Monday, 27 February 2012

Long Reef SLSC Ocean Swim: superfish women of a certain age

Swimmers finish the 1 km event at Long Reef Beach

I can't EVER win when, in my potentially decrepit age group, Female 50-54, there are so many amazing swimmers. I use the word 'freaks' in the most complimentary sense to describe them. 

Here are two examples: At the Long Reef SLSC Ocean Swim held yesterday, Jenny Whiteley completed the 2 km swim in 25:16. She was the FIRST female to finish and came 10th overall out of 309 swimmers*. Of that number, 104 were women. 

If you can't be bothered, the story basically reports on Whiteley's medal sweep at the Masters Swimming national titles in 2010, where she beat former Olympian Shane Gould in 10 out of 11 events. Whitelely holds more than 14 world and national Masters records in the 50-54 age group.

Second across the line was Sue Kearney in 27:00. She was the fifth female to finish and 24th overall. When Jenny's not around, Sue takes her place on the winner's podium.


I dunno if I'll ever be free of them. Maybe I could befriend them and then do something evil to prevent them from swimming. I recall the scandal surrounding American figure skater Tonya Harding, who was involved in a plot to break the leg of her rival Nancy Kerrigan way back in 1994... 

I'd have to break a lot of legs to take line honours. Back to the drawing board.

Here's how I fared. I crossed the line 10 minutes after Sue Kearney and finished 9th out of the 14 competitors in my age group.

However (drum roll for the BIG EXCUSE) I'm sure I could've knocked a couple of minutes off my time had I not mistaken the red Streets ice-cream tarpaulin used by the surf lifesavers for the finish line. 

I'm serious. I started swimming towards it because I couldn't see the white banner with FINISH in huge red letters screaming at me from the beach as I turned at the final buoy. And because I breathe to the left I didn't notice all the swimmers streaking past on my right-hand side. It's pretty pathetic. I'm not proud, just blind. 

Not to worry.  

There's always Freshwater this Sunday. Before I head off from the start line I'll check out the colour, shape and size of the finish-line banner.

Long Reef Beach

BTW, the day was beautiful and I felt pretty good, considering the 3.8 km journey the day before. Not so good was a woman around my age who I met just before the swim started (ocean swimming is like that - you chat with anyone who'll listen and no one seems to mind). She told me she'd been to a school reunion the night before and she and her school mates drank "consistently" from 3pm until 1am. 

I hope she made it.

FYI: In case you wanted some facts about Long Reef, I lifted this from the SLSC website:

Long Reef Surf Club is located at Long Reef Beach on Sydney's Northern beaches.
It is the northern half of the 1.8 km stretch of beach that runs from the base of Long Reef headland to Dee Why headland.

The beach faces South East and has great waves for surfing and swimming, making it a very popular beach. It is ideal for surf club activities as the beach is partly protected by an offshore reef (Long Reef).  

Speak soon! 

*The Tama to Cloey Swim was also held yesterday, which could explain the lower than usual turn-out for this swim. I'm sure there were some super older chicky babes at that one, too. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Wildlife? What wildlife? sharks and muppets in Lake Macquarie

Mr Mild Mannered and Mr VB at the ferry/rivercat at Belmont
So it starts with Mr Very Big sending me a cryptic text message about the 'wildlife' on Lake Macquarie, the location of the annual Across the Lake Swim from Coal Point to Belmont, near Newcastle.

"Whaddya mean by wildlife?" I ask him at swim squad on Friday morning, the day before the swim.

When he tells me that somebody told him to watch out for bull sharks, I scoff. "Rubbish," I say. "My daughter's sailed at Belmont and boats capsize there all the time. There are no sharks in Lake Macquarie."

I reassure him there's nothing to worry about. What would an Irishman with delusions of swimming grandeur know?

After squad I return home and key in to a Google search on my computer: 'Are there bull sharks in Lake Macquarie?' 


What a muppet. Of course there are bloody sharks. Hundreds of 'em, it seems. And not only bullies. Whalers too! An alarming fact is that the relatively harmless hammerhead hangs out in the lake (it can nip if harassed but it's unable to chomp a human in half because it's gummy) and is being targeted by local fishermen, who reel them in for a bit of fun. Bogans.

Of course, all sharks can be scary. However, it's the bullies and bronze whalers that are the real worry.

