A big contrast to 2011, which was completely event-less for the athletic powerhouse, a week in to 2012 I've already done my first race. I did the Dicky Beach Ocean Swim with a couple of friends on Monday.
I entered the ocean swim on a dare set down by a friend from Sydney. She had recently done a swim at Coogee and with a trip home planned for Christmas, thought the Dicky Beach event was too good an opportunity to miss.
So did I.
I'd only just gone back to swimming since spraining my ankle and could only swim with a pull buoy. After two swim sessions, the second of which I got through 1,500m with the pull buoy, I decided that with a few weeks up my sleeve before the race, I could be ready. My health professional's assessment in mid December that I could start swimming without a pull buoy was enough to prompt me to pay my $20 entry fee.
I kept the training up with a couple of swims a week. Over Christmas I tried to ignore the news about beaches being closed due to rough weather. Surely this would be over by New Year?
It wasn't quite - when race day rolled around, the surf was still fairly full on. We had stayed up the coast with friends over New Year and I knew that at least the temperature of the water was pleasant. A lot of these friends had also promised to come and watch me swim, which was a little overwhelming for just a 1k swim! I appreciated their support, but as the start time beckoned, I started to feel the nerves and pressure build.
I reveled in this feeling, truth be told. I've always felt that nerves are an important part of racing - when channeled well, they help you get the best out of yourself. Maybe, just maybe, I was back!
With my ankle still on the mend, I started from the back of the field so I could take my time getting in through the break. As soon as the water was deep enough I started swimming, diving under the waves when I needed to. It seemed to take ages to get out to the first turning can to start the rest of the circuit!
As soon as I did though, I found I started passing people. At some point along that straight I passed Damien, who was keeping his eye out for Nat. We swapped greetings and I kept swimming.
The buoys were fairly hard to sight in the swell, and I've never been good at keeping to a course in open water at the best of times. There were moments in this event when I thought I must have been dead last - there was not a sign of any other swimmers at all! Each time though, I'd push this doubt aside and just refocus on finding the next turning buoy and swim for it.
Sure enough, as I rounded the penultimate buoy to swim the last stretch along the beach, I came across some other competitors. Maybe I wasn't doing so badly after all.
I rounded the final can and headed for the beach. I probably over compensated for my dodgy ankle again on the way out of the water, tentatively picking my way through the breaking waves and back onto the beach. Like the start, it seemed to take forever. But finally, I could make my way up the beach and across the finish line.
Damien came in not long after me, and Nat finished soon after that.
My finish time isn't anything to write home about - 29:38 translates to a 1:54:00 ironman swim! But less than 36 hours into the new year, I'd already finished my first race of the year. It was only a small event, but seemed like a first big step towards Challenge Roth.
It felt good.