Monday, 21 January 2013

Warriewood to Mona Vale ocean swim: the outcome of lousy ins and outs, and heels as soft as velvet

The day unfolded thus:

Drove to the northern beaches past burnt-out pockets of bushland and still-smouldering sections of national park. It's been a long hot summer and it ain't over yet.

However, yesterday's weather was mild and even a bit drizzly later in the day.

The Hiss and I met Mrs Haveachat in the Mona Vale beach carpark and we jumped on the government charter bus that ferried punters and hangers' on south to Warriewood beach.

The bus pulled up at the top of the hill in front of a cluster of funky cafes, all well patronised on an overcast Sunday morning.

Down the long flight of concrete stairs and on to the golden sands of Warriewood. As with so many of the ocean swims, I'd never swum at Warriewood until I started this swimming caper in 2007. 
I didn't do the swim in 2012. Dunno why. Maybe I had more of a life this time last year.
I have unashamedly stolen this description of Warriewood beach from the Pittwater Council website: it runs for 500m from the northern cliff face and rocks to the base of Turrimetta Head, which protects it from the south, causing it to curve around and face the north east. A single attached bar runs to the north and is cut by a permanent rip that flows out over the southern rocks known as pot rock.

Because the tide was low, Mrs Haveachat and The Hiss decided to walk around the northern cliff face and along Mona Vale beach to the finish line, 1.6km as the crow flies. The Hiss volunteered to carry my backpack as any good daughter should. 

Warriewood often has a reasonable surf and the breeze had set up some chop out the back. The waves were manageable and I felt quietly confident that I could get out to the first of the six buoys on the course without a hassle. 

The course ran north from Warriewood and turned in to the beach almost in front of Mona Vale surf club. I don't think I've done a destination swim this season. This was the first. I was happy because I'd be able to see the beach and better sight the cans - all big and cylindrical - during the swim. 

The Hiss took this pic. It's her favourite. She's not fussy about beer handles!

Another great pic from The Hiss. Desperate old blokes.

I started with the second last group of swimmers, men and women, in pink caps. First mistake - trying to stride through smallish waves. I should have dived shallow underneath. My coach would be appalled at such laziness. 

The waves pushed me back and I got a lousy start. It lost me a couple of minutes. 

BUT - let me share this with you - once I started, having cleared foggy goggles on loan from The Hiss, I was on fire. I surged out to the first can. I passed HEAPS of pink caps.  


Of course those barrels with stick legs, the ruddy-faced old timers in the green caps, had to come along and crush my fantasy. Several of them drifted by me as though they'd flicked a switch into hyperdrive. I hate 'em. 

I didn't let 'em dent the fragile ego that could turn on me at any second. It remained intact. 


Turn to breathe, face the shore. A ribbon of sand and a small dune behind. Blow bubbles into the glassy ocean. Breathe. Watch my hands, my arms, clean and shimmering champagne sparkle.  

Tick off the cans - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and lucky six - two big pink cubes lashed together for easy sighting.

On the way in I aimed for a group of pink-capped swimmers ahead of me. The surf was medium sized, not killer waves, but enough to put me on alert. I haven't done enough practise in real ocean-swimming conditions this season. This was the real thing. A lot of good surf swimmers would have used the rolling sets to their advantage. 

I freaked out a bit. And I was worried I'd lose The Hiss's goggles so I hesitated and, rather than try to catch a wave, I turned and dived back under it. When I did catch one I collided with another swimmer in a pink cap - I basically went over the top of him. It took longer than I would have liked to get back in. 

The walk around the rocks from Warriewood to Mona Vale.

The end snapped by The Hiss.

The Hiss and Mrs Haveachat were waiting. I asked The Hiss for my towel, which was in my backpack. No towel No backpack. The Hiss couldn't remember whether she'd carried it from Warriewood to Mona Vale. Sometimes I wonder. 

