Mentone Open Water Marathon – 10km 2021 Report

  • Location: Mentone Lifesaving Club, Victoria, Australia
  • Date: 13/03/21
  • Distance: 10km
  • Time: 03:27:30
  • Overall Place: 30/61 (Wetsuit & Non-Wetsuit)
  • Full Results

Return of the open water swimming marathon, last time I attempted to tick this goal off the list I DNF’d. Pre COVID-19 I attempted to finish the 10km marathon distance at the WOW Challenge Open Water Championships in December 2019, however due to a mix of issues such as; getting lost, not training enough for swimming, not having a proper wetsuit which resulted in me losing feeling in my hands and feet, and simply being too slow I ultimately was timed out with 1-2km to go. After climbing numerous mountains and running a few ultramarathons this was the first time I failed an endurance challenge, and it stung. However I was determined to come back and give it another shot so I signed up for the Mentone Open Water Marathon in March 2020, in comes COVID-19. All swimming events had pretty much been canceled until now due to COVID-19, so I’ve never had the opportunity to “officially” finish an open water marathon since my failed attempt almost one and a half years ago! So when I had no running event on the cards for the weekend of March the 13th & 14th and saw that the Mentone Open Water Marathon was going to be held on the 13th you bet I took the opportunity. I was ready and prepared this time; a proper wetsuit, I’ve been swimming anywhere from 5km-15km each week in combination with my 100km running weeks, and I knew what I was in for this time. The only thing this time was I was already exhausted; I’d burnt myself out from some long weekends running ultramarathons whilst also working and dealing with some mental issues. However I knew that I was determined to get this monkey off my back, and I wasn’t going to squash this opportunity. I knew I could do it this time I just needed to get myself to the starting line. And thats where I ended up, on the 13th of March 2021 I along with 61 other swimmers found myself at Mentone Lifesaving Club looking out the water, ready to swim 10km on a beautifully stunning morning!

8:10am and we were off, I really didn’t want to be there, I couldn’t be bothered but for the first 500m when I found myself in 4th place without having to push too hard I was pleasantly surprised and shocked, and the thought that maybe I should really try and put the foot on the gas and risk blowing up came to mind, it energised me. However it wasn’t long before one swimmer past me, then another and another, and another……. and another. After 1-2km I was either middle or back pack. Alright then, placing was now off the cards, I’d have to sprint to stay at their pace and I can’t keep my sprinting pace longer than 100m let alone 10km. So with that in mind I let the thought of placing die and continued on focusing to finish. The course was easy to follow, 4 laps of a 2.5km rectangular loop, keeping the big red buoys to the outside of us whilst keeping the yellow poles and/or buoys to the inside of us. Honesty although I thought about placing I hated the first lap, mentally I just felt burnt out and the thought of doing an activity for 3+ hours made me want to throw up. However after completing the first lap, and not finding it too horrible I was happy telling myself I only had to do that one more time before being halfway, “that’s not so bad” I told myself. Then after I was halfway I’d only need to do the loop once more because the last lap doesn’t count as it’d be a victory lap, thats how I broke it down to make it manageable anyway. Luckily from lap 2 onwards I was able to maintain a positive mindset, no matter how uncomfortable I got, whether it be my quads and calves cramping or my shoulders and elbows aching, to the annoyance of some small choppy waves getting salt water down my throat. Lap 2 went quite fast and before I knew it I was 5km in and on my third, and after the third lap I was on the home stretch. On the third lap I started to cramp though, every 5 minutes I’d have to stop kicking and try and straighten my cramping calf which was quite annoying, it was exaggerated when I tried to swim fast. My left shoulder also started to get a little sore but nothing serious, my hands also started feeling weird like pins and needles as if they weren’t getting enough blood in them and eventually I couldn’t keep my fingers together, they were permanently bent like I was trying to scratch someone. This was no surprise though and happens everytime I swim 5km or more, so I was prepared. The perfect conditions also started getting choppy which was probably the most annoying part. Nonetheless I swam around the buoys in the familiar rectangle shape and finished that third lap. Before starting my fourth lap I stopped at the feeding station, on these longer swims a feeding station is set up, the feeding station is basically a floating platform located at the start/finish of each loop, which we can put our food and water on. I just brought a drink bottle filled it with water and mixed that with Tailwind (an electrolyte and carbohydrate mix). I drank the whole 1L before starting the fourth lap and within 5 minutes my cramps which started getting quite bad started disappearing, the hungry sickness feeling disappeared and I felt a surge of energy. The numbness and stiffness in my hands also got better from the 1-2 minutes of not swimming. It did start getting really choppy though but I was 7.5km’s down, felt rejuvenated and excited, I could taste the finish line and was about to redeem myself from the DNF at Williamstown a year and a half ago, so f**k the choppy waves. A few other 10km swimmers past me on this last lap but I didn’t care, I was psyched and nearly done with plenty of time to spare. I was going to finish after about 3 hours and 30 minutes, way ahead of the cut-off time of 4 hours and 30 minutes and this is what the challenge was, to finish, not to beat other swimmers. The countdown began and everytime I past a buoy joy came to mind as I could say I’d never have to pass it again, then finally I past the last buoy and starting swimming the home stretch towards the shore! Before I knew it I was stumbling on my feet and I made a horrible attempt to run across the finish line. 03:27:30 over what was really 10.7km, I’d done it and as the race organiser put the finisher medal around my neck for the first time in a while I really appreciated that I just finished. This kind of challenge was the challenge I needed, it felt similar to my first couple of ultramarathons when I really respected the distance and the challenge of an ultramarathon, and didn’t take it for granted. It re-ignited the motivation within for taking on these challenges, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered. This feeling in combination of redeeming myself and getting the DNF monkey off my back made me the happiest I’d felt in a while.

Thank you to Mentone Lifesaving Club and Mentone Pink Caps for holding this beginner friendly event, thank you to all volunteers, from club President Brian Kirk, Water Safety Team (IRB, Jet Ski, rescue board and tower) , Course Set up team, Feeding Station team, Food preparation team, Registration Team, Finish line and medal support team, The bag storage team, the BBQ and coffee team, the cleaning up team, photography and the timing team. You all did a fantastic job and I can’t thank you enough!!

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