You’d never know from the picture above that I woke up with gastro, I had it the day before, I had it the night before and I knew it was going around my clients. Crap. How am I going to swim with a stomach like this I thought. I’d hate to leave a trail!
“Just take an Imodium”. Says my supportive husband. Cool. So I had one, and waited then ate my breaky, I’d run out of quinoa, I’d run out of oats, I was down to a muesli bar and cous cous. Not a good omen I thought.
The day outside looked like it was going to be perfect for a swim, blue sky, no wind, I was going to have the best conditions for my first ocean swim, my first ever swim in the ocean. I’d only swam at the beach or in a bay. I’d never swam out into the depths of the ocean. I was not even that nervous. I did not have any pressure on me that day. I knew it was going to be totally foreign. I was not going to be the best, far from it. But I was trying something new, and really getting outside my comfort zone.
We arrived at the beach as a family, I grabbed my rubber yellow swimming cap and ankle strap and went to the bath room, and the imodiums had done their trick, I posed for the pic above so I was good to go, go on an adventure.
The concept of an ocean swim was really daunting. The fear of that is unknown is what stops most people. Most people are scared they are going to be eaten by a shark. But this thought was far from my mind. I have scuba dived before and snorkelled in the ocean so I knew what laid beneath the sea. I have also been taking swimming lessons to improve my stroke, and swimming an extra day on top of that so I felt confident that I could make the distance, even though I’d probably only ever swam for 2km in the pool. I said good bye to Mikey and the Kids and went to the start area.
I did my normal thing, found people to chat to and help me out. I found someone to put my cap on for me, because I had no idea how to put it on. I had not put a swimming cap on since I was in high school, and that was 15 years ago. I then found the only other “Shona” in the crowd to chat to for some time. She said that she was going to do breast stroke for most of the way. Cool, I was not going to be the only one resorting to breast stoke. I am a natural breast stroker, not free-styler, so this was going to be a challenge. I actually hated free style until probably a week ago, I have only just now started to get into my rhythm with my stroke.
I looked out to sea, and there were white caps everywhere. There was a strong South- Easterly blowing, and it looked cold. The water temperature was 18.2C. I had no idea what this meant. The marshal was giving us direction on where to swim and how to breathe, but again I was clueless, I had no idea what he was talking about.
My wave was called to the start line, I rinsed out my goggles and went to the far end of the pack, not wanting to get dunked at the start of the race. I found a swim coach to chat to form where I have swimming lessons. John gave me some tips. “Just remember to breathe in and breathe out, stay calm and don’t go out too hard”. Cool. I was ready. I put on my goggles and I could not see a thing. This is crazy.
The marshall said go and we were off. I tried my best to follow the swim behind John following the line that he chose. I was diving through the waves, then gasping for air. I was gasping so hard I was hyperventilating. Man it was cold. I was trying to stay calm and just breath and start to swim. One arm went over then the other then breathe. I was still gasping. I tried again, one arm then breathe, stroke breathe, stroke breathe, stroke, crash of the wave breathe goggles filled up with water, stop tread water to fix them, stroke breathe, stroke breathe. Cool, I had my rhythm and I was actually moving, I started to warm up. I’d passed the first marker, all the swimmers were crowded between two cans, it got cramped and I got kicked, and pushed, but not badly, so I’d relaxed into the swim, feeling okay, not great, but everything was new to me.
Stroke crash of the wave breathe, stroke crash of the wave breathe, I hit the second marker, cool your moving your doing well, just keep ticking off those bright pink markers. I then felt lost, I could not see the next marker,I just had to trust that the person in front of me was going in the best possible direction for the most efficient route. I put my head up to have a look, a few breast stroke strokes, then I spotted the marker and felt safe again. It was so weird, I really felt lost with out a point of reference out there. It was really un settling. Stroke, crash of the wave breathe, stroke crash of the wave breathe. The swimmers jostled around me, I must be close to the third marker, your doing well, your swimming, stoke crash of the wave breathe, stroke crash of the wave breathe, I past the third marker, I was out of Bondi and heading past Tamarama.
This was when it all when pair shaped. The cold southerly head wind picked up and turned into a gale force wind. The sky went black and the water temperature suddenly dropped.The water chopped up and I felt like I was swimming in a washing machine. I was having problems finding a space to stroke and breathe without getting a mouthful of water. My goggles were crap and they kept filling up with water on the left side that was exposed to the waves. I started to feel sea sick. This sucked. I started to breast stroke. I like breast stroking. I felt safe when I was breast stroking. I knew it was going to slow me down. But I just was not ready to free style it the whole way.
Then the cold really set in. My body temperature dropped and I was getting cold, really cold, really cold, so cold. My toes were numb. I looked at the life guards and thought about getting out. But how would I find my husband and kids. They were asking people if they were okay. I tried to free style again, but I got another mouth full of water, then again my goggles felt like they were going to fill up again. I was not thinking clearly, I was lost. I did not have a real goal out there and it showed. I breast stroked again, and I noticed that the pink marker kept getting closer. The swimmers crowded around the the marker and I was swam over by a guy wearing a black cap, damn the wave behind has caught me. Oh on I was going to get swam over all the time, this was a huge fear of mine, I did not want to be pushed under the water my people coming up behind me. I was feeling so green. I tried to kick it on, I tried to free style, my kick was amazing, I felt really buoyant, but I just did not trust the conditions, I did not trust my breathing . I went for a safe option of breast stroking.
For an instant the sun returned and warmed me up for a second, but it soon disappeared. I was frozen again. I was past another marker, past Tamarama Beach and almost at Bronte, I could see the beach. Amazing.
There was one more marker to swim around and then I could sprint for the beach. Cool. But then the waves blew up and I was being crashed on by my right. I tried my free style again, getting a free strokes in before I got a mouthful of water. Now I could get a rhythm, but the surf felt massive. I tried to breathe and stroke then I’d get a crash of a wave in my face, the waves were crashing over my body.
I spotted the exit point to the beach and I tried my hardest to swim free style in, but I felt I like I was going no where. I must be in a rip. F2ck. I waited for a wave then tried my hardest to swim with it, I tried again, and again, but I felt like I was going no where, I tried again to swim, and I had my feet on the ground, I waited and swam with the next wave and I was able to run out of the water on to the beach.
My husband and kids were in the crowd screaming my name, but I was in shock. I had no idea that they were there calling for me. I ran across the line and started to cry. I was so cold, I had never been so cold in all my life. I could not find my family, and I was handed an emergency blanket to put around by body to stop any further heat loss. My jaw was locked and I was barely able to move my limbs I was so cold. I stood there all alone and cried.
I heard my husband and kids and they came running out of the crowd and found me. I was instantly relieved. I started to walk off and find my cousin who was also in the crowd. I was freezing. I stopped and put on a t-shirt. “Do you want a hot shower?”, one of the race organisers asked me. I looked like death. But Mikey my awesome support crew did not bring my clothes down to the beach, so I declined his offer. “Running 100km is easier that swimming that”, I said. “You picked the worst day to the history of the race to do your first ocean swim, well done you finished”.The organiser said.
I started to run on the spot, then I started to sprint, it felt so good, I was flying around, running up and down the small grassy hills around the Bronte Playground. I found my cousins, and after getting properly wrapped up in towels and a blanket I was taken back to their house for a hot shower.
I swam the 2.2km in 1 hour 2 minutes. I thought it would take me about an hour. So I was happy with that. Next time, I just want to improve on my time. I will be back.