With that knowledge tucked firmly into my amygdala I prepared for the Saturday swim. Miss Freeasabird stayed at my place on Friday night. On Saturday morning we rose at 4.30am (I woke up at 3am and couldn't go back to sleep) and drove up the Pacific Highway to meet Mr VB at 5.30am. We tumbled into his 4WD and cruised up the F1 to the Belmont 16ft Sailing Club. Belmont is 130 km from Sydney and takes around one-and-a-half hours by car.

It was such a beautiful day. Cloudless. Even at 7.30am you could feel the heat of the sun. We met up with several other swim-squad mates, including Mr Mild Mannered, and jumped on the second of three ferries to Coal Point. 

From Coal Point we could just make out the silhouette of the sailing club on the other side. That was our goal - a straight 3.8 km line from one side of the lake to the other. There were buoys set out along the course as guides including the three big yellow cubes that featured the distances - 1000 metres, 2000 metres, 3000 metres. No worries mate. 

Glare. Looking across to Belmont from Coal Point

There was very little wind and the lake was glassy. I waded into the warm weedy water and tried to switch off the panic button. 'Nobody has ever been taken by a shark on Lake Macquarie.' This was to be my mantra for the duration of the swim.

There were three waves. I think I was in the last. Can't remember. Whatever. Once I got going and cleaned out my foggy goggles  I noticed several things: water temperature, weed, water colour, sun. 

The water was tepid, almost bath temperature. Nice but not as refreshing as the ocean. You could call it murky but as my hands entered the water I was mesmerised (for a little while) by its golden hue and fat silver bubbles streaming up my arms.

The sun was a bugger. It was hanging over the other side of the lake at Belmont, which makes sense because the direction was east. I couldn't see a lot because of the glare. 

At around the 2 km mark I noticed I was on my own. Where had all the other swimmers gone? Eek. Sharks always go for the weakest penguin. I WAS THE WEAKEST PENGUIN. 

Then the sun snuck behind a cloud and all I could think was BULL SHARKS LOVE WARM MURKY WATER AND CLOUDY DAYS. My little penguin body shuddered.

There was nothing to do but forge ahead. Coming across my friend Mr M (aka Sharkback) was a godsend. We paced each other for the final half of the swim. I had no idea where I was and nor did he. Fortunately, we found a swimmer who had organised a friend to paddle beside her on a kayak. We stuck to them like glue for the latter part of the swim. 

On the way in, Mr M thought he could escape from me but I paced him all the way, stroke for stroke. When we walked across the line together at Belmont I had spare fuel in my tank.

My time wasn't wonderful and all my swim-squad peeps were already home and hosed but I felt good. This was my first swim over 3km and I made it - in one piece. 

The one thing I learnt is that it's not easy to swim in a straight line for 3.8 km. Mr Mild Mannered said he spent his youth swimming at the Merewether Ocean Baths in Newcastle, which doesn't have black lines. This taught him to swim in a straight line.

On the way home, Miss Freeasabird, Mr VB and I made several detours (including to two Aldi stores in search of those crystals that suck out dampness because Miss Freeasabird is now living in a mouldy old basement in an eastern suburbs terrace and is finding it hard to breathe).

I digress. We pulled into Catherine Hill Bay on the way back home. I love this place. I've written about it before because the developers want to go in there and tear the place apart but the locals have campaigned for many years to keep their heritage mining village intact. If you read this blog, you must visit Catherine Hill Bay. It's glorious. 

Tomorrow I'll write up my experience of the Long Reef swim on Sydney's northern beaches. 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Malabar Magic Rainbow Club Ocean Swim: inspiring people and lots of bitey things

Malabar Bay
Yep. The red circle with the diagonal line through it was stamped on top of Malabar Beach this morning when I checked the Beachwatch website. It was the only beach in Sydney with a pollution warning. 

I took my earplugs and decided to keep my mouth shut (I just accidentally wrote 'shit' instead of 'shut') throughout the 2.4 km swim. My mouth is usually full of the proverbial so it sort of makes sense.

The day was hot and Malabar was like it always is. I think I mentioned in a post on this swim last year that sometimes you have to grow up in a suburb to love it. 

I dunno. Malabar might have four golf courses and luxury residential developments chewing up what was left of the scrubland, it might be on the coast and within cooee of Maroubra and Bondi, it might be flat and therefore good cycling territory. But it's not for me.

It's a 'sought after' suburb in real estate lingo but ... I know what it is that makes it so wrong! There's no trees. A few but not a lot. And nothing native. Now that's sorted I'll get to the swim. 

I didn't register for the 1 km swim, which I regret because my swim-squad peeps Mr Very Big and Mr Mild Mannered did. They didn't tell me (hear the accusatory/petulant tone in my voice). 

