I had entered the Coles Classic swim at Manly. Unlike most of the swims which were run by surf lifesaving clubs, this one was run by a media company as part of their strategy of supporting the community. This meant that you had to enter several weeks before the swim and pay higher prices. With most ocean swims I would check the swell forecast and if it was too big for my ability I would not enter. This was not a choice for this swim at Manly. The other problem was that you had to collect your timing chip and swim cap from a sports store in the city in the week of the swim.
Despite these issues, it was still the largest swim on the calendar with over 4000 swimmers in two events. I had entered the longer swim of 2.4 km which was to be swum from Shelley Beach to North Styne beach and return to Manly Beach.
Getting to the swim was easy: a ferry from Circular Quay on a beautiful Sunday morning, followed by a stroll to Manly Beach. When I arrived the swimmers in the one km event were just finishing. There were people everywhere and a real buzz. The walk to Shelley Beach was quite slow but as always I had arrived in plenty of time, much to the disquiet of my support crew. We found a nice spot at the back of the beach under a tree and waited for my wave.
Finally my wave was called and I was shocked by how many swimmers there were. I found out later that there was over 250 swimmers just in my wave. I found myself right in the middle of this pack and when we hit the water there was mayhem. While I was used to arms and legs everywhere at the start of a swim I was totally unprepared for this melee. I had swimmers all around me pushing me hitting me and making it impossible to settle into a rhythm. I found myself getting short of breath and starting to panic. However, by the time I had arrived at the first buoy I had managed to get to the edge of the pack and could settle down and get my breath. It felt like I was starting again.
It was a slog up to North Styne and back to the point off Manly. The melee at the start had taken a lot out of me and I was tiring quickly. I was worried about getting through the waves at Manly Beach, so I slowed down further to get my heart rate down. Luckily I had swum part of the course on Christmas Day and New Years Day with the Bold and Beautiful gang.
Soon enough I was entering the wave zone, and I even managed to almost catch a small wave into the beach. If only I had more energy to get onto the wave. It was a long run up the beach and the face I exhibited for the official cameraman was priceless. I stumbled over the line happy that I had managed to finish even if I was completely knackered.
My time of just over forty-four minutes placed me in the top 55% of the 2000 swimmers in the race. I knew this event attracted a range of swimmers with vastly different abilities, and I was glad I had managed to complete it.
I still needed to do more work to increase my fitness and to feel more comfortable swimming in the ocean. I thought about this on the way back to the city on the ferry.