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I have a foam coat.

Purrrfect at Mona Vale

Mona Vale Mighty Marathon
Wharf to Waves, Tathra
Mornington Grand Challenge
The Bloody Big Swim

There are so many good things to say about the Warriewood swim that it's hard to know where to start. Maybe, as someone (Dylan Thomas in Under Milk Wood, for one: os.c) once said, at the beginning...

On the other, hand, we could cruise past the bush along Mona Vale Road, with the windows down, and stroll by the walk along the coast to the shuttle bus, with the breeze at our back, and trundle through the oh-so-easy registration tent, with the loverly ladies who wrote on our arm and attached a tag to our leg, and just get to the best bit, which is, of course, the swim.

Glistening Dave was at Mona Vale...

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The first thing we saw as we trucked into the surf at Warriewood was a swell hitting a sand bank and rising up into a wave. The second thing we saw was the sand in the sand bank, nice and close, as we pulled ourselves under and through. The third thing we saw, as we rose through the clear, warm water, was a silver school of tiny fish, flitting just past our reach. And we knew the world was good.

But the first thing we saw, as we rounded the first buoy, and turned our head to breath, was the head of oceanswims.com. This brought us back down to earth. One microsecond, we're looking into the clear blue world below, the next microsecond, we're looking up a huge pair of nostrils. While we love oceanswims.com, and we really do, we don't need to kiss him, certainly not on the nostrils, and if the swell had been just a micrometre larger we may have found ourselves doing just that. You can imagine our shock.

Anyway we successfully avoided the nostrils, said g'day to os.c, and swam on. It took a few metres to forget about os.c's head in our face, but we got there. We gazed down at the ever-deepening water, the sand below, the ribbons of kelp, and swam. We swam into that vast blue ocean and began to realise just how easy the swimming was.

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As Chris Fydler rounds the first booee at Warriewood, you can see no followers... Then here they come (below), destined to remain just that... followers. We've never seen this bloke swim before. It's difficult to see from the back of the peloton the mugs at the sharp end who actually can swim. It was impressive.

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There is something to be said for a swim when the swell is behind you, the whole way. There are days when it all just comes together, when you are swimming from south to north, and the swell is from south to north. And the wind is from south to north. And the water is warm, and the water is clear. And the sun is shining. And so it was with Warriewood to Mona Vale. We could call it groovy. We could call it lush. We could call it the bees knees, or the ants pants, or the cats pyjamas. Maybe the only word really is ... Purrrfect.

We did what we usually do in these conditions and put our effort into sliding through the water as fast as we could. No reason to conserve energy on a day like this; just go with the water, go with the swell. We passed the headland and motored up the beach. Occasionally we went past a buoy. After a bit, we found ourselves approaching the end and found we'd drifted a bit east, out to sea, in relation to the final buoy. But this was good; as we turned in, the swell got behind us even more, and we felt a bit sorry for those approaching the buoy from the other direction, especially those who breath to the right.

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I'm sorry, yes, I do have the right to be out here.

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Get arta moi way! Good gogs, however: View Selenes, the world's best all-'round goggle. You can buy them from us... Click here

We hammered past that last buoy and... and came to a grinding halt. Maybe it was the seemingly effortless swimming up to that point, or maybe there was a rip or a current, we don't know. We do know that one minute we were feeling like we were flying as we flashed over the ripples in the sand, and the next, we were not flashing past anything. We were moving our arms and legs a lot, but the ripples in the sand were not going anywhere. In fact, they did not seem to be moving at all.

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Our happy reporter. Do you think our nostrils could have been so intrusive? Drama queen.

Anyway, we looked around to see if was just us, and everyone around seemed to be in the same boat. We kinda wished we had conserved some energy at that point, but what the hey, there was nothing to be done but keep swimming and try to catch a wave. It gave us a workout, but we made it to shore, and we were happy.

The last thing we saw, before we got out of the water, was a school of tiny fish, all silver and flashing in the sun. And we knew the world was good.

Glenn Muir

We were at Mona Vale, too...

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Book Six: Patience and passion: A work in progress

Victoria's Super Saturday

Created with flickr slideshow.

