April 5km Swim with Thyroid Cancer

Waking up at 5.15am is not my favourite time on a Sunday morning, even when it is the day I’m doing my April 5km swim. The harbour swim at Balmoral beach on Sydney’s lower north shore was a 7am start, so there was no other option. The only silver lining was that it was that the clocks went back an hour, in old time 6.15am!

flat tyre on the way to my April 5km swim

The early morning drive to the beach was not great, I got a flat tyre about 1km from home and 3km from the beach, but there wasn’t time to change the tyre. Plus I have never done it on my own and I didn’t want the stress of having to do it in 30 minutes to ensure I got to the beach on time to swim.
Turns out it was a slow puncture, the moral of the story is check my tyres more often – one thing I am not very good at, I just get in the car and go!

Balmoral beach at sunrise

The view at Balmoral beach when I arrived was stunning. Why is it that the thought of getting out ot bed to see the sunrise does not appeal, but when you do it you wonder why you don’t do it more?

You can see in the photo above that two of the pink buoys are already out ready for my April 5km swim. This course was two laps each about 2.5km. Not my favourite type of swim, I much prefer to swim from a to b (as I am sure I have mentioned before) but due to my thyroid removal operation I didn’t have any choice on this swim – I needed to get one in before the op.

Leading up to this April 5km swim there have been a few hiccups. The bulging disc in my back in February forcing me out of the water for three weeks, then the thyroid cancer diagnosis at the end of March both have meant that, yes I have been swimming, but not enough to do my March 5km swim as well as this APril one. I plan to make up the March swim later in the year. In the meantime I felt that I had to get my April 5km swim in, otherwise there would be two to make up or maybe more, as I don’t know how long the operation will wipe me out for.

On the beach with lots of CanTooers (I’m in the black cossie) I didn’t think to get someone to take my photo, so I only have the back of my head!

I felt calm going into the race, despite the flat tyre, I wanted to smash last year’s time by 10 minutes, however I wasn’t totally confident that would happen. I knew that I was faster than when I swam it last year, but I don’t know if my fitness was quite as good.

During the race I wasn’t concentrating as much as I should have, I managed to take 4 wrong turns. That is I’d be swimming on my own get to a buoy and think I am sure that I turn here, turn only to have a water safety person come up to me about 25-50m later on a board to tell me I was going the wrong way! The first time I did this I thought I can make this up, but after the second and third time I knew it would affect my time. I know why I wasn’t concentrating, the lead up to the race getting diagnosed with thyroid cancer has resulted in me being more scatty, forgetting things, lack of concentration and general lack of focus. I don’t know why I didn’t think about this before I got in the water…..

5km ocean swimmers set off from Balmoral

While swimming I realised that deciding to do the swim was not my best decision, I just didn’t feel good in the water. Taking wrong turns definitely puts me off my game, but it was more than that. But, there was no way that I was going to get out early. I knew I could do the distance, hell I have already done two this year, what’s another! I pushed through the “you could take it easy” voice in my head and felt that the last 1km was the best part of the swim for me – mostly because it was a straight line then a right run so I didn’t need to think too much!

Home Straight

On the home straight turning right to take the last 400m into the beach I started to see more swimmers and there was one thought in my head – I am not going to let anyone overtake me! On that last 400m I overtook about 6 people coming into shore. I love overtaking people when I swim, and I remember really focusing on the pull of my stroke, I could feel my arm muscles working, not really tired just working. Over a two hour swim like this it is hard to push yourself for the whole time, especially if you are swimming on your own as I was. I usually check in with myself am I going hard as I can? will I regret not trying harder when I finish? Half of a 5km swim and indeed all long distance swimming is mental, and it wasn’t really a good mental day for me 🙂

On the Beach

Luckily for me this swim had a very short beach run, about 10m I think, as I really hate running up the beach in a cossie. They took the timer off my ankle and made me sit down as I was very very shaky, probably worse than when I did the Rose Bay 5km in January. I then had to go to the first aid tent where my wheels fell off. I got very upset and was crying, it was all just very overwhelming, I felt like the reality of my thyroid cancer diagnosis hit, along with the fact that I had just swum 5km with thyroid cancer. It was hard, very hard.

I want to be honest here on my blog in the hope that it will help others who are going through something similar. I did too much last Sunday, the emotional strain of being told I have thyroid cancer along with the physical and mental stress of swimming 5km (regardless of whether I have done it before) just tipped me over the edge. There was a lot of crying. Looking back I am not surprised, I felt I was very relaxed about my whole diagnosis and it had to come out sometime. Friends afterward were amazed that I had actually done it given the circumstances. My thoughts are that FACT: it wasn’t my best 5km, but I did it. I have another nine 5km swims to complete this year and there is lots of time to get faster and better results once I get the cancer removed and am fully recovered. I need to not beat myself up about this, that I did it was pretty amazing, I doubt anyone else swam 5km that day with cancer…..

Now it is time to enjoy my swimming until the operation, one more 5km swim has been ticked off and I have much more glamorous (Marseille) swims to come and I need to fcous on getting better for them.

THANK YOU for all the support so far, I do really really appreciate it, now help me KICK ovarian cancer by donating to my fundraising page 🙂

Love, Lara xx


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