Surfmuppet likes to use the summer solstice each year as a benchmark of time and place. Used to be 21st of June. Then moves down to the southern hemisphere and the summer solstice lands on the 21st of December. This year, the 10km qualification swim for Rottnest Island 20km barrel of laughs on 22nd February, two months to the day almost.
Arrives early and parks in a leafy street in the hills above Rosherville Reserve which backs onto Chinaman’s beach. In the past, the 3 HA reserve used to be a market garden and salt pans run by Chinese people, hence the name of the beach.
Walks down the hill via what resembles the Kokoda Trail, a bushland track all rough, rocky and overgrown with trees in their summer finery. Weather is looking good, already a bit of heat in the sun at 7.15.
Vlad’s wife Viktoria and her two boys are on the registration desk with Charm and soon the muppet is gets his race number, 123, indelibly marked on the left deltoid. Next it’s over to where sports dietician Sarah and her elves have set up camp to do a hydration study on swimmers who have signed up for it – at $70 bucks it seems a good deal to check out what’s what with the hydration.
Surfmuppet has progressed from drinking pure water to adding Enduro electrolyte mix to it but isn’t sure if what’s the correct dosage – just slaps in a few ladle loads and hopes for the best. Never a one to get bogged down reading the instructions. Hand in two pee samples, one from the previous morning and one from race morning. SM forgets to do it first thing yesterday morning so has to leap about the bathroom to squeeze out a few pathetic drops once he remembered. Leaves all his paperwork at home so elf Erika helps him fill out the forms in the preparation area.
The Cobra turns up with his kayak and the pair drag it across the reserve and into the water which is almost still, mirror like, and warmish. Doesn’t last however. A southerly is starting to pick up and once the race is on, it has kicked up a fair amount of chop which hits once the competitors swing around the first headland and head south.
In the meantime, the rest of the punters have shown up and preparations are in full swing. Red hats for the 10km lot, white hats for the 5km gang. Vlad, Charm, Martin, Viktoria, the two boys, Marty (on feeding station duty), Sarah and her Elves are like sheepdogs driving a herd of water buffalo through the whole registration, weigh in (for the hydration testees), prepping, briefing, photo’s, get-in-the-water-and-swim process.
The course consists of a loop from Chinaman’s south to the Island (really a rocky promontory) in the middle of the Balmoral strand and back again, a 2.5km loop. Twice for the 5km’ers, and four times for the 10km’ers. How hard can it be?
Well…the muppet is not feeling all that crash hot this morning. Yesterday morning after squad, has his first session with Michael the muscle mangling masseur, who has a wee treatment nook tucked into the corridor between the ladies and men’s dressing rooms at the ABC pool. Five minutes into it, says Michael
“Have you ever broken your neck?”
Muppet (after a momentary pause and in a hesitant voice)
“Ah,no…not that I’m aware of…Why?”
“It’s just that I’ve never seen a neck like yours before”
Muppet (slight hint of alarm in voice)
“Why, what’s wrong with it?”
“This is amazing. It’s completely f*#$ed” (or words to that effect as recorded through muppet voice recording memory technology – patent pending but don’t hold your breath on that one).
“ooh…kay. Well, can you elaborate. Should we be calling the ambulance now?”
Turns out that the muppet neck is encased in a fascia of muscle fibre and collagen, in Michael’s words a fortress built by the body to protect a part that has been badly injured.
Michael on the rest of the muppet musculature.
“when was the last time you had a massage?”
“maybe…nine months ago”
“Really.That’s too long.I’d recommend every two weeks for the amount of training you’re doing. Your muscles are all knotted up. I hope you’re not planning anything too strenuous this weekend?”
“nah…only a little swim tomorrow”
Not a great idea to have a long overdue massage the day before a big race, the muppet learns through his best learning modality…pain and torture.
Today is the second run for the muppet and the cobra team. Instead of stopping off at Marty’s highway feeding station at the end of each loop, the plan is to use the kayak to feed/ hydrate every 30 minutes. Using an energy gel type which the muppet hasn’t used before but which was on special at Coles the night before. And to complete the trifecta, heard the “you need electrolyte” message so piled the Endura powder into the water bottle so it has the sodium and potassium concentration of a bottle of the Dead Sea’s best mixed with the salt mines of outer Mongolia.
3 hours, 45 minutes and 50 odd seconds after the 8am starters gun, team muppet hauls it’s sorry arse out of the water and back onto the beach. Some swims the torture commences for the first K or so but eases off after that. Other swims start off nice and gentle and the torture kicks in around the closing stages. This was wall to wall, would-you-like-to-upgrade-to-a-large-fries-and coke-with-that torture.
Overall, it’s a great day despite the whinging of the muppet.
Marty’s Cafe of Dreams does a roaring trade with thirsty, hungry 5 and 10k-ers zipping in and out all morning loading up on the carbs and getting fluids down necks. Blackdog is roving around the place is his inflatable and Marty’s other half Sonny is out on the course encouraging the aquanauts along on their way.
As the morning progresses, the southerly picks up and it’s heavy work beating a way south to Balmoral but the upside is coming back up north with the wind and swell assisting from behind.
Some near misses along the way and the muppet has almost a romantic interlude with a female swimmer when the pair stop just millimetres from a head on collision, looking deep into each others eyes – very intimate.
Timing technology is a yellow post it note from Charm then hoof it back to the registration table where Viktoria marks down the time.
Post swim weigh in reveals the muppet has lost 1.5kg during the swim – must be all that Endura powder in the Dead Sea hydration mix.
All the squadites sitting around on picnic blankets hoeing into the food and drink brought there for the occasion. This close to Christmas lots of festive cheer and well wishing. Squad closing down for a couple of weeks over the break and arrangements being made to knuckle down under the tutelage of unofficial coach Jai in the interim.
The solstice hovers, turns, and slowly the light shortens by a couple of seconds each day.