|The first wave of kidlets hit the surf in the 2.8km swim.|
Sun - tick
Light winds - tick
Friendly waves - tick
Perfect temperature, in and out of the ocean - tick
No one wanted to drive down south with me to the Coalcliff to Stanwell Park swim. And can you blame them? After the Caves Beach debacle I couldn't trust myself to toddle around the block without getting lost.
I chose the familiar, shorter path. The 15th North Steyne to Shelly Beach swim.
Feeling cocky and confident, I entered both the 1km and 2.8km swim. It cost $45.
If the conditions were less than ideal I could always pull out of the 1km.
I left home early, giving myself plenty of time to get to the beach for the 9.15am start of the 1km event.
Parking on Raglan St, I walked down the hill towards Manly and let the sun seep into my pores. As usual, I was nervous but also excited and happy.
It had been so long between swims and I couldn't wait to fling my body into the ocean like a bloody sacrifice.
Woman against the elements. Woman in her element. Woman like an elephant.
I gained several unwelcome kilos in my month away from ocean swimming. Skirts tighter, jeans' button digging into belly button.Too much neurotic eating and not enough serious swimming.
I didn't think I'd see anyone I knew on the beach because a lot of the diehards were down south - though I knew Sharkman would be there because I'd seen his name on the 'progress entries' list on the oceanswims website.
Sure enough, I met him on the sand. The day before he'd completed the 3.8km swim across Lake Macquarie at Belmont (argh, nightmares of Caves Beach). I did that one last year.
It made sense for Sharkman to do both North Steyne swims in order to boost his kilometres' total in to maintain his title of the King of accumulated Distance.
While chatting to Sharkman, I spotted THE DEFECTOR aka Mr Very Big (VB).
Until recently, VB and I were members of the same swim squad along with Mr Mild Mannered (MM) and The Lawyer.
Then VB did the unthinkable. HE CHANGED SQUADS.
Worse still, he didn't tell us. HE ABANDONED US.
It's not about the squad. It's about MATESHIP.
VB, if you read this, remember this isn't bloody Ireland, it's bloody AUSTRALIA. MATES MATTER.
VB has joined another squad because he needs to practise long-distance swimming in preparation for a 13 kilometre swim in Galway Bay in August. Fair enough. His new coach specialises in distance and our head coach, Mr Mean, is into triathlons and shorter ocean distances.
We'll miss the Irish bastard.
But he did what he had to do. Because more than mateship, it's all about THE SWIM. The striving to get better, faster and to go for longer (in those new budgy smugglers - see below).
VB was his usual charming self and apologised about his defection and lack of transparency. I forgave him on behalf of my peers.
He wore his new budgy smugglers. Too garish for mine. I noticed the budgys before the man himself! There's a long story behind those swimmers, but best not go into it here. Another time.
And now to the swims.
The ocean was a blue satin sheet, with the occasional ripple and a frilly white edge. OTT.
Let's just say it was "noice".
There were a couple of waves in the 1km but the oldies started with the 40+ age group. It was an anti-clockwise rectangular course with a couple of orange buoys to guide the way.
Regular readers of this blog know I have no sense of direction. So it comes as no surprise that I swam past one of the buoys I was supposed to turn around. I had to retrace my strokes to get back around it, which affected my time by about 60 seconds. *Shakes head at own stupidity*
Because the surf was so small I had no trouble at the start or finish. I ran up the beach, where the number on my inner arm was checked by three different timekeepers as electronic ankle timers weren't being used.
After some free grapes and a complimentary protein snack I felt ready for the longer swim down to Shelly Beach and back along the beach to North Steyne.
Usually I'd find the 2.8 kilometres daunting but on Sunday it felt just right. I managed to swim down to Shelly without feeling tired. It wasn't all that different from pool swimming because there was little turbulence. Most of the waves came from the surf life saving inflatable that occasionally whizzed by. Yuck. Diesel fuel stinks.
Swinging around to the right at Shelly Beach and back through Fairy Bower I expected to see heaps of marine life. The water clarity wasn't as good as usual, probably a result of weeks of rain. I couldn't see to the bottom, as you can on a good day. And I didn't see many sea creatures, though a school of long slender fish scooted beneath me for a couple of minutes as I worked my way back to South Steyne.
I started to tire about three quarters of the way through my swim but it was really just my right arm, which gets sore because of incorrect technique.
I had noticed early on in the swim that two other white-capped swimmers, like myself, were keeping me in their sights. Or was it the other way around. Not really. One was a woman and the other a male. The male disappeared for a while and I forgot about him but towards the end of the swim I noticed him again on my right side because I kept accidentally bumping into him (I breathe to the left so I couldn't see him).
The chick definitely had her eye on me. This got my goat. I thought, "Hey lady, leave me alone. I'm here for a good time."
Because I was breathing to my left and she breathed to her right, we kept an eye on each other. Then I slowly but surely pulled away. Afterwards I checked the finishers.
I know who you are chicky babe.
Does that sound threatening?
The swim ended with me getting caught up in some gentle breaks in an attempt to body surf back in. Maybe next time.
I finished in a reasonable time and came fourth in my female age group in both swims. That's fourth out of the eight women in my age group! I was happy with that.
Afterwards, my arms were heavy and tired but I didn't care.
It was good to be back on the beach.
This coming Easter long weekend, two swims that were postponed have been rescheduled - Freshwater for Good Friday and Bondi on Easter Sunday. What better way to meditate on the meaning of life.