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Book Six

Patience and passion: A work in progress

Chapter Two: Timing was the key at Mentone

Created with flickr slideshow.

I don't know the actual year I last swam the Mentone Swim: I'm guessing at least five years ago. Back then, it was a small club race with maybe a field of one hundred or so swimmers. It was all very low key and casual, efficient and intimate. But things have certainly changed now. This year is its first year of being a part of the Swim Series here in Victoria and the club has certainly had a baptism of fire into the world of swim organisation.

I arrived at Mentone in a bit of a rush, (I lost track of time this morning on social media rather than getting organised) but as it turned out, I needn't have worried. Registrations opened at 9am for a 10am start and the line waiting for pre-registration was ridiculously long. For those wanting to forgo an extra $10, the line for registering on the day, was empty. If any confirmation was needed that open water swimming was alive and well in Victoria, this was all the proof required. Race briefing was supposed to start at 9.45 and the race start was a little toddle down the beach for a deep water start. By the time I was seen to, I asked the lady behind the desk, "Are they going to delay the race start so these people don't miss out?"

"I'm just a volunteer," she said.

"I realise that, but these people would be very disappointed if they didn't get to race. They've already paid." She assured me that they would... and they did.

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Mentone pano.

So despite the initial hiccup, the rest of the race went off without a hitch, apart from the delayed timing of both distance races. The 2.5km started to the right of Mentone Lifesaving Club and, as mentioned earlier, was a deep water start. Race briefing happened at the start line and would have been more audible over the strong north westerly wind, had a mega phone been used. Four waves went with sufficient space in between.

Swimmers set off in a very choppy, washing machine type of swell, that left your back aching a little from overarching to spot the buoys up ahead. My race was not over crowded, as I usually don't get caught amongst the amazing creatures who won their age groups in today's swims. I did stay in touch with others on and off, using them to help me navigate in tricky conditions. The race swept along parallel to the beach, in a rectangular shape. Swimmers followed yellow marker poles and large purple engine buoys that occasionally confused me with the purple caps of my age group. I'm still undecided about the direction of the current, the tide did seem to the moving out despite the waves rolling in. All in all, it was just about getting into a rhythm and swimming long and strong. There was no sea life to notice, barely any weed and only the occasional rock to spot below in murky water, to show you that you were actually making progress in the water.

The water temperature, according to Brighton Baths just around the corner, is approximately 20 degrees, unusually warm for this time of year. I swam without a wetsuit, as did many others, as the Victorian Swim Series encourages swimmers to enter in the non-wetsuit category. It's refreshing to see more and more swimmers each year taking up the challenge of swimming "newd" with results to be proud of.

The 1km race in contrast had different conditions again, with westerlies blowing straight into shore by the time things got under way. As their race went straight from the water's edge "out to sea", turned right into a middle buoy, turned left out to a far buoy, then turned right again and back into shore, this M-shaped course suited sprinters. The fastest overall time was 12:02.

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Lots of swimmers took up the option to swim both races, which was great. I liked the pricing schedule of this race, it was very inclusive. The entry fees were -

  • 1km Swim: $30 up to 59 years / $25 for 60+ years
  • 2.5km Swim: $30 up to 59 years / $25 for 60+ years
  • 1km & 2.5km Swims: $45 for all ages
  • Splash & Dash: $10

Costs included a cap and a new disposable timing chip ... yes disposable! This worked well for me (as I have skinny ankles) but didn't suit everybody. I did see one floating around at the start line, too. I love the concept, though. No double handling, no having to bend over just seconds after you've raced, to take it off and no getting that terrible head rush when you have to do so. No t-shirt today, but who needs another one? I'd much rather the cheaper entry fees than have another t-shirt to fill my already full drawers. This race was priced very, very well with most other swims for the season coming close to $50 or more for one race, with a t-shirt. Good work Mentone. Love your work!

I calculated there were roughly 500 swimmers today, a great result for the club, and well-timed too. Mentone Lifesaving Club is placed centrally to loads of triathlon clubs, so these distance races suited triathletes of all categories as a great training tool.

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Aarrgghhh, they be Pirates!

Mentone also offered splash and dash distances for the kids of 100m and 200m. The overall timing of this event didn't clash with any other event either: another positive. Results were available a couple of hours after the race finished, as they always are from Tomato Timing.

mentone 141214 ag 06 gobravedaveSo this is what Go Brave Dave looks like. He'd be braver without that wettie.

Another bonus for the amazing creatures who placed in today's races was the qualification to participate in the new event in April, The Rip Race, 3.5 km from Point Nepean across the heads to Point Lonsdale. Treacherous water, indeed! This limited-field race will showcase the best of the best swimmers and will offer a whopping $3,000 cash booty for the first female and male across the line. How's them apples! "The Rip" has been crossed by private groups, but this big kahuna in April will see one swimmer named the King or Queen of the Rip! Anyone else need an incentive to train harder? You just got one.

As always, returning to the beach after winter is like receiving a big warm hug from the extended family. I caught up with @DolphinJo, @KAOSVIC and of course @GoBraveDave. Smiles were traded all 'round and chat ensued about the season ahead. It's all systems go.

My next race is Point Leo in a fortnight: Boxing Day just wouldn't be the same without it. I'll see how I recover after today and think about racing the 5km there. I've never done that distance there. We'll see how the bod pulls up.

Check out my photos... Click here 

Results...

... Click here

See you at the beach soon!

Nicole Chester
@AquaGirl72 on Twitter

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