Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 4

Here is Part 4 of Ned‘s report from the SCAR Swim Challenge:

Up just before 4:00 am, which was frankly about my normal jet lag wake-up time. The house kitchen buzzed with toast slices, berries, porridge and anything else imaginable.  Gracie was downing coconut water (I have no idea)!

I suspect that we packed 25 litres of fluid between us with no two the same. Roger packed Pepsi with Maxim? I stayed with High5 plus 500 ml of another carbo-drink, water and a horrible chocolate recovery drink (thanks for the powder, Carol!). Half of mine were frozen solid as a way to battle the heat.

We left at 4:30 am and met the gang in the dark near the swim: magic market numbers, briefing and met the kayak volunteer. My kayak is Cimarron, one of the massage therapists and I reserved the first slot for Thursday and Friday. She headed off with my mesh bag of drinks, drugs and spare goggles!

I was ahead of Gracie for the first 45 minutes – ok, I was sitting in the front of the van taking us to the start and she was in the back. The start was a patch of desert where you checked for rattlesnakes before you ventured too far to pee.  Communal sun screening and nervous chat in the hot sun. I got nervous about the “water resistant for 80 minutes” stuff so instead used face zinc on my entire body.

Then we climbed down a cliff for 20 minutes (wearing shoes, togs, caps, goggles). Last year, Dave Barra fell and cracked two ribs – so we took it very seriously.

Another long wait at the bottom until the kayakers arrived (downstream) and organized by number. The swimmers headed upstream, maybe 500 m, to the bottom of a dam and went off (downstream) on “Go”.   My right upper arm was in considerable pain – and the worry was worse.  It was not a race; NOT A RACE.  Gracie and two other gals sprinted off and I got in a battle with four or five until we met the kayakers.

I pulled ahead of the pack and my arm felt better (related?).  The gap increased steadily over the next few miles.  Sun was beating down in my eyes and even when I found shade in the high-walled narrow (maybe 75 m wide), I could see the sun lighting up the water a few meters away on one side.  My first feed was a 90% frozen bottle of fluid, which was fun.

Then it all went bad another few miles along – clearly, the others did not get the message: NOT A RACE. Four caught me and two passed me – the arm started to hurt again. I chased for a few miles and it seems that they always had a better line hugging reeds or cliffs. Finally, I reeled them in (all but the three speedy ladies) and slammed my left hand into one of their kayaks in the process.  I then started to pull ahead again.  The pain in my arm vanished … the left hand was feeling proud!

Into the wide lake we met a strong headwind. I got my head down and tried to muscle it … it seemed to help and the gap behind me widened. The fresh water pulls your legs down and the shoulders burn with extra effort.

A couple of miles from the end, a female swimmer passed me and would not be caught. I took to coast hugging (a Cork advantage) to get the shortest line and Cimarron was cringing as I went over rocks and through dead tree branches.

The finish took me by a pontoon boat with the four female finishers and to another dam. It seems that the swim was just under 9 miles and my time was 3 hours and 20 minutes or so (with some current helping). Gracie broke 3 hours and Dave was 30 minutes faster this year with unbroken ribs!

They laid on a spread of fruit and drinks on for the swimmers and crew. Everyone had finished and there were smiles all around. I noticed that poor Heather, the other massage lady, was standing all alone by her table. I decided to help – like throwing the first coins in the busker’s guitar case – I helped as her first customer. She then had them queuing up: my good deed for the day.

Back to the house for a massive feed and mixing feeds again. I think we are all positive about the second 10 mile lake swim on Thursday and, yes, another 4:00 am wake-up. We now leave the house behind and stay is “quaint” places in the mountains. The fun never ends!

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