After recovering from the tortuous ocean swim at Mooloolaba last week, I felt sure that any swim at Bribie Island would be conquerable and perhaps even easy in comparison. It’s so protected in the passage between the Island and the Australian mainland, it’s like swimming in a large lake, not the sea.
I wont go so far as to say I was looking forward to it – I wasn’t. Swimming is still not ‘my thing’. I don’t hate it (and I am improving) but I cannot imagine I will ever utter the words ‘I am looking forward to swimming that race in the ocean’. Nope, nope, nope. There are approximately seven hundred and thirty two thousand other things I would rather do on my Saturday, than go for a swim in the sea with sharks, jellyfish and a handful of super-good swimming folks that may or may not punch and kick me. Especially when there is no biking or running afterwards, to make it all worthwhile.
I guess for me, the swim is simply the barrier to entry of any triathlon. Learn to do it, so that you can race the bike and run portions. The difficulty of the swim is just part of what makes triathlon awesome – without it, the awe-factor is diminished.
Apart from being in relatively calmer waters, this race had a few other things going for it – namely, that I’ve swum in the passage before (when I did my first triathlon). Plus, at only 500 metres long – less if you consider the current pushing me along – I felt that not a lot could go wrong. I was also quietly confident that the field would involve a few less elite swimmers than I’d seen at Mooloolaba, so I was hoping the atmosphere would be a little more relaxed and I might see some friendly faces next to me for the length of the race, rather than being left in last place after the first 3 metres.
I required no spectators for this event – 500 metres in the passage takes less than 10 minutes for even me to swim if I have a good current, as I expected. I knew where to go, I had far less nerves than the other events I’ve done, and all in all I was treating the whole thing as just an excellent bit of training.
I don’t need spectators for training.
But, I seem doomed to have cheerleaders at all my races. With only five minutes to go before I was set to leave, Shane decided he ‘might as well’ join me.
I say ‘doomed’ because I am an ungrateful, selfish b*tch, I guess. But also it stresses me out a bit to have to worry whether someone else is bored, hot, thirsty, tired, confused etc at one of my races. I kind of need to just concentrate on my own mental breakdown, so the extra concern required to think of my spectators’ needs as well is just too much for my simple brain to handle.
Of course, without fail my spectators know what they are in for and are incredibly generous, sensitive, patient and supportive. So I have absolutely no reason to be an ungrateful, selfish b*tch. But as I have said before, in the interests of being honest on my blog, I can’t really hide my personality.
So at about 10 to 12 on Saturday morning, Shane and I set off for Bribie Island. Upon arrival, the setup in the car park looked very familiar; everything was in place for the next Bribie Tri taking place today (Sunday). I was enamoured with the setup for the kids’ triathlon, which took place on Saturday afternoon, especially their transition space. It was adorable.
If I had kids I would totally force them to do a triathlon. I would lie to them and tell them it was fun. Muchos respect to the evil parents of the kids there yesterday.
On the way into the race precinct I spotted my friend, Wendy. We often ride together on a Wednesday morning, as regular readers may recall. Wendy’s son is a very good swimmer (and a good triathlete, although swimming is his focus) and he was registered to take part in the 1.5km version of the ocean swim race.
I knew that the effort and cost of attending the swimming race was well worth it, when Wendy noticed my new tri suit and exclaimed that it was beautiful.
‘Did you get it for a good price?’ Wendy asked.
I replied with a grimace and said that she really didn’t want to know.
‘Uh oh! Over 200 bucks I am guessing then!’ She said.
OK, I would have actually paid double the entry fee just for this moment, I thought to myself. Is there anything better than someone overestimating how much you paid for something? I don’t know. I felt like I’d won the race.
I registered at the tent and had my number drawn onto my arm, then Shane and I went to a cafe for a coffee. It was about 12.30 by this time and I hadn’t eaten a meal since breakfast. I am a big proponent of adequate fuelling prior to a race, but I didn’t feel hungry and I usually do my morning swim training sessions on an empty stomach without problem, so I knew I didn’t really need any extra food.
This would turn out to be a mistake later.
I kept an eye on the water as we caffeinated ourselves and started to grow concerned when, at about 5 minutes to 1 (with the 1.5km race supposedly starting at 1pm) there appeared to be zero action on the water, anywhere.
We wandered up the pathway and a friendly gentleman from the tackle shop asked if I was doing the triathlon. I explained that I was just doing a swim, but that I was a bit lost. He pointed up the road to where my triathlon swim had started in February, but there seemed to be nothing there.
‘Are you sure it is that way?’ I asked.
The nice man checked the tides for me – reassuring me that they always make the swim flow with the current.
‘The tide turned at 12.30, so it is coming in now. You’ll be starting up that way.’ He stated confidently.
We began heading along the path towards the bridge, and luckily I spotted an official looking man who was loading some buoys onto a lifeboat. We enquired about the swim race, and he confirmed that which I had not expected – we’d be starting up the other end and swimming against the current.
