After having my confidence in the ocean shattered in the Baths to Bar swim, I knew that I wanted to keep up open water swimming, but I also needed to find a slightly different option. I enjoyed swimming in a pool, but following a black line swimming by yourself was getting tedious. I had enjoyed swimming in the open water and relished the change.
So I looked on the oceanswims.com website to research the swimming calendar. Most of the swims in Sydney were at beaches, and I was not too keen to battle all those good swimmers with their variable wave conditions. I did see that there was a swim in Lake Macquarie near Newcastle that looked good. The swim was from one side of the lake to the other. The only problem was that the swim was 3.8 km long. This swim had been running every year since the early 1960s and the male and female course record was set by Olympic swimmers in the later 1980s. Having grown up in that part of the word I was familiar with the course and the conditions. All I had to do was get my swimming up to a level where I could swim four km non stop at a good pace.
I decided to enter this swim and to up my training schedule. I was swimming at North Sydney Pool near where I lived. I had been doing forty laps in a session, but decided to up this to eighty laps of the pool. When I started this new regime the second half was tough, but before too long I was managing to do the swim regularly in seventy minutes or less. I was ready.
The day of the swim was a lovely early March day with lots of sun and a gentle westerly breeze to push you towards the finish. After registration at the Skiffy Club in Belmont we caught the ferry over to Coal Point. We jumped off the ferry to start the race in the water. This swim was popular with iron man triathletes as the swim distance was the same as the swim leg of the iron man triathlon. So there were quite a few wearing their racing suits.
The swim started and as usual a number of swimmers sprinted off. I knew that this was a long swim so it was better to pace. So I let them go and tried to find some swimmers swimming at my pace. Soon enough I was swimming near a group of four swimmers who were swimming at a good pace, so I settled in behind them to swim in their wake. This made swimming a lot easier and as long as they could navigate in a straight line this would make the swim easier. I was used to swimming the distance without the benefit of drafting.
This course is a straight line, and as long as you knew where you were headed it was easy to navigate using the buildings on the distant shore. I looked up every now and then and knew we were heading in the right direction. Those years of swimming in Merewether Baths without lane markers had taught me know when I was swimming straight. Before long I noticed that the pack was heading off course and were heading too far south. But what to do? Should I stay with this pack and swim further than necessary, or get back on course and lose the drag? They were headed further off course so I veered left and headed back on course. Each time I breathed I noticed them getting further away. I had made the right decision.
I then caught up with a swimmer who had a surf ski paddling with them as a guide. Bonus I could swim behind them knowing they would head in the right direction. So I did that until I got to within the last km of the course. It was now time for all that training to kick in as I felt strong. I upped my pace and soon left this swimmer behind.
By this time the finish line was in sight and I was racing a couple of younger swimmers in racing suits. This would be a challenge. But I kept up my pace and managed to beat them to the finish line.
I checked my time and I had done just under sixty-four minutes. I was very pleased with that time as it was quicker than any of my training swims. I then remembered the lake was very salty giving me more buoyancy, and the following breeze as of assistance.
I had done it, and I did not feel anywhere near as tired as I had after my last swim. My confidence was restored. All I could think of was my elder brother who was proud of sailing across the lake in a dinghy. That was nothing: I had just swum across the lake.