Sunday, 13 January 2013

North Bondi Roughwater Ocean Swim 2013: a tale of leaky goggles, self doubt and a discourse on sharks

1. Fine sand: Between my toes. The sand at Bondi is so much finer and paler than northern beaches' sand. It's beautiful to walk on. And today wasn't so hot that it burned your toes (like last week at Newport - ouch ouch ouch). I dug my tootsies in and relished the massage.

I made sure I got to Bondi at a reasonable time, around 8.45am, because I'd registered for both the 1km and the 2km swim. This is the first time this season that I've attempted the two swims in the one event. I'd held off doing two because of the babble that goes on in my head that tells me I can't do it.

2. Self doubt: Today was the day. Why worry, you ask? I am not a contender. But the mind can be either friend or foe.

My mind said, Why can't I breathe properly? My chest is tight. I'm tired. Maybe it's a heart attack? Or stroke? Oh, god, I don't want to spend the rest of my possibly shortened life in an electric wheelchair, like the man who lives up the road and goes to the petrol station with his dog every day to get the paper with no expression on his face because he can't do expressions anymore... Blah blah blah...  


Then my feet touched the sand, I sniffed the seabreeze like a dog with its head hanging out the car window, saw the gentle surf.

My mind said, Breathe. It'll be OK. I can do this. What on earth is wrong with me? Am I a crazy person or what? 

A big crowd had already assembled on the beach. I can't count but we're looking at around 900 swimmers? Dunno. Went to my squad tent, small-talked the peeps, kitted up, drank water.

3. Leaky goggles: My well-travelled well-heeled sister recently took a tour of France and bought me a pair of flash Italian goggles, especially designed for open water swimming. I wore them last week at Newport and experienced slight leakage in the right goggle. Today, as soon as I dived into the water for the 1km, they filled with water. During the swim, I emptied them four times.

I felt so disheartened because I had to stop on each occasion - a no no in ocean swimming where every second counts. Then I saw a familiar face. It was Shark Man (so named because of the shark tattooed on his back).

He swam at the same pace as me so, because I couldn't see anything much and my eyes were stinging from the salt, I decided to stick with him. Frustratingly, I kept drifting away from him and had to claw my way back.

I found it hard to see the cans. They were the small pointy types, which I don't like at all. There was some wavy motion out the back of the shore break so it was very up and down. There were four turning cans. Anyway, I'd lost my mojo by the end of the swim. Back on the beach I met up with Shark Man who told me I kept drifting off course.

Despondent, I walked back up the beach and bumped into my lovely Heron Island Friends and the gorgeous Lady from Lawson, who often wins prizes in the old ducks' age group (my age group). I borrowed a pair of goggles from Mr Smith of the Smiths of Newtown.

I went into the 2km swim wondering if it was worth the effort. I'd tucked the goggle straps inside my cap because they were loose. I had no trouble getting out through the surf because my wave of swimmers went off in between sets.

Initially, my head played up and my body didn't want to swim. Have you ever had that experience?

My head said to my body, Why can't you swim faster than this? Everyone is getting away from you? What is wrong with you body? You are totally worn out and overused. What is that arm doing? For crying out loud, give me a break!  

The goggles filled and I almost turned back. But then something miraculous happened and my body started obeying the instructions from my head. My head decided not to worry about the goggles. My arm decided to go in to the water in one smooth motion.

I know what happened. I started to relax!

From then on, it was all a bit of fun. I swam all the way out out out to Mackenzie's Point and spotted Mr Very Big. We had a laugh (still swimming of course - never ever stop if you can help it) and he tried to pull away but I had enough energy and some in reserve. Where the frig did that come from?

I think I teetered up the sand about 30 seconds after him. I could have gone faster, if I'd really pushed it. I'm serious.

4. A discourse on sharks: Afterwards Mr Very Big, The Lawmaker and I strolled along Warners Avenue and bought takeaway coffees from Organic Republic Bakery. Noice.

We sat on the brick wall of the block of home units next door and the conversation turned, as it invariably does when you talk about ocean swimming, to sharks.

Just lately both Mr Very Big and I have had encounters with sharks at Cabbage Tree bay in Manly. My Very Big claims the shark he spotted "doing its own thing" was easily 1.5 metres long and greyish blue and mottled browns. The shark I saw that same day has now grown to over a metre long - but it was just grey. Not being Irish, I'm unable to bring my stories to life with such lyrical clarity.

The Lawmaker is a font of information. He can talk under wet cement and bombarded us with his factual knowledge of the bull shark population of Sydney Harbour.

In a nutshell: they're out there.

Next week it's back up north to hot coarse sand and local hospitality at Mona Vale.

Rating out of 10: 9
Lots of water safety. Lots of fruit - the generous Harris Farm family is now supplying the eastern suburbs' swims. The presentations got underway in quicksmart time - a gold star for that.

Any gripes: North Bondi should invest in big orange cylindrical cans. If the swell had been bigger there's no way anyone could spot the cans - even lifting and looking.

PS: After a hellish week where temperatures reached 40+, it's raining with the works. Rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning.


Therese said...

Very enjoyable account of your swim and relate to it all. It's all about getting into a rhythm! Thanks.

Richard said...

"Named your fear must be before banish it you can." Well done.

Shayne said...

Thanks Therese. And Richard - of course you know I love your work.