Port Macquarie Stone the Crows

Back again after a long absence.

Surfmuppet spent the weekend up the coast at Port Macquarie visiting the mother-in-law in the company of the wife. Drama on Friday night when the mother-in-law took a bit of a turn and the ambulance had to be called to cart her off to Port Macquarie base hospital.

The muppet drafted behind the ambulance in his car and spent a few hours early Saturday morning being told to go home by the MIL. Kept in for observation and then home in the morning.

Down to the pool early Saturday afternoon and find it deserted so had the pick of the lanes. Blue skies, warmish winter sun, light breeze, what more could you ask for?
Did 4 x 1km, between 20 and 21 minutes a K.

Follow Coach Vlad’s instructions to start doing longer sets to get into the rhythm of a distance  swim as the four weeks out marker for the Galway swim is passed.This advice was imparted was just after 50s Friday finished at the Victoria Park pool, Friday morning.

The muppet was promoted for the sprints to the rarefied waters of lane three where all the super fasties live. Right down the back where he belongs struggling to reach the end of each 50 before the last of the fasties depart for the next one.

Back to Port on the Saturday afternoon, and a few other swimmers jump into the pool during the session but there plenty of room for everyone. On Sunday morning, back into the pool prior to hitting the road to Sydney. Few more bodies lapping away and SM manages a 1×1.5km and a 1x1km before heading off back south.

Run into Port Macquarie Neil in the dressing sheds prior to the start of the session and had a great chat. Met him over the last couple of years on the NSW summer swimming circuit. Year before last he finished right up top of the league table with 80 or 90kms raced for the season which is a lot considering he had to drive from Port all over the state and the country to find races to enter.

Tells how last season top rankings brought a lot of Kiwi’s and Western Australians into the mix and they won a lot of the top berths. He’s thinking about whether to have a go again in the coming season but will have to target 200km to be anywhere near the top seeds.

Prior to the swim, spent breakfast chatting to the MIL over the table, when a strange gleam comes into her eye. Outside, in the trees of the garden, the call of arriving crows. She leaps up from her chair and disappears off into the house leaving the muppet with a piece of toast hanging from his mouth and a bewildered look on his face.

He goes looking and eventually finds her on the top balcony overlooking the garden armed with an evil looking catapault…for the crows. The MIL and the crows have an understanding that she doesn’t have to fire it, just signal her intentions by drawing on it like an English archer facing the French heavy knights at the battle of Agincourt.

The crows head for the hills. Turns out the beasts show up to attack the nests of a pair of doves and lyre birds which used to hang out in her garden. She watched once as the crows attacked the baby doves in the nest and ate them alive…so she got tooled up.

Walloped them with small pebbles collected from Shelly Beach. Now the crows know whats what and hightail it out of there as soon as they see her coming.  Baby dove off the breakfast menu. Reminds SM of the granny in the old Clint Eastwood movie, “Every which way but loose” when the granny runs off the Hells Angels with a pump action shotgun.

This time last year the muppet was a lot better prepared for Galway Bay and came steaming home with plenty of puff left in the tank. This year it could be a different story but that’s life in the big city for you.

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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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Terrigal Easter Saturday 2014

Greg, a true warrior of the sea, disavows the lure of Easter Sunday choclust to brave the monster swells off the Central Coast.


Nasty shore dump along the beach Nasty shore dump along the beach

Easter weekend in Sydney, and finally after 30 days of rain and showers over the previous 45 days, the forecast was for fine and sunny weather for the extra long weekend.  Of course the presence in Sydney of the future King of Australia (even if he is English) and his wife and son seems to have helped bring out the sunshine.

The swim last weekend at Coogee around Wedding Cake Island was cancelled due to large swells caused by an east coast low. I was quite disappointed that this swim was cancelled, as I wanted to do the trip around the island one more time before going overseas again. So it was a relief that the Terrigal swim was on despite the large swells forecast. That east coast low from last weekend had combined with Cyclone Ita out near New Zealand to push large…

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Gallic Gaff

Noon Saturday at the Coco Cubano Cafe Crows Nest

Surfmuppet doing a writing exercise from the Faber Academy course, all day session, break.

