The Caves Beach which was postponed in early February due to large seas was scheduled to be on again some five weeks later. This time the weather was kind, with warm sunny day, and a gentle surf. My previous two weekends of swims at Bondi and Freshwater had also suffered from bad weather, with those swims now scheduled for the Easter weekend. So it has been three weeks since I had been in the ocean at Malabar, which is too long at this time of year.
It really is in March that the swimming season comes into its own. The heat of summer has gone, so when the sun is out you no longer feel your skin is shrivelling like aged newspaper. The water is still warm, and the chances of those pesky blue-bottles joining the swim is largely diminished.
I enjoy doing this swim as this was the beach that I spent a lot of time swimming at when I was still at school. When you come back to the place you grew up, you realise your memories which were formed in childhood are different to the reality of adult eyes.
Third time for this swim, but I could not convince anyone else from squad to drive the two hours to join in. The large leprechaun was still getting over his effort in a triathlon last weekend (go to http://www.surfmuppet.wordpress.com); the fall guy was putting the finishing touches to a welcome home surprise; the flying Scotsman was saving himself for something, and the reporter was learning to rest with her eyes open.
The swim follows a great course. The starting line is on the northern side of a breakwater built by a dreamer fifty years ago in a previous mining boom. You head out to the end of the breakwater, turn left, swim past four buoys, and then turn left again to get to the finish line at the patrolled beach. The course follows a reef offshore, so there is plenty to see, and if you breathe to the left you get a great view of the coastline. All the swimmers either walk or catch a bus to the start line, a pleasant walk along the cliff top and down to the secluded cove. The throngs of spectators can track the swimmers from the cliff top.
It really is a nice swim. And it is only 1.5 km. On days like this it is good to be alive, and a good to reflect how lucky we are to be able to enjoy places like this.
We waited on the start line and we watched the elite wave take to the water. Oh the enthusiasm of youth, with the added bonus of winning a cash prize made them eager to bound into the water.My wave was number four for all the males over 35 in green caps. Lucky the start line was wide so we could all ft. Perhaps the organisers could try having a few more waves next time to limit the chaos at the start. But they had just over 300 entries today which was their most ever. Now we bounded into the water with the dignity of those in middle age who are aware of the limitation of their knees and hips.
I had watched the previous two waves and noticed that once again they were being pushed towards the right by the eddy. This was the same as the last two swims, so I started on the left hand side to reduce the distance I would have to swim. After getting through the gentle waves, I noticed quite a few swimmers going quite hard. I did not want to keep up with them as I wanted to keep some gas in reserve for the push into the beach.
The swim was fairly uneventful, with the reef appearing part way through. Several times I was passed by the those in the next wave (women over 35). I tried valiantly to keep up with some of them, but they were too fast. As we turned for home I tried to remember where the rip was on the beach in relation to the finish line. I seemed to remember that going straight towards it would be a good line to take so I aimed there.
Once again entering the wave zone Huey went missing and there were no waves to assist me into shore. By this time the tide had dropped, so there was a run of about 50 metres to cross the finish line. I even managed to run that distance despite feeling the efforts of the swim when I stood up in the shallows. I was puffing as I crossed the line, and took off my timing chip. I grabbed some fruit and water and sat in the shade.
I bumped into some old friends and we chatted as we watched the dash for cash. This should be on at more swims, but it would be good to see money for the first three place-getters for each gender. Some of those kids are fast in the pool, but they need to get more surf skills to be able to read the conditions better. If only I was younger I just might be able to show them a thing or two.
I enjoyed the swim, though when the times were posted I was in the second half of the field. Oh well, I will just have to work harder in the pool. I have not decided on my swim for next weekend as there are several in Sydney, and a good one at South West Rocks on the mid-north coast. Sometimes too much choice is not good.
I would suggest to anyone who wants to do a boutique swim without all the pushing and shoving of a Sydney swim to try this one next year. The club is friendly, has a bar, and a good kiosk. And you can get from the harbour bridge to the beach in under two hours, as it is on the southern outskirts of Newcastle.