Got swim plans for Australia Day?
If you live within a day-trip to Wollongong, then why not try your hand at an aquathon – an open water swim, followed by a road run – and rub shoulders with some of Australia’s triathlon elite while you’re at it.
In previous years there has been an ocean swim in Sydney on Australia Day, but this year the calendar is clear. The last to go was the Great Sydney Swim, and late last year word came through that Newcastle’s Aus Day swim would also not go ahead.
The Wollongong Aquathon, with four swim and run distances across kids, ladies, first-timers, short and long, has the perfect distance for any level. Go solo and take the swim and run on your own, or buddy up tag-team with one swimmer and one that runs.
One of the elites that will be lining up to challenge for line-honours, is Australian representative triathlete, Aaron Royle.
Nick-named óìBugsó, Royle proved he was a force to be reckoned with early in his career after being crowned U23 World Champion in 2012. He made his Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games.
Spending half his year in Wollongong, as part of the illustrious ‘Wollongong Wizards’, Royle trains alongside fellow Australian team members Ryan Bailie and two-time women’s World Champion Gwen Jorgenson (who will also be lining up in the Aquathon).
The 25-year-old spends the much of the year in the Wizards training base in Vitoria, Spain, and makes frequent appearances on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit.
Here’s Royle with his top tips on how to enjoy the big day and how to nail your first Aquathon…
How does this event fit in with your training and race schedule?
Each year we joke that the Aussie Day Aquathon is our world Aquathon Champs. With the Wollongong Wizards – Wollongong-based training group – all on the line, plus a who’s who of NSW, the field rivals the real worlds. It’s fun, but it’s also competitive.
Who should be giving Aquathon a go?
Aquathon is the perfect entry-level event for all ages, and also a great hit-out for the more seasoned campaigner. As I mentioned, it’s fun and with no cycling involved, it opens the door for all types to join in.
For pool swimmers looking to take on an Aquathon, what advice do you have for adapting to the open water?
Open water swimming is safe but takes a little adjustment from the pool. Add in some ocean pool training – and/or move to a safe lake, river, surf beach or harbour spot. Get used to the feel and the lack of blackline to follow.
How can swimmers deal with pack-swimming?
Swimming in a large group can be daunting. Open your eyes and use your own sense of direction, rather than simply following the person in front. Don’t panic in large groups, and if you get a knock, pause, take a deep breath and then continue.
Should participants wear a wetsuit?
Over a shorter swim it becomes more about personal preference and water temperature. Weaker swimmers may find wetsuits reduce the fatigue and allow for a quicker recovery for the run. Of course, stripping off a wetsuit can lose you some time in transition.
For traditional ocean swimmers, they don’t usually have to run further than up the beach to the finish. How should they go about the run leg?
Take a minute to gather yourself after the swim. Set a good but sensible pace, and don’t overcook it. Aquathons may seem short, but there’s still a lot of time to blow up!
Having participated in the Australia day Aquathon before, what makes this event so great, and how can participants get the most out of it?
It’s Australia Day, so make It fun! I love Australia Day; after all, it’s my birthday! And the Australia Day Aquathon has been a tradition for nearly 10 years. It’s a fun race. A home crowd, an amazing atmosphere, and professional and yet relaxed.
This interview was first published in 220 Triathlon. Republished with permission from the organiser.