Often the most unprepared activities are the ones that turn out to be the most fun. There is not that huge build up of anticipation and fear - but rather and unknowing ease or beginners naivety. Whatever the case, when the idea was brought up to me during a massage with Kristen I got terribly excited about doing something I had not even dreamed of. I was already planning on doing the 3km but the concept of swimming 5km straight, thrilled me and scared me all at the one time. Swimming that distance in a squad set is very different to swimming it continuously without the aid of a wall to tumble turn off. But I was up for the challenge.
The Bridge to Bridge 3km is the competitive component of the day - you can then choose to do the swim through to the 5km mark. When I arrived at the Regatta Centre and saw how far up the markers were I must admit to feeling slightly anxious. It was so far away but the great thing is that the water is never choppier than the wind that is occurring on the day. So luckily it was nice and calm with a shower happening. It was great to catch up with a few friends on the day too who were participating and supporting - Clair, Louise & Andrew, Andrea & Rodney, Marc, Alan & Karen, Jen, Kimberlee & Brent, Kate & Paul. Plus my family as always was there to support me. Their un-waivering faith in me is something I can never live without.
Before too long it was time to get in the water and find myself a spot where I knew I would feel comfortable. I sat myself to the far right of the first turn can and just tried to get as much clear water between me and the mass of arms and legs. As I turned that first can I kept looking up regularly until I started to notice a bit of a break that I could squeeze into. When I finally got in, I honed in the underwater rope that held up the row of small bouys. That way the only time I needed to sight was actually just to see how far the next turn can was away.
My goal for the first 3km's was to kick a nice good pace. Consistent rhythm, nice long and powerful strokes without overdoing it too much as A) I havent swum 3km in one hit and B) I still had the 5km to make. The first 3km's actually went by quite quickly. I spent the time singing, trying to spot fish and spotted the occasional floating yellow cap. I also spent the time imagining what it was going to be like swimming the 3.8km at Ironman and I tried to stay focused on keeping my breathing under control so then I could know what it would feel like.
I also tried to set small goals along the way like - trying to catch the person infront of me without using up too much energy. It was quite exciting to get a little competitive in the water and feel that I could make some headway. When I set my sights on a person in front of me, it was really cool to start spotting those little bubbles in the water which indicated that I was finally catching up to them. And then when I passed them, then I tried to get catch up with someone else.
As I reached the end of the 3km mark, a tiny little voice inside my head said "you can stop now, you dont have to do the whole lot". "Pfftttt, as if" said the other little voice, and with that I swam under the finish sign and made my way around again for the last 2kms.
The next 2kms were a bit more challenging in that the first turn can up the top end just never seemed to arrive and my that stage I started to get a bit of a hand cramp in both hands. I could only imagine that they resembled a birds claw after it had dropped off it's perch and taken it's finally flight to bird heaven. I tried to open my fingers and give them a bit of a stretch as I was swimming and before too long they settled down thankfully, but not before my feet started to do the same. I was also starting to get a bit thirsty. So to take my mind off of it I started to try to gain ground on the 3 people who were just ahead.
Little by little I inched my way closer until I finally overtook them too and then it was onto the home stretch. As I reached the pontoon just in front of the grandstand I noticed 2 very familiar faces screaming my name - Stephen and Clair. Clair had finished her cycling class at the gym not long before and came to give me support. Seeing those faces made me give it one last crack and I swam straight for that finish line. As I tapped the sign I had just realised what I had accomplished. Even though my arms were dead, I couldn't stop smiling. That was until it all hit me - system overload and it all started to switch off 3, 2, 1. Thanks Stephen for the sequential shots.
Could I have been happier - at that point I thought not. It wasn't until they started to call the age champions that I was called out as the first placegetter for the 35-39yr old women in both the 3km and 5km. I was so stoked. I had no clue. Kurt my son had kept that little secret from me as he had seen my name on the board about 30mins before.
3km - 47:145km - 1:22:27
I really enjoyed the 5km swim - I had alot of time to think and to just be. I realised how much I love being in the water - how at home I feel. No pressures, no stresses. Just being me. It made me have really good insight into myself and what I enjoy most- and it was good as the next few days were going to test me.