Tag Archives: Marathon swimming

What’s the Rush?

15 Mar

Narrandera the Rush

I spent the weekend just gone under the command of Captain Cook.  What else would you expect from someone named after an explorer but to be dragged off to some hitherto unvisited far flung corner of the world!

Normally we are preoccupied with getting out back (of the wave zone), this weekend we were more bothered with getting to the Outback, well country NSW at least: destination Narrandera (pronounced, with ‘Strayan nasal twang, Naraaaaaaaandrah, thank you John Cadden for the pommie elocution lesson).

The diminutive airport

The diminutive airport

In light of Gill’s current injury and Cookie’s limited time off work, Captain Cook decreed that we would fly rather than drive 6 hours south west from Sydney.

On arrival at the expansive Narrandera – Leeton airport, we were duly collected (ladies are collected we reminded our driver, prostitutes are picked up) from the airport by Craig, owner of the only taxi in Narrandera – Leeton and dropped off at Lake Talbot Caravan Park right next to the site of the 10km swim the next day.

The locals eyed us up nervously. Not sure if they were thinking of swimming. Lots of Australian wildlife seems to have started long distance offshore training lately.

The locals eyeing up the competition?

The locals eyeing up the competition?

We were expecting big things from our weekend in the country.  Notably, a Big Guitar and a Big Tennis Racquet.  Yes.  Australia has a slightly quirky obsession with Big Things.  I’ve seen the Big Pineapple and the Big Merino and a few more but  I didn’t realise how many Big Things there actually are (Cookie, check it out, there’s even a Big Captain Cook!).


But the Big Thing we were most interested in was the Murumbidgee (in wiradjuri, ‘Big water’). The Murumbidgee River, a tributary of the Murray, is the second longest river in Australia and feeds Lake Talbot. Back in 1925, the ‘Bidgee was in in flood and breached a levee bank near the base of Bundidgerry Hill. William Talbot, Narrandera’s Shire Clerk, suggested preserving the break to keep a safe swimming hole for the town and Lake Talbot was born.

Lake Talbot: It may even have featured in an Australian Ladybird book!

Lake Talbot: It may even have featured in an Australian Ladybird book!

'Agro', a Murray River cod. Resident or inmate at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre.

‘Agro’, a Murray River cod, resident at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre.

Cabbie Craig made a slight detour so we could eyeball the Murrumbidgee on arrival and he could scare us with tales of the Murumbidgee Mud Shark until we realised that Murrumbidgee Mud Shark is the vernacular for a Murray river cod.

Likely more accustomed to being told by passengers that they are in a rush, cabbie Craig was intrigued when we said we were in town for the Riverina Rush .  The long distance Open Water Swim is a core event of the weekend long Riverina Rush Multisport Festival that includes various other swims, a fun run (oxymoron to me) and Sprint Distance Triathlon.

Craig who’s a blow in from Queensland, said the event had slipped by without him noticing last year.

Odd perhaps in a town of only 3,800 people.

We were inspired to come to by our mate Katie Jane Price who swam in 2014 as part of her bid to win the Oceanswims.com distance tallies only to find her tally allies all had the same idea.

While a big field was one big thing we certainly weren’t expecting, we were surprised to find that there were just 7 entries for the 10km and even more surprised to be told by fabulous awgie, Simon, that this is the most entries they have ever had!  In 14 years!  Where the bloody ‘ell are you, fellow swimmers!?  You are so missing out!  This swim is a ripper!


Ken’s photo – for me blob

Thanks I assume, to swim sponsor Doug Sutherland Truck Repairs, swim entry is only $25, yes, that’s right – Fairfax, please note.

You get your split second time handed to you on a certificate when you exit – Fairfax, please note.

Water safety is provided so no need to BYO paddler or boat unlike most other marathon swims.

Cookie and I were originally sharing ‘ladies’ man’ Ken but as the distance between us started to stretch, the lovely Graham stepped into the breach so we each had our own personal kayaker.  Ken even took photos for me blob.

For the time being, at least until the rest of you wise up, you are pretty much guaranteed some sort of podium finish.  There’s even prize money for the top 3, yes – prize money! And a medal for everyone.

Eponymous and inspirational Waringah master and Manly LSC's Paul Bailey, Maev who is training for 20km in Lake Argyle and the man that pipped me to the 3rd place prize money

Eponymous and inspirational Waringah master and Manly LSC’s Paul Bailey, Maev who is training for 20km in Lake Argyle and the man that pipped me to the 3rd place prize money

As Maev's mum said, 3 strong women

As Maev’s mum said, 3 strong women

Captain Cook - 2 marathon swims under her belt and no cyclone this time Cookster!