I got down to the beach as the 1 km swimmers were coming in and was privileged to see three-time Paralympian wheelchair athlete Louise Sauvage finish along with her Canadian friend (also disabled) who swam backstroke the whole course (I bet she's an elite athlete too but I didn't find out her name). 

Louise Sauvage hugs her friend after the 1 km swim

Louise's motto is: "You never know what you can achieve until you try."  

I went into the 2.4 km swim feeling chipper. Malabar is in a bay so there's no surf though there's often swell out near the headland. 

The course was straightforward. Three yellow buoys with big red balloons affixed to their tops were lined up out the back of the bay. All we had to do was swim to the first one, chuck a right, swim past the second, and then chuck another right around the third before hitting the home stretch. 

I put in my earplugs and felt odd because, you wouldn't bloody believe this, I could hear my heartbeat through the pulse on my neck! Thumpa thumpa thumpa. I'm serious. I'm seriously neurotic too. 

The swim began and my goggles fogged so I took them off and cleared them. Then they half filled. I wasn't too worried about that because I was more concerned with the earplugs. The sound in my ears was like a gargle every time I breathed and plunged my arms into the water. I couldn't hear anything else. And then there was the ingestion of much (polluted) water. It's impossible to keep your mouth shut when you're swimming. I am laughing as I write. Sometimes I am dumber than a goose. But how dumb is a goose?

Bloody Mr Very Big (or whatever I call the Irish bastard) tugged on my leg as I swam towards the second can. Then he did what he loves to do. Put on the clappers and left me for dead. He gives me the Jimmy Brits. I hope he gets an ear infection*.  Petulant, bad loser... must think of Louise Sauvage and remain inspired.

Even though the water was supposedly polluted, it was rather clear and I saw fish. Hundreds of little ones flitted beneath me so the water quality can't have been too bad.  And the temperature was glorious. Just cool enough.

I followed some bloke in a wetsuit to the finish line and beat him over it. I felt pretty good doing that because earlier in the swim he passed me. I don't know what my time is because the results aren't up yet. 

All in all, it was a lovely day and beaut swim except for the bitey things that attacked my face, arms and torso. I've written a post about bitey things before. Everyone calls them sea lice but they're not. They're either stingy bits that fall off bluebottles or something to do with jelly blubbers - I'm too lazy to look it up and I've rabbited on for long enough.  I don't know whether I'll experience their after-effects tomorrow.

Another reason why this swim is one for the calender every year is that the registration fees go to a great cause, the Rainbow Club, a charity that organises swimming lessons for kids with special needs. There are 16 clubs in NSW and two in Victoria. 

Speak soon. Precious Princess is back from Europe this week. It's gonna be a big one. 

*As my old mum would say, "That's a joke Joyce."

Friday, 17 February 2012

Malabar Magic Ocean Swim this Sunday: iffy & whiffy

Belmont at Lake Macquarie. Spanner obligingly posed for this pic. Check out the rims of his spectacles. What a dork! 

Ocean swimming is addictive. 

I find it hard to miss a swim in summer when there's an ocean swim on somewhere in Sydney every weekend. This Sunday it's the 2.4 km Malabar Magic Ocean Swim. 

Because of the continual wet weather Malabar, a surfless* beach in Sydney's south, sometimes gets a bit whiffy. The effluent from the sewerage outlet tends to hang around after heavy rain. 

The Malabar Magic swim has been around for three years and that's how many times I've done it. In its first year the finish line was in Little Bay, a beach 'around the corner' from Malabar. By corner I mean a small headland.

Conditions that day were so bad - I remember the vomit-inducing swell - that the course now starts and ends at Malabar. Boring maybe. But that first year I'm pretty sure I missed the last buoy, so desperate was I to get to the shore. Sort of accidental cheating. It was a bloody hard swim.

I find Malabar and its surrounds a strange part of the coast. Not my cuppa. Behind Little Bay is the more famous Botany Bay, where the then Lieutenant James Cook, who later became a captain, landed in 1770 on the ship the Endeavour. In 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip popped in with the First Fleet but decided to move on because of poor soil quality and a lack of fresh water. 

Back to the present... Oh dear. I just checked the Beachwatch Bulletin, which gives updates on conditions at Sydney beaches, and Malabar isn't looking good. Check out the map of the coast with smiley faces handed out like gold stars to the unpolluted beaches. The only beach with a Ghostbusters symbol (representing POLLUTION) stamped on it is Malabar. Yuck. Guess I'll have to wear earplugs.

