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Learnings of Lake Argyle - Diary of an Amateur Open Water Swimmer

Sometimes there are no words to describe this deeply personal journey, the ups and downs, highs and lows that go with challenging yourself to the very end of your limits and beyond them. Such a profound learning curve in life has Lake Argyle been that there are a few lasting memories to be shared from this once in a lifetime experience. Note I never never want to swim 20km for the first time again – and yet if it meant that I took half as much from it as I have from this journey – I would do every agonising mile twice.

When I nominated for this event in November last year I had no idea that I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, until I stood on the bow of the boat prior to race start on Saturday the enormity of the undertaking had been lost on me. The truth is as I dived into the water to tackle a marathon of a race I knew nothing about; I found myself in the same space I was on the morning of my very first open water race, scared, excited and with no expectations of what the experience may be. In all, my only expectation was that I would finish. I never dreamed I may not.

The final week of preparation has been a up and down rollercoaster of emotion, frantic training sessions, double checking of gear and the all-important decision of which swim suit I would wear! I actually pinched myself on Wednesday as I sat in the ABC studio with Graham Bell and talked about the last 12 months, almost feeling like I was telling a story about someone else’s adventures. Coming to realise that it was less than 12 months since I had first stood on The Strand and prepared to dive into the water for my very first race… Its like doing the park run one May morning and the Ultra-trail 100km the next year. I had questions for myself… is experience a necessary item in the world of endurance sport?


The first thing that hits you when you step off the tarmac in the Pilbara is the heat. The intense furnace of wind blasted hot air that washes over you like a different continent. And then you walk through the airport door and are greeted by a very excited parent and large warning about swimming with Crocodiles. Welcome to Kununurra.

Having never been to the Kimberly’s we gave ourselves time to acclimatise, try out the lake and meet our amazing support crew. We checked out the lime green Kayak (now known as Luke), talked serious race tactics (how to not take the scenic route to the finish line) and strategies to block up the sweeper boat if they tried to take me out of the water if I didn’t make the all-important completion time of 7 hrs and 30 mins. I was determined that no one was going to pull me out of the water on race day. To cap it off we watched the molten red sunset you see in so many tourism broachers and dinned out on the Ord river with Fred. Now while we ate seared salmon and strawberry mocktails and admired the view Fred had be content with raw Barramundi Steaks and the very best water the Ord River had to offer

Fred the Freshwater Croc chilling in the Ord River by the Pump House

The only important thing to do on Friday was to check out the Lake. We loaded our lime green Kayak into the Petty team’s boat. (A 10km duo out to do the same thing) and head out for the Lake. The only thing we forgot to do was tie it in! So imagine our surprise, 50km out from Kununurra when we looked in the rear view mirror and Luke the Lime Green Kayak had run away. As we tore back towards town to find our wayward watercraft we all wondered how many pieces Luke would be in on the hwy. Apparently kayaks not only float they also fly! So you can imagine our relief when we pulled out to pass a Caravan and happened to look sideways at it to see Luke strapped loud and proud to the roof!!!!!! Our friendly caravans had barely dodged its aerodynamic adventure and where taking it back to town in an effort to locate an owner.

Reloading Luke the now flying Lime Green Kayak

Crisis Adverted we had attempt 2 at our practice swim. Going out to Lake Argyle the day before the swim was always a risk. Not physically but from a mental perspective. It is a very big lake and the first thing you notice when you dive in is that you sink like a