It was a fast Rottnest Channel swim this year, but certainly not an easy one. The day before the race, word spread that it was going to be a quick swim, with the wind forecast to push us towards the island. But after the high expectations of last year, I didn’t put too much faith in the rumours.
I was in Wave 5 – the final solo wave – which left the beach at 6.15. Des (my paddler extraordinaire) and I had a meet-plan which, upon reflection, wasn’t exactly water-tight. I told him I’d swim fast… and so he should just find me near the front of the wave. A dumb plan, but it worked. I caught his eye after a couple of hundred metres and he shadowed me on the other side of the buoys until he was allowed into the swim channel. We met with the boat – skippered by Brett and crewed by Dad – without a problem
I had set myself the challenge of learning the NATO phonetic alphabet during the swim – a task I had initially set myself three years ago and never got around to – so I had three letters taped to each of my feeds. I didn’t think about anything other than the alphabet, Miley Cyrus’ “Malibu” and Kesha’s “Woman” for the whole swim (you can’t choose your earworm…). And now I know the alphabet. Backwards and forwards.
It was a bumpy ride all the way to Rotto. The wind was blowing from the south east, pushing me in the right direction, but also whipping up the ocean. It was tough swimming. All too often, my left arm would get caught in a wave coming over the top of me, so it was difficult to find a smooth stroke. But I kept reminding myself that the wind was helping me, and I shouldn’t resent it.
I was hoping to finish the race in six hours, but when I stopped for my five hour feed, I was right at the 18km buoy. I did some quick maths and realised that if I could do 1.7km in half an hour, I’d break five and a half hours. I was still feeling good and managed to hold a strong pace through to the sand, finishing in 5 hours, 25 minutes, 12.99 seconds. That’s one hour forty-four minutes less than 2017 (7 hrs 9 mins), and one hour four minutes less than 2016 (6 hours 29 mins). Happy with that!
There’s a great podcast / review of the race here, featuring the female and male winners (Heidi Gan and Solomon Wright), who, I was surprised to hear, eat every 20 minutes. I think that part of the reason that my brain didn’t wander was that my feeds are working out. Tara is working her magic and the balance seems to be there.
I did not, however, look after myself well enough after the swim. I enjoyed being able to have a couple of glasses of wine and I didn’t eat as well as I should have. As a result, I felt pretty awful for the two weeks after the race. I came good in the third week, and I’m back in form now.
The count-down to the English Channel is now in double-digits, which is just a little bit terrifying. 98 days to go (give or take). At this point, I think I’m more scared by the training load in May and June (45-55km/week), than the swim.
I’m off to Cold Camp at the end of the month to do my qualifying swim (six hours under 16c) so I’ve started visiting a plunge pool which rests at just under 12c. None of the words in that sentence are good words. “Cold Camp” is as bad as it sounds. A six hour, <16c qualifying swim – also unfun. And the plunge pool? Well, actually not as awful as I expected it to be.
Thank you and condolences
My Rotto crew this year featured Brett, Des, Mum and Dad, with special guest appearances by Claire and Stephen – old friends who came to say hello on Rottnest Island. Thank you all. And, of course, thanks to my Vladswim coaches, Rich, my swimming family, and the generous friends who paddled for me in training swims.
A number of swimmers were pulled out of the water, thanks to a large shark that joined the race alongside some soloists in Wave 5 and some of the faster duos and teams. Similarly, swimmers in the Port to Pub – a race that takes a similar course but a few weeks later – had to abandon their swim due to poor weather conditions. It’s heartbreaking to put in so much training only to have your big day ruined by something outside of your control. Such a rough trot. Congratulations on making it through the training – a feat in itself.