Confessions of a Swimming Bludger Part 1

The southern Autumn is well progressed and the fall of the leaves and drop in temperature has seen the muppet take on the aspect of a bear starting the long sleep of hibernation earlier than most.

He’s been a rare site on the pool deck, making it to a desultory one of two sessions a week , then a fortnight, and finally one training session a month. Result is any gain over the summer months has been squandered eating TimTams in front of the TV or horsing down platefuls of food at the dinner table.

Cheering on from the sidelines as the rest of the gang get back from their Rottnest adventure and plough ahead with training schedules for a whole cluster of them swimming the English Channel this year and in 2015.

Just looking at the pictures on Facebook of last weekend’s Cold Water Training Camp in Melbourne (training protocols developed at Belsen Bergen concentration camp circa 1944) is enough to have the muppet a-shivering in his trackies and shrinking back to bed with a blueberry muffin and a mug of hot chocolate for company while watching season 4 of Game of Thrones on the iPad under the doona and the blankets.

That’s fine and dandy but then in a rush of blood to the head he signs up for the Frances Thornton Galway Bay Swim, starters gun the morning of 26th of July.

The “congratulations you’ve been accepted” email arrives on Thursday to muppet’s initial amusement and then a growing sense of horror.  So our sullen hero has no choice but to slink out of a warm bed at 0440 hrs Friday morning for the grin and puke anaerobic squad session at Victoria Park open air pool at a frosty 6am.

Torture by water in it’s purest and simplest form.

The last 8 months spent in salt water – ABC pool and Ocean.In recent months bludging around the back of the slow lane. Now into Vic Parks freshwater for 50s Friday Sprint session.

Freshwater means sinking water.

Especially for portly middle aged gents with poor swimming technique and questionable work out ethic.

And sink the surfmuppet does.

There are very few places to hide in a swimming pool.

Especially when there’s a coach at either end of the lane, armed with a stopwatch and the bark of a drill sergeant. Vlad’s wife Viktoria takes the session ably assisted by swimmer -turned-traitor-coach Jai.

Both make the transition from happy-smiley-great-to-see-you to snarling harpies of the deep within the space of a few short minutes.

After warmup, sets of 12 x 50s, like a smorgosboard for water slaves until you pass out somewhere between 0730 and 8am.

Two fast, one slow, one super fast, two slow, three fast, hup two three four, la la la la la.

Half the squad at one end of the lanes under the tutelage of Vicky, the rest at the other end under the lash of Jai.

Go. Go. Go.

The muppet gets some respite by switching ends of the pool in the hope of confusing both coaches as to which group he belongs to.

Falling too far behind in one group, latch on to the back of the other group.

Lurk in the bludgers corner by the lane rope and the wall, far enough down in the water than his head might be mistaken for one of the floatation buoys on the lane rope.

Busted and withers in shame under arched eyebrows of contempt from the Medusa sisters.

Note to self – check out getting a swim cap the same colour as the lane rope floaties for future camouflage purposes.

The goal was to last to the end of the session and the waiting bacon and eggs breakfast in Toby’s Estate cafe on the other side of the screaming traffic of City road.

Make it, Woohoo! – man, Toby cooks the rashers in such a way that they curl up into delicious compact cylinders of deep fried oil, fat and pig meat.

Lovely and crunchy, filling in at speed the big calorific hole left by wildly thrashing around in the pool for an hour and a half.

Joined in discussion in the changing rooms pre breakfast with Swifty Scott and Channel Cyril as to why the big difference between salt and fresh water.

Cyril reckons Scott has the goods with his good kick to keep the lower half up in the water, high elbows and low body weight.

Then the topic turns to weighing scales.

Cyril – I’ve the same weighing scales for 13 years and have never seen 80kgs on them.
Scott – Well, I’ve had the same weighing scales for 15 years and have never seen 75kgs on them.
Muppet – Well boys, I’ve had the same weighing scales for the last 25 years and have never seen 99kg on them.

Silence in the dressing sheds.

12 weeks to go til questions will be asked of the muppet by 13 kilometres of the North Atlantic’s best cold, briny water in Galway Bay.


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