Category Archives: Swim
My love affair for the Corporate Games started 4 years ago when I was asked to help out a couple of work mates to fill a relay team in the Open Water Swim event. My boss generously paid the entry fee & Rick, Warren, Melissa & I managed to come in 3rd. It was my, and I am pretty sure it was the first swimming medal for all of us. We were all wrapped.
Our team was known as the Wombats and has since been in hibernation as Warren & Melissa started a family. Two kids later and they were now ready to take the plunge to see if we could emulate past glories.
Some things change, however many things remain the same. Melissa still doesn’t like wetsuits, swimming freestyle & swim caps (unless they are tied to the back of your swimsuit). Rick has sporting a new BlueSeventy wetsuit and swimming PBs in the pool. Warren was looking fast in his Zoot suit and all revved up after listening to a few Seekers tunes with the kids.
It was a miserable rainy day with a southerly wind chopping up the water. Warren drew the short straw and was to lead us off against the 5 other teams. He gave it everything however by the time he made is around the 250 meter rectangular course we were well back in the field.
Melissa was next out and true to her word she went with breaststroke which was working effectively thru the choppy water. Occasionally Melissa would freestyle for a bit and we anticipated that she would break into butterfly and backstroke to round out the medley.
Rick too swan well, however by this stage the lead teams were already finishing off the race and I had not even started my final leg. The pressure was now off and it was now more of a reconnaissance swim for the 1km individual event which was up next. In the end we finished 4th out of 6 teams and were pretty happy to have been part of it all.
Next up was the individual 1km swim. While everyone goes off in a single wave, results are recorded for men and women by various age categories. Last year I was lucky enough to win the Male 40+ category and was second out of the water. I feel my swimming has improved a bit and I was looking to go one better.
After a relatively sluggish start, I managed to find my way to the first buoy with only a couple of swimmers ahead of me. The downward leg buoy was pretty hard to pick up and you needed to use the Spirit of Tasmania as a marker to point you in the right direction. One of the chaps ahead of me had a nice high elbow stroke & I knew I needed to make sure he didn’t get too much of a gap.
As we rounded the 2nd buoy, I assume the high elbow guy went wide as he was no longer around. Instead it was a red cap chap from the 30 to 40 age group. I was happy enough to swim off him to the 3rd buoy and from there I managed to sneak past him on the turn and into the lead.
I swam a steady tempo with my red cap friend omnipresent. Leading a race is very unusual territory for me and the only other time it did occur was in the Dromana swim where and I got swarmed at the end. So towards the end of the third lap I was happy to let my friend take the lead.
It wasn’t a cracking pace and I noticed that my red cap friend was swimming too far left of the downward 2nd buoy. I decided to up the tempo ever so slightly and stay on course and that was enough to get a gap which I held to the end. Very happy with the win and achieving my goal of being first out of the water.
With Amy getting 3rd in the womens sub 30 category, ANZ was able to rack up enough points to win the Swimming Championship title narrowly from Deloitte with Novus Captial.
A picnic with the Wombats back at Albert Park in the ANZ Marquee ws the ideal way to load up after out efforts. The love affair continues.
The Cousins Travel 2013 European Swim Tour spans four weeks and includes the Dardanelles in Turkey, Cinque Terre in Italy, Costa Brava, Ibiza & Formentera in Spain. Cousins is also the proud sponsor of the Great Victorian Swim Series & it was through their generosity and a bit of luck (my name was pulled out of a hat) that I was able to join the group for the Italian leg of the tour.
The Cinque Terre consists of 5 historic seaside villages on the rugged shoreline of the Ligurian Coast. Many choose to discover each of the villages via the narrow, twisty and undulating hiking paths, however this tour was all about getting acquainted with each village from the water.
A relationship established with the Italian Swimming Federation and the 5 Terre Swimming Organisation over the last 4 years has seen the swim series gain in popularity with a growing representation of swimmers from Australian and Italy. Also this year, the Cousins Tour comprised of 13 swimmers from USA which added greatly to the atmosphere & camaraderie of the series.
A summary of the 4 swims follows.
