Wow! Such a big month in the journey to Rottnest. I’ve swam 45km in the past 3 and a half weeks including my first open water event in Rockingham.
Two weeks before the event i tried to do 10km in one day, split between two pool venues and multiple sets. It was not successful, primarily due to my ongoing left shoulder issue and my own fear that i was pushing it too much for little gain. Although i know Prue is an excellent physiotherapist, especially with swimmers, I’m unsure if the trips down to Cottesloe were as beneficial as i would have liked. I was very sore for 3 days after some dry needling and the session following that was closer to a remedial massage with some land based rehab exercises that again, I’m unsure they are improving the situation (i’m still doing them though!).
I also went for a deep tissue massage that was quite good and freed up the entire back, shoulder neck area in a more general way. Although i felt i had taken positive steps, i was very unsure how i’d go in my first event. Even with this uncertainty i still mentally pumped myself up and stuck to the thought that it’s nothing more than a 4 hr training swim to get experience in the open water.
As some of you know i had signed up for a 10km ocean swim as my first event, they had shorter options but my thinking was, there are 3 possible outcomes. A) i fail to finish but get some experience and a better sense of where I’m at with training. B) i finish and get 10km of training in but fail to qualify. C) I finish, qualify and get a real boost to my confidence. The race couldn’t of gone much better! I was a little panicked in the first 1km as dozen and dozens of males and then females rocketed by me (the women had to start a little while behind the men’s start as it was a national qualifier event). I soon settled into a pace and tried to ignore the constant stream of women going by! By the time the lead men’s pack and swimmers were lapping me i was totally into my own rhythm and race that i hardly noticed them.
My shoulder didn’t start to become a factor until i had already completed almost 7.5km, by that point i had stopped for fuelling twice, knew i was way ahead of the qualifying pace and felt great so i just relaxed a little and tried to manage the discomfort. The last lap was exhilarating, i knew i’d finish, i knew i’d qualify and i even had juice in the tank to swim down a few people in front of me including one lady i out-sprinted the last 200m or so! To say i was elated and proud is an understatement. I had to finish in 4 hours and 15 minutes, my time ended up being 3 hours and 23 minutes!
I was also concerned (still am) about hypothermia and the danger it represents to not only finishing but death. Although no one has died from hypothermia in the swim, many have had to be resuscitated, air lifted back to Perth and even medically put into a coma for many days. The main reason it’s so dangerous is the swimmer will not be consciously aware at the time of how far into hypothermia they’ve gone because they become confused and disorientated. During this 10km event, two of my fingers went numb and were stinging a bit and my left foot felt a little numb at one point but, after the half way point, i had increased my effort and stroke rate a bit and all of that went away. I was doing mental math in my head to “check on myself” but i bet i wasn’t even in the early stages, better safe than sorry.
What made the day even better was the community support i received from the Perth City swim club, Kristen and I decided it was too difficult for the girls to be dragged down to Rockingham at 6am and not back until close to 2pm, so i didn’t have any support for feeding. By the time we were ready to head towards the starting area i had found 2 people willing to help and Dan was there for me every 2.5km to encourage, offer me sustenance and timing information. When i finished, three of the main club figures were hanging around to give me a high five and congratulate me well after they had finished!
I over celebrated with 2 bacon double cheeseburgers and a sundae from Hungry jacks on the way home, washed down with 4 double jack and coke cans cracked open as soon as i got back to our house. I was honestly surprised at how well the event went i didn’t care. We also had friends staying with us from Bali so i continued my celebration and over indulgence until they left on Tuesday evening, by which point, i felt horrible physically and also noticed, mentally. That week i was very sore in the left shoulder for almost 3 days which remains the biggest hurdle to solve and overcome. I then noticed the thought pattern of beating up on myself for “taking two steps forward and 3 backwards”. The thoughts start to spiral and build until I’m literally berating myself, which, i have come to recognise as a sign, I’m out of balance and need to take steps to improve my mental health a bit more.
I’ve discovered over the years that many people who have not had support around mental health are not consciously aware of how anxiety and depression creeps into their lives. Being able to recognise the patterns for myself has been one of the best tools i’ve developed. Examples of this would be, when i notice myself being overwhelmed easier and more frequently, when i find myself talk becoming more negative and self critical when i find myself avoiding social occasions in favour of rest and Netflix, when i reach my self selected “upper weight limit” because it generally means i’ve been self medicating with sugar and alcohol and lastly, when i find adequate sleep in no way sufficient to feel refreshed and energised.
As a jumpstart back onto the positive, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for some online swim video analysis from a great coach in Brisbane which, i feel, has already been useful and a step in the right decision. The week following the event i only did 2km on Wednesday (which felt horrible) and another 4km on Saturday morning, i tried to shake it off, start fresh, highlight the positives, plan for the week ahead and be gentler with myself. These steps generally work to some degree but more importantly they more often than not at least halt the downward spiral effects. In this instance it worked and this week has been the best week thus far. I swam Monday, Tuesday Morning, Thursday morning and Thursday night for a total of 13 kilometres. The plan is to hit roughly 20km for each week between now and the end of January. I’ve also be increasing my stretching, mobility and Pilates core work which has helped me recover better!
If that wasn’t all enough great news… I also hit another milestone this week, half way to my fundraising efforts for livin.org!