I started swimming in 2012, following an invitation to a wedding in Greece. I wanted to take some sort of tour while I was there, and while doing some research, I came across an article about swimming tours. Swimming between the Greek Islands, you say? I could do that!
While I was there I met some fabulous people who told tales of their swim squads, which sounded a lot like cults to me. I wasn't far wrong. Upon my return, I consulted some good friends who were very accomplished swimmers, and they both pointed me in the direction of Vladswim. Within 5 months, I was doing my first 10km race. I've been hooked ever since.
If you're thinking of taking up the hobby (developing an addiction...), I hope that this site will answer some of your questions, and give you a bit of an understanding of my water-logged existence.
I train with Vladswim in Sydney, Australia. Seriously the best bunch of people ever, and brilliant coaches to boot.
I swim five times a week; four mornings in the pool and one in the ocean.
The pool sessions run 6-7.30am at the picturesque Andrew 'Boy' Charlton pool during summer, and Victoria Park during winter. We cover about 5km each day. This creeps up to 9km/session in my biggest training week.
On Saturday mornings we go to one of Sydney's beaches to swim longer distances. We're accompanied by kayakers who help with navigation and feeding. Here's a video taken at Shelly beach.
I thrive on routine, I really do. The packing of the bag each night, the breakfasts in Tupperware, the 5am alarm, the early morning chats, Vlad's cheery greetings... I love it all. It's not for everyone, but it works for me.
I eat every 30 minutes during long swims. I stop, tread water, and my kayaker throws me my food, which I try to eat/drink in 30 seconds or so.
I'm still fine-tuning my nutrition, but it generally includes:
Torq gels and drink
Each weekday swim burns about 4,500 kJ / 1,000 Cal, so I have a voracious appetite. There's a drawer full of Whittaker's chocolate at my workplace. Convenient.
Jellyfish are the worst. The absolute worst. They're basically unavoidable, and so common in the waters where we swim. And they're probably going to take over the world. There's not much that you can do to avoid them. I'm going to experiment with barrier cream, which might protect against the little ones, but are unlikely to help when I run into a jimble.
I'm also scared of getting hit by boats, particularly during busy races like Rotto. My paddler keeps me safe by bashing on the side of the offending boats if they get too close. Foolproof strategy, right?
Being exposed to the sun for 6+ hrs while swimming is really not good for you. There aren't many creams that will stay on for that long in the water. I'm still experimenting with brands.
Yes, there are sharks in the water. I've never seen (a scary) one. Sometimes the thought occupies my mind. Those are bad days.
I love data. Data is my thing. So part of my routine is making sure that my records are up to date. For the last few years I've used a Garmin Forerunner 910XT. On the whole, it worked, but it was so buggy and recently got into the habit of forgetting some of my workouts and not uploading them. And the online platform was ugly.
In late November '16 I bought an Apple Watch. The series 2 watches are waterproof and can be used for open water swims. On the downside, I'm worried about smashing the screen when the pool lanes are busy, and the battery isn't going to last through the long swims.
English Channel, July 2018
Rottnest Channel, 19.7km, February 2018
SCAR, 4 day event, April 2017
Rottnest Channel, 19.7km, February 2017
Balmoral Vladswim Challenge, 10km, December 2016
5 Beaches swim, 5km, Coogee to Bondi, December 2016
Sri Chinmoy National Capital swim, 9km, Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, December 2016
Rottnest Channel swim, 19.7km, Western Australia, February 2016
Hong Kong Clean Half, 15km, Hong Kong, October 2014
Swimtrek Long Distance Training Camp, Mallorca, April 2014
This is not a solo sport. Think that all you need is a pair of goggles and some swimmers? Think again.
No way in the world I'd be doing this without my coaches and buddies at squad. No way. They're the best. They've changed my life.
Weekly massages with Michal keep my body working.
Paddlers feed me, point me in the right direction, and keep me going for the whole time. I think they're crazy. They think I'm crazy. It works. They're amazing, and so generous.
When you find a good support person, you've hit the jackpot. They have your socks and beanie ready when you get out of the water, they've already prepped meals for when you get home, they anticipate your every need. Mischee, who will be on the boat in the English Channel asked me, in March, for a list of my favourite recipes so that she could perfect them before July. I mean... Just... Amazing.
I talk about swimming a lot. My friends, family and colleagues have to listen to me. They're very tolerant and very supportive, and I love them for that.