Vernazza to Monterosso
We caught a train south to the next village of Vernazza which is set on the side of the hill. We made our way down to the boat ramp and received a bi-lingual briefing. There was a clear mention that the swim today was “non competitivo”. In my mind that meant that the 2.8km swim would be done at a leisurely pace and that I could drag my camera along and take a few action pics along the way. I thought we would be implementing one of our favourite training drills, much to Naant’s angst, where we would swim to a buoy, regroup, solve a world problem before heading off to the next buoy.
The start was civilised enough and I was hoping to grab a picture of the underwater statue of Jesus which is said to be just 100 metres outside the harbour. Unfortunately I was not unable find it and had to settle on capturing the special commemorative edition of the Funky Trunk bathers instead.
Mean while up front of the swim Naantali Marshall, 6 time winner of the Lorne Pier to Pub, was having a friendly battle with 2 Italians and opened up a heathy gap to the line of swimmers following. Gold Coaster Doug Maclaren found himself in a chase group and was setting a good pace which kept his Italian swimming buddies honest.
I did manage to pick up a few places and was soon swimming stroke for stoke with two Italian swimmers. We too were going along nicely, however the front of the non-competitive race was well and truly out of reach and therefore we had the opportunity to take in the magnificent vistas offered above and below the water.
Cathy was best of the US swimmers and 14 year old Dan Canta did a great job, with Ian Scholes keeping him company, as he completed the 2.8km and avoiding the medusa stingers that he tangled with the previous day.
There was great camaraderie as we shared the post swim refreshments, email addresses and were presented with our finishing medal and cap. Many thanks to Elena from Lagalla for sharing the pics.
Anther non competitive swim and, if it was anything like the previous swim, we would have out work cut out for us as we attempt the 7km circumnavigation of the Isola Palmaria. A lot of planning goes into this event and it is an honour & privilege to be given permission to do this swim.
The Coast Guard & Navy were involved in supporting the event and the local Mayor was on board to help out with the post swim formalities.
The Australian and US contingent were graded based on how we went in the Vernazza-Monterosso swim. I was in the top group along with Naant, Melinda, Anna (Mel’s step daughter), Russell & Doug. The aim was to try and stick together and support one another.
When Naant spotted Monica Olmi (represented Italy at the 1984 Olympics as a 13 year old), the plan had changed slightly. Naant was going to keep an eye on Monica and follow any of her moves. Monica did indeed put on the pace on early to shake Naant, however the gap never was more than 10 to 15 meters.
Mean while Doug & I were swimming side by side following on the heals of two Italian swimmers. Like Naant, the plan was to let the Italians set the pace and see if we could hang on.
The views were spectacular and included the remains of the old monastery, marble faced cliffs & some pretty big ships. There were plenty of distractions and somehow Doug slipped off the pace.
At around 3(?)km Naant was feeling a little flat, however she sensed that Monica was also slowing down. This sparked the racer in Naant. The adrenaline kicked in as the gap was closed down and then reopened but this time in the favour of Nannt which she was able to hold for the remainder of the race.
At the 3km mark, I too sensed my 2 Italian companions were tiring. I kept the pace steady and built up a lead and was soon swimming on my own. I too was able to swim out the 2nd half without being caught and came in 3rd receiving some generous support from the locals.
Once again Cath swam well and was the first of the US swimmers to finish. Russell teamed up with his email pal Giuseppe & the Iron Women Angela who were all smiles at the end of the swim. As was David Morgan-Brooker who worked well with triple crown open water swimmer Becky to go the distance.
Doina Canta and her 14 year old son Dan successfully survived the cutoff times and completed the swim around the island. This was a big goal for these guys as they have only been open water swimming for 2 years.
However the gutsiest swim of the day goes to Jonni “New Lungs” Rolfe. Yep, this bloke suffers from cystic fibrosis and in 2009 underwent a double lung transplant. Jonni is alive today because of the dedicated and skilled staff of the The Alfred Hospital and that a suitable organ donor was found in time. Jonni also highlighted how important the support he and his family received by the HTLV Second Chance Accommodation Program who are raising awareness & funds via 2014 Tour de Transplant Ride and the 2015 Gallipoli Swim Challenge.
