Pier to Pub: Swimming in a pack with the thousands is great fun

Lining up for the start of arguably the biggest ocean swim event as far as the number of participants go (5000 in total) was one thing that stands out in my mind about the 2012 Lorne Pier to Pub race.

With my adrenaline pumping, the amazing atmosphere and being surrounded by hundreds of people who were lining up for the start on the ramp, so their timing chips could be activated before they enter the water, was a great experience. Everyone was motivated to complete the course for many different reasons.

With a slight North easterly swell pushing towards the finish line and being one of the stronger swimmers trying to avoid accidentally running into swimmers from the wave ahead of me, I decided to position myself wide of the buoy line (towards the end of the pier) for the deepwater start.

My plan worked well and I was pleased with the way I swam. I completed the race in a little over 13 minutes was good enough to win my category (40-49 years male). As soon as I crossed the line, I was given a ticket with my position and time of when I needed to be at the presentation (which was only 30 minutes after I had finished the event). The organisation of this massive event was fantastic.

Something else I enjoyed was watching the masses of swimmers of all ages and abilities coming in to complete the race. The spectators who were lined along each side of the finish line, cheering and encouraging all participants, was also something I’ll always remember about this race. If you were one of those people, good job!

If you are an ocean swimmer, I’d highly recommend that all of you give this iconic swim, held annually at the beginning of January a go. Yes, the water is a bit cool (16-17 degrees Celsius), however, it is a wetsuit optional race, with many choosing to use one to contribute to making the swim more bearable and pleasant.

Thanks to the water safety people who made all of us feel safe in the water, the volunteers who worked behind the scenes, did registrations, handed out water, etc, to ensure the event ran smoothly and successfully, as well as the organisers from Lorne S.L.S.C. I’m sure this event will still be going strong for at least another 32 years.

Top tips for swimming in a pack

When you are in races where there are a large number of participants you will often find yourself swimming in a large pack full of people and feeling a lot like being in a washing machine! Use these tips to deal with pack swimming.

  • You can make large energy savings if you swim behind a swimmer who is a little faster than you. Get yourself into a position where the tips of your fingers are nearly brushing the toes of the swimmer in front of you. This is known as wash riding. When you are in a big group it is fairly easy to do and many of the swimmers used this strategy in the race to maximise their personal performance.
  • Learn to raise your head and shoulders out of the water higher than normal, but as part of your normal stroke, to get above the additional white-wash for clear air to breathe. Try it as part of your sighting technique.
  • If you’re not comfortable being in the middle of a pack, wait until the majority of swimmers have started and slip in behind them. Alternatively, try and start on the side of the group.
  • Be prepared to be kicked and hit by the arms of other swimmers – it’s pretty much enviable so be tough!
  • If you find yourself stuck in the middle of a pack and you don’t like it, don’t stop and breaststroke – you’ll end up kicking people behind you. Either make your way to the side or stop and float vertically and let swimmers past.
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