I did it, and what a totally awesome experience. One that I shall keep in the memory bank till the day I die. And to tell you the truth I don't even know what I was stressing about.
The day started out much like every other race morning - me trying to stomach breakfast. Bit hard to try and eat 3 Weetbix when your stomach feels like a bag of wriggly worms. After a few failed attempts I gave up and ate some toast with butter and Vegemite. That seemed to hit the spot and not make me feel queezy.
Sarah and I decided to make our way in together early and allow our husbands and kids to come in a bit later. Thank goodness for Sarah, I totally suck at city driving so she was my NavMan - and what a great job she did. Trying to find parking once we were in there was a totally different ball game altogether. Lucky we spotted one gentleman loaded up with grocery bags and we honed in on him and "voila", his spot became ours.
As we made our way to The Gatorade stand to meet Tim I could feel my nerves becoming more and more and I think I starting walking faster and faster too, cause I could feel myself inching ahead of Sarah and had to tell myself to slow down. As we found Tim, he kindly allowed us to leave our bags with him whilst we did our race as he manned the Gatorade station at the finishing line.
The walk to Shelley Beach from Manly Beach was nerve wracking. Sarah and I had joined the entourage to the starting line and it was interesting to see the many different faces and emotions plaguing each and everyone in such a different way. Looking out upon the ocean near the start line I started to get an overwhelming feeling of exactly what it was I was about to embark on.
We caught up with some familiar faces - Ruth and Louise at Shelley Beach had some chit chat and then it was game on. The starter gave us some instructions about the course but I couldn't hear a thing - not sure if was the loud chit chat from everyone around me or the fact that all I could hear was blah, blah, blah because I was so nervous. But before I knew it I was in the line near the front ready to go. As I looked to my right I saw another familiar face - one of the girls who I competed against in my first ever Sprint Tri. I wished Sarah all the best and said "should we lose sight of eachother, will meet you at the Gatorade stand" and with that we both gave eachother a knowing smile of GOODLUCK and the gun went off.
As I ran to the water and dove in the first thing I noticed was how clear the water was, I was now officially swimming with real life ocean fishies. Everytime I put my arm down and stroked under water there was a multitude of fish staring back at me wondering what it was I was doing. The ocean wasn't that choppy coming into the first bouy so it was easy to spot the mass of swimmers to my right as I made my way to it and made the sharp right. By that stage the lead pack of 4-5 girls I could just make out in the distance and I and 2 other girls seemed to keep good pace with eachother.
Making my way into the second bouy we had to swim out past the breakers which were being caused by rocks at the tip of Shelley Beach. It felt odd to be swimming and riding the swell up and down - a totally unique experience and quite a challenging one too. From the sharp left turn on the second bouy I realised the girl in front of me had obviously done open water swimming before - here navigational skills were awesome and I would have been silly not to take advantage of it - so I hung onto her feet and followed the mass of bubbles. There was one other lady doing the same thing behind me as I could feel her tapping my toes every so often.
At about the 1km mark I swallowed a mouthful of salt water - I was coughing and spluttering and feeling slightly spewy and had to do some breastroke to regain my composure - I think I kicked someone at that point - SORRY. It was probably at the next bouy I started to pass some swimmers from the previous wave - and I knew that I was more than half way there. As I lifted my head to spot a bouy I heard "Hi Barb". I was like "What the" who could possibly know me in the middle of the ocean. It was Ruth - she later told me that the TriSuit was hard to miss in the ocean....too funny. I said Hi Ruth we smiled and then continued to swim.
As I kept swimming I noticed that keeping track of my navigation girl was getting harder and harder as we became more entrenched in the previous wave - I was now beginning to run into swimmers and their legs - so I was starting to have to lift my head more often to keep track of her purple cap in amongst the sea of orange caps. It was at that point I noticed a tell tale sting on my right upper arm. I quickly wiped my arm and new I had been stung by a blue bottle and I then got really scared. I didn't really want to swim through a mass of these buggers so I just crossed my fingers and wished for the best.
The way back in was fun - I could start to feel the waves pulling me into shore. The most fun was looking behind and trying to catch a wave back in. Kind of felt like I was a little kid again. I made sure I continued to swim until I could feel the sand with my fingertips and I then got straight up and ran for the finish line.
I really wanted to find the lady with the purple cap to thank her but I lost her in the sea of faces at the end. Unfortunately my family were unable to see me finish, the poor things couldn't find a parking and they all looked so visibly distressed when they all turned up later. I think though they were happy to see I had finished and was okay.
At the Gatorade stand I caught back up with Sarah, Kristy, Joey, Tim, Lance, Ruth, Louise and Andrew. Everyone was happy with all their efforts. I couldn't stop smiling.