Swim distance 1.9km, deep water start in Roy's Bay, Lake Wanaka
Well I only got over my irrational fear of swimming in the lake with my head in the water and eyes open, the sunday before race day. Prior to that I was freaked out about what I might possibly see down there. Intellectually I knew nothing could hurt me, emotionally it was a different story!
Anyway, I woke at 2.20am on race day and heard the wind. The day before had shown ideal conditions. I cringed, knowing that the bad weather option was running 5km along Waterfall creek wasn't a good option for this non runner with an ongoing ankle injury.
I dozed on and off until 5.30am when I felt REALLY nervous! Tried to have a good breakfast at 6am, managed to get half of it down by 6.30am.
Rounded up the family and my gear and got down to the transition area and got changed. Headed to the water with one of those crazed nervous smiles on my face. Had a great time with our runner Vicky helping me to get my caps gear on and chatting to all those lovely people who came down to watch.
The water was grey and choppy with rolling waves.
Said my farewells to my loyal supporters and went out to the deep water start. Chatted to a lady beside me - she'd thought ahead and put on her sea sickness bands. There I was treading water nervously thinking....how big do the waves get before they can the wet course!!!!
HONK. And away we went. I got about 100m before the sea sickness started to creep in. I tried swimming waterpolo style. When I have my head down there's nothing solid to focus on, fixation on a solid object helps to balance the disordered vestibular system. Waterpolo style didn't work with the size of the waves.
I flicked between back stroke and side stroke....all the while my mind was FREAKING OUT! I'd get bounced up to the top of a wave, then buffeted down the backside of the wave, putting me into a nose dive through the next wave. The waves were so close together.
I tried to calm my mind...which worked until a man not far from me got into distress. He couldn't put his hand up to signal the kayaker who was looking the other way and kept bobbing out of view over the waves. I put my hand up and hollered for her, yelling "get him, Hey he needs help". That's when I realised how few support kayakers were around.
I think that threw my mental game and I started thinking about getting a boat ride back in. If I had been an individual I would have - but I so didn't want to pull the pin on my team.
I chugged on, back stroke (with my head raised to the waves slammed into the back of my head and not over my face which was gasping for breaths). Flipping over to side stroke periodically to sight my line to the corner marker.
I started to feel dizzy with the sea sickness. I raised my hand for the kayaker, she came over and I held onto her bow for a moment or two. Caught my breath then realised I had only 3 marker buoys to the corner. I tried to slug on into the waves free style, but it just made my sea sickness worse.....breakfast was fighting to come up, I was fighting it down - there was enough fish food in the lake already.....and some of it was up my nose and in my lungs.
It's hard to gasp for a breath between waves whilst coughing up water.
Panic was setting in. Every now and then there was two or three bigger waves that just crashed right over me. I signaled to the support boat again. I held on for a while until I was sure my breakfast would stay down, the smell of the exhaust from the IRB motor was sickening too.
Then I broke free and pushed onto the first corner. 500m down....1400 to go. Can I really do this, shit, how long have I been out here, can I make the time cut off? Shit, Debbie will have to make up all my extra time to meet her cut off. The swell is getting bigger! If I could have just swum it faster, then I would be on my way in by now and be missing these bigger waves.
The support kayaker was just there, she calls to me to swim buoy to buoy, I am allowed to hold onto them. I rest on a buoy - then slug onto the next one. Back stroking means I can see the big waves coming and time my breaths to them, whilst I roll sideways up and over them.
I pass a man in a red cap....he's an individual full, he's been out here a while. I call my support to him, he manages a half-smile and I see him slide down the back of a wave, then he bobs back into view and continues on in his breast stroke. I look up at the mountains to fix my sight the roll over onto my front for a few moments of free style.
I skip a few buoys and managing to keep a straight line make the far corner buoy, the last few metres in doggie paddle. 1000m done! 900m to go. Over half way.
I rest on the corner and chat to a lady in a spectator boat. She feels empathetic to my sea sickness, she says she was wondering how that was going to be for people.
This next leg is the shortest leg, but I must be now reaching my goal time of 45 minutes! ARSE AND DAM IT! People will be out of the water now...I so wish I was one of them.
I backstroke whilst I watch the waves catch me, they are still huge but not getting any bigger now. I need to rest on the kayakers bow again - she's worried my weight holding on will tip her out too,as my weight on the bow is pulling her broadside to the waves, so I let go and hold onto a buoy. Not far to the corner buoy. I freestyle it again, I see patches of shadows...it must be shallower here. Then I see a random white bucket tied to rope, it takes me a while to figure out it's the anchor for the corner buoy. The way the Red Bull blow up buoy is pushing over the orange buoy means I can't hold onto that one, I breaststroke and doggie paddle to the next buoy. I need the kayaker again I'm so fatigued. It's the homeward stretch but I'm all out of energy. I fight back the tears - I hope my team aren't disappointed in me.