I think rain is predicted for the weekend. Sydneysiders won't know what to whinge about once the rain goes. They'll have to re-focus on our ailing economy and a super strong Aussie dollar that's great if you're travelling overseas but not much good for anything else.

Everyone is cranky.

On a happier note, next Saturday my swim squad peeps and I are tooling it past the Central Coast to Lake Macquarie for the 3.8 km swim across the lake. I've never swum that far before in an an open water swim. It's gonna be tough but lots of fun.

* = sans surf

Sunday, 12 February 2012

North Bondi Cold Power Classic 2012: 1 and 2 km swims on a perfect day in Sydney (until around 3pm when it rained AGAIN)

Seen at 8.15am: As I drive towards Bondi Beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs I notice my first 'typical' eastern suburbs couple of the day, aged in their late 20s. They sprint along the footpath in streamlined unison. 

Both are golden and toned. She wears a running ensemble of striped tank top and short leggings, tight midriff revealed. His thighs are sheathed in black leggings, buff torso exposed. I am struck by their physical perfection as she paces him, taking broad confident strides reserved for those blessed with upward financial mobility (and let's not forget good genes).  

Heard at 8.30am: As I stroll towards the beach after parking the car, I fall in behind a woman walking a small, fluffy, white dog. 

She looks fit and I guess she's around 40. She's talking on her mobile phone: "You've got lovely lips. I think you should get it done but remember it only lasts for six months and costs a fair bit of money... Yeah, well if you're going to get that done make sure they inject it in the middle, otherwise it will make you look odd."

It's all fun.

Once on the beach at North Bondi, my focus turns to the conditions in the surf. Perfection. Golden. Toned even.

It is incredible that, after the inundation* of Sydney for the past two months, today could be so beautiful (though it's raining again as I write). Amazingly, the water is so clear that when I dive under a wave I can see the other swimmers around me, their legs kicking out bubbles as they rise to the surface. 

The waves are small and soft and the rips that can make Bondi a challenge are absent (or so small that they're not an issue). 
I decide to do both the 1km and 2km swims.

At the moment I can't think of what not to like about the swims. The buoys were clearly marked, there was heaps of support on the water and the conditions were divine. 


After all the choppy wild northern beaches swim, I am tired of swallowing so much ocean. Today was a blessing. After adjusting foggy goggles, I find a rhythm for both swims. Though I thought I'd be buggered for the 2 km swim, I feel fine.

I don't know what my times are (they're not up on yet) which is why I probably feel pretty good. Sometimes it's best not to find out! 

Afterwards my squad mates and I headed to the North Bondi Surf Club to find out if we'd won the lucky draw to win a trip for two to Hawaii for the Waikiki Rough Water Swim in September. Had I won, I would be out celebrating, not writing a blog post. 

Next week? Not sure. I think it's the Tamarama to Clovelly but that's tough. I'll get back you on that one.

*'Inundated' is the Word of the Month on the east coast of Australia, which has experienced heavy rain and floods for longer than Noah floated around in his ark. I heard this Ocker bloke from a country town in Queensland being interviewed about the floods. I think he was nervous because he told the reporter the town had been "unindated". 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A love letter to Rome: Precious Principessa on the last leg of her holiday in Europe

Bloody bugger me. I don't like to focus too much on the weather but it is an obsession for most people. I think I heard that it's the wettest summer in Sydney since 1965. Don't quote me on that. I might be making it up.

And while it buckets down yet again and I hear the whooshing of car tyres up and down my street, my daughter Precious Princess (in the headline I have written it in Italian - Sono una persona intelligente) is in Rome where the temperature is 1 degree.

I just discovered Google Translate and it's amazing! From now on I will do multi-lingual posts. Je plaisante! 

In the meantime, here is an email letter from my eldest daughter, on the last leg of her European adventure in Roma, where she has discovered REAL pizza (for breakfast, lunch and dinner), truffles, wine and good table manners. 

Hey mum!! 
Thanks for your Rome advice, our accommodation is about 5 mins from the Castel Sant' Angelo! It's a beautiful castle, and the bridge next to it is even more amazing, with statues of men and women lining both sides. 

We were lucky enough to go there when it had just snowed, so the whole bridge was white and not only lined with the beautiful statues, but it was also completely white and was lined with many additional snowmen/women. 

Europe's weather has gone crazy in the past week if you haven't heard, there was a huge storm that came over from the east and areas such as Amsterdam dropped to -25 degrees and all the canals froze over!! Would have been amazing to see!! 

