North Bondi Roughwater 8 January 2012

North Bondi has the fortune to host two swims each season. There was an added bonus to do both the short and long swims on this day, and at the second swim in February: there was a free trip to Hawaii to swim in the Waikiki Roughwater swim. I had trained quite often at this beach, and I was familiar with the conditions. So I entered both the one km and the two km swims.

My wife and I had walked from Clovelly to Bondi on the Friday to celebrate my birthday at Icebergs, and the swell that day was quite large. I was hoping that the swell would drop by Sunday for the swim. We were having a cool summer, it would be cool and showery most of the week, but then Sunday morning would come around and the sun would shine. And once again this happened. The morning of the swim was sunny and warm with a light offshore swim, and there was virtually no swell. As I came down the hill on the bus my spirits lifted to see such excellent conditions.

This was the home swim for the swim squad, so we were extremely well represented on the day with over thirty swimmers. I always enjoy the swims more when there are plenty of people I know to share the experience with. As we did our warm ups I noticed that the water was warm and clear. There would be no advantage in swimming out in the rip near the rocks today.

As my wave stood on the start line for the one km swim I positioned myself near the front for a change, next to some others from our squad. We were joined at the last minute by our coach, and I had the joy of beating him to the first wave as he fell over. Needless to say though he soon powered past me with his unique style. I wanted to do well in the short race so I swam harder than I normally did, and even felt strong at the half-way mark. The only problem was the huge numbers of jelly blubbers just under the surface. While they did not sting you it felt like you could use them to help pull through the water.

As I headed back to the beach I could not see too many swimmers in my age group in front of me. I increased the tempo and hoped for a wave to get me to the finish line quicker. Unfortunately it was one of those days when you  had to swim all the way due to the lack of swell on Lake Bondi. I ran hard up to the finish line and noticed my time of just over nineteen minutes. While I thought this was slow, when the results were posted I had finished tenth in my age group and in the top 25% overall.

I grabbed some fruit and drinks from the refreshment  area and walked back to my companions feeling quite happy. I was even happier when it became clear that I had beat my nemesis. Had I swum too hard and would suffer in the long swim? I hoped not.

I put on the timing chip for the 2 km event and waited for my wave to enter the water. By the time we started the offshore breeze had changed to a light onshore, but the conditions were still quite smooth. This swim was to swim out from North Bondi to Ben Buckler, then across the bay to MacKenzies Point, followed by a swim towards the beach near Icebergs, then back to North Bondi and finish. I felt very privileged to be able to swim at such a beautiful beach on a stunning summer day.

For this race I did not start at the front but hung off to the side. I realised after entering the water that I was not feeling as fresh as I had in the one km swim.In fact I was enjoying the swim that much that it took me until the first buoy to remember that this was a race and not just a leisurely swim. I increased my tempo at that stage and started passing other swimmers. Once again as the chop increased I noticed the impact on my stroke, and made the necessary adjustments.

I found the course quite easy to navigate as I had learnt to use landmarks behind the buoys to help me. There was also a big pink banner on an apartment in North Bondi to help with the sighting on the leg back to the finish line. A good idea.

Once again the lack of waves was both a good and bad thing. It was good at the start, but at the finish there was no assistance. I made it to the finish line feeling weary. I knew that I had swum slower in this race. When the times were posted I was in the top half of the field with a time of just under thirty-five minutes. This was a combination of my slower swimming, plus the increase in standard in the longer swim when compared to the shorter one. I was very content with my day, no blue bottles, no sun burn and I had beaten my nemesis in both races.

I had also learnt that I could do both faces quite comfortably, but that I needed to work on increasing my pace in the longer race instead of  settling into my normal rhythm. I would try that at my next swim, and keep up the training.

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