After the Australian Surf Life Saving Titles in March on the Gold Coast, I spent 10 weeks preparing for the FINA World Masters Championships and participated in a number of pool events, along with the 3-kilometre open water swim.
Over 2300 masters athletes started in the open water swimming event held in the crystal clear calm waters of the Adriatic Sea at Riccione, a seaside resort in northeastern Italy.
With the water temperature being around 22 degrees Celsius, conditions were perfect.
The event was held over two days with over 1,000 starters competing wave-by-wave from the 40-44 down to the 25-29 age groups on the first day and the older age groups being held on the second day.
The event was very well organised with efficient registration procedures, marker buoys easy to identify, lots of water safety and medical services.
With no injuries or illnesses leading into the event, I was able to put together a good block of training in the lead up to the event.
This, along with my experience in Surf Life Saving and ocean swim events enabled me to have success, winning the 45- 49 years age group in a very tight finish – 3 tenths of a second was very close, especially over that distance!!!.
After the championships, I was very fortunate to travel with a small group of other swimmers to a place on the western side of Italy called Cinque Terre.
It is easy to get there by train, a great way to get around Italy. Here there are five ancient fishing villages set in some of the most beautiful coastal scenery. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the clear and warm waters made swimming conditions perfect for when we visited there in June, arguably the best time to visit before the busy tourist season starts in July.
These five places date back to the medieval period with Monterosso being the oldest one. It was found in AD643. The other towns are Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Many people visit here to hike over the scenic, steep terraced cliffs. The trails have been around for over five centuries.
We decided to have a unique adventure and had a leisurely swim between each of the villages, taking in the amazing sites and having an opportunity to get close to marine life.
One of our group members caught the train and met us at the next town. She carried all of our bare essentials- towel, sunscreen, shirt, a small amount of cash, fluids and some fruit.
We took our time and did a swim from Monterossa to Vernazza, a relaxing one hour break and a quick look around the town, followed by swimming from Vernazza to Corniglia on the first day (approximately 3 kilometres on each leg).
On the next day, we did an easy swim from Corniglia to Manarola with a short break and then to complete the journey, we swam to Riomaggiore (approximately 2 kilometres on each leg).
Our accommodation was based in Monterossa and we caught the ferry back to there on the first day and the train on the second day (both are short journeys).
This was a perfect way for a group of swimmers to check out the local area and made the holiday very memorable.
If you ever get the opportunity to go to Italy, especially if you are an Open Water enthusiast, I would highly recommend that you visit this beautiful part of the world.