Today is April 25, which in Australia and New Zealand is ANZAC Day: the day we commemorate and remember the 100,000 Australians who have lost their lives serving our nation in war and peacekeeping operations over the last 100 years or so. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and the day was first observed in 1916. On 25 April 1915 under the orders of Winston Churchill allied forces made a beach landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Ultimately the attack was futile, and in December 2015, the invaders departed leaving 8700 Australians, 2700 New Zealanders, 21,000 British, and an estimated 85,000 Turkish troops dead. It is one of the features of the battle that today Australia and Turkey share a special bond despite being on the opposite sides of the trenches in 1915.
The battle has been recognised as the day our then young nation came of age. During the First World War over 60,000 of our finest young men lost their lives, at a time when our total population was only four million, and 40% of our male population enlisted in the great adventure. It was also the battle that lead to the formation of the modern state of Turkey.
Today we remember those who died and strive to ensure that never again will we have to be involved in such a conflict. It is one of the few days of the year that we come together as one nation despite our backgrounds and pause to reflect.
On ANZAC Day in 2012 I did the five km swim from Coogee to Bondi. However, this year that swim was not on due to the complexities of organising a swim in this modern age. However, Sydney really does need to have more of the longer swims to enable our swimmers the opportunity to compete over longer distances. Next year I hope it is one again.
So this year I had no organised event to swim in. However, I realised a few days before that I had not done that glorious swim at Manly with the Bold and the Beautiful gang since last season. I had not even swum at any of the oceanswims held there over the season. So I made the easy decision to go and do the swim at seven am.
It was a cool calm morning when I got up to get ready for the drive to Manly, which is not far. Today it went by quite quickly due to the lack of traffic on a public holiday. I found a park in a side street a few blocks from the surf club (a pity the ferry times do not suit), and made my way to the beach.
The sun had just come up, and it was glorious morning with a stillness in the air and ocean to reflect the solemnity of the day. I added my name to the list of swimmers, and was offered a pink bold and beautiful swim cap. I told the friendly people (Anne and others) that I had swum before, was on the email list, but had a pink cap of my own. So I chatted to some fellow swimmers in that wonderful way of people who love to swim in the ocean. I donned one of my pink NYCSwim caps from summer 2012 and wandered down to the sand.
As it was a special day, we had a short service overlooking the ocean and the Last Post played on a bugle by one of the swimmers, followed by the national anthem. It was cold on the sand, but it was wonderful to be able to live in a place where this can happen.
We waded into the water, which became warmer as it got deeper (it is that time of year). There was no swell at all to deal with, so we swam out to the point like a pink tide. There were over 500 swimmers all in pink caps communing with the ocean. What a sight, what an atmosphere, what an experience. My goggles started to fog up, and it was not because of the cold.
Over to Shelly with everyone having a great time in the warm water (compared to the air anyway). In what seemed like no time I had arrived at Shelly and I stood on the beach in a small patch of sunlight trying to stay warm, watching the glorious scene of 500 swimmers enjoying a truly great experience together.
After a break waiting for the slower swimmers we got back into the water before the gentle breeze made us too cold for the swim back (though the fingers were a tad cold). Next time I will have to swim closer to the rocks to see some of the sea life in the aquatic reserve. My line straight to the point was too murky to see much.
Enjoyed the swim back and used it to practice some of the techniques I had learnt over the last few years such as high elbows, keeping air in my lungs to aid floating higher in the water, and breathing both sides.
Once again the swim back seemed to be over before it had begun. I remembered the first time I had swum this 750m swim from Manly to Shelly and I could only make it one way. Today I did both ways for 1500m with no real effort or fatigue. In fact I felt like I was just warming up when each leg was over. It is good to recognise progress.
On the way home I resolved to try to get back on Saturday morning to do the swim again.
Regular readers will note that I have not included any photos today. I could go on about how this is in recognition of the day, but really the reason is that I left the camera at home. However, the Bold and Beautiful group do a blog, and they took lots of photos of the morning (go to http://www.boldandbeautifulmanly.com.au for link to their website and go to the blog entry for 25 April 2013).