I am currently in Australia writing my book and this Saturday I was invited to train with 3 of Sydney's best marathon swimmers. I was pretty excited...I knew I would have to try really hard to keep up and I was so glad they asked me to come along. It was beautiful out- mid 80s. Not a cloud in the sky. The pristine water was a gorgeous deep blue and warm for Sydney- around 70 degrees. Dori's plan was to swim "two and a half to 3 and a half - more if I feel good."
"What does that mean?", I asked.
"It DOESN'T mean 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 k if that's what you're thinking", Thorsten said.
Ok...guess we're swimming long! Glad I had lunch and brought some water...
We started at Bondi Beach, taking our time cutting through light chop and then heading right. The plan was to swim a few beaches down and then swim back, get some water and then do "Bondi laps". Swimming loops of around 2k.
From the start, Dori pulled ahead (she is training for a double crossing of the English Channel). She swam confidently towards a rocky peninsula. I thought Matt was on her feet and Thorsten was behind me. The chop picked up and we started swimming towards some big waves slamming into rocks. I glanced up. It wasn't Matt on Dori's feet. It was Thorsten and they were pulling away- a good 8 yards ahead. I started to get really nervous. My mind drifted and I started to worry about sharks. Why, oh why, must I always worry about sharks?!?
Thankfully, Matt was swimming behind me and when he moved around to start bridging the gap I sprinted and grabbed his foot.
"Matt, be my swim partner!!!!", I yelled.
"OK," he said...in swim speak that's the equivalent of me crying, "Please don't leave meeee!!!"
On we went, riding up and down on huge crests of waves. The waves pounded the black rocks and Dori stopped. We all caught up and treaded water, me pulling my feet close up to my chest still worrying. Dori said it looked like there were lots of rocks around and that we were going to have to swim out wide. She was right, there seemed to be rocks everywhere even though me were so far from shore. Again, my anxiety creeped up. A black helicopter flew over head and all I kept wondering was if there were sharks in the area. Was there a shark in the area?
Matt knew what I was going to say and said not to worry- that white helicopters meant sharks. Great.
Everyone was super kind. It's very mentally challenging swimming in a brand new area and they knew what I was going through. Swimming in unfamiliar territory can be extremely nerve wracking.
I tried to calm down when we decided to swim two beaches away down the coast. While I swam I had quite the conversation going on in my head. I was telling myself to suck it up, swim faster, stop being such a baby...I could tell Matt was swimming easy so I could be near him and panic was making me swim slower and slower...but I kept going! We were now in much bigger waves. Pro only not for beginners waves. They pushed strongly towards shore and we rode them as we angled to the right.
We stopped. I looked at my watch- almost 29 minutes since we started. Matt had GPS and said we had swam 2k. Going back was going to be interesting. Definitely slower. Treading water, another helicopter zoomed by us and then turned around and headed back to Bondi.
Trying to cut through massive waves was fun! Even though sometimes they smack you on all sides. It was a welcome distraction from my fears. I enjoy big waves and chop. I try to fly above it. I'm so little and it's easy to get thrown around so I just relax, stay high and breathe when and where I can. I had a little bit of trouble sighting and had moved right of Matt, swimming outside. I didn't want to be near the rocks...rock side or shark side- what a choice?!?
After we swam around the point I got confused. There was another point about a mile ahead and I wasn't sure if that was where we were going. Matt broke stroke and yelled we were swimming in towards the beach. A minute later we regrouped and Dori said to swim to the far rocks near a cliff about 1,000 meters away. I couldn't see anyone swimming at the beach and asked if we should be in the water...everyone said it was just impossible to see because of the waves.
My anxiety was creeping up, again, and I told myself only 15 more minutes...I swam my best through the cool waters and heard another helicopter zooming around. There were now two helicopters that I could see when I breathed to the right. A black one and a white one! Oh my God!
We still had more than six hundred meters til the rocks...we were in no man's land and everyone started swimming faster. I think I was shaking while I was swimming...
Now there was a red helicopter on the scene. It was getting louder and louder and we kept swimming faster and faster. This red rescue helicopter swooped low and hovered a few feet above me...300 meters til we could scramble out on the rocks...less than five minutes! Swim!!!!
The helicopter was so close the water was spraying me in the face and throwing me around. I was so scared I couldn't cry. I sprinted as hard as I could and caught up to Matt, Dori and Thorsten. My mind screamed, "GET OUT! Get out of the water NOW!!!"
None of us had any idea of what was going on. Why wasn't anyone on a bullhorn? I kept going- head down, charging towards safety.
It was so strange when we got to the rocks...there were two lifeguards in a boat and a few snorkellers and hundreds of people on shore. We could see EMS and lifeguards on the rocks and slowly the pieces came together...apparently there had been some horrific accident on the rocks. A man had possibly fallen from the cliffs onto the rocks below... The helicopters were filming us for extra footage...
I said a quick prayer for the injured person and thanked God for keeping all four of us safe...
My nerves were shot and I was done. Matt, Dori and Thorsten got back in and swam 12k for the day while I changed into my bikini and enjoyed being on the sand for a change...
Welcome to Australia!
I still can't quite wrap my head around this training swim. It was one of the scariest moments of my life...I am happy I kept going and I suppose that's just like life- pray, do your best, keep going...love, Mere
Gives you an idea of the situation
Iceberg pool at Bondi Beach