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Book Six: Patience and passion: A work in progress

Chapter Three: Traditions on Boxing Day

So what's your Boxing Day tradition? Shopping? Was it another Christmas dinner with the other family? Nursing a hangover? Or maybe it was kicking back watching the cricket, whilst playing with the new gadgets? Mine, as it has been since 2008, is heading to Point Leo for the Boxing Day swim with the Peninsula Pirates where the season REALLY starts (only for those who have been procrastinating over winter though, for the rest of us just go along with the catch cry to make them feel better).

Yes, "I'll see you on Boxing Day" is the threat of all threats and your last chance to save face when it comes to challenging your foes. With distended stomachs, most turn up feeling a little weighed down after over-indulging the day before with families, and for those who haven't trimmed down over winter, or haven't been training over winter, Christmas is the perfect excuse to be out of shape. It's really the only start line disclaimer you need to use.

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Sleepy Point Leo, the closest "real" surf for people on the Mornington Peninsula, is at the wider mouth of Western Port Bay and offers off shore rock reefs and rock pools for tourists to explore and enjoy. High sand dunes line the water along with long, heavy sea kelp that wisps along the shore break at low tide. Strong 26 kph southerly winds hit the beach today with the sun bursting through high clouds intermittently.

Whilst the wind was cold, the water was surprisingly warm making the "newd" part of my swim not so unbearable, despite hypothermia crossing my mind more than once as I disrobed.

As George Constanza would say, "The sea was angry that day my friends," leaving the earlier 5km race competitors with a battle on their hands, swimming four laps of the triangular course. Fifty-eight hard core swimmers swam this event, the fastest time being Dean Wilson's 58:53 and finishing with Donald Riddington just under an hour later. Kudos to those swimmers. They certainly earned a post-race beer after this event. Our good friend @GoBraveDave came in at a very respectable 1:13, this being excellent training towards his Bloody Big Swim goal. And hats off to Andy Musgrave, our Peninsula Pirate hot shot, who is cannonballing into the "freak" category with a 1:12 , backed it up to come fourth in his category in the 1.2km later on.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Like a well-oiled machine, race briefing was held on the beach and the starter's shotgun came out to make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Water safety was dispatched and the show got started. I met @JodieM on the start line, after we'd exchanged tweets the day before. This was her first Point Leo Swim and we talked about the lumpy conditions.

Race organisers reversed the race direction this year, compared to other years, in the name of participant safety. (ü to them). We'd be heading straight into dumping waves that would (and did, I might add) wipe you off your feet quite swiftly. Then head off to the right around the first marker buoy, out to the far cube (say that quickly) turn left, swim along parallel to the beach for a long stretch, hang another left, aim for a closer marker buoy and head into shore. In short, it's a triangular course, entering and finishing between two gates. Men and women started together and there was much moving around and re-arranging between the amazing creatures and the wanna-be guns as to where to start. As it turned out, the amazing creatures had it right, starting off to the side to avoid traffic.

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In the past, I've found this start to be a bit of a brawl, arms and legs everywhere, testosterone pumping and egos butting heads, but the testy conditions seemed to simmer this off and spread everyone out quickly. Literally four or five big steps into the race and we were hitting shore breaks and deeper water. Under or over the waves, it was a quick decision and neither were particularly right. This combined with long sea kelp, dark water and cloudcover above, left the water moody and uninteresting. Much to my surprise, the brawl was downgraded to only a little slap and tickle.

I love rough water: it makes the race far more interesting and weeds out the pool swimmers from the open water swimmers. I find it easy to get lost in the rise and fall of the waves, enjoying its hypnotic motion. It does, however, take a little more effort to navigate in these conditions and I am the first to admit navigating is not my strong point. I must have been on Santa's nice girl list as he bought me a Garmin so I could track my race. And, yes, to confirm, I am shit at navigating. My race was a little over 1.3km which I suppose isn't so bad considering the conditions (See the photo of race course from GPS). It's also a little scary, how excited I was to return home to upload my data. It's probably the teacher in me, or maybe a hangover from my type A compulsive try-athlete days. And, no, lucky for you, Strava doesn't upload GPS for open water swims (as far as I know).

ptleoag14122602This one lap course was over and done with before I knew it and to top it all off, at the end of the race, My Race Results gave us a race receipt at the finish line with our official race time, overall place, gender place and category place. (ü to them) Disposable transponders last week, race receipts this week... big ups to the marketing departments of race results companies!

More shouts out to my training buddies Nicole Love who earned herself a bronze in the 30-39 category, and open water new comer, Ainslie, who, in only her second open water race, came fourth in the same category. Girls, all those 5:30 starts in the pool are really paying off. These two women are a lot of fun, but more importantly are two very humble women who race for the fun of it and not because they're guaranteed of a place on the podium. Cheers to you both on your excellent efforts.

Post-race tweets revealed happiness from Ms @JodieM who came in ahead of her planned race time, too. Point Leo has given many free smiles away today. But the best little gem came from me perusing the race results, a comment left behind from a swimmer with the biggest smile of all fromLoie Sharp," Thank you organisers and volunteers on a brilliant event! Despite the tough conditions, this old duck from Alice Springs loved the event and will definitely be back next year!" A glowing endorsement if ever there was one.

My photos can be found here : >

I'm looking forward to racing at Point Lonsdale on Sunday. Let's hope I can upgrade my navigation self-assessment after the race!

Tweet me if you want to dissect Point Lonsdale, I'm happy to exchange race info prior to the race. My twitter handle is @AquaGirl72 for those new to reading my post-race rambles.

See you at the beach thrill-seekers!

Nicole Chester
@AquaGirl72 on Twitter

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