75km Round Lantau Swim:
A Hard Day at the Office
What a day !
This was one of these days when we really did not know how it would finish. We knew how it would start, and it was, by the way, a perfect start. Lots of spectators cheering, almost as many photographers, a short pre-start ceremony, a lot of emotion on us, the people at Plastic Free and the spectators. Then off we went, under the applauses.
Mentally, it all started after 600m. It occurred when we passed ‘the rock’, but this time, contrary to training days, we didn’t turn left, we just went straight into the ocean. Bruce told me after that he also felt that this was a mental milestone. We soon reached the place where 3 days before I did an Olympic Distance (topping my Age Group in swimming -all this hard training is paying off) next to Disneyland. I was feeling strong, it all felt almost too easy, and Bruce was even stronger.
But then, as usual in endurance events, it is when you start to feel confident that nature puts you back into your place. Swell, waves, whatever you call it, it was brutal, and it was in every direction. My super kayak support shouted at me: get away from the shore, the waves against the shore are created disruptions. She was right, the waves were in all directions. It got worse and worse, up to a point when doubt started to creep in. My mind was playing tricks with me: you’re not gonna make it, you’ve done 5k and look at you, already overwhelmed, what if the next 10k are like this ?
I muscled through it, put my head down, shortened my swim stroke as you can’t glide when the sea is like this, hoping for the best. Right when I started to desperate, came another typical endurance event moment: the situation improved, all by itself. I then left the doubt cave, and never looked back.
The swell remained high but it was only going sideways, a relief compared to the battlefield we had just been through. I could feel that my shoulders were starting to tense a bit so I used backstroke breaks to try to loosen them. We could see the Tsing Ma bridge getting closer and it was a motivation: visual milestones are always good in endurance.
A bit before the bridge the current in favor picked up and the sea flattened. For the first time I could lengthen my stroke and enjoy the glide. I flipped to backstroke while swimming under the bridge, looking at the infrastructure and the clear blue sky: what a perfect day I thought.
Karen from the support crew jumped into the water and started swimming with me, which was very appreciated. Indeed, I realized after 1k that the swim duo Olivier-Bruce would need to split and be replaced by two duos swimmer-paddler. Indeed, once in the water, your anchor becomes your paddler. He/she shows you the way, avoids the problems with traffic, provides your nutrition and potentially saves your life in case of problem. So it ends up being a bit lonely in the water, as nothing replaces the feeling of having another swimmer along.
I enjoyed so much the presence of Karen that I played cat and mouse with her, pushing more, enjoying the smooth current in a perfect moment that seemed to want to last forever. I even caught Bruce All Mighty for the first and only time of the day. I stopped by at his kayak while he was refuelling. He was shivering. I had seen him before being cold in training but it’s never good on a long day like today. I guess his 3% body fat has to have a drawback, and it’s this one: he gets cold quicker than most. But no reason to get worried and off we went again.
The wind had picked up and the kayaker had problem maintaining it straight. Water traffic was heavy at time and while the kayaker was managing the situation and did her best to minimize my stress, I could tell we probably had relatively close calls at some point. Now 11k into the swim, I knew I had maximum 1:30 more to swim. I did a double refuel, and went with all I had left, in the white-crested waves. I was feeling strong and it went fast. When my watch told me that I was reaching 15k, I heard that Bruce was still swimming, so we pushed for 16k. Sweet !
Once on the boat, a quick check-up of our body showed that apart from two very sore left shoulders, and two sunburns, one on my nose, the other on Bruce’s bald head, we were fine.
All in all, a rather uneventful day, isn’t it ?
But still a hard day at the office.
I am a reformed banker, proud father of two and professional endurance coach offering tailor-made training plans and specific guidance on all triathlon and endurance sports topics.