With three months of summer equating to 12 weekends, or 24 days that are weekends, we here in Victoria still find ourselves with four events planned all on the same day. It was our Super Saturday of swims with the Bloody Big Swim (11.2km), The Grand Challenge Swim at Mornington (1.2km), Portsea Swim Classic (1.5km) and the Port Campbell 12 Apostles Plunge (1.2km) all scheduled for this day.

Of all the swims, the Bloody Big Swim was the one that was most at risk of not going ahead. This race, uniquely longer at 11.2km is a marathon from Frankston to Mornington, modelled on another successful marathon swim, my beloved Rottnest Channel Swim. With the aim "to promote interest in open water swimming for fun and fitness", it encourages community participation and is open to all levels of swimmers, not just elites, despite it becoming a well-regarded swim for more superfish to place on their bucket list. Solos, duos and relay teams were primed and ready to go, many flying in from interstate to compete but, as Mother Nature would have it, it wasn't to be. High winds and poor weather conditions meant the plug was pulled early Saturday morning, much to some competitors' disappointment (and relief to others).

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Cameo from Mona Vale.

Facebook threads grew and grew by the minute as the bad news was announced early Saturday morning. It was a foregone conclusion for those of us who live close by, as we had noticed high winds whipping the trees around suburbia on Friday night and announcements were made on Friday afternoon that there would be a final decision made early on Saturday morning. No surprises when it was announced, and yet, still some felt it necessary to accuse organisers of looking after the corporates, by making the decision so late. If you live by the bay, as I do, you would know that there can be gale force winds one minute and dead calm five minutes later. I, too, would have made the decision as late as possible, despite the disappointment and inconvenience to swimmers. It was also wonderful to see many thank the organisers, safety committee and the coast guard, for their safety-based decision. There's no doubt about it, making that decision would be a super tough one, especially when this race is very expensive to run and has literally hundreds of people involved.

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A bit of a wave inside the bay.

Going ahead on a day like Saturday would have been fraught with danger. Poor weather conditions present a massive challenge, even in our protected Port Phillip Bay. The solos are in the water for long periods of time, duos for half the time and relays change over frequently. Hypothermia would be an issue, with much body heat lost when high winds are around. Propeller injuries are frequently higher in rough water. Hauling yourself in and out of a boat is fatiguing and dangerous enough; adding sharp blades close by to exit and entry points and this could be a recipe for disaster (as has proved to be the case with other events: os.c). Vessels move unpredictably in rough weather, even with highly experience crews and captains. Add in paddler safety (hypothermia for them, too) and the high chance of sea sickness for swimmers, paddlers and support crew. Water safety personnel must be on the water. Two clubs are involved in this event and they are at risk of all of the above. "But why can't they re-schedule for tomorrow?" Insurance, re-organisation, cost of running/organising the event twice, etc. And who's to say the conditions won't be worse on Sunday? It's a minefield. All swimmers are made aware of the possibility of event cancellation when they sign up, if they bother to read the fine print and clauses for the race. The Bloody Big swim is no different from the Rottnest swim in this way. That's just what marathon swimming is all about. Lengthen the distance and increase the risks.

By roughly ten o'clock, the Grand Challenge Swim at Mornington was declared all systems go. This event takes place at the finish line of the Bloody Big Swim. As a goodwill gesture, the organisers of the Grand Challenge allowed all Bloody Big swimmers to enter the 1.2 km event (actually, it was 1km by the GPS) free of charge. It's slightly less than 11.2km, but nevertheless a great opportunity for those who were still in town to get amongst it and swim in the beautiful waters of the Mornington Peninsula.

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This is the fifth year this race has been run and slowly, very slowly they make small improvements on the year before. After considering swimmers' feedback, a new course was to be unveiled, where swimmers didn't have to start around the cliff at Mothers Beach. I was really looking forward to that but... the course was changed again for swimmer safety and was an elongated rectangle, parallel to the beach instead. I swim at this beach frequently and questioned the lifesaving club's president (and Peninsula Pirate Andy) about the distance: surely, it wouldn't be 1.2km. Five minutes later, he was taking my trusty Garmin for a little spin and swam the new and improved safer course to check the distance. It was right on 1km. This also gave him first hand info about the "hot spots" on the course. Andy then directed more water safety towards the first leg of the course that was, by far, the most difficult part of the race. Onshore breaking waves with an outgoing tide meant for tough work for the first 200 metres. Water safety was more prepared if this proved too difficult for swimmers. It was a good call by Andy after our earlier chat, and what a great insight into the race for the day. Surely all swims could do this as a safety precaution?