This swim was described as being a 1km down to Riomagiore keeping the occasional buoy to the left, turn and head back to where we started. Simple enough, however something must have been lost in the translation as the course was considerably longer. In fact the course as per my GPS tracker ended up being 2.7km. Normally this would no be a big deal, however it was a jam packed day with an afternoon race planned at Monegila.
Manarola is set in the side of a cliff face. There is no beach, it is just rocks and a very steep boat ramp. Once again the number of Italians who attended the friendly swim was impressive and definitely contributed to the contest and the fantastic atmosphere.
A very busy port had us on tender hooks as we awaited the start of the swim. My plan was to stick with Naant for as long as possible so that I get off to a good start & not miss out on the early action. Martinez, one of the Italian guys started out hard and set a good line out of the harbour and I was able to keep Naant within reach. However this didn’t last long as Naant upped the tempo & took the lead. Rather than blow a gasket, I held back and swam with Martinez.
I continued to swim off Martinez and was guilty of toe tapping on more than one occasion. It wasn’t intentional and if anything it was playing havoc with my stroke. I was all over the shop chopping and thrashing my way thru the water to make sure that I kept pace with Martinez.
As we rounded the turning buoy and did an imaginary tumble turn to start the return leg, Martinez and I were still together with Naant holding a 30 metre lead. I did make one feeble attempt to swim off from Martinez, however he was more than capable to respond and kept me within range.
I relied on Martinez’s local knowledge to guide us home. At times we came precariously close to the cliff face and risked scrapping across the rocks. Naantali did not have the same advantage and swam an extra buoy adding around 150 metres to her swim which allowed Martinez & I to reduce the gap at the end to 13 & 14 seconds respectively.
Post race, Martinez was pretty quick to shed his FINA approved swim suit to grab few rays. On the contrary, I thought it was better that I cover up so as not to scare the children.
Another swim, another feast and this time the Italian organisers were presented with Cousins Funky Trunks and a photo opportunity.
It was a bit of a rush job as we caught the train back to Moneglia for the 2nd swim of the day. Officially this is our first race & from the looks of it, it has attracted some swimming talent. A pre-race briefing was soon conducted in Italian and from all account the Aus/US contingent got a special mentioned and recognised by swimmers and spectators.
For some reason, I was half expecting for an English version of the briefing to follow which would describe the course we were to be faced. Nope.. Instead I managed to catch “due, uno, go” signalling the start of the swim.
I was not the only one to be caught out. Naantali was still holding her 9 month old daughter which she handed off rather quickly before she could hit the water.
Fortunately I had a clear line out through the break water and miraculously found the inflatable blue dolphin which marked the first turn. Naant did manage to join 2 male Italians who were swimming hard and built up a quick and convincing lead.
Meanwhile I was leading the 2nd group and had Mel Kemp and Deianira hot on my heels. Without knowing the course, I spent far too much time trying to locate the next inflatable dolphin. This hesitation was enough to see Deianira take the lead with Mel nicely tucked in behind her.
Deianira lead us back trough the break water, however she realised that we were off course & had to doubled back and swam outside of the rock wall break water.
Nannt went on to finnish 3rd behind the young Italian guys of Silvio and Andrea. Mel managed to cut her way through a throng of people cooling off in the shallows to come in fourth. I continued to follow Deianira thru to the finish where she rang the bell to claim the 5th spot while I hung on for 6th.
Some very impressive trophies were presented to Silvio, Andrea & Naant. Everyone received a finisher’s medal and it seemed that almost everyone won a spot prize. I scored a meal voucher to the value of 100€ which I gifted to Franko in appreciation of his contribution in make the swim series such a success.
This race was definitely a terrific way to cap off the swim leg of my Cousins Tour. I have had a wonderful and experience and it is going to make it hard to go back to swimming Port Phillip Bay back at home a little pale in comparison.
I would like to thanks Gina from Cousins for her terrific support for Open Water Swimming and for hosting such a great tour. It was simply amazing.
Water Temp 12.9°.
