Noosa Open Day (Not A Race) Report, Which I Won

Ready to swim

Noosa Open Day Swim

I signed up for the Noosa Open Day Swim Series back in March, when I was still recovering from the near-death experience of my Mooloolaba Swimming Race DNF (which stands for Did Not Finish, just in case you missed my triathlon dictionary post a while back)

I have never been under any illusions about the dangers of someone who can’t swim very well (IE me!) entering a real-life ocean.  I’ve maintained a healthy fear of drowning in The Deep Blue since the day I first signed myself up for this triathlon career.  The DNF didn’t actually change that at all: I was as frightened afterwards as I was before, but no more so.

If you cast your mind back, you may remember that I returned to the sea with sharks and jellyfish and seaweed and stuff at Bribie, just a couple of weeks after the Mooloolaba failure.  Then I did some more Grimsey sessions.  I even managed the Straddie Salute Tri,where I did not panic and drown myself.  So I think we can agree that I haven’t developed a phobia of ocean swimming.  Things have been progressing well.

But – yes there is a but! – I haven’t been back to Mooloolaba for swimming.  At all. Shane and I did go for breakfast one weekend and it was a beautiful day with not a wave in sight… And I couldn’t bring myself to even dip my feet into the water.

So maybe I have a thing going on with the ocean at Mooloolaba.  And what I realised after the DNF is that Noosa is really close to Mooloolaba.  It’s practically the same slice of ocean.

And if you haven’t been following along at home, I’ve already signed myself up for The Bloody Noosa Triathlon 2016, which kind of requires me to swim 1500m in the ocean there.

I’d never heard of the Noosa Open Day Swim Series before, but in trying to find some swimming races in the area I was lucky enough to stumble across the webpage advertising it by accident.

To give credit where credit is (probably) due, this accidental find must surely have been the work of the Triathlon Gods.  There is no other explanation for it.  Let me give you the facts:

  • Swim course starts and finishes at the exact location of the swim course start and finish for the impending Triathlon.
  • Distances available are 5km, 3km, 2km or 1km
  • 1km course cost $20 to enter (yes you read that correctly)
  • 1km course starts at 11.15am (hello, sleep in!)
  • Again, 1km course starts at 11.15am (no need for a wetsuit at that time of day!)
  • Course is not timed, there are no results, you cannot win, but distances will be properly marked and there will be lifeguards on the course (basically a Grimsey session in Noosa!)
  • Grimsey Brothers will be in attendance to provide tips and tricks to swimmers (see the point above!)

Wow.  Nothing short of miraculous, I am sure you’ll agree.

As you may have guessed, I signed up for the 1km course.  Yes, I know I could have done the 2km or 3km course – thank you for pointing that out.

Remember, though, that the sole aim of this session was to have a fantastic experience in the ocean at Noosa.  To find a way to make sure that when it comes to October 30 and I am standing on the same bit of beach, about to set off on my longest ever triathlon, I will feel positive about the water I am about to jump into.

I wanted to practically guarantee that I would leave the Noosa Ocean today feeling super-excited and pumped to return in October.

The best way to do this was to choose the easiest distance.  And to be fair, 1km is only 500m shorter than what I’ll do on race day so it’s not like I chose to do a 5 minute doggie-paddle.  I still have 4 months until the Noosa Tri, so I don’t technically need to be able to do 1.5km in the ocean right now (even though I am pretty sure I can)

Basically, I made the executive decision to stick with the distance that would make me feel like a winner and frankly I am not going to apologise for it. Even though, as you can probably tell, I am feeling rather like everyone is judging me for it.

No waves

Noosa Main Beach yesterday looked promising

We arrived in Noosa yesterday, as I’d booked a nice hotel for the night in an attempt to compensate Shane for again dragging him to a random training event.  Turns out I probably didn’t need to do this as he was more than happy to cheer me on when he realised that Noosa Main Beach had remained open to the public while our not-a-race was on (of course) and there were approximately 793 tourists in bikinis for him to try and avoid looking at.

So we arrived and had a lovely time wandering around the shops and cafes. I was relieved to see that the ocean looked nice and calm with barely a wave in sight.

We would have gone out for a fancy dinner, because it is mandatory in Noosa to do so, but our favourite football team (The Broncos) played last night so we left our apologies with the local chefs and went out for a semi-fancy lunch at Noosa Surf Club instead, planning to get pizza delivered for dinner during the game.

