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A Day at the (Swimming) Races

31 Oct

The distant jetty and starting lane numbers

Pontoon and lane ropes

We Australians are a resourceful bunch.

Take this  example.

Mention competition lap swimming, and what venue springs to mind?

Hands up if you said:  Swimming Pools.

Sure, that’s what we routinely  see on television: and, equally certain, that’s precisely where  such competitions are generally run.  I can almost see the pristine water, the perfect tiles, the impressive starting-blocks.

However, the Club where I have swum for decades has a quite different domain: a river baths in suburban Sydney.

Close to fifty metres from the jetty at the far end of the promenade floats a slightly rusty pontoon. To it, our Swimming Club attaches unsophisticated lane ropes.

Bingo! Now we have the means to conduct in reasonable decorum a series of races, in length from twenty-five to two hundred metres. I admit the shortest races are liable to be approximate distances since their finishing line is not set in stone.

However, what we lack in exactitude is more than made up in atmosphere. For my money, its beautiful tree-studded setting wins, hands down!

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A Tale of Time and Tide

27 Nov

For almost thirty years, I’ve swum with a rather unusual swimming club: unusual because it holds its meetings in a tidal river baths, rather than the usual man-made swimming pools, or sea-baths.

Today’s meeting, however, was more than a little different, for two reasons. Firstly, the tide was near its maximum ever, around two metres. The second: that a relay race was held.

King tides are always impressive, and sadly, few of them fall on those Sundays when our Club meets. Those massive tides that happen in winter are quite lost to us swimmers: after all, who’d chose to swim in water that is twelve degrees Centigrade,  and late in the evening to boot?

No. When they happen at convenient times, our club makes full use of them, and schedules as many events as possible. Today’s relay was, most likely, the one and only for the season. And what a tussle the fast heat became, with the winner separated by a whisker!

And what could be amiss, with all this water?

No beach to walk on!

Yes, our yellow sands were swallowed up by this rising tide, leaving us to ponder the miracle of the tides that come and go, transforming our world in a never-ending cycle.

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My Fear: Drowning

31 Aug

It may seem a little incongruous that someone who declares their love of swimming may also express their fear of drowning, but believe me, the two can, and do, co-exist.

Unashamedly, I admit that I am uncomfortable in deep water. The two worst scenarios are: 1. a long way from shore, and 2. very deep swimming pools.

Undoubtedly, my issue with the  former lies in the fact that it takes greater time and effort to get back to safety than being close-handy. My problem with the second is linked to fear of heights. Swimming with my eyes open, looking straight down into the depths, spooks me severely.

First of all, let me say that fear of drowning isn’t baseless. Those of you who’ve ever suffered leg cramps can testify to their degree of incapacitation. Get a beauty in the water, and bingo! You’re in trouble!

I’ve learned to come to grips with my fear, and it’s all based on common sense. Firstly, I needed to practise doing it, but strictly under safe conditions, i.e with other, strong swimmers. Importantly, too, the conditions had to be right, both in the water, and in my own health. It can be counterproductive to push yourself too hard, and especially bad to swim when you’re unwell.

I guess what I’ve really done is to minimise my fear, harnessing it to controllable levels, and in the process, recognised that it simply isn’t baseless.

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