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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ned Denison Faces The Truth In False Bay

Swimming across False Bay was simply too good to be true...at least at first.

The dreaded Great White Sharks were still cruising all around around False Bay, but they remained out of sight of marathon swimmer Ned Denison and his crew. Furthermore, Denison's 35 km swim started off in pretty calm waters, relatively warm at 18-19ºC (64-66ºF). The towering Hall of Famer stroked quickly over the first half of False Bay in South Africa and was enjoying a wonderful swim...for a while.

With the attention of the marathon swimming world drawn to the bay that is world-renown for its preponderance of Great White Sharks, Denison and his local support team were counting their lucky stars.

But then reality hit. Mother Nature haughtily withdrew her welcome mat for its Irish guest during the last third of the swim. Warm waters changed to cool as Denison faced pockets of 14ºC water. The water surface then shifted from a gentle tranquility to haphazard turbulence while the currents hit Denison head-on, significantly slowing his progress.

But Denison did not face the inhospitable conditions by himself. Safely sandwiched between two protective boats with a third escort boat scouting the perimeter for sharks, Denison was also joined by pods of seals. A waterman of note, Denison took to communicating with his mammalian hosts during his feeding stops. In return, he was entertained while his newly found swim buddies excitedly leaped over his legs as he returned to the horizontal position.

"The Cape Town gang was super," emailed Denison. "Eight manned the boats with special thanks to Arend, the boat manager who called the weather as far from ideal. Hugh was the crew chief and Peter Bales from the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association has now been present on all five successful swims across False Bay. Fifteen local volunteers manned the departure beach at Rooi Els and another 9 manned to arrival beach at Miller's Point. The hospitality before, during and after the 11 hours 5 minute swim was nothing short of amazing."

His crew were also respectful of the personable, "For Ned, it was the second toughest swim after the English Channel. His previous [training] swims in False Bay helped him discover, explore and put to bed all of his shark fears. During his actual swim, he had three fear sessions of less than 3 minutes each."

Fear was a factor, but Denison made the best of his summer vacation to South Africa. But as with many successful marathon swims, preparation, an intelligent pacing strategy, and a mindset in the right place were keys.

"I managed my pre-food/liquid perfectly," explained Denison. "And just as well during the swim. It was my first long swim without puking. Years ago, I would start like a rocket and whimper home. In False Bay, I seriously picked up the last 3 kilometers [when the going was rough) and sprinted the last 400 meters which was a first in one of my long swims."

With his preparation spot on, his confidence soared. "While giving the swim all the required respect, when I got in the water I was super confident that I would make it." The last one-third of the swim was rough, but as one crew member observed, "I never swam anything like [Ned's swim]. Most of us swim on top of the water, but he attacked it and plowed through anything coming."

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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