Saturday, 30 March 2013

Good Friday: Fresh conditions at the Freshwater SLSC Barney Mullins Swim Classic 2013

I wasn't going to start with the fact that I beat Mr Mild Mannered in this 1.5km swim at Freshwater Beach. Nope. Definitely not. As I always say, save the best for last...

I was going to start this post close to the end of the swim when I started to swim back towards the shore and slowed my stroke to gasp at the sight of the sea spray flying off the white tops of waves as they broke in quick succession.

I remembered I hadn't even thought about Good Friday in my haste to get to the beach. I kept swimming and apologised to Jesus for forgetting about this important day on the Christian calendar.

"Hi Jesus, I know you're probably otherwise occupied what with all those stations of the cross re-enactments and church services all over the place. But if you could just spare a thought for me for a minute or two*. I mean really, even thirty seconds is OK.

"I know, I know, I'm in two minds about all this religion stuff. I know I know, I should commit one way or the other. But if you could just give me a gentle set on the way in I could be persuaded in your direction.

"Shit, don't be so stupid, just swim through it. The waves aren't that bad. It's been an easy summer with mostly flat conditions. Just because this is the first real OCEAN swim since Palmy to Whale at the end of January, you're freaking out. Just swim in. You're a pro. This is nothing."

BLAH. It really wasn't that bad. It's just, I get a bit nervy when confronted by a solid wall of water poised to crash down and suck in anything in its path.

I got tossed around twice on the way in, but the waves were more showy than serious. Through the foamy bubbles I could find my way to the surface without too much trouble.

After the swim, Mr Mild Mannered said a woman swimming close to him on the way in put up her hand for a tow in from the surf life savers. I guess that shows how daunting some of the sets were.

The conditions were challenging because of a combination of full moon, high tide and a powerful wind blowing in (not sure where from, will have to check). It was breezy and the surf had built overnight.

My eldest daughter Precious Princess came with me, prepared to do her first ocean swim since November. She managed the surf OK but did back stroke for some of the way in, in order to keep an eye on the waves building behind her.

Before the swim started we caught up with Mr Mild Mannered, The Masseuse, Mr Smith of the Smiths of Taree and Sharkman.

The Masseuse and Mr Smith tried to scare us with comments such as "Looks pretty ugly out there" but we weren't about to fall for their head-game patter.

We just had to get around the four cans lined up in a 1.5 km rectangular course with a dog leg at the end.

By the time my wave, the fourth, started it was evident the swimmers ahead of us were veering to the left to take advantage of a rip running out.

I should have followed The Masseuse, who went in that direction, but I ran straight ahead on the starter hooter and into a set that kept dragging me back to shore. I must have ducked under a dozen waves before I got to clear water.

The challenges kept coming. The first buoy was a long way out and it seemed to take forever to reach. Also, my goggles filled several times and I stopped each time to empty them. Argh.

One of the swim highlights was the reef that seemed to teem with fish. I don't know if anyone else saw all the creatures? Amazing and beautiful.

It wasn't easy getting a rhythm as the swell heaved in dramatic sweeps. I was reminded of Byron Bay 2012, where swimmers got the ride of their lives on massive wave rollercoasters.

After finally turning at the first can, I caught up with and passed some of my pink-capped peers. Then many of the older blue-capped swimmers who started in the last wave began to overtake me. You can't win in this caper!

Turning right around the second buoy I was able to catch the swell that had buffeted me on the way out. It's such a pleasure to rest on the swell as it gently helps you move to your final destination.      

And you know the rest of the story.

Except for this. On only one other occasion have I claimed a better finish time than Mr Mild Mannered. That was two years ago at the Bondi to Bronte swim, a shocker of a marathon. Mr Mild Mannered has always been able to explain that I only garnered a superior time because his peloton took at battering at the swim's start when a massive set rolled in to Bondi as they attempted to get out past it.

But yesterday? Mmm. Really, there's no excuse for the 23 second defeat.

I'll catch up with Mr Mild Mannered tomorrow at the Bondi swim.

Can't wait.   

**How obscenely selfish is that? Spare a thought for me? I wasn't even worried about Precious Princess doing her first swim for four months. No no no. It's all about the old duck!

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