19 Dec

Time was that I thought a marathon was simply a chocolate peanut bar. But as of yesterday, my familiarity with marathons looks something like this……..


Marathon swimming is a class of open water swimming defined by distances of at least 10 kilometres (or 6.2 miles) and conducted in accordance with English Channel swimming rules (including variously no wetsuits or buoyancy devices, rashies, stinger suits, shark shields, GPS devices or waterproof iPods).  Hard core then.

According to the Marathon Swimmers’ Federation, you might be a marathon swimmer if you are standing in the supermarket, wondering which dish-washing liquid would be the best choice for the shower ….Or in the diaper aisle, wondering which diaper rash cream would be good for greasing….

And now, that includes me!  Because yesterday, I completed my first marathon swim!

Vladswim - a 2.5km loop from Chinamans Beach to Balmoral and back

Vladswim – a 2.5km loop from Chinamans Beach to Balmoral and back

In 2012, Vladswim team organised a 5km and 10km open water swim for a small group of swimmers who needed a qualifying swim for the Cottesloe to Rottnest Channel swim (known colloquially as the ‘Cott to Rott’ = open water swim not necessarily an observation on life).  The Vladswim has run every year since and Vlad now kindly includes ordinary mugs like me alongside his English and Rottnest Channel aspirants.

The first Vladswim was the day after ‘The End of the World’ – a Mayan Doomsday prophecy that some said was the beginning of the END.  On Friday, I certainly felt as if the earth might well have been on a collision course with a mysterious planet, but I am still here and very much alive and smiling!

Surviving the distance wasn’t the only thing that worried me on this swim. Despite Oceanfit’s musings this week that sharks are keeping numbers down at NSW ocean swims so far this summer, I’m not normally that preoccupied by Noahs.  But yesterday was different.

Last Boxing Day, the Daily Telegraph ran a review of some of the more brutal fatal shark attacks in NSW and reported that Men in Grey Suits pulled off more than 40 kills between 1788 and 1963 in the waters around Sydney.  And, guess what?  60% of the attacks were in Middle Harbour near where the Vladswim runs.

“SYDNEY Harbour is a sinister soup…. Beneath the diamond-encrusted surface of the Harbour City is a watery amphitheatre of death — a dimly lit coliseum where the lions and tigers are sharks.”


Worse still. We actually swam straight past the very spot of one of the last fatal shark attacks in Sydney Harbour.vlad john willis2

Poor not so old (13) John Willis (the sixer of the yellows in 1st Balmoral Cubs), was hunting lobsters with his brand new spear fishing kit (Christmas present) in 2.4m of water off Wyargine Point on 16 January 1955 when – you know what happened.

One of Gill’s fellow Manly lifesavers, Paul Bailey, posted on Facebook on Friday that he was relieved to have received his shark band just in time for the swim.


Desperate to preoccupy my chattering monkey with some more productive thoughts, I tried to find out some other facts about the swim course. Interestingly enough (or maybe not):

Balmoral Beach: derived from the suburb which in turn was named after the royal palace at Balmoral, in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Chinaman’s Beach: named after the Chinese market gardeners who worked at market gardens and the stone salt pan at Shell Cove until about 1890.

Bathers’ Pavilion: Commissed by Mosman Council as a state-of-the-art bathing pavilion in 1929.  In those days, the beach crowd could reach over thirty thousand people in summer.  Apart from Bathers’ Pavilion, there were various other dressing sheds, baths and boat rental facilities and businesses at Balmoral including one that caught my eye, a dance hall called Happyland!  Apparently, the proliferation of swimming clubs, sheds and bathing activities forced Mosman Council to build the pavilion to ‘decriminalise’ the activity of mixed sex bathing.  The Pavilion was renovated in the late 1980s and the architect was Alex Popov!

