Tuesday, 12 February 2013

North Bondi Classic part 2: Moe, Larry, Curly and I sort out the pecking order

Ms Fivestar is not ashamed to call herself my fairweather friend. On Sunday she agreed to accompany me to Bondi for the second lot of swims held this season from the northern end of the iconic beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

At 8am the sun shone, the threatened Southerly hadn't yet arrived and Bondi put on a show for the tourists. By 9am the mercury pushed 30 degrees.

The beach was already crowded when we dumped our stuff at my swimming squad's tent.

That's a beach?

Already present: Mr Very Big and The Lawyer throwing snake eyes my way. Mr Mild Mannered arrived soon after, just in time to lunge into the group photo.

In that pic the four of us look fancy free like good friends, mates, comrades connected by the cause - to unleash our inner dolphins and surpass our last best effort in the ocean. 

The truth is far less romantic and involves a lot of middle-aged (I'm being nice here) testosterone (not me, of course) and intense competition - particularly between the three blokes.

I was as gobsmacked as the others when Mr MM revealed his strategy for the day: he announced that he would not compete in the 1km swim at 9.15am because he planned to conserve his energy for the 2.2km event at 10.30am.

Of course, this gave Mr VB and The Lawyer a raft of new comedic material to play with.

Mr MM had obviously lost his nerve. Losing to Mr VB in the Sydney Harbour swim on Australia Day (I wasn't that far behind) had clearly caused some inner-commotion. The man didn't show it but he was an emotional mess, fearful of defeat from the squad stragglers and his nemesis The Lawyer.

He couldn't afford to give an inch; his place in the squad hierarchy was under threat.

Here, my dear readers, was a man on the brink of a mini crisis.  

We left Mr MM in the tent, shaking our heads in amazed amusement as we headed down to the pond that was Bondi.

Swimming pool within a swimming pool at North Bondi

The entry numbers for both swims were up this year, probably because of the favourable nature of the surf.

NO SURF = beginners paradise. Swimming-pool safe, creases ironed out, a glassy surface and barely a splash on the shore. Shark-spotting conditions.

I decided to take it easy in the 1km and ran into the clear cool water with nothing on my mind but a good time. I could see to the ocean floor for pretty much all the swim. At one stage, around 500 metres out from the shore, we swam over a reef that looked like boulders neatly arranged by a landscape gardener. HE works in mysterious ways.

I enjoyed the 1km swim, despite the crowded conditions. A lot of swimmers stopped and trod water while others did breaststroke around the cans. That's annoying for an old hand who just wants to get the job done. 

I didn't feel tired, like I usually do, after the 1km. I was revved for the 2km.

Somehow, I managed to avoid the three amigos before the start.

At the sound of the starter gun for my age group, I galloped into the water like a kid. It was that sort of day. I'd met other swimming friends while waiting and chatted to them. No pressure. It must have calmed my nerves because I felt good as I pulled out all stops and raced to the first can.

The fact I've done this course so many times before also helped. I know where to go and no longer have to check and re-check my bearings. There are five cans on the clockwise course. The first is about 250 metres out from the beach, 2 in the middle of the bay 3 near Mackenzies Point 4 opposite Bondi Icebergs 5 a turning can somewhere on the way back in at North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club.

Again, during the swim I never felt alone. I passed a lot of the slower swimmers in the younger age groups. I got kicked in the goggles and one eejit in a wetsuit swam over me. Seriously, the water temp was easily 21 degrees. In these temperatures wetsuits should be banned.  Or at least aggressive jerks in wetsuits should be banned.

Unlike Palmy to Whale where the shore break dumped with a vengeance, the surf was non existent. I had not a care in the world as I swam in. I ran up the beach next to this man in a rashy who'd tailed me for the duration of the swim. It wouldn't be sportsman-like to trip him on the line so I tried to beat him over it.

Just in front of me was Mr VB. I tapped him on the back. He tried to pretend he was happy to see me but he wasn't.

I beat him by a matter of seconds in the 1km and he beat me by three seconds in the 2km.

But hey, it's not a race...

The natural order was restored because The Lawyer finished before all of us, Mr MM managed to just beat Mr VB and I managed to sneak up behind Mr VB in the sprint up the sand though he pipped me at the post.

Weather wise, just before midday the Southerly blew in like a cranky old woman shooing all the children out of her backyard.

It poured all Monday night and rained on and off all day today. 

Ranking out of 10: 8

Any gripes: 

1. I know I should be happy that newbies are dipping their toes into the ocean-swimming scene. However, I think it is incumbent upon organisers to stipulate the rules: no breaststroke - particularly around the cans and no sudden stopping during the swim -move out of the way of other swimmers coming through.

2. No wetsuits when the water is 22 degrees. Or if there must be a wetsuit category, make them go first or last - not with the older swimmers. Not fair.

3. Ban plastic cups.


Richard said...

Happy to hear that the natural swimming order was restored. I wouldn't like another month of bad weather like we had in January.
Though I reckon you could find those few seconds if you swam straight and attacked the turns. Cop some biff around the buoys if it's worth it.
Or you might run into some favourable drafting or pacing. Race tactics. See you at the next one.

Shayne said...

I must check out your time. Did you beat me?

See you soon.

Richard said...

I checked. I beat you in the 2k swim. You beat me in the 1k swim. Rematch Sunday

Shayne said...

You're on.

Shayne said...

Oh God, now another bloke to worry about.

Anonymous said...

I propose a handicap system. Will it be age, height, weight, intelligence or occupation? MM

Shayne said...

I already feel like a loser. Though working for the tax office comes a close second to real estate writer.

Shayne said...

second last