A fish in the swim of the world

Book cover of a fish in the swim of the worldFirst, I have to salute Ben Brown, who wrote a book with the title I shamelessly stole for the title of this blog post. I don’t have his talent for words, but I do love that title, and I did want to write about the aspect of Triathlon that probably puts off a lot of people, and causes fear and trembling even among those who can do it to some degree. No, not the lycra, but the swimming.

I confess that while I’m an average swimmer, it’s not my favourite thing. There’s a significant amount of self-persuasion that has to go on to get me out of bed early enough to have an hour in the pool before work. As I see it, improving your swimming can be divided into endurance and technique. The event I’m aiming for has a 1.9 km swim, so good technique has a significant part to play in the condition in which you arrive at the first transition. Being entirely self-coached, I rely firstly on YouTube tutorials for the visual, and on library print and electronic resources for the swimming drills.

A further complication with swimming, in the South Island climate we enjoy, is the need to wear a wetsuit. Getting into a wetsuit isn’t too bad, especially as you usually have a bit of time available if you’re putting it on before the event starts.Getting out of a wetsuit, however, is a whole different skill set – in fact, I would say it should be a whole separate discipline, recognised as one of the four events in a triathlon (which would then become a quadrathon, but never mind).

Book cover of Open Water SwimmingSupposing that swimming itself isn’t too challenging, for the longer events there is then the prospect of open-water swimming to contend with. In this part of the world that usually means sea swimming. Quite apart from the fact that you can’t just stand up if you get tired, for me anyway there’s always the uncomfortable feeling that I’m not alone in the water. Not being able to see the bottom means that there could be all sorts of toothy creatures around, just looking for a snack. Wearing a black wetsuit means you look quite like a seal from underneath, and what’s a shark’s favourite meal? I may have to attack my black wetsuit with some white paint. I think I may take a zebra as inspiration – after all, when was the last time you heard of a zebra getting eaten by a shark? I guess being apprehensive is something you just have to get used to, but if anyone has any advice on this, I’d love to hear it.

Providing you have the courage for open water swims, check out these long distance swimming books. Have fun out there!

For more about Colin’s triathlon endeavours and some reading suggestions, check out our other triathlon blog posts.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat

Close to Shore
Close to Shore

I have a new favourite book, well another book to add to my favourite triumvirate (Yes! I knew that classics degree would pay off!) Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo is the story of the rogue shark that inspired Peter Benchley to write Jaws. It’s a story of shark attacks on the New Jersey shore in 1916. Combining social history, natural science and historical biography in a man vs beast vs the sea type three way.

This is a book full of facts that made me nudge my husband, totally interrupt his reading and say “Listen to this!” If you have read this far I can presume you might by slightly more interested than him in the following info :

  • In the early 1900’s, marksmen stood on the New Jersey beach and shot at passing porpoises to the “cheering crowds” who watched
  • A great white has never been in captivity for more than 6 months. A theory is that they are extremely sensitive to electrical pulses and being enclosed pummels them with too much data.
  • One of America’s first beach resorts was literally washed away in 1927. The entire town of Tucker’s Island/Sea Haven was destroyed by rising seas until finally the lighthouse was toppled and the area was evacuated. It went all Atlantis until 1993 when small amounts of it began reappearing as a sand bar.
  • “The fish appeared gray and white and moved with the precision and trajectory of an enormous bullet, a shot somehow fired in slow motion through the medium of the sea, moving with a purity and suppleness that were eerily beautiful” – that wasn’t a fact, just an example of the descriptive writing in this book

Imagine my dismay when I found out that this is the only book that he has written that we have! Luckily another one is coming out before the end of the year – The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases. 

It joins my other two favourite books – The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsonand The Long Desire by Evan S Connell.