Monday, 1 April 2013

Easter Sunday: Bondi Blue Water Challenge 2013

Youngsters head off for the 1km swim
I slept in on Easter Sunday so it was a rush to get out of the house, with my two daughters in tow.

Our last swim together was in 2009 or thereabouts, at Mollymook on the NSW south coast.

Because I'd registered and paid for the Bondi Blue Water Challenge on Saturday there was no getting out of it, even though the day started with an overcast sky and a distinct pre-autumnal chill in the air.

It cost me $65 for the 1km and 2.1km swim, and $40 each for the girls to enter the longer of the two swims. A small bloody fortune for a day out at the beach. The things parents do to keep the family together!

I thought (sort of hoped) I was going to miss the 1km event but we got to the beach in record time, even with the traffic lights working against us all the way up Oxford St.

Down on the beach, the conditions looked good even though the weather didn't.

The complete opposite of Friday's boom-bang surf at Freshwater. Bondi was a bay, with lovely little waves breaking on the shore.

I peeled off my jumper, shivered as the breeze hit my skin, and decided to forgo the warm-up. Brrrrrrrr...

PP and The Hiss were rugged up and quite content to sit the first swim out. We met up with Mr Mild Mannered, who accompanied us to the start line. 

He chose not to do the 1km swim as he wanted to give it his best shot in the longer swim. Same with Mr Smith of the Smiths of Taree and The Masseuse. 

They needed to protect their positions - by maintaining their handicap points - in the top 20 of the Olympus Tough Fine Ocean Swimmers Series (they all made it and are now in the running for the random draws of either a trip to Vanuatu or a trip to Fiji -

They missed out on a beautiful swim. A sigh of pleasure escapes me now as I think about it and struggle to find the words to describe it - without falling into terrible cliches. 

During the swim I watched in fascination as multiple strands of pearls streamed from my mouth and smaller beads up along my pale arms as I coursed through the aquamarine water. I could see the 10 metres down to the ocean floor all of the way. As I swam towards the shore, beneath me the green reeds swooshed back and forward to the rhythm of the breaking waves.

I ran up the beach, feeling rejuvenated. I didn't need to put on a jumper. The swim had warmed me up.

In the longer event, PP and The Hiss started before me.

This became a very different swim to the 1km, mainly because we headed further out, close to Mackenzies Point, and then across the back of the bay before the sprint to the finish line.

You know you're doing a real ocean swim when you can no longer see the bottom. No black line to guide you. No idea what lies beneath.

By the time we got to Mackenzies Point and chucked a left around one of only four buoys (from my bad memory), the sun was poking through the clouds. Its rays penetrated the water's surface to form shafts of ethereal light. The ocean floor remained an unreachable mystery.

My left-breathing habit served me well during the swim and provided an excellent view of the Campbell Parade skyline and of the swimmers next to me. It was a nice clean run to the next turning buoy. I turned left close to it and then hit the chop. Where did that come from?

I think it was more noticeable because we had to cut across the bay on the bias, so we were swimming into the head of the chop. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I swallowed lots of salty water on the way to the final bouy that set me on a straight path to the blue inflatable finish pergola thingy.

Maybe I should have moved more to the left of it because I'm sure I got caught in a rip on the way in. I seemed to be swimming against the current - and not getting anywhere.

It took a lot of effort to break free but I managed to hitch on to a small wave that launched me on to the beach like a flapping fish out of water.

The Hiss and PP were there to greet me after I picked up an apple and a bottle of water*.

PP was surprised to learn she came third in her age group F19-24 as there were only four swimmers in that category!

It meant that we hung around for the presentation, which was efficiently delivered. PP picked up a Bondi singlet and The Hiss caught a Bondi cap that was thrown into the audience.

One of the nice things about the presentation is the free food provided by the Bondi Surf Life Saving Club. We stuffed ourselves with mini-pies, sausage rolls and chicken and lamb kebabs.

How good is that? No other club does it - the one that comes closest is Mona Vale, which provides a fantastic steaming hot minestrone after its winter swim.

April is jam packed with swims and then there's the wonderful Byron Bay swim in May - a wonderful way to end an interesting season.

The Hiss and PP together at Bondi.

*Bottled water is a no no. All ocean swims should hand out water in paper cups.

PS: The natural order was restored yesterday when Mr Mild Mannered finished ahead of me in the 2.1km swim.

PPS: But I beat The Hiss! She wasn't impressed.    

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