Monday, February 28, 2011

February Swims

No Easy Path

Only 3 events completed in February -
- North Bondi Classic (1+2) 3k
- Canberra Lake Swim 5k
- Long Reef (1+2) 3k

Also done some good informal swims this month with B&B Swimmers - Manly 10k training swim and a swim across Sydney heads
Building some training distance in the pool now, 4 squads a week, getting used to swimming every day

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Canberra Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim 20th February

Sri Chinmoy Lake Swim 5k
Looking for Nirvana from the muddy banks of the Molonglo ...

Sri Chinmoy spent his life practising sport to express his philosophy of self-transcendence.
Being an old sceptic, I usually don't have much faith in this philosophy.
Still, I do try to go to keep an open mind when I go to these kinds of events that are organised by people who are committed to their beliefs.

The evening before


My first mistake was to drive down to the lake on Saturday evening to check out the conditions.
I knew about the algae warnings, but I didn't expect the water to be so brown.
My previous experience swimming in Lake Burley Griffin was the Sri Chinmoy Capital Swim in 2009.
Lovely cool clear water then. It would be different tomorrow.

Photos: Sri Chinmoy Races

I arrived early at Yarralumla Bay on Sunday morning and registered for the 5k lake swim and lined up at the start with the small group of purple-capped 5k swimmers. The course being 2 laps around a 2.5k circuit.

I was a little hesitant to enter the brown water. (That's me in the above photo still fiddling with my goggles, while the other swimmers are well into the race). Finally I dove into the murky water and pushed off.
My suspicions were confirmed - Zero visibility - Well almost zero anyway, maybe about one foot. I could see my arm about as far as my elbow, then my forearm and hand disappeared into the gloom.

Nursing a shoulder strain from a week of tough pool training, my plan was to take it easy for the 1st lap.
I knew I could push through shoulder pain on the 2nd lap if the shoulder blew up.
I find mentally the 1st half of a long swim is always the hardest. It seems to take me ages to relax and get into a rhythm. So usually after nearly an hour of swimming I'm doing it tough, knowing that I have still at least double the distance to go to get to the finish.
A couple of times I thought I might get out after completing just 1 lap (2.5k) and blaming it on the conditions. But then, nevermind, I  put my head down and got back into a repetition of stroke-stroke-breathe, and that negative creep went away.  

After completing the 1st lap and passing the halfway mark, I was feeling much better. The 2nd half always seems to be easier, like swimming downhill, with the end in sight.
A northerly wind had come up and was starting to chop up the course.
I had tried to avoid swallowing any of the brown and algae water, but now there was no escaping it, with the chop splashing my face as a turned to breathe. I tried to spit out as much as I could.
Shoulders were hurting as I passed the last turning buoy, with a 600m straight swim to the finish.
Just concentrating on maintaining a slow consistent stroke now, happy that I would be finishing today's race.

With 50m to go, I lifted my head and could read the writing on the FINISH sign.

Then from nowhere and without me thinking about it, a burst of energy filled my body. My kick grew stronger, my body flattened out and my arms were pulling harder with perfect technique. I didn't feel the weight of the water, it felt like I was skimming over the surface. I was smiling underwater as I flew through the finish gate. 

It was certainly a good feeling to finish on such a positive high.
Most likely it was an unconscious reaction to me being happy to finish a tough swim in adverse conditions, and pleased to conquer my negative thoughts before and during the race.
Those who are more spiritual might say that, on a muddy lake in a strange town, I enjoyed a small part of the self-transcendence experience. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Across The Heads Swim 12th February

Across the Heads Swim Sydney - North Head to South Head
(Quarantine beach to Camp Cove about 4k)

"Nothing great is easy !"
(Matthew Webb)
Today's swim was a great challenge
A little scary riding over in the boat from Watsons Bay to Manly and getting a good look at the wind and waves on the course before the swim
And the aforementioned big swell, losing sight of the landmarks, patches of unfamiliar stingers, DEEEP green water most of the way, and into a tide that was starting to turn against us the last little bit
Mentally that was a tough swim today
And that's the way it should be
Well done and thanks B&B and all the friendly helpers for putting it all together

Youtube video "Counting Heads across The Heads" - courtesy Tacomajim

photos: pacificjules

photos: ishootmermaids

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Manly Training Swim - 10k Ocean Swim

"Bold and Beautiful Swimmers" 10k informal swim Saturday 5th February


Today's journey had a little of everything:
- lovely clear water
- marine life off Manly Point - I saw 8-odd feet of shark (one 4ft dusky and a couple of babies)
- big schools of fish - tailor and yellowtail
- swell around the headlands
- a headwind and challenging current into Curl Curl
- catching a wave onto Curly and a rip out of Curly
- teddy bears picnic (makes this swim special)
- tough last little section in and out of Shelly - into the wind chop - when the arms weren't working so well anymore
About 4 hours in the water total