Palm to Whale BeachOn Saturday I flew up to Sydney compliments of MS Research Australia (MSRA)  to take part in The Big Swim.  The charity partner of the swim was MSRA and I had been asked to not only swim but speak at a fundraising lunch for the ‘Kiss Goodbye to MS’ campaign.

The swim was from Palm Beach to Whale Beach and covered 2.5km’s.  What I didn’t expect was the surf that was crashing onto the shoreline.  When I arrived on Saturday the weather was beautiful and 30c so I was hopeful of a sunny day for the swim, but it wasn’t meant to be.  Because of the cyclone’s further up the coast, the weather had travelled down to Sydney and I awoke to a good downpour.  It didn’t worry me though because I thought with the rain would bring some calmness to the ocean and I would be wet anyhow.  I met up with another woman living with MS, Dr. Felicity Pyrlis, she was staying at the same hotel and had come up from Melbourne for the swim as well. We were picked up on Sunday morning by Jeremy and Marilyn Wright to get to the beach. Jeremy is the CEO of MSRA.

kiss-badgeOnce at the beach we headed to the “Kiss Goodbye to MS” tent, where there were a number of volunteers helping with the MS temporary tattoos and red lipstick!  Even men were putting on the red lipstick and it certainly was showing the other swimmers what we were really there for, to raise much needed funds for MS Research and boy we certainly stood out!

It was just about time for the swim and we, Felicity and I, were introduced to a couple of other swimmers Dimitri and Dan.  Dimitri also lives with MS and he was going to have two swimming partners, staying with him through the entire swim, Dan and Jeremy.  So of course we had to have a few photos taken with our red lippy and tatts!Photo 27-01-2013 09 36 00

As we headed down to the start of the swim and to wait for our timed waves to head out everyone kept telling me how calm it was but with 2.5 – 3 meter surf it didn’t look too calm to me!  I think both Felicity and I were a tad bit nervous about getting out over the break at the start of the swim and to be honest that was probably the hardest part of the swim, other than getting out of the water at the end.

I had some great help from two new friends, Teresa and Troy Burke.  Teresa is an immunotherapy nurse in Sydney and was there with me at the start, taking my walking stick from me as I entered the water and her husband Troy was waiting for me at the finish to help me out.  My biggest problem at the finish is due to my bad balance (thanks MS!) coupled with the movement of the water makes it really hard to not have vertigo.  But with Troy’s help I was out and up the beach, mind you that was after a couple of dumpings by the waves breaking over me!

During the swim I actually felt quite good and strong as I got into a rhythm, but of course at times as you are swimming over these large swells your arms are moving through air and not water!  At a couple of points I felt something brush against my arms but just thought it was leaves or something…sometimes I am stupid, what would a leaf be doing in the ocean?!  It turns out that I was stung by Blue Bottle Jelly Fish, but thank goodness I didn’t realize that until I was out of the water!  But with a bit of help from the surf lifesavers at the Whale Beach Club I got the stinging to stop.

It turned out that I did have a good swim, 46:24,  placing 4th in my age group of 50-54 women and 312th overall out of 1049 swimmers in total.  So I was very pleased with that considering I haven’t done too much swim training.  It was then time for the fundraising lunch at Moby Dick’s right on Whale Beach.  It was a beautiful restaurant overlooking the beach, unfortunately the weather got worse as we sat there, so not a great view.  The lunch was MC’d by Graeme Creed who is the weather man for the ABC in Sydney and I had to feel for him as people kept asking him why the weather was as it was.  It was all in jest and he let us all know that he had nothing to do with the rain!  I did my 10 minute talk, passed my medal around the room and had a wonderful chat with everyone after lunch.  In the end the swim raised just over $20,000 for MS Research, not bad for a first time.

It was then back to the airport for my flight home.  It was a great couple of days and thanks once again to Jeremy, Marilyn, Teresa, Troy, Dimitri, Dan and Felicity for all their help in making my first swim at The Big Swim a memorable one.  Now back to the world of Cycling and the excitement of getting my new trike put together!