Whilst at lunch though, Shane bought some raffle tickets for the seafood tray that a lovely young lady was parading around the club.  And in an outrageous attempt at setting expectations for my not-a-race event today, Shane not only proclaimed that he would buy the winning ticket but then in fact did go ahead and win us a pile of prawns, oysters, crab and bug.

the seafood tray

Won it.

So my pre-race fuel last night was not a dirty pizza but rather a smorgasbord of the ocean life I planned on swimming with twelve hours later.

And Shane reckoned that if he could win a raffle then I could win a race that can’t be won.

I should admit that I have been suffering a slight cold since Thursday so I am not really functioning at 100%. My brain has mostly dripped out through my nostrils and what little remains is currently being voted out by my healthy organs, who apparently learned too much from the POMs at the EU referendum.

So I accepted the challenge to win an unwinnable race.

Upon waking this morning, my first job was to snort some nasal decongestant so that I’d be able to utilise my nose during the not-a-race.  The stuff is like magic; I went from eating breakfast with my mouth open to full manners within ten minutes.  You can only use it 6 times in 72 hours though, then you have to stop or I imagine your nose will fall off because there is clearly devil’s juice in the bottle.

With my nose sorted temporarily, we checked out of the hotel and ambled over to the race precinct where we watched the 5km swimmers completing their epic event.

the course

The course was 1km long (marked by the large red buoys bobbing in the ocean) so the 5km swimmers did 5 laps

I have never knowingly swum more than 2km in one session so I am still in awe of people who can swim 5km.  I can barely run that far without needing a snack.  The time limit was 2 hours which is so much faster than I could even dream of swimming right now that it makes my arms hurt to think of it.  I think the leaders finished in about 1 hour and 10 minutes which meant I was in the presence of greatness.

Eventually it was 10.45am and time for me to have a warm-up, which was ironic because as I tiptoed into the water it was a lot colder than I’d been expecting.  It actually took my breath away for a minute.  I did a bit of breast stroke and ducked my head under to gaze at the fish swimming underneath me.  I felt a bit panicked but I took my time just floating around in the water for a few minutes before I attempted anything remotely like freestyle.

Then I reached up and forward, and did my best impression of a professional swimming person.  And it felt really good.  The water was clear blue, the swell was barely noticeable, and even the bit of ocean I swallowed didn’t taste too disgusting.

I showed off for a while and then headed back to the beach, where Shane had strategically positioned himself to get a good view.  A view of what, we wont speculate upon.  But it was good.

We discussed the game plan for the win.  Looking around the beach, I could see only about 20 other people with yellow swimming caps on – yellow for 1km.  A handful were children.  Two handfuls were wearing wetsuits.  A couple of others were holding fins that they were about to put on (swimming aids were totally legal in this not-a-race that I was about to win)

The rest of my competition were men.

I high-fived Shane.  I’d already won the bloody thing before I got in the water!  I was clearly the only one in my class (female, 30-39) not wearing a wetsuit or fins, which I decided was an immediate disqualification from the race I had invented.

All that remained was for me to swim the thing.  So I lined up at the start line, tried not to look at the couple of swimmers in the medic tent covered in space blankets, and waited for the gun to go at exactly 11.15am.


The start line (we had to swim between the two buoys and then turn left)

Thanks to the Grimsey brothers, I am not too nervous about swim starts.  We have practiced them a lot, so I know how to run through the shallows and then dolphin-dive into the waist-high stuff.  It’s the actual swimming part that happens after that is difficult.

But swim I did.  The water was perfect: at times light blue, at others an overwhelming deep green with shafts of light poking through that made me wish I’d worn the GoPro camera on my head or something.  I quickly found myself alone (except when I was overtaken by some of the maniacs lapping me on the 2km course) and I enjoyed the peace and my new-found ability to not die in the ocean.

More importantly, for the first time in my swimming career I stayed mostly on-course.  I looked up to sight every 4-6 strokes, and every time I found I was still pointing almost directly at the buoy I was heading for.  It was fantastic.

I quickly found myself at the turnaround point and realised that I could make it, that I was going to finish the course and I wasn’t going to need rescuing.  I just had to stick with my pace and keep turning my arms over and over.

It felt like the course was a bit longer going back, but I eventually made it and ran up the beach to where Shane wasn’t waiting, as he’d gone to the toilet.  I’d told him that 1km should take me half an hour but my watch said it had taken me 25 minutes, which is super-dooper quick for me at this stage.  So Shane was taken by surprise when he saw me waiting for him, but suitably impressed by my ability to win an unwinnable race.

As was I.

The Noosa Triathlon seems one step closer now… And possibly slightly less scary.  Maybe I’ll survive it.  We will find out in 125 days!

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