Saturday 31 August 2013


A while back I decided it might be fun to enter & train up for the Royal Challenge race, a 22km paddle, 21km trail run race run through the picturesque Royal National Park in Sydney's south.
No dramas with the paddling, but I've now spent the best part of six months going from a non-runner to one who consistently runs 15-20km a week, and I'm now a proud member of a famous old running club! It's been very tough but like all hard things, tremendously rewarding.
My youngest daughter Deni asking me how much fun I'm having with my running!
The organisers of the Royal Challenge have also come up with a new concept, the Hydrothon. It's another paddling-centric race, with a 1.3km ocean swim & a 10km run tacked onto either side of an 11km ocean ski paddle. And it's all over within 3 hours.
When I saw it was on, I figured it would be worth a crack as well, and entered as a competitor (and later a sponsor).
To get through this little goal I've had to undertake a few weeks of swimming training, and thanks to a very neat little method called Total Immersion Swimming I'm now feeling confident enough to do the swim leg of the Hydrothon without drowning. 
The Hydrothon is next Sunday, and when the competitor's hand book was released it listed cut off times for each leg. 40 minutes for the 1.3km swim, 80 minutes for the 11km paddle and a similar maximum time for the 10km run. I thought, right, they're comfortably outside the times I'm getting in my training, so hopefully I'm not going to get the dreaded 'tap on the shoulder' as I battle along!
Except, and it's a big but, I haven't actually strung all three together before, and had to change kit & transition from one discipline to the next, on the go.
On a paddle with Jason a few weeks back, an accomplished triathlete, he said that above all else I should start practising my 'transisitons'. Oh yeah sure, how hard can they be? Then a chat to my local font of knowledge about these things, Max Walker from Xamax Watercraft, kind of said the same thing, the key to it all is the transition.
So, for the last few times out on the ski, I've finished my paddle and gone for a short run. The last few runs, I've jumped in & gone for a few laps. It's an experience, but it was fine.
Yesterday, Sydney's ridiculous 'hottest ever winter' served up a 27 degree day so I thought it might be time to see what all the 'transition' fuss was about, and actually put all three elements of the Hydrothon together in sequence, although over a condensed hour.
I went down to Brighton, hopped into the cold bay water and went for a 650m swim. It took about five minutes before the ice cream headache subsided enough for me to get into my 'Total Immersion' stroke. Once I'd escaped the grasp of death-by-cold-shock I found the buoyant salt water to be way easier to swim through than the dead water of the pool. I also found that not having to stop every 50 metres and push off, was more conducive to the rhythmical trance I find myself when swimming laps, with various Public Enemy songs repeating in my mind. You know 'Dont….don't…... don't ……..don't,…..don't believe the Hype!' 
All good so far.
Out of the water and a short jog along the beach, and into the V10 for a 20 minute run up to the airport & back. No need to worry about the paddling leg right? Well, not quite. The exertion of the swim and the 'core' factor that Max had warned me about are not to be underestimated. Even though it was only a short 15 minute swim, swimming is a serious core exercise and my core was tired. This translated into an uncharacteristic wobble for the first 100m as I had to think about re-engaging my balance muscles.
Off the ski after a fast cruise along the bay, wetsuit off, singlet on & then away along the beach in the soft sand for 20 minutes. Yes, smugglers only....
This was the crunch moment, my breathing went to sh*t, my legs were slow to get moving, and for about 2-3 minutes once I got moving, I'd have to say it wasn't much fun. Why? Well not only does the swim leg use your core, but so does paddling an elite surf ski, and of course the number one element of your body to engage to run properly is.....your core.
Once in the groove, all of the training I've done kicked in and it felt like any other run, and I finished my mini training run in good shape. 
All in all a good confidence building exercise, which left me happy enough about beating the 'sit down pal you're too slow' fate that I feared awaited my first go at a multi discipline event! There is a lot to be said for not taking your body anywhere your mind hasn't been first, and these sorts of dry runs are tremendous at reinforcing (or blowing to pieces!) any self assurance that you may have garnered in your preparation.
D-Day is next Sunday, September 8 at Cronulla Surf Club. Entries have closed but you can bet this won't be the last event of this kind on the east coast. It's a great concept and in the sometimes rarefied air of multi-disciplined beach sports, about as accessible & inclusive as they come.

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