Malabar Feb 2011

I was still keen to swim in the ocean. However, I knew that I had to get stronger in the water and more confident in the surf. I was regularly checking the website oceanswims.com for details of all swims. I saw that there were races at North Bondi, but I did not feel confident enough in the water to try to swim there.

I noticed a swim at Malabar Beach coming up. I did some research on this swim organised by Murray Rose and a charity that helps disabled people get into the water. The beach was quite protected from the worst of the ocean swells, as it was at the end of a long bay (hence the name of a nearby penal institution). Th weather forecast was good, so I entered the swim.

I arrived at the beach on a very warm morning, and we set ourselves up under the shade of some trees. I checked the course for my 2.4 km event and noticed that it was out to the head of the bay across to the other side, and back to the beach. There was virtually no swell in the bay, so I was relieved. I watched the swimmers in the one km event wondering why anyone would do both swims. I did think that I could easily just do the one km event, but I wanted to challenge myself.

I had learnt my lesson at the Coles Classic about the start. This time I made sure I was on the edge towards the rear of my wave. I felt a lot more comfortable with this and managed to miss most of the thrashing of arms and legs at the start. The water was arm, smooth and inviting. I felt confident of making the distance.

The swim out to the first turning buoy was easy at first, but as I got closer to the can the more exposed the course was to the swells. I had trouble dealing with the chop and really did not enjoy the slog across to the other side of the bay. It was only after I turned back towards the finish line that I swam into smoother water.

But then another issue arose: I was tired. I looked up and I estimated that I still had around 500m to go, but my body was telling me that it would be nice to stop. I slowed down and concentrated on getting those long smooth strokes going in an attempt to conserve energy. My feet finally hit the sand and I stumbled across the finish line.

I had made it, but I was exhausted. I wondered back up the hill after grabbing a drink and slumped on my towel.

My time of just under 42 minutes placed me in the top 60% of the overall field and my age group. I was full of admiration of all those swimmers who looked quite fresh after the swim and had friends to share stories with.

I knew after this swim that I had to do more than I was doing. Obviously my self-training at Andrew Boy Charlton pool consisting of jumping in the water and swimming two km straight just was not working. I needed to join a swim squad that would challenge me, and I also needed to get into the ocean more often.

I did some research and found a squad that trained at Ian Thorpe Pool at Ultimo which was a ten minute walk from my home. The squad also did training at North Bondi on Saturday mornings teaching surf skills. This looked promising.

I contacted the coach via email and made arrangements to attend a pool session. I arrived at the pool feeling quite nervous and saw that the squad was large and occupied a few lanes. They looked fit and lean to me and most of them were younger as well. The coach put me in the slow lane and I was surprised that I could keep up at first. I soon found that my engine was not large enough to keep me going at that pace through a whole session.

However, before long I had moved up to the middle lane, swimming with those who had been in the squad a while. I learnt that the squad was made up of ocean swimmers and triathletes. They made me feel very welcome, and I was encouraged.

Now for the next challenge.

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