Suddenly the 10 minute swim turned into a 15 or 20 minute swim. Bugger.
The sun was hot, my positivity drained and everything got a bit serious. We trekked along the pathway up to where we thought the start must be, and spotted one other swimmer standing on the beach in a race-provided cap.
Yup, one other swimmer.
It all felt a bit disorganised and weird. There were no buoys out (although supposedly the 1.5km swimmers further up the passage had started their swim at 1pm) and we were very unsure whether the race was still on.
A couple more swimmers turned up and asked us the whereabouts of the short course swim. We hesitantly replied that they had found it and hoped we weren’t lying. I was ready to pull out completely; I wasn’t especially excited to do a swim without buoys or lifeguards or other swimmers…
But eventually a lady in a ute turned up and stopped on the side of the road. She climbed out and started giving a race briefing, so apparently the race was still on. And then the lifeguards put out a buoy and we saw the long course swimmers coming around the corner.
The plan was that we had to wait for the majority of the long course swimmers to go past and then we would join their race for the last 500 metres. This pleased me, but added to the drama because some of the long course swimmers were frankly very slow.
Our short course race finally started at about ten to 2, with an ‘Are you ready? 3, 2, 1, GO!’ and off we went. I was glad to get in the cool water and get on with it.
I started valiantly, with some strong swimming and good focus on the first buoy. I should be honest and say that the field was not, by any means, a group of swimming elite. I think there were three serious swimmers there. There were two other ladies that I thought looked to be my competition. The rest were… not my competition. And I am not a strong swimmer, so I guess that is a diplomatic, roundabout way of saying all the others looked like they couldn’t swim to save themselves, frankly.
Why be diplomatic when it’s my bloody blog?
As we rounded the first buoy I had my first taste of the force of the current, which tried its best to hinder my progress the rest of the way. In hindsight it wasn’t too bad, except that it made it so difficult to sight. I am pretty rubbish at staying on course anyway (just read any of my swimming posts, ever) but what I hadn’t practiced enough was swimming not straight on purpose. It wasn’t enough to just have a little look towards the buoy, point myself in that direction and swim straight. I needed to look where I was going, aim at a certain angle to the left of it and swim with a strong left turn that way, in order to end up swimming straight towards my goal.
Anyway, I had to do a bit of breaststroke in the really strong currents, to allow myself to sight on every stroke. The lady I was swimming next to didn’t make any ground on me while I did my breaststroke so I didn’t beat myself up about it too much.
It was a beautiful day to swim. The water was clear and sparkly, the tide was so far out that the water was shallow enough to see the bottom for the whole swim. I really enjoyed that aspect of it.
About half way through, my arms were feeling tired and I realised I was running out of energy. I don’t know why I didn’t follow my own advice and fuel up for this race, but I regretted it at the half way mark. I was contemplating my stupidity when I suddenly did a face-plant into some sand, and found I’d hit a sand bank. I looked up and saw that the lady who was next to me (the only other person I could see by that point) was running through the water.
Well, I hadn’t expected to run my swimming race. But hey, that suited me just fine (except I hadn’t done a warm-up, sorry Jake the Physio) because running is much easier than swimming.
I pushed myself up and sprinted through the shallow water, then took a dive back into freestyle at about the point I’d seen my swimming companion fall back into waist-deep water. The race was well and truly on.
I pulled my tired arms deep through the water, and reached as far forward as I could on each stroke. I couldn’t stay on track and probably swam an extra few metres, but I was getting closer to the last buoy and I knew I could make it.
As I turned the last buoy, I was done for. I pulled my arms as hard as I could, but it wasn’t very impressive. It seemed to take a long time to get back to shore and I lost a considerable number of metres on my competitor, who I’d nearly overtaken a couple of times in the race. But I was just happy to finish.
I ran up the beach to the applause of Wendy and her family. He son had won the 1.5km race easily, so they were all excited. Shane took some pictures and handed me my towel (see, what would I do without my spectators) and I could barely hold my arms up to wipe myself – I was absolutely exhausted. My arms were like jelly.
But I had made it. I can swim a race, after all. Even against the current! And I learned not to underestimate a race; I must always respect the distance and treat it with the seriousness it deserves.
I don’t know if I’d recommend this race if you’re looking to practice your swimming – being in the middle of the day it kind of wastes a large chunk of your Saturday and it’s not terribly well organised. The turn-out might disappoint you, too. But if you’re just looking for a bit of fun and a nice swim with a handful of crazy people on a Saturday, why not give it a go. Let me know if you sign up and I can do you a map of where the start line is so that you’re prepared!
And just before I go, especially for Angie, I popped to the supermarket after my race to get a carton of milk. You may be able to imagine the embarrassment of going to the shop in your tri suit – but just bear in mind that I had to then also get my camera out and take a selfie in front of the milk, to top it all off. I got some extremely weird looks and got out as soon as possible!
Grimsey’s Adult Swimfit is the next swimming event – taking place next Sunday. Stay tuned!