Goodbye Vada

Well the day started as any other Sunday. Woke up at 6am and headed down to Port Melbourne for a swim, met up with Steve and in we went. Conditions were not great with a south westerly causing a small chop and a decent current pulling you towards shore. Steve wasn’t a big fan of the conditions but to his credit lasted about 40 minutes before pulling the pin. I did another couple of laps and then headed in also. Probably the highlight was trying on of the Shotz gels about halfway into the swim. I had the banana flavoured one and despite it didn’t taste too bad. Even better was that it didn’t make me sick and seemed to go down pretty well.

When I arrived home, I immediately knew something wasn’t right as Andrea looked really worried and told me that Vada (our Alaskan Malamute) seemed to be in a lot of pain. Vada has had numerous medical problems over the past few years and has always pulled through with fighting colours. A few years ago she lost all of her hair as a result of a extremely rare condition but we found what the problem was and got her on the right medication and turned that around. She has also had some joint pain due to her age and size but again the pain killing injections seemed to be worked and she still loved going for walks.

Andrea decided to take her down to the vet to find out what was wrong so Ben and I cleaned the deck and then headed off to the play centre for some father and son time. However when we got home the news was not good. Apparently Vada had an 8cm tumour in her stomach which had ruptured (probably overnight) and she was in a lot of pain. The vet was confident that it could be removed and sent her off to the emergency centre across the road for a second opinion. Unfortunately after a more detailed scan, the extent of the tumour was worse than first though and at about 6pm, Andrea had to make the tough decision to put Vada to sleep.

It was heartbreaking to watch. Vada was 12 years and 10 months old and is a member of our family. She was such a good and gentle dog and everyone who met her loved her. We couldn’t quite explain to Ben that his dog is not coming home….

Vada never gave up – even until the end – and I will be thinking of her when I’m swimming across the channel. We love you Vada and we wont forget the great times we had with you. Hope you get a nice big bone up there in doggy heaven and you find your buddy Tyson who we lost in 2008. RIP.

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Port Phillip Bay Water Temperature

The most common question I get asked is “what is the water temperature in Port Phillip Bay”.

Well to answer that question, the best source of information is the Melbourne University School of Earth Sciences webpage (http://www.baywx.com.au/temps.html), updated with information from CSIRO, the BOM, and the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria daily.

The most relevant graph is “Northern Bay” which is reporting a current temperature of 11.5°C. This is the closest monitoring point to Sandridge Beach where I have been doing most of my open water swimming. A number of reported temperatures are taken close to shore and as such, are typically lower than those taken further out.

This year started off as above average (with the temperature actually hitting 30°C for a day or two in late January 2014 after a string of 40°C days) however in the last 4 weeks, has returned to right on the average (see below). Needless to say, the temperature felt warmer this week than last week and the graph seems to confirm this.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

The training is coming along well. Have been getting into the Bay at least once per week and trying to keep the body used to the cold water. Melbourne turned on a bit of a cold snap this past week so the air temperature has dropped right off – although this has not necessarily translated to lower Bay temperatures just yet. Now that we are into August, there is probably another four weeks until the temperature bottoms out and the warmer weather returns.

I have keeping an eye on both the Channel Swimming Association (CSA) and Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CSFP) websites since the channel swimming season started in late June 2014 and it has been encouraging to see so many people successfully making it across. 20 CSFP swimmers (and I imagine a similar number of CSA swimmers) have been successful and we are only about 6 weeks in.

I started doing a bit of research into what the fastest ever, average, and fastest swims this year actually look like. It’s not rocket science. The shorter the distance you can swim the faster the time is likely to be. This is heavily reliant on your pilot putting you in the right place at the right time. You need to know roughly what pace you will be swimming at and be in the right place when the tide changes. Looking at Trent Grimsey’s record breaking 6 hour 55 minute swim from 2012, he swum almost a perfect straight line. Trent is obviously an incredible swimmer and was swimming at a pace which few could sustain for that long. My coach Chloe McCardel had a similar looking straight line when she crossed in 9 hours 3 minutes in 2011.

Trent Grimsey

Getting back to reality, it is interesting to look at the fastest swim for the 2014 season so far compared to an average swim of around 14 hours. Bob Fernald swam a high 10 hour time and was relatively straight, however Jason Betley was not so lucky, being taken by the tides in both directions but landing in the perfect spot.

Fastest 2014

Average Swim

My goal is to obviously make it across first and foremost, however I think it’s always good to have a stretch target to work towards which is to complete the crossing around the 10 hour mark. As such, I am tailoring my training to be able to comfortably swim at 4km/hour pace. This should allow adequate time for feeding (30 seconds every 30 minutes).