Italy only got the a little taste of the bad weather with quite heavy snow and temp dropping to -3 (it was the first heavy snow to hit Rome in 25 years!!). When we arrived in Rome, everything was chaos, heaps of trains were cancelled and delayed. 

Ours was cancelled but luckily we spoke to an official who got us on a train that was about to depart and was high speed to Rome. I think most trains after this got cancelled as the bad weather worsened. 

When we got to Rome, none of the streets had been plowed like in Germany and Austria, as I don't think they had any plowing equipment so cars were sliding down hills and people on bikes and scooters were sliding everywhere; the roads were crazy!!

Anyway, this was four days ago and the weather has been clear for two days now, but still snow everywhere. It took them till yesterday to finally plow roads and all the streets are now ice covered. 

Besides this Rome is AMAZING!! We saw the Colosseum covered in snow, and the ruins and Roman Forum too. It's just ridiculous how much of the city is ruins - you turn a corner and there's another monument that's 2000 years old. 

We climbed right to the top of the Basilica yesterday which was the best view in the whole world.

Our apartment here is about two mins walk from the Vatican City and you can see the dome of the Basilica from the end of our street!!! 

The food here has also been amazing, but I won't get started on that as I could write a thesis on it. But everything is great here. 

Heading to Barcelona tomorrow by plane and flying with "Veuling" airlines. Sounds suss but not as suss as Southern China so don't stress. 

Will call you when I land!!!

Some people have all the luck. Let's hope it continues.

PS: I take no responsibility for overuse of exclamation marks and bad punctuation or misspelt words. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

Cole Classic 2012: is it worth the effort?

I wonder what would happen if he got a haircut? A finisher in the Cole Classic
Saturday, February 3, the day before the Cole Classic: 
Around midday I checked the official Cole Classic website to see if I could pick up my timing device and cap on the day of the swim. Nowhere on the website did it indicate that people like moi - late earlybirds who missed having their timers and caps mailed to them - could pick up their gear at the event.

So I made the 90-minute return trip to Manly to collect my stuff and discovered that I could've waited until Sunday. Apparently the organisers don't like to advertise that timers and caps can be picked up on Sunday because it can get "chaotic"*. 

Chaos: The walk from Shelly Beach to Manly Beach

I paid $52 to enter the Cole Classic so I reckon the least the organisers can do is inform people of their options on the website. 

I thought, 'Bugger you Fairfax Media** . I spit on you and your capitalist-pig owners who never spare a thought for the struggling masses who like to swim.'

Then I had a pleasant dip at Shelly Beach, communed with the fishies, drove home and downed two reasonable glasses of Merlot before 7pm.

Sunday, February 4, the day of the Cole Classic - magnificent sunshine after a week of solid rain: 
I organised my 'crew' - Mrs Snorkel, Ms Fivestar, Mrs Onyabike and Mme Zen - to be at the beach by 10.30am. This coincided with the start of the 2km swim - the inaugural 9km swim from Dee Why to Manly started at 8am and the 1km swim started at 8.30am. 

My crew walk towards Cabbage Tree Bay

The traditional course starts in the calm cove at Shelly Beach and finishes at the surf beach  Manly. But the surf at Manly was looking pretty rough and ready when we arrived. The organisers had already decided to move the finish line to Shelly. 

It's a small beach so the logistics of sending swimmers out and directing them back in is a challenge. I reckon the beach is less than 250 metres wide? My maths is bad so correct me if I'm wrong.  

I was in wave 15. Get it? There were 14 age groups and whatever else starting the swim before my group. There was a 10 minute wait between each wave, which meant that females in the 40+ age group didn't start until 12.40pm. That's more than two hours after the first wave.  For gawd's sake, the 2km race presentations were underway at Manly before my cohort started at Shelly!

They've got the right idea: Cabbage Tree Bay

That's dumb and not fair. By the time my wave entered the water the conditions offshore had significantly altered. The surf was up and there was more chop out the back than at a karate demonstration. I think the swim could still work with five-minutes between swimmers.

I'd had enough by the time I was herded into a holding pen with my mauve-capped cohort (why do they always give the old ducks mauve caps?). I was tired, hungry, thirsty, hot and sunburnt. I felt like a refugee in Speedos. 

The holding pen for each wave of swimmers
What about the swim? It was OK, I guess. I've had better. There was lots of chop, much water swallowed, I didn't see any fish and as I turned at the buoys my teeth were nearly kicked out by swimmers doing breaststroke.