The Hiss and I jumped on the bus back to Warriewood, scrambled down the steps and ran on to the sand. Let me correct that - I ran on to the sand. The bus driver said he'd wait for us and The Hiss, who hadn't just swum 1.6km, complained about being tired. 

I ran and ran and ran - more like tottered teetered tottered across the soft sand towards the surf lifesaving tent at the northern end. Then I heard my name being called. "MUM MUM MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!"

The Hiss found the backpack at the southern end of the beach. Repeat: Tottered teetered tottered.

Huffed and puffed back up the steps.

And there he stood at the top. Our lovely bus driver had kept his promise.  

The kindness of strangers.

Back at Mona Vale, Mrs Haveachat had recorded the winners in my age group on her iPhone. The attack of the Lisas. These women are hubots. I hate 'em.

Then we sat through the raffle. Over 30 prizes and only a hundred or so desperate people still hanging around. 

Tore up the ticket, went to have a swim near the rockpool swimming pool and discovered a heel cream company promotion with massage therapists giving free five minute foot massages. Mrs Haveachat and I couldn't resist*.

Then we had a swim through reedy green sea grass the colour of fresh peas. It got a bit chilly - hard to believe considering the temperature hit 48 degrees Celsius at home on Friday.

Cold showers followed by flat white, soy latte and spicy thick cut chips at the cafe on the beach. 

A big catchup with Mrs Haveachat, who should have her own talk-back radio show.

Exhausted but happy.

Score out of 10: 10

Any gripes: I can only whinge so much about local member Bronwyn Bishop. In her favour, she's pretty handy with a starter gun/horn and yesterday she wore a snazzy white capri pants suit rather reminiscent of the early 1980s.

Seriously, nothing to complain about except  

bottled water should be banned 

Give finishers water in paper cups. Bottles are left on the beach and it's up to those in the community who value the environment to clean up the mess made by lazy slobs. 

The event's pros:
*Free parking in Mona Vale beach car park, especially for the swim 
*Bag drop
*Started on time
*Lots of assistance on the water
*Harris Farm came through with the fresh fruit. I made myself ill on watermelon. The Hiss nicked half a dozen bananas (we do shop there)
*Presentation started on time
*The raffle is a good incentive to hang around
*The bus service is a winner: our bus driver drives the local route to Manly and to the city return during the week and volunteers as a surf lifesaver at the club on weekends. He is a legend.

*Afterwards, Mrs Haveachat ended up with a box of leftover heel cream. I took around 100 packs. She's got around 1000. In a couple of weeks we'll have heels softer than velvet. What more could you want?

PS: I only noticed when looking through the results that the number of men in yesterday's swim seemed exceptionally large. Out of 571 starters, 396 were male and 175 female. I'm sure there are usually more women. Maybe it's just the first time I've noticed the unevenness in ratio of men to women.

Mrs Haveachat and The Hiss. Where's my backpack?


Richard said...

Hi I didn't get the chance to see you Sunday. Sound like you swim was at least better than my horrible swim. I only decided to enter the Mona Vale swim on Sunday morning. Took the lazy approach, went in mentally well underdone, thought I'd done this all before, so I'll just take it easy and cruise. Of course I paid the price!
First I managed to find the only bluebottle on the beach, which wrapped its tail around my leg and woke me up with a zap about one minute after the start. After that I swam faster. Then its little mate the stingy jellyfish larvae hitched a ride on my goggle and stung me gently above the eye and distracted me for rest of the swim. So I didn't see coming the big roller at the finish that picked me up and somersaulted me, and then held me under while it made off with my favourite goggles. Hmmmm. A few lessons learned yesterday about lack of focus. None of them good.

Shayne said...

Argh! I don't know why I didn't see you there.

What a disaster. Some days on the beach are better than others but you copped it all (minus shark nibble).

See you on Saturday, I hope. If not, definitely Sunday - and in a better frame of mind.