Outside, lunchtime crowd saunter about all sunglasses, sundresses, t-shirts, jeans, shorts, thongs and talk while others stuff their faces at nearby hostelries.

Juicer juicing, coffee grinder grinding, people bullshitting all around, clatter and clash of the chefs and kitchen hands in the open plan kitchen, slam of presses and drawers.

The samba, salsa or whatever the fuck caribbean jungle voodoo beat and forty something trumpets and horns blaring out in a madwoman’s cacophony of cuban secret police mental torture procedure numero diez.

Muppet is trying to look weekend lunch time sunny day early autumn crows nest cool.

Inside fuming, doing a Bobby Sands impersonation, starving with the hunger, the Sandinista waiters in military style shirts flitting here and there ignoring him.

Fuck them all, will sit here doing this stupid fucking exercise and buy a bag of chips on the way back to the afternoon session.

High, rickety bar stool cum card table chair sways underneath the muppet’s ample 100 odd kg.

Waiter, early 50s, touch dishevelled, appears at his shoulder, points to his menu and mumbles something in what muppet takes to be a cuban accent.

About time too.

“Yes, I”ll have a big breakfast”

…Pause to check if there’s intelligent life on mars in the dark eyes.

“…And a juice”

Points to the menu.

Nothing. The man is obviously retarded and just smiles at him, mumbles something in what muppet now realises is a French accent.

What the fuck is a frenchman doing working in a cuban restaurant in Crows Nest?
If he’s a waiter, the age of him means he’s doing it tough and he’s not a very good waiter anyway, probably won’t last til close of business before he gets fired. Best to go easy on the poor bastard.

Doesn’t have the Fidel Castro army shirt on.
Maybe he’s the owner!
Doesn’t have to wear the shirt.
But if he’s the head honcho, should be a bit more switched on.
This place is definitely going to bankrupt city, Havana.

Muppet repeats the order with emphasis on the BIG breakfast and a JUICE.

Frenchie smiles at him, shaking his head and does that gallic index finger waving thing.

“No, no, mon ami, I don’t work here. I only wanted to borrow your menu. That’s if you’ve finished with it of course.”

Gigantic hole appears under the muppet and he disappears into the depths of the underworld where the halfwit dirty eejits live.

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Wicked Wednesday

Surfmuppet gets to training this morning.

Loading everything into the car by 515am to get to the pool by 6am, he places his morning brew on the centre console between the front seats while hitting the button to start the engine of the great white. Moving suddenly, elbow catches cup and it’s hot tea all over the leather seats, the spare change well in front of the console now a swimming pool of English breakfast, white no sugar.

A few minutes of fuck this and fuck that, a clean white towel stripped off the starlit washing line and soon it’s a hot, brown towel after mopping up the deluge while the car zooms along dark suburban roads, direction Sydney.

Watch strap snaps (ok, with a little help) after getting caught in the action of humping the swimming gear backpack up onto the left shoulder after parking in Woolloomooloo. Soleus brand, purchased at a booth on the Manly promenade after missing the wave at last year’s Cole Classic and sneaking into another (Cole Classic 2km ).

Watch ends up in the shadowy waters of Woolloomooloo Bay under the  austere gaze of warship L100, still tied up at dock, the dawn later revealing a mysterious large grey marquee style tent in the middle of the deck, aft of the big squat bridge superstructure.

Big John, Lord of the Channel, is in the dressing room when the muppet finally makes it to the ABC, ready to grace lane 1 with his presence. Always great to see the big fella back at training. It must be hard to get back into training after completing a big swim like that and then taking extended time away from training to get on with life in the real world. Big John loves a chat but the clock is ticking and mistress Charm anxiously awaits her flock of minions poolside.

Welcome back to the land of the lane crawlers.

Despite the spilled tea, broken and drowned watch, the surfmuppet has a truly enjoyable 4.15km set of sets. Wednesday is an anaerobic threshold day, lots of heart warming sets designed to get the blood flowing and the lungs pumping. Starts off at number 6 in the lane, then number 4, number 2 and finally number 1, head honcho, in the last set of 8 x 50m. Mind you there’s three other squad lane of superior speed, fitness and talent to the right of lane 1, but what the hell, never going there so will take all the morsels of vain glory going in the minnow lane.

