It should have been just a last 2.5km rehearsal before the Masters State Championships. I wasn’t aiming at an astonishing time, just at a honestly good one. And who knows? Maybe also a good placement in the open category. But really, more than anything else I just wanted to turn this Coogee beach round into one more good ocean competition under the belt. And it turned out the be a really good learning experience indeed.
What can go wrong?
The ocean is silent and you can hear just a light whispering breeze. Below the turquoise surface, starfishes sleep on the sand. There is a nice relaxing and favorable current when going and only some chops when coming in the 1.25 km loop, to repeat twice. Water is a refreshing 20C degree under a scorching 37C sun . As the merchandise guy is saying, “they can do the world record today”.
Most people signed up for the 5 km, not for the 2.5 km. We are not that many on the start line and the beginning is relatively easy. But just a moment after the horn sound one of us is already too far head, so I decide to keep the situation under control (am I able? Really?) and proceed on my pace, which is not completely relaxed but it’s still considerably low. I stay around the 2nd position for 200~300 meters (not sure, but that’s what I was assuming), until another swimmer appears on my right side.
He seems much faster than me, but then I realize that I can easily keep up with his speed without much efforts (is he in my same category? He looks older than me…). I decide to stay just behind him, to draft and to see what happens (so sorry for lurking and touching you a few times on feet and legs, I know it’s not etiquette but it was not intentional). Sometimes we overtake swimmers from the earlier waves, but except this everything else proceeds smoothly and under control for other 1.8 km (there are some chops in the last tract, but that is part of the game). Pace is rising and now that the finish line is approaching it’s time to give it all. It has been a quiet, not too difficult, funny and interesting race, let’s wrap it up properly. What can go wrong?
What can go wrong:
Well, I have never been good at seeing buoys. And neither at recognizing them. And maybe I was in a hurry. Anyway, I give all my best at turning around the last buoy marking 80 meters from the out-of-water finish line. The problem is that it is not the last buoy. I swim several meters toward the shore before seeing a surf life saver raising her hands and pointing at me…and laughing…and then indicating another direction. I have gone the wrong way. I have wasted an incredible amount of time. A lot, really. I go back towards the real last buoy, I realize I still have 300 meters to swim, but by now I have already ruined my race. And even if in those real last 300 meters I get stung by a stinger on my left arm and shoulder, I am so upset with myself that I don’t mind (I was so angry that it’s likely the stinger got hurt instead) and eventually cross the finish arch on the beach. 2.5 km (maybe 2.8 or more?), 37’16”, 8th overall male, 4th in the open category (18~34 years old). And some light red marks on my shoulder. Today no time or position to take home, just lessons.
Things to take home today
Buoys are of different colours for a good reason. I noticed once out of the water that the last buoy is orange and white, while the one I turned at is all orange. I need to become a better observer and I also need to learn that even on easy-looking races nothing is given for granted.
My next meet is in two weeks, I’ll be better going in advance to have a swim at Fremantle South Beach and check out there.
Draft is good for you. It makes things easier, but it doesn’t avoid the mistake of taking another direction.
Stingers are there. Some may hurt a lot, some others not much. Good thing to know. It was the first time ever I had been stung by a stinger, and I was lucky that it was a mild one. I need to be prepared for these too in the future.
Do not put in your earplugs too early if the temperature is 37C degrees: you will start sweating and you will have to put them in place again and again. Really annoying.
Thanks to the members of the surf life saving club. They set up the race field, they caught me going in the wrong direction, they gave me ice to put on the stinger’s souvenir. Thanks to be so awesome.