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Further cameo from Mona Vale, Stephen de Lorenzo, who discarded his swim cap in the break and should have been DQed on the strength of it, aggressively rounds the first booee. We witnessed a smarty-pants kid throw his cap aside, too, on the bank on the way out. He should have been DQed, as well. There is a reason for swim caps, and it's not for swimmers to decide unilaterally that caps are not for them. It's about water safety and being able to see swimming mugs at sea. If you were run over by a ducky whose driver couldn't see you because you'd discarded your cap, you'd be whingeing out the other side of your hospital bed, if you're lucky. Let's start a new campaign: Respect your swim cap!

The goodie bag seemed light on this year compared to others where a t-shirt or towels were given away, as opposed to sling backpack and drink bottle, cap and transponder for those who entered online ($50 on the day entry were given just the sling backpack, cap and transponder). Wave starts were only written on a white board upstairs at the lifesaving club where registration was located. The race briefing was at the start line on the beach, with a megaphone that no one could hear because of the wind. This happened last year and has not been improved. It's the small things that matter in the open water swimming world and when there's so much competition and easy comparisons to be made to other races, these things tend to stand out. Sometimes, when events are run by triathlon clubs, these finer details are forgotten or are overlooked. At Portsea, for example, online entries were $55 which included "a souvenir 100% cotton BLAZER t-shirt, swim cap, certificate and products from our sponsors including Splitrock, Bulla and the Australian Banana Industry". Printing wave starts on a small flier and giving them to swimmers when they receive their cap and transponder could have lessened congestion upstairs at registration, too. Like I said, it's the small things that can make a difference. These are both vastly different swims (Portsea 1282 competitors, Mornington 196 and in the swim series.) but, nevertheless, they are in direct competition with each other on the day.

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The swim itself lived up to its name: it was challenging. Getting out to the first buoy was tough, waves breaking over the top of you and hitting you in the head all the way meant it was tricky to settle into a rhythm. Three steps into the water and you were into breaking water. There was no sea life to worry about, just loads of sand beneath you and clear blue water to explore, when it's not frothing around you. Once my wave (all of the women except for the open and the junior ladies) hit the first buoy, we just followed the boating zone marine marker poles back to Mills Beach. I swam with quite a few ladies around me, which was not surprising considering most of the females started together and we were more concentrated on a shorter course. As expected, we picked up a sprinkling of men by the last buoy; they had started eight minutes ahead of us. I found myself in a ding dong battle with another lady who swam stroke for stroke with me for the last 200 metres. I bided my time and waited and then... she came a cropper, swimming straight into a small white marker buoy. She tried to catch up but my high knees and previous lifesaving training meant I was more nimble out of the water and hit the line first. She had kept me racing honestly, though.

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Ah, newd swimmers beating wettists. We love to see that.

The final wave of the day was all of the Bloody Big swimmers. I had a few friends in this wave. They call themselves the Big Rigs and they too, are an unofficial swimming/triathlon group of friends who train together for a little bit of competition and for a lot of fun. They have club tops and stickers to leave behind at places they've been, literally leaving their mark where ever they go. All "forty somethings", they keep it real by encouraging each other along, swimming, riding and running together, setting goals and achieving them one day at a time. Where our motto is "Go hard, or go home", their team motto/ethos is "For those who don't fit the stereotypes of the sports they are doing, who are a bit competitive but do it mainly for the shits and giggles" (sic). Simon B and I spoke about open water swimming two years ago; here he was challenging himself in the Bloody Big swim/Grand Swim. It's hiding there in all of us, you know, that potential to push ourselves a little harder, go a little longer, and swim a little faster. And who would have guessed we'd have fun at the same time doing it, eh? This "training for life" business sure is a beautiful thing. The Big Rigs are testimony to that.

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Our other half checks us out, or so it appears. She reckoned later, she didn't see us at all. In fact, she said, she had her eyes closed.

