Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Burleigh Ocean Swim: embrace the turtle within

Heading north to the start of the 2km swim
With a heavy heart I must report that my swim times are still crapulous, despite training throughout winter. 

I should have listened to Spanner's advice, for he is *wise. The Wise One (that's Spanner) has always said that I need to acknowledge my slow-swimmer genes and embrace the turtle within.

On Sunday at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast in Queensland I finally looked the turtle in the eye. 

At the start line
It was a beautiful day, which dawned at 4.30am. That's when the sun bloody well rises in Queensland because the state doesn't have daylight savings. This far north the sand is blindingly white and fine. 

My friend Ms Fivestar, who came to Burleigh as my **support person, created this lovely analogy: she said Queensland sand squeaks under the feet like haloumi cheese in the mouth. If you've got some haloumi handy, get a piece and chew on it. That is the sound of Qld sand between the toes. 

The ocean is shades of blue and green, and white as the waves break and roll onto the shore.

Woo hoo: I wish I could say I looked that athletic
Ms Five Star and I stayed on the 16th floor of an apartment on The Esplanade. The views were spectacular. I will never get over how lucky we are to live in a country with so much coast. It's glorious. And the sound of the surf, though loud and continuous, is therapeutic. I love it. 

About the swim. I did the 2km event, which started at 7am about half-way up the beach from the Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park Surf Club. There is a reason for the early start. As the day progresses, the wind blows in and the surf can become choppy and unpredictable. On the Saturday, bluebottles were driven into shore by a robust nor-easterly wind. The surf was ragged and a strong current ran north. 

At 7am on Sunday, the ocean was in a better mood (a local described it as "flat as") and the wind hadn't yet arrived. 

My age group ran into the shallow water about 15 minutes past the hour, after three other younger age groups. I did the usual - adjusting and emptying goggles (I am sooo neurotic) and then got into it. It was a lovely swim through clean clear water back down the beach to the club. I didn't go that hard (must be my turtle brain). 

Getting back in was more of an effort, a bit like 'one foot forward two steps back' as the small waves gave me a gentle shove forward only to drag me back as they retreated from the shore. The 'run' up the beach started with a tip-toe through the shallows trying to avoid breaking an ankle in sandy pot holes. This was followed by a 50 metre sprint (in my case a turtle toddle) up soft sand to the finish. Five swimmers ran past me before I crossed to the line.

I did the swim in 40 minutes and finished in the bottom third of around 230 swimmers (maybe even lower but, as you know, I'm bad at maths). I really should have made the distance in 35 minutes.
Nemesis: the bluebottle

Not to worry. The turtle and I had a chat and decided there's nothing wrong with being slow. I'm out there and doing it. That's what counts. 

*Spanner might be wise but for some reason he finds it impossible to install a bathroom mirror or fix the TV antenna so we have reception when it rains.
**Ms Fivestar carries the towels and water. She also takes over as chief photographer. She is the CAMEL. I know what I'd rather be. 

Always read the signs and follow the advice
PS: If you're ever in Burleigh Heads head to the Commune Cafe on the highway. It may not have ocean views but it has yummy food, a great vibe and wonderful service. It is run on eco-friendly and fair trade principles. Highly recommended.

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