Joining the 5 Mile Club

Well that’s it – the Cape Mile done and dusted.

This is a story about going into a challenge under-prepared. Or maybe it’s about never underestimating nature.

Now if you know me, you’ll know that I am a lot like my mom in a lot of respects. Nature or nurture I’m not entirely sure, but I am at least slightly OCD and I like to be prepared and in control.

This year my mom convinced me to join her and some friends doing all 5 events offered at the Cape Mile on 19 Feb. It sounded doable. My mom had done it the previous year and had coped just fine. But then again my mom is a machine.

We decided to try and raise money for a good cause: the Philippi Children’s Centre new learn-to-swim pool.

The new pool came about due to two drownings on the farm lands last year. The farmers excavate small dam-like structures, using DPC (black plastic that is slippery when wet) to line the dams. The children go in to cool off and then cannot get out as they cannot swim.

The money raised would go towards learn-to-swim lessons for the children as well as the running costs of the pool. By teaching these children to swim we could literally save lives. Our cause was noble, but unfortunately I soon learnt that trying to raise money is not particularly easy, but nevertheless we gave it a good bash – sharing our story on social media and telling anyone who would listen.

I didn’t start training particularly early, but with about 5 weeks to go I started to put in some serious swimming mileage. Coming from a swimming background, I generally find it quite easy to pick up my swimming (this probably has something to do with 6 – 8 swimming sessions per week from age 8 to 18). I need to thank Stuart Marais for always getting me to Virgin Active to do a session. I hate swimming alone and so really need the help of swimming mates.

Two weeks before the event I joined some of the “5 Mile Club” up at the Silvermine Dam and did 4 x 1 mile with 5 – 10min rest in between each one. It was super chilled. On race day we’d be starting every 45min. That meant around 25min to swim the mile, walk the 300 odd metres back to the start, maybe have a bite of a bar, a sip of Skratch and then line up for the next mile. I thought I was ready.

Ready? Packing light in comparison to a triathlon

Race day dawned and driving to the event out at the Grabouw Country Club it felt as though we might be blown off Sir Lowry’s Pass. The wind was gale-force. I didn’t think too much about it. It was only when the hooter sounded for the first mile and I started swimming that I realised that the wind had turned the dam into what seemed more like the sea. An angry sea at that.

Before the fun began – in our snazzy matching TYR cozzies

The first 650m or so was directly into the wind, which was kicking up waves such that whenever I tried to sight for the first turn buoy I would either just see a wall of water, get a face full of water or 1 time out of 10 attempts I’d actually be able to see ahead. The waves were short and fast which meant that I had to adapt my stroke as I tried to roll with the water instead of fight it. It really was a challenge getting to that first turn buoy. By then I’d already swallowed copious amounts of water and was almost feeling sea-sick. Then it was 100m swimming almost parallel to the waves before turning for the final 800m back to shore. You’d think that having the wind behind us now would make it easy, but instead of pushing us the waves just seemed to wash over us, also creating a bit of a suck and push feeling. I was quite relieved when the finish arch was in sight and I could put my feet down! One down, four to go.

My mom was quite rattled after the first mile and was almost adamant that she’d had enough already, but I knew that she’d put on her big girl pants and continue. Of course she would.

Number 2 was just as tough and by the time I started number 3 I was feeling pretty drained already. This was not how I’d expected it to go down. I was upset with myself that I wasn’t coping better. I always like to be so prepared and well-trained that when the actual event comes it’s almost a breeze.

To give you an idea of how tough the conditions were, I’ve been holding 1:20/1:21 in my hundred repeats and about 1:23/24 in my longer sets. Obviously this was in the pool and with tumble turns. Now I was swimming around 1:36/1:37 per hundred. Eish.

My hip flexors started hurting quite a bit during the third one and I was getting progressively slower, even if it was just by 20-25sec per mile.

I gritted my teeth. Tried to ignore the pain in my hips. 4 down. Just one left. And suddenly the wind died down a bit. The fifth mile was the easiest and I clocked my fastest split of the day!

Exhausted euphoria! At the end all the 5 Mile Club swimmers waited for each other just under the finish arc, hugging and high-fiving. We’d done it. Some slower than others, but we all suffered through our own issues and hiccups on the day to finish rather triumphantly!

The 5 Mile Club

I was a bit disappointed with how I’d coped. I felt like it should have been easier. But then again, I set high standards for myself. And I can’t control the weather. It was probably good for me to suffer a bit, to remember that one can only control the controllables and that nature can be a tough opponent.

Really looking forward to my Cryotheraphy session later this afternoon. Don’t know what this is? How does going into a chamber that’s -120 degrees Celsius sound? It’s really not that bad and it really helps with a myriad of medical conditions, recovery and acute injuries. I’ve been using it for recovery and to help with the dodgy tendon in my knee.

Stu and I after our Cryo session

The Cape Mile has grown tremendously in just the 3 years that it has been around. From a small event they now need to split up age categories to accommodate all the swimmers. A big thank you to the Sillwater Sports team for accommodating those of us crazies wanting to do all 5 miles and also for putting on such a well organised event. We know you can’t control the weather. Unfortunately.

It was very special doing this with my mom – she managed to come 2nd in her age group in the process of swimming all 5 miles!

I also need to thank Karen Graaff for all her organisation, TYR South Africa for helping out the 5 Mile Club with some gorgeous cozzies, Virgin Active for the best training facilities and Skratch (Puremotion Sports) for fueling my adventures.

If you’d like to donate to the cause that we swam for you still can. Just a little bit could save a life.





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