How I came to swim 10km round an island a decade ago

The tenth anniversary of my biggest ocean swim provoked me to think/write about some of the threads of my life that enabled that to happen – a rather lovely exercise.

I feel lucky because I am lucky. That Mum carted us off to swimming lessons and packed thermoses of brown-sugared brown rice to follow before-school training; that I grew up within an ice cream-punctuated drive’s distance to the beach; that dad instilled in us a love of the ocean; that Malc and I were plucked from a rip at Whale Beach by volunteer lifesavers and dad also was rescued; that super-swimmer Sonia and we had some early experience with distance swimming amongst mysterious creatures, real and imagined, at Northbridge Baths and Narabeen’s Great Lake Challenge; that we were encouraged to try and continue in activities regardless of talent; that not driving meant I have always had at least incidental walking fitness; that my endeavours to improve my fitness at UTS gym were only temporarily thwarted by calculating/guessing the number of Easter eggs in the jar and consequently adding several kilos of compound chocolate to my body weight; that my fortune-filled transition from the ABC through Network Insight to PhDville was accompanied by the fun body work of Gary’s Balkan dancing classes (adding “the other left” to my lexicon), rambling conversational walks with Bruce and Dave, panting approximations to jogging through the Domain with Cris and Sarah; that Lex took me with her to a first-of-the-year swim and the pleasure/effort ratio made me want a second; that there were two 50m pools near my office and I had the time to enjoy rhythmic, meditative lap accumulation in both, including the indescribable beauty of one sunshower-speckled swim with Libby (introduced via teaching=learning with Rob); that a redundancy bank account buffer and his generosity enabled a semester away from PhD/scholarship while Densil had study leave, taking opportunities to walk and bike ride and run and learn about pool cultural diversity in Auckland (meeting Saori), Milano,Parma, Paris, Freo (good times giving a jet lag-and-ale muffled paper with Gary, Jo, Barbara and the rest, and appalling 7(?) year-old Max with my ignorance about AFL), San Francisco, Kobe and Seoul; that I had the inspiration to celebrate my 35th (and subsequent) birthdays with 100m per year swims, deliberately enjoying my strong, aging body; that as I was contemplating ocean swimming I came across the Triathlon Club, whose President/coach Karl was so generous with his time, skill and encouragement, pushing lovely buddies (Meg, Em, Clairine, Ross, Julian, Tarbo, Hans) and me in the pool and on running tracks, and taking me out to navigate the waves and groupers at Gordon’s Bay; that I got to be part of the multigenerational ocean swimming community, up at sparrowsfart, dodging stray feet and jellyfish, invariably losing my colour-coded cap, sharing salty sunshine and satisfaction; that I came across Chris’s exercise class, personalised for what we wanted our bodies to do, supporting me towards and beyond a half marathon amidst the camaraderie of university women Yvonne, Judy, Lyn et al.; that the mid-2005 conference-research-holiday trip to Sweden, England, Portugal, Miami, Rio included memorable runs and by the time I was back for a jet lagged City to Surf I was unwittingly running for two; that I was able to keep swimming through pregnancy, completing a full-bellied harbour swim at Balmoral then 12 days later ringing Karl and Penny to say I wouldn’t make it to training/coffee because I. Had. Just. Had. A. Baby!; that support from Densil and others gave me time to keep exercising, with the added motivation of fun runs with Lici; that Densil transcended his natural habitat so he and k could greet me after a swim and linger – just in case – for the lucky draw prize, and I won! A trip to swim at Fiji!; that I had time, motivation and support to train for the 10km event; and so, that 10 years ago today, I swam around Plantation Island, through tranquil patches, surprisingly high waves and tough tides, over a changing seascape with coral and starfish and distant reef sharks and a luminous eel, arriving last, exhausted, to my cheer squad of d and k – a thoroughly beautiful experience.

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