Monday, 12 March 2012

Sydney Harbour Swim Classic: What to worry about - pollution or sharks?

Wow. Sydney had sunshine for three days in a row. Today it's raining again.

But yesterday was an open-water swim organiser's dream. Blue sky, warm air temperature, just-right water temp and light winds ensured a strong turn-out for the event.

I was there and more concerned about pollution from run-off than bull sharks (see my last post). The day before I'd walked my dog along the Parramatta River and it was a dirty brown colour. Goodness knows what was floating around in the harbour yesterday but I'm sure there was plenty of grime, grit, grease and garbage.

Spanner, who is so supportive of my swimming (and everything else I do) said: "You'll get a virus." Thanks Spanner. The man is a freakin' love god.

I suppose I should be grateful. He did drive me to the Sydney Opera House and then fled before I could ask if he wanted to accompany me and maybe, just maybe, have a coffee together. 

Turns out he drove to a quiet cafe in the Inner West and indulged in the Sunday newspaper and a flat white. He was mentally preparing for the return home where our 15-year-old, The Hiss (as in hissy fit), was ready to inflict her special sort of torture on anyone within a two-hundred metre radius as she struggled to come to grips with the esoteric wording of a commerce assignment. 

If The Hiss struggles, we all struggle. Poor long-suffering Spanner. No wonder he's addicted to shows with 'mega' (structures) or 'monster' (garage) in the title. That's what living in a house full of women (including the dog) does to a man. He needs some serious chill time.

Hang on. Where was I? Admiring the most beautiful harbour in the world.

I met up with my swim-squad mates Mr Mild Mannered (MM) and Mr Very Big (VB). MM was there with his beautiful wife who had set up a picnic blanket under a shady tree. 

It's so easy to take for granted the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the harbour. I've seen the view thousands of times. I wonder if people in cities like Cairo, Rome, Venice, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Prague and New York stop, look around and think: "OMG, this is an amazing place. How could I take it for granted?"     

That's how I felt yesterday. The sails of the Opera House glowed like mother-of-pearl and the sky was an intense blue that makes you squint. 

I did both the 1 km and 2 km swim. Madness rules in my head. I jumped in with the rest of them at the Man O' War Steps right next to the Opera House and momentarily considered sharks before the start gun sounded. Then I bolted.

What is not good about this swim is the water quality, which was poor yesterday, and, of course, thoughts about sharks. I say 'thoughts' because I don't think the swim would be run if there were any concerns about bull sharks popping in for a squizz. Every year a fire tug is positioned about 500 metres out from the event. It sprays huge spouts of water in every direction into the harbour. I wonder if it's there to freak out any bullies that might be cruising by. Dunno.

What is good is everything else. I breathe to the left so as I swam away from the Opera House towards Mrs Macquarie's Chair I could see the 'House' and the 'Bridge' over my left shoulder on every breath I took. Far out. How unreal is that? 

After the first swim I was buggered but I dived in for the 2 km and took my time. This swim chucks a right at Mrs Macquarie's Chair and heads into Farm Cove in the Botanical Gardens before turning back to the Opera House. You climb out at the end of the swim via a ladder and onto a pontoon. Often there are things that make you itch in the water. But not this year.

I'm not sure what's happening this weekend. A swim around Shark Island in The Shire is one option. I'll keep you posted.

PS: I'm still waiting for the predicted virus to attack my immune system.

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