Winter Pier to Pub Results:
|5||Dave Unwin||20:13||Mt Martha|
|6||Carolyn McGill||20:20||Mt Martha|
|20||Mark A||24:28||Mt Martha|
|22||Jim Allsop||24:40||Mt Martha|
|24||Jodie shanahan||24:50||Mt Martha|
|33||Phil Shanahan||25:27||Mt Martha|
|37||Scott Fyfield||26:53||Mt Martha|
|51||Marg P||35:50||Mt Martha|
Our chants to the Pagan Gods worked a treat as we were blessed with a magnificent ochre sunset, no wind and barley a ripple on the mill pond like bay. The water temperature was a cool 10.7°, however this did not seem the faze the 44 swimmers who were preparing to celebrate the shortest day of the year with a refreshing evening dip in the bay.
The Winter Solstice Swim promoted by Grant Siedel has been running for a couple of years now. I have been swimming regularly for quite a few years now and jumping into cold water at night without a wetsuit on was never high on the list of things I wanted to do. I was more than happy to train at the local pool, follow the black line and compete wearing a wetsuit in the GVSS over the summer.
I first met Grant at the Mt Martha Australia Day Swim where he shared his feelings about wetsuits in no uncertain terms. He would later explain that the message was more about recognising the uneven playing field that the wetsuits create and in fairness, non-wetsuit categories should be offered by the clubs at the summer swim events.
I had spotted the promo flyer for the Solstice swim around 6 weeks ago and after a bit of trash talk banter with Aquagirl and Tiger from the Peninsula Pirates the idea of entering the Solstice swim was put on the table. Both sounded keen and I was reasonably confident that if a soft lap swimmer like me was prepared to give it a go,then surely they would too.
Long story short, they didn’t, I did and it felt like I was on the receiving end of a school yard prank. Tiger’s final words of encouragement were…
I wasn’t really sure what I had got myself into. I asked a couple of my mates who swim with the Icebergers and they said the water will be very cold and it is very important that you get the body acclimatised. This is a process which requires a couple of swims a week for the next 6 weeks. I did manage to get a couple of cold water swims in and, boy, it was indeed one hell of a shock to the system. It was a shock that I find hard to believe that anyone can get used to.
The big day arrives. There is a nice casual vibe as swimmers & volunteers gather around the St Kilda baths in final preparation for the solstice celebration. There are plenty of smiles as swim caps are handed out, numbers assigned and glow sticks are attached to the wrist.
Green flashing beacons marked the extremities of the 1000m course and the brightly lit kayakers were there to help us to navigate in the dark. My understanding of the swim was that we would swim to the far pole, regroup and take off to the next pole. I had visualised that it would be an aquatic version of a conga line and that there would be plenty of people in close proximity as we muddled our way around the course in the dark.
As it tuned out this was not the case. Within minutes of committing to the water & experiencing the now somewhat familiar burning sensation from the cold water needles, I make an attempt to sight the first green flashing beacon & or the lead kayaker. The kayaker was out of sight and there were around 20 green flashing lights to which I could choose from. I head off in the general direction and it was like I picked the $200,000 Gold brief case in a game of Deal-Or-No Deal as I managed to find the first green flashing pole.
But there no was welcoming committee. I turned and headed back towards the St Kilda pier hoping I was on course. The view from the water up to the boulevard was glorious, however it was no match to the super moon that was in full glow which added another dimension to the experience. The moon was obviously another Pagan gift organised by Grant.
Swimming towards the final pole was like nearing the end of a roller coaster ride. You enjoyed the thrill but you do not want it to end. You want to milk all the sensations for as long as you possibly can. The feeling of being alone, in the dark, not knowing where you are heading are all lifted as hand hits sand, you stand, emerge from the water and drudge up the beach to the welcoming hot pools & steam rooms of the South Pacific Health club to thaw out.
However it was chatting with other swimmers afterward over a couple of drinks where the passion and commitment of cold water swimming was made real for me. I was lucky enough to meet Libby O’Farrell who is heading off this week to swim the English Channel. I also met Mike Gregory & Andrew Vidmar who both successfully swam the Channel in 2010 and 2011 respectively. I also heard about how Andrew and Mick swam across the bay for no apparent reason and that Mick is 6 weeks away from his tide window for a double crossing of the Channel.
