Diary of an Amateur Open Water Swimmer
30 days till splash and 3 days post Easter carrying 10% of my body weight in chocolate and wishing for a high intensity sport! Back in November when nominations opened for this event it seemed like a long way away and now the days are galloping past like a mickey bull that has seen a gap in the scrub. The last few weeks have given a whole new meaning to keeping your shirt on…and pulling your socks up. Even more enlightening is the discovery that there are a million ways (and places) to train if you are looking hard enough.
This is simply next level in a game of getting fit, getting it done and getting good at it. There have been tyres to go on bikes, shoes to put on horses, cattle to shift, fences to check and in the middle of it all we still have bills to pay and find no excuse not to train. The truth is there are days where it doesn’t all fit and you make it work anyway. I took a moment to pinch myself from the passenger seat of the helicopter on Friday as I spotted for cattle, checked flood gates from the air and got a real chance to look for a new swimming spots! After all, with 100km a month becoming the goal, a change of scenery never hurt. I also had to text my Coach Graham a picture to explain why the 4km swim in my training schedule might be missed.
This month saw me doing an 8km on a Sunday morning again with my trusty t-shirt providing sun protection and epic drag. The first 4km were not too bad but I did have a moment of heart failure when I struggled into the wet cotton for the final 1km arms on fire and fingers cramping even though the water is a balmy 24 degrees. You never know how much you value your mates until they laugh at you trying to swim in a t-shirt, pull on a t-shirt too and then spend the next 20 laps tapping your feet every time you slow down. If your going to climb a mountain – take friends.
And just to add amusement to frustration, have you ever tried to keep a set of ankle socks on while you are tumble turning? I’m pretty sure this is a drill was designed to try to increase the length of my arms. I would swim along and every time I did a tumble turn my socks would end up half way down my feet, resulting in me imitating dory in a washing machine as I tried to reach back and pull them back on. For 20 laps I continually pulled them on doing an imitation of a one-armed breast stroke. The mantra to this is just keep swimming.
These days it seems that everyone is ‘busy’. You catch up for coffee, ask what your mate has been up to and they reply with ‘busy’, or to change it up to ‘super busy’. Now I’ll be honest, there are moments of the day when I’ve been ‘busy’ scrolling through Facebook, however the last 2 weeks have had me thinking about what we really mean when we say ‘busy’ (I spend a lot of time with my head underwater). So for the month of April I am challenging myself to be not ‘busy’ but to be ‘productive’. Whether that be hanging onto the top rail in the cattle yards by one arm to avoid being ‘smoked’ by an over-zealous cow (I think you call them chin ups), or strapping on my runners to retrieve the horse truck from the river after mustering.
It has also translated into the greatest hunt for a new swimming hole on our cattle station, Amelia Downs. After having a bit of an aerial look while mustering we decided to ground truth my finds and my sister in law and I set out on horses. In the spirit of any adventure on Amelia Downs we thought we would explore all possibilities. While the rapids looked amazing I wouldn’t recommend the gravel rash.
Heading further west we found a nice- looking crossing for the horses that resulted in the saddles, bridles and even my boots going under and while the saddlecloths may have needed a wash, my hat definitely did not.
What the 15km ride really showed me was that any body of water will do if you really want to train and it is not the scenery, who’s in the water with you or how far you can swim in one direction but how badly you want the result that matters. By the time we had ridden past 5 suitable spots, found 12 spots where you cannot cross the river on horseback and got so wet even the dogs were looking for a patch of sunshine, we eventually ended up in a 50-metre puddle that didn’t quite fit the job description. Next time a waterhole looks a little deep I’ll leave the horse on the bank and depth test it myself.
Finding the balance in any sport is hard when you really want an outcome. In my case, the outcome being somewhere between having the confidence I won’t drown next month and the belief that I will be able to just keep swimming, no matter what. The last 2 weeks has been about building that confidence. Again, part of it has come down to the amazing group of people who turn up to train with me, share a lane or give you a weird look when you pull on a pair of socks before you get in the pool. You know you are feeling at home in a place when you are more comfortable taking your clothes off then putting them on. It has been really empowering to know that a month ago I thought swimming 2km in a t-shirt was an achievement but last week I wore the damn thing for 5km of the 8km set. Now that is sun safety on a whole new level!
So to open the last month of this madness we are done with waterhole hunting on the basalt river and headed to the ocean to do a casual 15km training swim. It’s the start of a run down to looking over the edge, challenging oneself and seeing just how far and how hard you can go.
Horses beely deep in mud