Muppet mantra these days is relax and work on the stroke – long stretch, glide, catch, pull etc, relaxed arm out of water recovery, clean entry, slight catch up with the arms, build a sense of forward momentum with the centre of gravity higher up the meat sack, feel of swimming slightly downhill.

Anyway, it works, catch up with all the other bastards in the lane and still lots in the tank at the end.

So relaxed at times the muppet looks for diversion – like counting the number of aerials on top of the bridge of L100 across the narrow bay. Loses count at somewhere between 8 and 12.

Dawn sky continues to brighten behind the sea of aerials, with narrow bands of red and ochre cloud, until her golden majesty finally climbs over the edge of the eastern horizon at about 7-ish.

Afterwards in the ABC cafe, tea with Charm, sharing the table with Rachel, Big John, Blackdog and a fastie from lane 2 who had scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast – nice chap, can’t recall his name.

Followed by a stroll in the warm Autumn sunshine back through the domain to where the great white awaits in silent vigil by the kerbside.

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Autumn Spreads Her Wings

Walking down to the pool this morning at 555am, the darkness over Wooloomooloo Bay, tide is out and on the other side of the water against an eastern night sky with a hint of a dawn ray, the silhouettes of a Navy Frigate and an odd looking commercial vessel, forecastle ringed by blue lights looking more like they belonged in a disco than on a mysterious sea going vessel.

Wasn’t so long ago, when the land was submerged in the golden days of summer, the sun would be over the horizon by now and the mammals and reptiles, fish and birds of the emerald city would be wakening from their slumbers and rousing themselves for another day at the hustings.

But Autumn in Sydney has many advantages not the least of which is a warm ocean, clear visibility and one hopes the worst of the summer blue bottle plague hordes departed for other  environs.

Not too many at squad this morning at the ABC pool. Squad has started morning sessions at Victoria Park pool also so there’s a few heading over there now. Some of the battle hardened sea warriors of the Rottnest Channel have not returned yet to training since last Saturday week. Congratulations to all who went west to test themselves in the Indian Ocean.  The yarning will go on for months, into the deep winter when more than a few of them will take off to the northern hemisphere to do the English Channel. Four weeks before the muppet piked out of it, wasn’t happening training wise and the head was elsewhere. Next year perhaps. Cheered on from the sidelines nevertheless.

One of the highlights was Deano, all greased up for the race, with “No Shark Cull” painted onto his back, giving the Western Australia prime minister a serve about his government’s policy of putting out baited drum lines to capture and kill large sharks off WA beaches. Link below to his interview after having a go at the premier.


To date, 70 sharks have been reported caught and killed, many of them smaller ones outside the cull parameters (over 3m and ugly with big teeth), the thing being once their on the hook they can’t be got off without killing them anyway.

The death toll includes three Mako sharks, a pelagic species which, like the great white, is considered under threat and hence normally protected. But they’re over 3m, very ugly and have lots of vicious looking teeth so it’s off with their heads too. Most if not all swimmers and water people seem to oppose the cull on the grounds that the ocean is the realm of the big, ugly and toothful, so man up and leave the beasties alone.

Back to working on the technique for the rest of the Autumn and into the winter.

Relax, relax, relax…and remember to breathe.

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The Swimming and the Writing Viruses – Kindred Species

Forget the Rottnest and English Channels, Galway Bay, Watson’s Bay and the rest of them, Surfmuppet’s big goal this year is to get a novel done and dusted, ready to go out into the world for better or worse.

Yes. A novel.

That’s the reason surfmuppet took up this swimming obsession three and a half years ago – to run away from a novel he had spent over five years working on and totally fucked up in the end.

So in keeping with the spirit of 2014 – The Year of the Novel, the muppet went out and bought himself a brand, spanking new MacBook Pro, with the Retina thingy, downloaded Scrivener, and set a goal of 1,000 words a day.

The technology decision is important. For years muppetman wrung his hands about writing in longhand, on the computer, in Word, in Notepad, in Evernote, in IA Writer and a plethora of God knows what other means.