Captain Cook – 2 marathon swims under her belt and no cyclone this time Cookster!

After the swim, the amazing awgies brought us fresh water, a platter – yes, a whole platter, of fruit, orange juice and hot chips and giant hash browns!

And in case you are worried that you need time to work all that off, you also receive free entry to the fabulous water park with 5 pools, 2 giant slides and Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’ blaring out on the loud speaker.




You don’t even need to worry about hypothermia.

In fact, quite the opposite, at 26 degrees, you need to worry more about getting yourself in hot water – makes it great training for Lake Argyle, Maev.


All those of you that are concerned about what lurks beneath, don’t be!  There isn’t anything – Murrumbidgee mud sharks dealt with, leeches gone apparently and as for the snakes that Simon mentioned, you won’t see them anyway because the water is so brown that you can’t even see your wrist at the end of your arm.  In fact, that could be the only downside.  The mud-like Taste of the Riverina is still lurking at the top of my nostrils, causing me to adopt a ‘Strayan nasal twang of my own for the weekend.

Fabulous awgie, Simon - wondering where the bloody 'ell are yer?

Fabulous awgie, Simon – wondering where the bloody ‘ell are yer?

The following day, Captain Cook and I headed into town, our tourism options being slightly limited by our lack of wheels (but if you have some, there are koala parks, tree stumps shaped like ducks, bike tracks and all manner of attractions to check out – see Tim the Yowie man’s report).

Bearing in mind the preponderance of evangelical literature at the airport, a trip to town on a Sunday seemed somewhat worrisome but in reality, it was a bit of a ghost town in the country heat with the only breeze coming from the occasional triathlete cycling past at top speed.

Shady street (it wasn't). You'll need to get rid of all the bindis in your lawns if the futurist graffiti artist turns out to be right

Shady street (it wasn’t). You’ll need to get rid of all the bindis in your lawns if the futurist graffiti artist turns out to be right.

We decided to go from front crawl to pub crawl.  Certainly not a marathon exercise given that 4 of the town’s 6 pubs have ceased trading as the population has declined to almost half its level a few years back. We had a beer at the ‘Bidgee and chatted to the septuagenarian locals who were in awe of our swim, read some of John O Brien’s poems and tried to learn the rules of Keno before heading to the Charles Sturt.

On the way, we peered at the gardens named after one time resident of the town, Marie Bashir and admired the beautiful architecture.  At Charlie’s, we raised a glass to Cookie’s erstwhile travelling acquaintance Ken who was born in Narrandera and eyed the dusty (in both senses) youngsters looking for a hair of the dog on their way back from a B&S ball.

At the appointed hour, Rusty, Craig’s relief driver collected us and dropped us back at the tiny airport.

Now we are home, back to our ‘fast’ city lives, we can’t quite fathom why we are in such a Rush – we’d swap the Riverina Rush for the city rush any day.  We loved it.  Inland open water marathon swimming – the next big thing?

We hope so.


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!


Tally Ho

16 May

No, you didn’t miss it. The promised Easter guest blogger deserted her wordpress post suffering acute writer’s block.

No matter though as 2 others out of the 63 Auckland Harbour 10km marathon swimmers penned their thoughts. One, Dan Abel (a guest blobber himself for H2O), was the newd winner in just under 2¾ hours and the other was the grey-haired awgie, Wayne Annan, who also swam the event. Dan claims Wayne already had grey hair when Cyclone Ita arrived immediately before the swim. The writer is unsure as he’s only 43. ‘Lovely chap’ said Kim by the way.

Anyway, truth is, Cookie said she was traumatised by the swim.

Was it the nudity I asked her? Cookie doesn’t own a wetsuit and was one of only 11 newdies. Being the 5th newd laydee home she was in the water for 4½ hours (yes, yes, lucky last, an amazing accolade in my book in every swim). Added to which, they swam past St Helier’s Ladies Bay, a favourite haunt for those Aucklanders wanting to bathe in the buff and full of controversy because the council’s been criticized for inadequate warning signs. Wayne made sure the swimmers were warned though and Cookie said her imagination ran wild in the swim as a result.

It wasn’t her vivid imagination though but the remains of Cyclone Ita that challenged her. It took Cooks 3½ hours (by which time, 2/3rds of the field had already finished) to reach the 6km turning buoy as the swimmers had to contend with Ita’s residual wind and current. The awgies wondered about pulling her out, but she was determined and asked Terry the kayaker to just keep on paddling. Fortunately, the last 4km (in the reverse direction) went by in a flash – just 1 hour. Cooks says she has never dug so deep in her life.

