Who said training would be easy?

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Blue bottles, vomiting, massive swell and bumpy seas awaited me in a 5 hour training swim this weekend.

I came to PE to give a talk and decided to use the opportunity to stay for the weekend and get some colder water training done. The plan was to swim for 5 hours on the Saturday and then a 3 hour swim on Sunday. The day I arrived the ocean was flat and calm as I have only experienced PE to date, but the terrible east wind was predicted to start blowing the next day, and with the east, traditionally comes the blue bottles.

I really did not want to have to abort the swim before I even started and figured we would go ahead and see how it went. As always, before a big swim of any nature, all my niggles come to the surface. I have been carrying a shoulder niggle in my left shoulder for about 10 days and it is mostly under control, but it was tender that day and I was concerned that a 5 hour swim in bumpy seas would not be a great thing 5 weeks before when it really counts.

I was fortunate to have my own safety paddler thanks to a contact from my paddling friend in Durban. Dee and I had been chatting on WhatsApp before the weekend and she was super keen to help second me. She is an experienced life guard having done safety for many events. The very fact that she was so readily available and keen to support was such a blessing for me. I was curious to meet such a beautiful kind hearted stranger willing to give up 10 hours of her weekend to support a stranger! 

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We met at 7am on Saturday morning and her mom was going to start paddling with us in a ski as well. The east was going strong already which meant a good 2+ hour swim against the chop before we got to enjoy a bit of a downwind.

The first 90 minutes were good. The first thing that struck me as I entered the water was how warm it was~! Not my plan 23 degrees is almost as warm as Durban, but as my psychologist says there is still massive benefit to training in a different ocean despite the warmer water. My plan was to swim for 2 hours, assess how I was and then turn at 2 and a half if I was feeling strong. At the 90 minute mark I figured I should turn at 2 and a half hours – we were feeding every 30 minutes, the feeds were going down well despite the various experimental foods I had in my big cooler box!

This swim was also to test out different sun creams as well as food options, I had some eco-friendly bee’s sun cream on my face which was white!  New to my food list was some gourmet home-made soup packed with nutrition and substance, glycerine and sushi rice.

The last hour before we turned, the wind had picked up significantly and we were nearing a reef and also not too far from the point at PE. We started turning directly out to sea and I was being thrown around, waves breaking over me, my body twisting and rolling and fairly regularly swallowing a chunk of salty water, I was counting the minutes till we could turn. 

I was really looking forward to a respite from the wind, waves, salt and swell. Eventually the 2 and a half hour mark came and I was so amped to turn back for a downwind swim home, but I was not so lucky. Dee said that the reason we went out to sea was cos there was a massive reef in shore which often had some rogue waves and so we had to swim with the side chop for a good 6km before we could think of turning in for a downwind. Sigh.

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My 3 hour feed was yogi sip and within 15 minutes of having it I felt very queasy. I stopped to dry heave and then eventually managed to throw up. Dee was ready with the suppository and that went up too! (My secret weapon) I immediately felt better and realised the yogi sip was probably off having not been kept in the fridge.

Onwards! The side swell also caused a fair amount of water swallowing. And then the blue bottles started hitting. In the face, around the leg, in the arm, on the foot. I must have been stung 4 or 5 times. Not fun, but luckily the stings all subsided after about 15-20 minutes each and thankfully the one on my face did not leave a welt.

At the 12 km mark we bumped into a kite surfer and I asked him for a lift home! We had a laugh and went our separate ways. Homeward stretch! The last bit was faster and fun as we finally got  to catch some runs, Dee caught an epic wave out at sea and I was super jealous it wasn’t me!  When we arrived on the beach Dee’s mom was there along with a few lifeguards who were anxiously watching and ready for a rescue! It seems not too much happens on the beaches here as I seem to cause a stir every time I swim here!

I was stoked to finish strong despite the rough swim, overcoming sea sickness and blue bottles. One couldn’t really ask for a better training swim other than colder water!

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Dee was absolutely fantastic and did a brilliant job seconding – it was a first for her supporting a crazy open water swimmer. She told me afterwards that most paddlers don’t even paddle the stretch of coast I ended up swimming. Ignorance is bliss they say!

Author: Jenni Petersen

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