Fuck the lot of them. Went out and spent a bundle on the Mac and bought a GoPro for good measure, which he persuaded his wife to give him as a birthday gift on the 2nd of Jan.

Like Barack Obama, Princess Diana and Julia Guillard, children of the transition year of 1961, caught between Baby Boomer and Gen-X, the muppet just turned 53. And if it’s going to happen, it’s got to happen now.

Around the turn of the year, in decision mode as to whether to pack in Vladswim and use the 6am to 8am slot every morning to fire up the Mac and get cracking on the word count.

Problem is, learn too much from Vlad, Charm and their funny bunch of swimming obsessives to just walk away.

Take Deano.

He’s training like a demon and is odds on to rip through the water at Rottnest for a  cracking time. Paid his deposit last week for the English Channel pilot and boat for his crossing in early August 2015.

A deliberate man.

Surfmuppet has watched other deliberate men this year step up to the plate and cross the channel. Trained with them, in pool and ocean, had coffee and bacon and eggs with them in cafes after, seen the light in the eyes and felt the fire in the heart.

Big John – July 2 in 18:15 hours in 13 degree water

Motorbike Marty – August 27 in 14:39 hours with 3 metre swells along the way

Doctor Jim – Swam with him for 5 hours at Balmoral in 15 degree water when he was doing his six hours Channel qualification swim. Saw the torture he was going through, face to face – but he just kept on going and did the Channel in 15:03 on September 21

Slovakian Pete – 5th July in 11:43

There are other men and women, but saw these four up close and personal in the training and preparation – watched, saw and felt what it takes to prepare to swim that particular stretch of frigid European water.

Reckon there’s a bit to be learned from types like these at the place where long distance swimming meets long distance writing.

At the most basic level, the swimming is all about kilometres done every day, writing about kilowords every day.

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that but what the hell.

Sticking with Vladswim for the moment and trying to slot in the writing around the swimming – but if something has to give, the writing is the priority.

And so to Saturday morning, decision to go to Bondi for the 7am bash with the Vladsters or fire up the Mac and start punching out words.

7am finds our man sitting at his desk and feeling the touch of the keys under his fingers in much the same way as the aquanauts 40km away over the hill in Bondi are feeling the grip of the water as they wade out into the North Bondi rip.

Writes for four hours and blasts out 5,600 words. Along the way, in the eye of the imagination watching the guys and gals chalk up the laps of the Bondi Crescent, feed and hydrate, back into it. Finishes at 11am figuring out that even total diehards like Bondi John, Marty, Cyril and Deano will have packed it in by then.

These words are training words. Surfmuppet is circling his potential themes, characters, plots, dialogues like a great white rabid with hunger after the long swim from South Africa to Australia, circling a pod of seals and sizing them up for the juiciest, fattest, most delicious looking one to rip into to. Once the target is selected then, “Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!” No surrender. No quarter given or asked for.

Plenty of seals swirling about in the muppet cranium. Pondering whether to dig up the corpse of the aborted novel from a few years ago and breathe new life into it, or start with a fresh piece of seal blubber. Only the oracle of the words can tell.

With there still being a chance of doing Rottnest, the muppet cannot afford to back off the training, so headed down to Clovelly Lagoon in the later afternoon for a solo session.

Into the water by quarter to five for a three hour stint, until seven forty five. Getting well dark by that stage. Last of the swimmers and frolickers leaving the water. Fish gathering in schools, getting ready for the night time feeding frenzy. Out by the mouth of the lagoon, in the full tide gap above the underwater murder of seaweed encrusted rocks, the dark water of the open ocean zealously guards her hungry children from the eyes of would be prey.

Crack! Collides into another eejit out swimming in the half light, smash of heads, that feeling of getting punched on the nose. Right calf goes out on strike in sympathy with the bruised head, massive cramp. Muscle bunches up and the pain is…struggles in the water until somehow gets to the wall and massages the muscle back to a state where he can hobble to the ladder and call it a day. Still sore 24 hours later.

Ah well. Time to get the gear ready for training in the morning, iron the shirt and polish the shoes in preparation for the one-on-one with the replacement boss at work. Not for nothing do they call him the wolf of the north, so surfmuppet has to be on his best behaviour.

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