainly got the heart pumping and the lungs working at full capacity and 1km would have more than stretched me. I like the no nonsenseness of ocean swimming, as @coffemumswims puts it, the simple “swimming from A to B”.
The best bit was swimming back over the breakwater and being picked up by the surge which lifted me over the kelp beds and into the closed waters of Clovelly Bay. You don’t get that in the pool.
Early this morning I swam in the sea pool down at South Cronulla. On my own. The water was as flat as a millpond, zero breeze. Just ten laps. The water was warm and afterwards I felt a million dollars like I knew I would. Followed by ten minutes basking on the steps of the surf club with a coffee I was a new woman.
Taking part in an ocean swim has been on my agenda for an embarrasingly long time without much action. I vowed to give it a go in this post last year, hoping that a public proclamation of my intentions would force me into the necessary training regime. My efforts suggest I’m not that interested but I really I am, I just can’t seem to fit this singular activity into the hectic life that is a part time working mother of two pre-school children (who dont always sleep at night). Children and water need close attention so when I am not working and can make it to the beach with the kids, the closest I get to a proper swim is a wallow in the rock pools at low tide or at best a waist deep wade in the surf with a monkey on the hip.
My swim in solitude this morning was thanks to Reg being on holidays and at last a miniature surplus of time as a result of a long summer holiday that has allowed us to catch up on what has been a crazy busy year. When school (work) is in again it will be back to the grind and weekends dedicated (happily) to family time, sorting out the domestics, boating pursuits etc etc. So ocean swimming, other than training in the pool while the kids are in lessons, seems destined for the dream box again.
The thing that really appeals to me (having skulked around the general vibe of ocean swimming types; the ones on social media anyway) is the cameraderie and the idea that by coming last I won’t be laughed at (is this true?!). I know that if I did come last, the physical rewards would compensate. I’d love to hear from any other ocean swimming mums and dads. Am I trying to fit too much in? How do you fit in training? Perhaps I should forget the training and just enter a swim that has a short course for beginners or would I just end up as shark food? Anyone down the southern side of Sydney interested in a weekday ocean swimming mother’s group where we can take turns?
I spent this morning down at the pool as I have now almost every saturday for a long time. For the last 18 months I have spent this time sitting on my lazy, “i’m pregnant” or “I’m breastfeeding so I’ll have a second slice” bum, drinking a latte, and remembering to occasionally look over and wave at three year old blowing bubbles during swimming class. This morning was different. This week J2 finally waved goodbye to the boobs so I decided it was time to stop using the continuance of her food supply as an excuse for lack of exercise and get back in the pool. It felt good. Ears in the water, all noise blocked out I retreated into my head with no distractions. In fact this morning I wrote whole blog posts as I crawled up and down the pool. If I had a dictophone that could record me talking underwater with a mouth full of marbles, I could get it all down on paper.
I’ve been mulling an idea over for a while and alluded to it in this post last summer. With regular competitive sailing a distant memory at the moment I am really missing the complete salt water hit that skiff sailing once gave me. So I have set myself a new long term goal of completing a short ocean swimming race. When I mentioned this to Reg he nearly choked on his coffee. His goal in life he says is to remove things from his to do list whereas he says mine seems to be to add them. It makes sense to me though as we are already at the pool at least once a week. Pools have creches (for a mid-week session) and for open water training perhaps the family can follow me in the tinny?
So in the interests of Reg’s sanity this is a long term goal. Get fit in the pool first. Overcome an acute fear of having foot bitten off by a shark. Do some research .
Why am I doing this? Quite simply for myself and my own sanity. To motivate myself to get properly fit and to get that feeling that only a serious injection of salt water can provide. This feeling is summed up perfectly by Shaun Tomson in his book “Surfer’s Code”:
“Because surfing stays with me after I leave the waves — in the salt on my skin, the pleasant ache in my shoulders, that general sense of well-being that warms my whole body like a summer day — I can draw on those physical sensations to nourish the imagination and invigorate my life every day”.
I’m writing about this here, publicly, so I can’t chicken out and in the vain hope someone might be silly enough to join me? I know it won’t be easy so I’d love to hear from anyone who has done one or has some advice.
I can do this
I’ve always fancied trying my hand at an ocean swimming race, however, on occasion I have been known to harbour a little too much confidence in my own ability in some areas than is good for me.
The sport of open water swimming has undergone a massive surge in popularity in recent years according to a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Before reading this article I hadn’t really given much thought to what would actually be involved other than (of course) being seriously fit. So last weekend I dipped my toe in the water and headed out for a bit of a doggie paddle with Rhubarb along Port Hacking. Before long I realised my goal of competing in the 2011 Cole Classic (next week) is more than a little ambitious, and we werent even in the ocean yet. But there are lap lanes with worse views than South West Arm and you have to start somewhere. Are there any serious ocean swimmers out there with some advice for a complete amateur?
Rhubarb and myself in serious training mode