Sunday, 23 January 2011

Warriewood to Mona Vale Ocean Swim and it's a bad back and blue bottles - in that order

I don't wish a bad back on anyone. But that's what I have as a result of a misspent youth - I won't even go there. I just thank the heavens I'm still on this planet, with my cranky back and spent brain cells, after some of the seriously stupid things I've done in my life.

Today the bad back nearly stopped me from doing the Warriewood to Mona Vale Ocean Swim. But then my brother-in-law Davo - who last night said "I probably won't do it, I'm onto my second beer, the house is a mess, the missus is at me to tidy up and look after the kids" - does a 360 and this morning proclaims, "I'm ready and raring to go." 

Initially, I decided to do the drive up to the northern beaches as his support person, but then we arrived. I sniffed the salty air and saw the surf was just right - I was a goner. 

We parked for free at Mona Vale and caught the free shuttle bus to Warriewood, where I then forked out $40 for late rego. The back/hip was a bit shaky. I knew I wouldn't be able to run in or out of the surf. The run out after the swim was going to be hard because it was a hike up the beach. More of that later. 

Conditions were perfect, until we heard the dreaded word: BLUE BOTTLES. Actually, we heard the word back at Warriewood but I don't want to interrupt the story flow 'cos I'm on a roll. So, I went up to a tall lanky surf lifesaver, who had an Irish accent, and asked, "What about the blue bottles?"

And he reassured me with that gentle Irish brogue, "There's not that many."

Mind you, he was covered head-to-toe in sun-safe gear and didn't look as though he was about to go anywhere near the water. But it was enough to put me at ease. What can I say? I'm a pushover for Irish accents.

Davo and I were directed to two huge tins of petroleum jelly and slathered the stuff all over our exposed bits. I guess the blue bottles can't get a grip if you're as slippery as an eel.    

Unfortunately, Davo got the stuff all over his goggles, which meant he spent a lot of the swim in a Vaso fog. 

Because we're old, we started in the fourth/last 'wave' with the men and women together. There were some nice waves to negotiate out to the first can, which was about 400 metres from the shore. Then we chucked a left and swam north and parallel to the beach. There was a bit of chop, which made it uncomfortable and I swallowed a little bit of water. I also swam WIDE AGAIN. When will I learn? I saw a girl with a GPS on her back and wondered what the pattern would look like if I wore one. Probably a crazy zig-zag. 

There were six bouys but I lost count (it's those spent brain cells) and got a bit confused. Towards the last leg of the swim, I also felt a faint stinging sensation on my legs. Then a support crew on a surf ski told me to swim wide of several blue bottles. On the way into shore, I was definitely stung on the right inner-arm. 

As predicted, getting out of the surf and up the beach at the end of the swim was a bugger, and easily a dozen swimmers passed me on the run to the finish line. Bags of ice were on hand for the blue bottle casualties and I gratefully took one. 

Afterwards, Davo and I realised how lucky we were when we saw lots of the younger swimmers, who went out in the first wave, with huge welts from the blue bottle stingers

I didn't see her, but Davo said that elite swimmer Luane Rowe, who wins many of the ocean swims, was covered in angry looking red marks from where the blue bottles had wrapped themselves around her arms and legs. Poor girl. She'll suffer over the next week when the pain evolves into a tormenting, unrelenting itch.

Today's swim was 1.6 km, but Davo reckons it felt longer. I guess I do too, but I'm always so busy trying to figure out where I am during a swim that every swim seems long, no matter what the distance! I did hear some of the punters talking about how hard it was. And the blue bottles didn't help matters.  

Let's hope these unwelcome visitors are long gone by next Sunday when we line up for the big one - Palmy to Whale.

Top photo is a view of Warriewood and bottom is Mona Vale


Anita Joy said...

After suffering more bluebottle stings than I care to remember as a kid, I won't get in the water if they are around now. Even with lots of grease you were very brave :)

Shayne said...

Thanks Anita. I have a mild itch and blisters on my arm today, but it is only a small spot.

They are awful creatures and, like flies and mosquitoes, I'm not sure of their purpose.