The kayaker asks me if I want a ride in....I seriously consider it. I ask about the time - she doesn't have a watch and tells me not to think about that 'You have heaps of time' (yeah right I think) and tells me not to worry about my team mates. She wants me to swim buoy to buoy, breaststroke might be easier but it makes the waves break into my face. I roll between backstroke, sighting in side stroke and doggie paddling the last few metres to each buoy. I'm so dam close to finishing but I want so badly to quit. I don't want to slug on if I've passed the time cut off, but I want to finish if I can do it within time. Suddenly around the buoy come a crowd of orange swim caps. Here come the top swimmers of the Full distance teams. I slug on in back stroke, a few orange swimmers pass me - rolling up and down the waves. Whilst back stroking I fling my arm into one of them....opps. I can see the tall BlueSeventy buoy, but the kayaker directs me to the white Red Bull buoy telling me I have t go around it....I'm sure I don't, because the orange caps have to swim around it the opposite way to me - but I kind of have to slug on towards it because the kayaker is herding me there. She paddles off to help some other people and set them onto course. I can now start to see people on the shore....they're all blurry. I rest on a buoy and pull my goggles up for a better view. The kayaker comes back and asks if I'm getting too cold....I feel fine - temperature wise. I think that hot feeling you get before you throw up is keeping my body temperature up. I am probably bright red in the face but I still feel green.
A few sets of really big rollers come in. It must be gusts of stronger winds blowing them up, because I thought the 'every seventh set is a big one' theory only applied to the ocean.
They wash over me causing me to cough, I wretch on my breakfast but keep it down. I marvel at these top team swimmers - how do they just get their bodies to roll with the waves. Lying flat in freestyle lets the body roll over these sideways waves, I wish I had something on the bottom to fix my eyes on to stabilise my vestibular system.
Not far now....two buoys to the white red bull buoy, then a straight line into the large BlueSeventy one, 100m from shore.
I rest on one more buoy before I make it to beside the Red Bull one, the orange caps are going around it on their left, I can't go around it with them there confirming my suspicions that the kayaker directed me wrong. I tread water for a moment then push onto the orange BlueSeventy buoy, I pop my head up to sight the tall trees in line with the buoy, I correct my line slightly and swim around it. I hear the crowds on the shore. I see the shapes of two people in red near the exit carpet.
I push on in freestyle the waves are heaps smaller here, I can see things on the bottom - yeah things to fix on. I kick hard with my legs, ready for the run. My hand grazes the stones on the bottom. For a moment I feel like scooping up a handful and throwing them back out at the lake in disgust.
I've made it to dry land....FINALLY! I hadn't trained in backstroke. 1.9km of mixed inefficient strokes without any training in choppy water!
|Exiting the water and running to the transition - legs like jelly|
I stumble out of the water and start running up the path. People are cheering and clapping...I feel embarrassed. It's a sea of faces and shapes. I try to focus on them to see if I can see Angel, Darling Hubby (to be), Cherub and anyone else that I recognise.
I see my Mum's blue top out of the corner of my eye, then I hear someone yell my name, I turn to see Susan cheering me on, I try to smile....it probably looks like a grimace.
I run past the red bags, someone calls 'do you have a pick up' I pant out 'No'. I see two red bags there....does that mean I'm not the last out!!!! I so hope so.
I pull myself up the ramp. I think I ask the marshal on the top if I've made the time limit. No one seems to know.
I have to walk down the far side of the ramp for fear of slipping and bouncing down on my arse...I don't need anymore embarrassment today! I see Philippa ushering me into the womans change tent. I stagger in and look for the exit, there it is. Nearly there. That thought makes me smile to myself....it's nearly over for me!
I emerge from the tent and see Vickys team top. Debbie is there ready to bike. I try to wave, they haven't seen me yet.
I stumble up and lean on the bike racks, whilst pulling up my wetsuit leg for the transponder. Vicky or Debbie take it off and I watch as Debbie puts it on. They tell me the time....I've made the cut off with time to spare. That makes me smile a half-smile - I'm still disappointed with myself.
I apologise profusely for my tardiness and wish Debbie luck on her ride. Vicky, Glen and I watch her run off out of the transition. I tell Vicky that wind is going to suck for her, Vicky agrees then gives me a well done you've done it hug.
I walk over to the chain fencing to see my proud family. Proud, why are they proud of me, I sucked big time. That was my worst swim ever.
Darling Hubby (to be) passes me my change bag and Vicky and I head into the recovery tent. I'm sneezing out lake water.
Vicky helps me change (Thanks Vicky), I don't think I could have on my own.
I think the momentum of running up from the lake has helped my motion sickness. But when I sit down the ground is moving. I get food and water into me then walk out of the tent. I'm done! That picks up my spirits - the nerves, fears and anxiety have now gone from my summer holiday. I sucked but I did it, no A+......a C- maybe.
Thanks to all of the people who supported me, cheered me on and believed in me. A special thanks to the lovely support kayaker who stuck by me. Thanks to Jules for being such an amazing Team Manager and organiser, Plunket and any committee in the future will be so dam lucky to have her - and Thanks for having tissues in your car for my trickling sinuses.....still no fish have emerged ;)
Maybe I'll volunteer for Challenge Wanaka next year, to give back...rather than drain resources!
Well done to my awesome team mates. Debbie for smiling your great wide smiles on the bike, even into the gruelling wind (and making the time cut off, I think, despite your delayed start!) and Vicky for being able to run so strong - and for pulling out the strength to carry Jack down the finishers chute.
|We did it, even in challenging windy weather. Finished - time to celebrate.|
Today the front of my neck is killing me from trying to keep my head up in back stroke to make the waves break into the back of my head rather than over my face.....aside from a few sore muscles and squeaky clean sinuses I have lived to tell the tale!
Over and Out.