Southland Open Water swimming champs: not as I expected!


So here it is, my first ever swimming race, a swimming race that didn’t have a bike or run after it! How strange!

I had no idea what to expect in this race. I haven’t worn the wet suit since October 2012, the World champs Grand Final in Auckland, and my last ever triathlon.

To be honest, I was relieved that it actually still fitted me! I didn’t know what to expect from an open water swimming race, here in Southland. It is the Southland open water swimming champs too, did that mean more would appear? Who knows. I was trying to imagine, would it be like a swim start for a sprint tri qualifier in the tiny lake at Emberton, (Olney, England)? When we set off I knew by looking at the map that the lake was very small. I was told via email that it was a 2km swim, 4x500m laps. Yep, smaller than Emberton.

I set off with wet suit, towel and shower stuff (in hope) but in reality I expected a field, and the back of a car, at best. We drove past the ‘sign’ we were told to look out for, till on the way back, mark figured out the kiwi translation.

IMG_9502This was the ‘sign’. We only knew that because its the same ‘sign’ used in a garage sale! Down the tack we went and yep,. I was right a field, and a car, and a woman on a fold out chair. That was it. There was one other car there. I went to talk to the lady, and ‘register’. She asked me what distance I was doing. I looked at her in confusion. She said ‘the other lady is doing 2km, I think you should too’. Her sheet only had one other name written on it. Well, it was a very cold day but I thought what the heck, I had expected it to be 2km, so why make it any shorter!!? OH joked with me about making sure I didn’t forget that I DIDN’T have to sprint up the beach while stripping off and looking for my bike!

We sat in the car for a bit, speculating whether I would perish on this very cold day, or not, when just a few more cars arrived. in all there was a handful of people, and only four adults, including one man. Oh well, I would be first second or third then wouldn’t I?!

After a swim ‘warm up’ the start happened suddenly and without warning. I wasn’t at all ready or in the start position. Never mind, That very quickly didn’t matter, because they all swam off into the distance. The other lady I had spoken to, who claimed she was really SLOW, (as she put on her Challenge Wanaka swim cap) also swam off into the distance.

DSC_0696The lap was a triangular one, and by the first buoy, it as apparent to me that I was going to be last, and by some margin too. All sorts of things went through my mind.

  • What a damn silly idea to do this, I should quit
  • What did you expect Mel, you haven’t been doing any swimming
  • This is a swim race, these are SWIMMERS not triathletes, so of COURSE they will be faster!
  • This swim race was more than double the distance I usually raced in open water,coming from a sprint triathlon background – only 750m!
  • This is supposed to be fun, so take a chill pill!!

I focussed on myself, stopped letting the surroundings get to be and just swam. So what if I was last, I was doing it, wasn’t I?! It was another two laps before the leader came past, and lapped me. (The one adult male as it turns out, who is a fish!) As he went past I realised anther thing that I needed to change, if I was to continue doing swim races: the leg kick. I am so used to not really using the legs, because I will need them later. Well, I don’t need them later, do I, so I had better re-learn how to use them properly!


I finished, slightly faster than my 2000m test swim the other day in the pool, and was third (and last). I seriously underestimated how much faster pure swimmers would be, and also how few people there would be. I had no one to hide amongst!

IMG_9503Still, I won the ‘longest day out’ award and got a free box of chocolates!

I apologised for keeping them so long, and said that I realised that I had work to do, when the speed boat on the course brought the first buoy back to the shore before I had even finished the race!

Glad I did it, it reminded me how much I loved open water swimming, its something I will have to plan a return to next spring.

On the way home we stopped for a much needed snack, and a can of coke, to settle the stomach.


Its been a while since I did open water swimming but I knew that this would ALWAYS do the trick and make me feel better again.

Perhaps with some TRAINING I could manage a second or a first next year….

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