When I was a kid I remember seeing pictures of Des Renford preparing and finishing the English Channel Swim. At the time I understood it was a significant achievement, however I never really had any perspective of what it would take to actually complete the task. My brief chats with Libby, Mick and Andrew provided a small glimpse into their world which has helped me understand the planning, logistics & effort required to undertake such a mammoth task. Simply incredible!!!
A 5k Swim wearing a wetsuit pales into significance.
Winter Pier to Pub? mmm.. Don’t think so.
Today was supposed to be a recovery day. The plan was to go for a nice quiet ride to Brighton and have a dip in the bay and round off my cold water acclimatisation program in preparation for next weeks Winter Solstice Swim.
However, it seems today is one of the biggest days in the cold water swimming fraternity. Well in Melbourne anyway. Today is the day where the various Iceberger clans gather at the Brighton baths and swim for glory.
My cold water training to date has been from the Royal Brighton Yacht Club with the Clan colloquially referred to as the Yachtbergers. Other groups include the Black Icebergers who hail from Black rock and I spotted a couple of swimmers wearing the Bondi Icebergers budgie smugglers.
There were 3 races on today’s program.
- The Ice Cube Dash, described as a fun, friendly, informal 170m dash from the back platform and is open to swimmer of all ages.
- The Des Couch Half Mile (3 laps), named in honour of Des Couch, a lifelong Brighton Iceberger who enjoyed his daily swims at the Brighton Baths for over 60 years.
- The Harry Raisbeck Winter Mile (6 laps), named in honour of Harry Raisbeck, a lifelong swimmer and much loved President of the Brighton Icebergers who swam at the baths until he was 99 years of age.
It was a cool 8° with local readings saying it was as low as 7° and therefore the water temperature of 11.7° should be like a spa bath right. Not so.. After a tippy toe wade, the first dunk of the head in the water is a killer. You can’t think about, you just need to do it as if you were doing a bungy jump. Once you are submerged, the air is squashed out of your lungs and all your nerve endings are pinging as if you are a pin cushion.
You then need to keep moving, keep breathing, look up, keep calm, find a clear path and swim to first marker. It was pretty busy around the first orange buoy, but after that it was pretty clear and I was able to concentrate more on swimming and avoiding moving into a hypothermic state.
The mile is 6 laps around a rectangular circuit within the pen which would be the cycling equivalent to a criterium except you do not have someone ringing a bell when you have one lap to go. Therefore, keeping count of your own laps adds an element of difficulty to the task which you do not want to stuff up.
After completing the 5th lap, the imaginary bell goes off in my head and I mentally record I have got one more to go.. I finish the last lap and the imaginary bell goes off again.. Do I need to do another? There was fleeting moment I thought about going around again but then snapped out of it and headed for shore.
Once on the shore people are waving their arms, pointing, giving me directions. Absolutely no idea what they were saying or what they wanted me to do. Then Don, with his Vana exercise book, is writing down names and times. I try and say my name.. but it is not coming out. He writes down something, but his writing is cryptic and I am not certain I have been recorded or not. Then someone hands me a hot coffee and I no longer care.
In the end, Don did get manage to scratch my name down & overall I came in 17th place with a time of 24:30. 4:30 behind John van Wisse who won the race in a cool 20 minutes flat. Sister Tammy was 90 seconds behind in 2nd place.
|1||John Van Wisse||020:00||Baths||50|
|2||Tammy Van Wisse||021:30||Baths||49|
|19||Rion Van Zyl Smit||024:41||Other||32|
|54||Amy Jones (wetsuit)||030:31||Other||1|
|60||Callum Bryan 12 yo (wetsuit)||034:23||Other||1|
The Baths (582) take the Iceberger bragging rights over RBYC (560) and the Others (142).
Brooksy, the music man, was busy taking pics & recording the action. He is one funny dude and I can’t wait to see this year production if last years is anything to go by.