Malabar 19 February 2012

The swim season is in full swing, and I was taking full advantage of the swims on offer. The weather was kind with rain during the week, and sunny weekends with small surf. Fortunately the swim at Malabar was in a sheltered bay that only offered a swell in the largest easterly swells. I had also done this event last year, so I was looking forward to returning with more fitness and an opportunity to do both swims. There was a tinge of sadness with this swim as their long-standing patron Murray Rose was ill.

My wife and I drove to the swim and set up under the shade of the trees in the park near the beach. I registered for both swims, received the cap, timing chip and the marker pen on my arm. I went down to the beach to see that there was no surf at all, and little wind resulting in a very calm ocean. I did a quick warm up with several others from the squad, and prepared to start the one km race.

The sun was hot and I could feel the temperature rising as we waited for the start. As my wave assembled on the start line I counted the number of caps in my age group and was delighted to see that there was less than thirty. Good perhaps I was a chance for another top ten in my age group today. The gun went and we raced into the water. My plan was to try and swim within myself to save myself for the longer swim later in the morning. However, as I turned the first buoy I looked up and could not many swimmers in front of me. This prompted me to realise that I could do well, so I changed my plan and increased my speed. The water was smooth which suited me just fine, and I quickly made it back to the beach.

My time of just on seventeen minutes placed me in the top 65 of the 400 swimmers, and seventh in my age group. I was very satisfied with a top 100 overall and a top 10 in my age group. The only issue was whether I had swum too hard and would pay the price in the longer swim.

I made my way back to my wife to find that Karl had arrived. I enjoyed the Irishman’s company but I worried about his fair skin in the harsh sun. I quickly had a snack and a drink and pay down for a short rest.

The longer swim is 2.4 km and goes out to the head of the bay. This swim was also part of the oceanswims series where you swim seven identified swims over the season to compete for an overseas trip. To make it interesting the points allocated are calculated using a handicap system based upon your age and gender. It tends to even out so that older swimmers are not disadvantaged.

There were more swimmers in the longer race. By the time we started a slight breeze had blown up creating a very small chop out towards the head of the bay. When I entered the water and swam around 100 metres I realised that I had swum too hard in the previous race. Oh well I would just try to keep a steady pace and enjoy the conditions. I seemed to be swimming near another competitor all the way out who was not swimming a straight line. This was annoying me as I was trying to stick on his feet to get the drag. So when we turned for home I told myself that I had to get away from this guy. So I increased my pace and swam away from him. I also remembered that during last year’s race it was at about this point that I started to feel tired. However, today   I felt strong the whole way despite swimming the earlier race.

When I finished I kept an eye out for my companion and I was surprised to see that I had managed to beat him by a few minutes. Perhaps I should try to swim hard the whole way. My time of just under 45 minutes was actually slower than last year, but I was in the top 35% of the field this year and the top 45% of my age group. That told me that this year’s course was longer than last years. So I had improved. I also received more handicap points than last year.

As I left the beach I wondered how much better I could do in the longer swims if I only swam one event. But the problem was I loved to swim in the ocean to challenge myself. So if I wanted to do both swims I would have to train harder and perhaps try to shed some kilos I was carrying. Or I could use the shorter swim as a warm up only and not swim so hard. Something to think about while recognising my progress.

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