After the swim I caught up with my 'crew' who had sensibly abandoned me early on. They left the hullabaloo at Shelly, preferring to snorkel at Cabbage Tree Bay. So much for support! 

Next year I'll think twice about the Cole Classic. It is a corporate event and not all the money made goes to charity or the local surf club. It's a profitable event for Fairfax. Otherwise, why run it?

On the other hand, it's fantastic for those swimmers who are starting out in ocean swimming. The course to and from Shelly is pretty much risk-free. Also, the buoys are clearly marked and there's heaps of support out on the water.

At least my peeps bonded.

Next week's swim of the week is at North Bondi. 

Speak soon.   

PS: At lunchtime yesterday Manly Beach was closed because of dangerous surf. Today 23 Sydney beaches were closed.
*the words of the nice girl employed by Fairfax Media
**ailing newspaper, radio and online organisation of which 13 per cent was recently procured by Australia's richest person, the adorable mining magnate Gina Rinehart

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The day before The Cole Classic 2012 at Manly: the sun is back!

I'm off to swim in the Cole Classic today but I was at Manly yesterday (which I'll explain in my next post). Finally the sun came out yesterday after a week of solid rain in Sydney. It's flooding in northern NSW and southern QLD.

I love the rain but this time around I thought it was never going to end. Now all I hear is cicadas and all I see is blue sky. I'm off to the beach!

I saw four lizards on the walk from Manly to Shelly Beach. They're out catching rays after weeks with barely any sun. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Though I'm stronger, will I ever get faster?

I've pondered over (or is it just 'pondered' without 'over'?) this question (see clever headline) as I have many others (such as ponder and whether it needs 'over' after it) for many months. 

No more brackets (I promise). Sorry, just enjoying a glass of wine before dinner (which might explain brackets and smart-arse (but annoying) bracketed asides).

The thing is, I'm not any faster in the ocean than I was 12 months ago or even two years ago. I've been going to swim squad in the pool for 1.5 hours, three days a week for the past six months. I also do the occasional ocean-swim squad so you'd think there would be some improvement - even if it's a couple of minutes here or there. 

Why am I still slow? Here are my considered thoughts:
1. Technique: My two daughters Precious Princess (who is, as I write, in Florence, Italy, checking out David) and Miss Hissy-Fit (aka The Hiss) both learnt to swim from an early age. 

PP looks like she's not trying. She appears to breeze along with her feet barely kicking and arms a bit loose and floppy. But looks can be deceiving. When she's in racing form (in Italy she's eating lots of gelato, pasta and pizza) she's fast. I've watched her effortlessly glide past bemused boofy blokes who've underestimated her power and ability.

The Hiss never competed like her sister and she's not as speedy or graceful. But she's still a neat, efficient swimmer who can go the distance. 

I never had formal swimming lessons. We had a pool when I was eight years old and living in a red-brick house my dad built in St Ives in suburban Sydney. I remember dog paddling, duck diving and playing mermaids in the deep end. Where was my mother? Probably cleaning the house.

As a result of this lack of tuition, my crawl/freestyle/overarm technique sucks and I'm useless at backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. 

2. Flotation: I was not a witch in another life. I sink. My friend Ms Fivestar is nice and round. As a floater, she's witch material. If her asthma wasn't so bad she'd swim much faster than me (but I would never let her know that). 

This is why in ocean swims you see bobbly shapes racing to the finish line for first place.

3. Kick: I can't. I've got a bloke brain when I swim. I find it hard to multi-task so my arms do most of the work and my legs very little. I have to focus on my legs to get them moving.

4. Former injuries from a misspent youth: *Shakes Head* Right hip - stuffed. Right shoulder - badly dislocated when I was in my mid-20s. Back - stuffed.

5. Age: Maybe I'm scaping the bottom of the excuse barrel with this one because some of the most accomplished competitors on the ocean-swims circuit are well over 40. For example, 59-year-old Don Boland finishes with the elite swimmers as does Kristie Krenkels. But sometimes I feel tired.

6. My head: Attitude is everything, even for the amateur competitor. 

I missed the 2011 Cole Classic because I was sick. I do remember the temperature: 40 degrees. This pic is from the 2010 event. The weather in Sydney today is similar.

I will try to remember this quote from Stephen Hawking during the Cole Classic ocean swim at Manly this Sunday: 

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down to your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up." 
Professor Stephen Hawking on his 70th birthday.

Speak soon.