What a fantastic morning and so amazing to see so many people turn out to enjoy some openwater swimming from Clifton 3rds yesterday. A record 239 swimmers took on the swim yesterday many in wetsuits and a fair contingent of hardcore Polar Bears (Channel Rules) too.
It was great to see my coach Diana from @dinamiccoaching at registration and through all the chatter about conditions we managed to confuse the lady writing numbers on our hands and ended up with each others number. I had a quick chat with one of the organsiers who confirmed that we would not be going around Barker Rocks on the long course due to the strong wind (South easter). The route was revised to a 2 loop swim for the short course (1 mile/1.6km) and a 4 loop swim for the long course (2 mile/3.2 km). The conditions were great apart from the wind, clear sunny skies, crystal clear water and cool water about 13C. I headed down for a quick warm up to survey conditions up close and to acclimatise.
The swim was going to be the first 3km opem water swim i had done in a year and i was admittedly a little nervous but unsure as to why. I knew i was swimming fit, had the luxury of a wetsuit and had swum in colder water before. I wasnt even trying new equipment but i think in hindsight it may have been my uncertainty regarding pacing. I have made this error before and got carried away early and fatigued later. I decided to hang back a bit get into a rythmm and focus on my technique. I figured after the first loop i would have a better idea of how conditions differed between the 3 buoy turns laid out in a triangle and decide on how hard to push the 2 remaining loops.
I eventually headed out with the other swimmers and as i lined up close to the buoy we started. It took me by surprise at first and then i put my head down and looked for some clear water. I had not even gone 25 meters when i tried to cut between 2 swimmers and took what can only be described as a full blooded whack in the eye as i turned to breath. My goggles came off and my head was spinning, i only managed to catch a glimpse of a white cap as it headed away whilst i tried to keep moving forward to keep ahead of the other swimmers behind me while i tried to get ready to carry on. After a quick chedk i carried on and the rest of the first loop thankfully went by without incident.
The 2nd to 3rd buoy stretch back towards the shore was challenging as there was a lot of chop and i was having to work to get out of what seemed to be a slight rip on the inside line. I was happy to turn the buoy and noticed the familiar suit and goggles of Steve Atwell as I passed him to start the 2nd loop. Having got comfortable and takem a measure of effort for each stretch between buoys i continue to swim relaxed and noticed ahead that there seemed to be a large pack of swimmers breaking further and further away. It wasnt too long until i was on my own and really enjoying the clear visibility beneath me. There were times when i almost forgot where i was and got lost amongst the quiet peacefulness below, it was mesmerising.
I started out on the 3rd loop and kept an inside line although admittedly a little too inside and had to swim in a little and around some people so that i could turn around the buoy easily. My eye felt swollen at this stage and my cap felt loose so i flipped over onto my back to have a look at my time whilst making adjustments. I took a glance back but wasnt sure who was doing what distance. Making the last turn to start the 4th loop i was feeling good and the cold hadnt got to me as i thought it might. I had turned around the next buoy and was heading off shore when i suddenly felt someone on my toes. I got a bit of a shock as i thought i was dawdling and getting in the way but it became apparent that this person was also on their final loop and was eager to pass. I took the bait and made for home. I had quite a bit in reserve thankfully and so pretty much used that to make sure that whoever this person was wasnt going to be passing me today. He came alomg side me and we matched each other stroke for stroke for what seemed forever. I was having such a blast and made sure that my line to shore was a true as could be. We made the final buoy and i gave it one last push. As we neared shore i could feel some small swells pulling through so kicked and glided the first one and then managed to catch the second one to bodysurf it in.
As i got to my feet i turned around and waited until he came in and then we shared a moment in the water. I didnt realise that someone had caught it on camera. For me these photos are what openwater swimming is all about for me. Sharing an experience, having fun and enjoying the cameraderie of others that love the ocean as much as i do.
See you out there