She wouldn’t even contemplate a dip at South Curlie the following week (perhaps not surprising mind you being as she appeared to have brought Ita back across the D’tch with her). She cheered on our swimmers and then sat quietly with me mam and her bestie Marg. Marg plays with the Ukeladies down the South Coast and came up especially to see the Fukers.

Over time, I imagine, Cookie will forget the pain (like childbirth) and contemplate another marathon swim. If she keeps popping across the D’tch for the odd 10km dip, she might even aspire to own Cook Strait – she could be the first Cook across! She wouldn’t be the first to do that as well as the Auckland 10km though. Dan Abel’s crossed the Strait before her as have 80 others who probably haven’t yet conquered the Auckland 10km. Top 10 tally contender and 10km Auckland Harbour swimmer Geoff Carter was determined to be the oldest person across in 2011. “I was at the Chelsea swim (Herne Bay to Chelsea Sugar Works) and a couple of ladies were planning to swim the Cook Strait, and I realised they weren’t that much quicker than I was and I thought – if they could do it, then so could I,” Carter said. Sadly, Geoff had to be pulled out when well over halfway across with hypothermia. The following year, a 60 year old Yank pipped him to the post. But he’s younger than you Geoff! With all the distance you are still swimming, I’m sure that you’ve got it in you yet, if you want to, that is.

Aesop's fable

Aesop’s fable

It’s interesting that a lot of marathon swimmers aren’t actually that fast by comparison with their short distance peers. Just slow and steady. Too many readings of Aesop’s famous fable in their youth perhaps?

This summer just gone, I’ve been fascinated by marathon swimming. Maybe because Gill wants to do the Cott to Rott or maybe because more and more Can Tooers are looking at the longer distances and thinking ‘why not?’.

And before you go off to your boat briefings tonight, lots and lots of luck to Can Tooers swimming South Head Roughwater this weekend – Katie Price (solo), Jacki Alcock (duo) and Mary King (quad).

tallydrvnThis summer, I’ve watched Driven (brilliant), listened to Denise Elder at Can Too (inspirational), chatted as ever with tireless Can Too supporter James Pittar, marveled at Anna Torak’s diet and been spellbound by Sylvain Estadieu’s presentation of his thoughts during his channel crossing – butterfly.

I’m constantly fascinated by Vlad and Charm’s channel swimming charges. Here’s one of this Northern summer’s aspirants Ben @nuttybutnicely.  In my book, you are all bonkers but good luck!

Think of the training, the chaffing, the calories, the cold. The logistics and the waiting.

What makes them keep on? What possesses them to even think it’s a good idea in the first place?

I led a posse of 11 Can Tooers to Byron a fortnight ago and had all these thoughts of Oceans 11 in my head. I was looking for something on line on the topic and stumbled across Oceans 7. I didn’t even know it existed!  Well I’m still only a beginner in this sport as well as being blonde!


Ocean’s Seven from Wikipedia


And that’s partly the point. Never ‘eard of it? That’s right. Most of the world’s never ‘eard of it or these people. Mere mortals can knock off these amazing feats and then continue about their lives in obscurity. Ah yes, that Cyril Baldock, the old bloke next door, he swam the channel once. It’s weird isn’t it?

Petar Stoychev anyone that’s not an open water swimmer and even some of us that are?

Even the tallies contenders are a marvel to me. Plenty of them were in Auckland. Again, not surprisingly as 60% of the top 10 contenders when Paul last published the standings are Kiwis this year. C’mon team New South Wales! Remember your bonding weekend in the Bush! Not sure Jim that Katie’s blog had quite the same sentiment – bit of a killer instinct taking you out in the last KM there!

Paul told a story about the bus trip to the start at Glendowie in Auckland. Wayne and Geoff Carter were wondering out loud who this Nick McCouat fella was coming over from Australia (season leader on 170kms at the end of April) when he tapped them on the shoulder and said g’day. Paul himself has been wondering about him – whether he has a bride and wee bairns abandoned at home every weekend as he flies around our Big Brown Land and over the D’tch looking for yet another swim to add to his tallies. Well Paul, google couldn’t enlighten me, save to say that he’s a robotics engineer! Could he be slightly robotic in nature himself? Is this a criteria for a long distance swimmer?

Whatever drives them, I am in awe. They show us all what’s possible and prove that’s invariably an awful lot more than we think. So I for one plan to get my butt down to Paul’s Organoleptic celebration and shake them by the hand whoever comes out atop in the final wash up on the tallies. In the meantime, tally ho, my friends. May the most supremely natatory of you win a well-deserved beer from a generous and talented brewer oddly named Chuck.

tallypod tallyKP tallyJD

Tally Ho Team NSW!!