By all accounts, the Portsea Swim was all it's usually cracked up to be. The results for Port Campbell were posted too, so three out of four swims is pretty good all considering. As I type, Sorrento Bay has announced a new distance swim, called the "Elite 4000". This swim is not for beginners but for experienced, strong swimmers who really want to take on a challenge: 2km against the tide, 2km with the tide, a perceived equivalent effort of six – seven kilometres. The tide at Sorrento is amazing: it's like being pulled very quickly through the water on an elastic band. I can't imagine swimming against it. Can't wait to see how this one goes!

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There appeared to be newds aplenty at Mornington. Good lads and ladesses, themselves!

I have a nine days off from racing now, then I have the five kilometre swim at Mt Martha, then the Challenge Melbourne Half Ironman where I, my hubby, Bike Boy, and our running buddy, Andrew, are all set to try and better our 3rd place in the mixed team category from last year. So it's back to the pool for squad on Monday and continue to train, train between now and then in the deep blue sea.

Till then, see you on the beach!

Nicole Chester

PS: Thanks @BikeGal.com for your question this week about mid race panic attacks on Twitter. I've nearly finished writing a follow up article for you to give you some further tips for dealing with this. It really made me think about what I do to keep it together, when things go pear-shaped mid race. Stay tuned for this article ☺

Aquagirl's photo gallery...

From Mornington... Click here

Tathra numbers hold up

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Pics borrowed from The Bega District News.

The annual Tathra Wharf to Waves swims were held on Sunday 18 January in absolutely perfect conditions - low 20s temperature, small swell, crystal clear water and relatively warm water (for Tathra). Two swims were offered - the age grouper 600 metre Dash for Cash and a longer "all-in" 1200 metre swim. Options are to do one or both swims. The Wharf to Waves is one of those swims that brings together the local community, long term visitors and participants of all ages and is part of a Tathra sporting weekend with fun runs and mountain bike events on the Saturday.

After the events of last April, organisers had asked past swimmers late last year whether they would swim again in 2015 and it was great to see the number of regulars and newbies who turned up on Sunday. Numbers were probably slightly down overall from a bumper crowd in 2014 but made up for by enthusiasm by the swimmers and locals. There was no shortage of safety craft including the Westpac rescue helicopter. Given how the water temperature at Tathra can drop from the low 20s to 15 overnight there was no shortage of wetsuits although not really needed.

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The 600 metre dash attracted good numbers and plenty of friendly rivalry with the faster swimmers both male and female breaking 8 minutes. Winners were John Fox in 7.16 and Georgia Langford in 7.45. It is essentially a straight dash from the wharf  with the ocean bottom in sight all the way. Unlike past years, when a heavy surf has made beach entry tricky, this year the low swells offered no resistance or assistance.

The swim attracts plenty of oldies of both sexes and there were at least five participants over 70 plus plenty of youngsters from local swim clubs such as Bega.

The longer event, the 1200 metres, runs parallel to the beach and quite a number of the dash for cash participants back up again for this event. With little in the way of a swell, visibility was excellent and times fast. James Macri won in front of a fast finishing John Fox in 15.20 and Georgia Langford took the double.

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The Wharf to Waves attracts not only locals but also quite a sizeable contingent from Canberra and Melbourne. It provides a great opportunity for an annual catch up with interstate mates: each year I catch up with Mark from Williamstown (Melbourne) and hear what ocean swims he has competed in over the past year in in the US. 

Where else in Australia is there the opportunity to talk politics ("the horror, the horror") in the surf with a holidaying ABC correspondent?

The local organising committee not only runs a great race, it also provides plenty of prizes and works closely with the local surf lifesaving club. There is obviously a lot of community pride in Tathra and for those who are looking for a social swim with a touch of competition held in probably the prettiest beach surroundings in Australia (with good coffee close by) then Tathra is your race. Hopefully numbers will now build up again.

Alex Gosman

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From all events... Click here

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We feel for this cove. We can only imagine how contorted is his upper body in order to get his head this far around, and high up out of the water. Most of his upper body weight would be on his left shoulder; he'd be almost hand-standing. Some people have little flexibility, of course, and it's difficult to turn the head without twisting the body. We hope he's ok.


Send us your raves on these swims, and we'll post them here as Raveback... Click here

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