Coogee Wedding Cake Island Nov 2012

Surf craft near the finish line

The last Sunday in November is the date for the swim around Wedding Cake Island from Coogee Beach. This is the third time I had entered this event, having done the swim in November 2011 and again in April 2012. However, this year I have decided to only enter the long race and leave the one km warm up races for later in the season. I had noticed last year that I had several top ten results in my age group on the shorter races, but those efforts tired me out for the longer races. So for this part of the season I have decided to only do the longer swims, and hopefully have more energy, get some better outcomes, and enjoy the swims more.

I had been to Bondi beach on Saturday for some training for the squad. It was the first warm day of the season for me, and I did get a touch of sun. The water was quite refreshing at around 18 C, and I had not taken my wetsuit. Luckily the sun was warm to make up for the cool water. I enjoyed swimming in the smooth clear water, looking at the fish swimming on the sandy sea floor. I realised that I had missed training in these conditions, and I must try to get to Bondi more often on a Saturday morning.

I jumped on a bus in the City to get to Coogee for the swim on Sunday. I had noticed several groups of energetic people dressed in Santa suits on their way to Darling Harbour for the annual Santa Fun Run. I had packed my wetsuit for the race just in case I needed it. The race would take up to fifty minutes, and if the water was as cool as it was on Saturday, I might need the suit to provide some assistance.

As I alighted from the bus I was struck by the intensity of the sun. It was forecast to hit 30c today with light winds, and little or no swell. Almost perfect conditions for a race.

I registered for the swim and then wandered over to my swim squad, several of whom were doing the one km race. I provided some moral support to them, and watched them start their race. There was three waves for this race.

The first wave for the one km race

I watched the one km race swim to the first mark and saw that there was a drift to the north, which would be useful knowledge for my event.

As this race was going, Rumpole and I went for a warm up swim down towards the surf club and back to the middle of the beach. The water was quite cool, so I decided to put on the wetsuit for the race, just in time for the traditional squad photo.

As soon as I wriggled into the wetsuit I could feel the heat of the sun. I quickly went down to the shoreline and joined the rest of the squad doing some in and outs in the shorebreak. My wave was to be the second last to get away (they start with the elites and then go through the younger age groups first). Standing in the sun was hot, so I went back into the water a couple of times to cool down, and to ignore the jibes from my friends from squad.

Finally my wave started, and I gently jogged down to the water to start the race. I had decided to take it slowly at first and get into my stroke. I had expected a lot of argy-bargy at the start, but to my surprise there was not that much. The wave had spread out along the beach and I was before too long swimming just behind another swimmer at a fair pace.

I concentrated on trying to keep my elbows high on my pull through, and also noticed the difference in my stroke caused by the suit. I noticed I was sitting higher in the water and could keep up with other swimmers with minimal effort and a gentle stroke.

As we got out towards the island I noticed a water safety guy on a jet ski waving those swimmers off to my right that had got too close to the island. Luckily I had kept a fairly straight line for the buoys and only had to make a small adjustment. By this stage I was beginning to notice the bottom near the island in the clear water, and the jelly fish. I was also glad that I had the suit on, as the water was a tad cool.

Out to the back of the island, and it always seems a long way. This year there was not even much of a swell out here, just the beginning of a small wind chop. I had caught many swimmers from the previous waves, and I did see that some of them were showing obvious signs of tiredness. It was not that long ago that I was in that boat.

I was really enjoying the swim and as a few of the fast swimmers from the wave behind me caught me, I tried to keep up with some of them. I did notice they had a faster stroke rate than me., but they soon pulled away.

I had little trouble lining up the buoys for the return to shore. I was moving quite well, and was enjoying the sensation of swimming in the wetsuit. Before long I was approaching the shore, and managed to avoid the shorebreak for the short run up to the finish line. As I crossed the line I saw that the time clock had just passed one hour, and as I had started at around the 18 minute mark this meant a time of just over 42 minutes.

I grabbed a drink bottle and quickly drank it before crawling out of the wet suit. I was feeling quite good, knowing that I had swum well and enjoyed the swim.

When the results were posted I had finished in just over 43 minutes which was two minutes faster than my effort n April, and seven minutes faster than the previous year. I was also in the top third of the field overall, and though some of it was due to the wetsuit, I also felt that my efforts at training over the last few months were starting to produce results.

Next week the Bondi to Bronte swim is on, and I hope the conditions are not as tough as they were last year.

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