Signing up to an 18km swim race in Fiji was exciting. Sun, sand and cocktails were at the forefront of my mind. The 18kms swimming was... well 18kms. It also had some potential problems:
1. I would not be able to see the destination or any land for 4 hours
2. I would have to rely on my boat captain and paddler whom I had just met 12 hours ealier to guide my course
3. I could swim a serious distance further than intended
|Destination: Beachcomber Island
(although I could only see it after
4 hours of swimming!)
When you are standing on the start line thinking about the fact that you have 6 hours continuous swimming ahead of you, the last thing you want is for an annoying song to pop into your head. What’s even more annoying is when you don’t actually know all the words to the song so you have to sing blah blahs every few words until you get to a part you do know the words for.
This was, however, exactly what happened to me in last week’s 18km Fiji swims, and ended up being my only problem for a what ended up being a relatively enjoyable race!
|Kelly, my paddler, and I
I tried to reason with the team, offering them the following incentives:
- If I go off course then it means I have to swim longer, which means you are out on the water longer
- I will not shout or get angry at you
- I promise that whatever you say, I can’t get mad
- I will be really, really happy if you tell me when I am wrong
- I want to make this a happy day
But of course I had the most response when I presented them with bright yellow Australian Rugby Union t-shirts which I asked them to wear for the race - mainly so I could see them from the beach and whilst I was swimming and distinguish them from the other boat crews, and also so they could have a memorable “Aussie” thank you present.
I was excited. My captain seemed to be all over it. He filled me with confidence saying “Tori, I live on the island next to Beachcomber, I will get you there no worries” and when I watched he relay my instructions over and over to the paddlers I knew this guy was one I could depend on!
Hit the sack early and slept like crap – always the way before a race. I think I woke up every hour and checked my watch, extremely frustrating! When the alarm finally went off at 4.30am I was already up and awake. I packed up my race nutrition consisting of carb drinks and energy gels, jelly lollies and some milky way bars to break it up and we headed over to the race start.
My paddlers and boat captain luckily had managed to avoid “Fiji time” and were waiting for me at the start. I set up my support canoe with gels taped onto the side, antihistamines and painkillers taped to the other side in case of any stingers and attached my drink bottles to ropes for them to retrieve and taught my second paddler how to use my waterproof camera.
|Lou and I before the start
Thankfully it didn’t stick in my head, but there were plenty of other swimmers who commented at the finish that they had!!
And we were off. I swam off at a nice even pace looking for my paddlers and boat that picked me up at the 200m mark. My second paddler was quite excited and spent the first 10 minutes taking heaps of photos of me swimming. It’s a pity there was a nice big droplet on the lens, as he could have had some winning shots there, but it was very entertaining for everyone. After about 10 minutes he got bored and climbed in the boat, opting to sit in the chair and watch me rather than paddle with me. Thankfully Kelly was tougher than that and stayed with me the whole race.
After about 700m it seemed like they had taken my instructions of “make sure you tell me if I start swimming off course” to heart. Kelly would flap his hand every 10 minutes or so like he was swatting a fly and I had to determine which way he wanted me to turn. It was like learning a bizarre style of sign language, but after about 3 hours I started to get the hang of it.
And so the 18km swim to Beachcomber went. I sat on a pretty solid pace of 3.5-4km per hour which was faster than I had planned, but comfortable. The conditions were extremely rough, high seas, choppy and I swallowed a hell of a lot of sea water. My paddler was instructed to indicate to me at 15 minute intervals so I could eat and drink on alternates. It was extremely hot, and I quickly started to dehydrate with a good headache kicking in around the second hour. It was just not possible to get enough fluid into me to hydrate (sea water didn’t count unfortunately!)
Total time 5 hours 14 minutes
Total distance swum : 19.2km
Total Gels consumed: 10
Total liquids consumed: 2.2L
Total marine life spotted: 0
Total celebratory cocktails: ?
|Post race: Cocktails and celebrations for all!