When I woke up this morning at around 7am the temperature outside was 5 degrees Celsius. Inside it was 9 degrees but much warmer under the doona, which Spanner had managed to drag to his side of the bed - during the night I must have sensed this and slowly shunted him to the edge of the bed so this morning we were both very close to falling out. It's one of the small pleasures of co-habitation.
The Cold Water Classic was on at Mona Vale at 10am and by 8am I still hadn't made up my mind. I don't own a wetsuit so my only option was to swim the 1.2 km 'naked' (this is the term the ocean swimming community gives to those eejits who don't wear wetsuits in cooler conditions).
I checked surfcam at Mona Vale and the swell looked OK. Water temperature was about 18 point something degrees, warmer than the predicted 17 degrees air temperature.
I threw stuff in a bag and did the usual mad dash to the beach. I arrived at 9am (geez, I'm glad no coppers were out and about. I would've been done like a dog's dinner).
It was nippy and the breeze added wind chill. But the surf looked fine, apart from the weed, and the sky was the most amazing blue. I sat and breathed in the fresh air and sent up a prayer of thanks. Blessed I am.
I saw Mr Very Big, who also chose to swim naked (mmm?). Now, you might not know this but Mr VB is from Ireland where the water temperature is a brass monkey's 14 degrees (and I think this might be in summer). He told me there were mad people who swam sans wetties in Ireland. It took my breath away. In Australia swimmers stagger out of the water with hypothermia in anything under 18 degrees. Mr VB said it was a matter of acclimatisation.
Bugger that. If I lived in Ireland I'd find another hobby, like drinking Guinness or writing stream-of-consciousness novels about dysfunctional families or I'd do both hobbies simultaneously... I think I'm doing stream of consciousness now as this post is getting out of hand and I'm not sure if I can accurately describe the swim because it took place hours ago and now I feel tired.
Back to 10am. There were four categories in the swim: naked women, naked men, wettie women and wettie men. The nakeds had a five-minute start over the wetties. We dived in at 10am. I dived into some pretty thick weed that a Japanese sushi joint would die for. It was pleasant swimming over it and out across the shallow reef. The water was lovely and clear. It was a rain-free week in Sydney. Amazing!
I wore two caps to keep my head warm and I didn't get the head freeze predicted by some punters. Because the surf was light, I managed to hold a rhythm with my stroke and after the mild shock of the colder water I began to enjoy the swim.
We swam in a north-to-south direction around nine buoys so the course was well marked. On the home run, I caught up with Mr VB and grabbed his foot (I don't think he appreciated having his toes yanked). There's usually a bigger margin between us, with him beating me by at least three minutes.
Swimming back in was also a pleasure. Because the break was small I almost swam right up onto the beach. Potential beached whale material.
I'd left my towel close the finish line so I wouldn't go all goose-bumpy.
Afterwards, all swimmers were given a yummy cup of minestrone, made by one of the lovely women at Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club. I think she's the mum of one of the members. It was hot and hearty.
I met up with Mr VB, who came over all VD (not venereal disease but very despondent). Said it was a hard swim and he was disappointed in himself. Maybe that was because a couple of the chicky babes beat him! My time was 27.31, not great but not bad for me.
I hung around for a while after the swim - got a coffee from the new cafe next to the surf club and took a pic of the Kombi Vans from the Kombi Club in the carpark.
It was such a perfect day. How do you hold these memories so they never go away?
PS: I don't think there's another ocean swim in Sydney until October.