North Bondi Classic Feb 2014

Frangipani flowers

Frangipani flowers

A different photo to start a report on an ocean swim. This photo was taken on the way to North Bondi beach for the Classic swim, the second of two swims held at this beach each season. The first swim is held in early January, but I was enjoying the delights of a New York winter at that time. So I was keen to do this swim in early February.

Now February in Sydney is usually the month of high humidity, warm sleepless nights as summer continues. It is also the time when the frangipani flowers are at their best, with their nice fragrance and clumps of colour against the blue sky. So I could not resist taking a photo on the way.

I had decided to catch public transport to avoid the crush of cars on a lovely summer day. But my plans to get to the beach early to take some photos, were dashed by the loose adherence to a timetable. So there will be some photos of other things, plus maybe a photo from another year.

North Bondi beach is at the northern end of that famous iconic curve of sand known worldwide as Bondi. It is a great place to swim, despite the crowds of tourists that flock there on their buses to take giggling photos on the sand. The bay is large with a distance of around 800 metres from the northern headland to the southern headland near the Icebergs pool. It is a place I am familiar with due to the number of training session with my squad here.

There were two races on offer again. The first one was the one km sprint or warm up event depending upon your preference; and a longer two km swim around the bay taking in the sights. I had decided to enter both swims, and as I finished the registration process I was feeling quietly confident of a good day. There was a small one metre swell, and what looked like a small sweep towards the north. There was lots of sun, it was nice and warm without too much heat, and only a slight breeze. In other words: almost perfect.

The beach scene at Bondi

The beach scene at Bondi

On the start line for the one km, and I had been in for a warm up to test out the conditions. There were a few sandbanks, and the sweep was strong on the dropping tide. I thought that if I started on the left for the one km I would be able to use the sweep to get me out quicker. On the line, and we were off, and I ran to the left and entered the water, going under a few waves, and over others. But I did notice I was getting pushed way off course and was dropping behind the rest of the field as s few bigger sets came through forcing me to the bottom. Finally I made it through the wave zone, and looking up I was way behind. Today this one km race would be a warm up to test conditions. I did manage to pass a few swimmers, but by the time I had made it back to the beach I had been passed by many swimmers from the next wave. Yes I had a shocker, and it was all about the bad start and the mis-reading of the conditions.

Prior years at North Bondi

Prior year at North Bondi

As I was catching my breath and having a drink and fruit supplied at the finish line, I was approached by the smiling face of one of the female lifesavers to see if I was ok. Nothing like individual attention, but really I did not think I had done that badly.

I had a gap of about forty-five minutes before the next race, so I made the right excuses about my efforts in the first swim, even trying to play the jet lag card for the Nemesis, but the Reporter was having nothing of it. I declined the offer to do a another warm up, and sat in the sun feeling the rays .

For the two km race I decided to change tactics at the start. This time I would start on the right hand side and try to get through the break quicker. This time the plan worked, and in no time at all I was through the break and heading for the first buoy. Around we went and now it we headed south across the head of the bay, feeling the effects of the north-east swell picking you up and pushing you onwards. Swimming along and you feel your feet rising gently above your hips, and as the swell moves forward the rest of the body gets a lift before the joy of increasing speed. On days like this it is a joy to swim in the ocean, with clear water, a nice following swell, and warm sun on your back.

I have noticed in the larger events (this one had 1000 swimmers) that I was often swimming in a very small group until I approach the buoys. Suddenly swimmers appear like wasps near jam as they fight for position, and then disappear again. Today was no different, and I felt sorry for those beginners resorting to breaststroke in a valiant effort to avoid the carnage.

Around the buoy and time to head back towards the southern end of Bondi, this time with the swell coming across you. Time to adjust again before turning right for the long push back towards North Bondi. By this time we under the protection of the headland, so there was no swell to swim into. As conditions flattened out I could enjoy the views of Bondi floating past on my left, and the packs of fellow swimmers pushing towards the finish line. I was trying to work hard and concentrate on my technique, but today was a day to enjoy and savour.

Before long it was time to head through the break, and shock horror a wave appeared for me to catch. I did everything right and was in the perfect position to get a welcome boost towards shore when suddenly another swimmer appeared right in front of me and we collided. The result, I missed the wave, and as usual had to swim all the way to shore. I swam over the sandbanks and pushed up onto my feet in the shallow water, and had enough energy to sort of stumble run up the sand over the finish line.

Another couple of swims under my belt, and lessons learnt on reading the surf.

More fragrant flowers

More fragrant flowers

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