Saturday, 31 January 2015

Claire Hobson Speaks About The Taupo Epic Swim 2015

“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” Just one of the many messages I received before beginning the 10km swim on Lake Taupo on Saturday 10th January 2015. 

I laughed at these messages at the time, but during the swim they were the mantra that got me through. A 10km swim is equivalent to running a marathon and it is a mental achievement as much as a physical effort.

All my swimming in the past was completed in the pool and I had completed a few short ocean events. My main distance leading up to the event was a 5km swim at the Pan Pacific Games in 2014. I was comfortable swimming 5km and thought a 10km swim would be no problem. So I decided to enter the 10km swim on Lake Taupo as well as the Masters 2.5km classic. For good measure I entered my partner as well: Dermot Smith. I thought if I could endure it, then he could too.

A lake swim has its unique challenges; a fresh water lake does not have the same buoyancy as the sea (where I had completed most of my training). Lakes are also slightly cooler than the sea. I would be completing the event without a wetsuit so these two factors contributed to my performance on the day.

Although nervous I slept well the night before and ate a hearty breakfast fueling my body for the
massive swim ahead. The course was made up of 4 x 2.5km loops with a feeding station at one end of the course. Feeding is essential to keeping your body powered up through the event. I bribed my mother to feed my partner and myself and my Dad rigged up a homemade feeding device, made from a broomstick and a peg basket which seemed to do the trick wonderfully (according to my mum).
Now its game on…..

As the hooter sounded, my partner and myself were determined to stick together so we could have a sprint off at the end. When I arrived at the first feeding stop I was feeling on top of the world. My partner commented “Why are you so chirpy? There’s another 9km to go.” Up to the 5km mark things were going according to plan except for the diesel fumes from the lead boat and the IRBs. About 6.5km into the swim the messages I had received before the race were now becoming important. My body was beginning to tire and my head space was getting darker and darker. All I could think about was getting to the next feeding station while my body was screaming at me to stop swimming. Eventually the feeding boat came into view and my previous chirpy self, had now become a monster with attitude. At the feeding station I took on a power gel, water and pureed apple hoping this would fuel me up for the remainder of the race. I was now starting to get cold and my stomach was urging me to ‘feed the trout’ i.e. vomit. My head space was now even darker and I began to wonder if I would be able to finish the race. By now stopping and starting was a regular occurrence and a few questions from the IRBs as to whether I could continue. But somewhere inside my head I could hear a small voice “just keep swimming….” I was now swimming buoy by buoy not feeding station to feeding station and told myself it was all down hill from here. Many thanks to the guys in the IRBs who patiently shadowed me as I swam my way home. Yay! Eventually I reached the shore and I slapped the finishing mat (I had to remember that my transponder was on my wrist not my ankle).

As soon as I exited the water my body started to shake and I was guided to the St Johns ambulance tent where I was stripped down, wrapped in foil and baked until my body temperature returned to normal. Thanks St John!

Prizegiving was a blur. Apparently my name was called for a spot prize: I won a blue seventy wetsuit. My partner also won a spot prize: an arena jacket. Thanks to all the sponsors.

My final time was 3hrs and 45 minutes. I placed 9th in my age group.

Am I glad I swum at this event?? Of course!! To all those out there who want to give distance swimming a crack – go for it. Believe in yourself. You can do it.

The following day I swam in the Masters 2.5km classic and placed 4th in my age group. This was a breeze!

Well done to all the organisers, swimmers and feeders and volunteers on the day. 

Who am I?

Swimming is a huge part of my life. I began swimming at a very young age and became competitive when I was 15. In 2007 I joined the Waitakere City Masters Swim Club and I currently swim 5-6 times per week. I am coached by Simon Mayne whose speciality is coaching Paralympics swimmers. In the past few years I have travelled to numerous places in New Zealand to compete in pool and ocean events and have also travelled across to Australia to compete in the Pan Pacific Games and the Australian Champs. Last year I travelled to Samoa to compete in the Samoa Swim Series. 

During the day I work as a Primary School teacher where I teach 5 and 6 year olds. In my spare time I enjoy watching movies and spending time with my partner, friends and family.

My long term goal is to continue swimming competitively and to participate in the 2017 World Masters Games which are being held in Auckland. 

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