Balmoral Beach Club: founded in 1914 by a group of seven Mosman men who called themselves ‘The Smugglers’.  Rob Bagnall of Balmoral Beach Club reminisces that after the rush of the early morning mob of swimmers every day, round about nine o’clock, some of the retired older group would come down and make themselves a cup of tea and then sit round to sort out the world’s problems in their deck chairs soaking up the sun.  Rob said you didn’t need to get dressed if there was nobody else around at that time, so they were colloquially called ‘The Bare Arsed Parliament’. He said, they ‘would have all sorts of ribald stories to tell, and it was a collection open to all because it didn’t matter what your status was in the Beach Club, you’re even – no business, no titles.’

Burran Avenue (ironically the same street as John Willis lived) – Principality of Wy: lying somewhere near Wyargine Point, the Principality of Wy declared itself to be a separate nation in 2004.  Paul Delprat wanted to build a driveway from his house across an unfinished road but he ended up in a dispute with Mosman Council.  Frustrated, Prince Paul decided to follow the example of other micro-nations around the world and in Australia (Hutt River Province) and declared the Principality of Wy to be its own sovereign nation.

Photo: @deevocean Channelling my inner happyland as I pass the Principality of Wy

Photo: @deevocean
Channelling my inner happyland as I pass the Principality of Wy

So, during the swim, I thought about Princes and Popov, criminals, smugglers and naked parliamentarians (albeit the Noahs popped in a couple of times) but mostly, about Happyland – because Vlad told us all in his excellent swim brief to ‘Be happy!’.   Yes it was tough.  Especially at the end of the third lap when I was chase bait for the faster 10 km swimmers lapping me as they headed in to the beach. But I channelled my ‘inner Dory’ and just kept swimming.  Every time I passed Santa in his speedboat off Balmoral (the halfway turning buoy), he looked more and more deflated, but I just kept on feeling stronger and faster (had negative splits so I was not going crazy!).  Until finally, I found my Happyland – in 3 hours and 21 minutes – faster than I ever would have hoped.

Thanks to heaps of peeps; Can Too, Big Blue, Sydney Swimmers (especially coach Judy), Jai from Vlad (and of course, Vlad), my fellow squaddies, friends and sponsors and my gorgeous husband Gill who couldn’t swim because he has pneumonia but still supported and inspires me.

Make a new year’s resolution to get your butt over to Balmoral next year.  Yes, your passport may be required.  You might risk a criminal record from mixed bathing and find yourself in front of a bare arsed parliament with a bunch of smugglers, but a swim in the sinister soup of this exotic kingdom is definitely worth it.  You’ll get a gong and you’ll get to call yourself a marathon swimmer!  You might even find yourself in Happyland.

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas whether you've been naughty or noice!

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas whether you’ve been naughty or noice this year!


3 Responses to “Happyland”

  1. macleay2013 December 20, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    Yes, Lizzie, I too said hello to Santa four times on Saturday. Cheers

    On Sun 20/12/15 9:49 AM , lizziecantoo comment-reply@wordpress.com sent: > WordPress.com > > lizziecantoo posted: “Time was that I thought a marathon was simply a > chocolate peanut bar. But as of yesterday, my familiarity with marathons > looks something like this…….. Marathon swimming is a class of open > water swimming defined by distances of at least 10 kilometre” > >

    • lizziecantoo December 20, 2015 at 11:32 am #

      Wasn’t it a great swim John? First 10km for you? Well done, whatever! I wish I could have said hi to you as well as Santa – would have loved to meet you especially because I know you’ve done great things for Can Too. Thank you. Lizzie

      • macleay2013 March 16, 2016 at 5:50 am #

        Hi Lizzie, thanks for the comment, I’m a late starter to WordPress. I am about to build a website and start a blog for my english language teaching. I liked the post about the Lake Talbot swim at Narranderra – i had clean forgotten about that one! My next big swim is South Head as a solo swimmer, i did it solo successfully in 2004. I’m swimming with Vlad Swims’ squad in the mornings but mostly at Victoria Park Pool. You should join us, if you’re living in the inner west or inner city. Cheers. And yes, I did like the Xmas swim with Vlad. Kind regards, John

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: