Lake Taupo Unofficial New Years Swim Camp

I’ve developed a bit of a New Year’s tradition that involves doing something adventure-related. You don’t have too many holidays and you might as well make the most of them. This year with a couple of us having big swim goals, we decided to hit Lake Taupo for a bit of a swim camp.

Day 0: Warm up dip at Stump Bay

After spending most of the day making the drive from Wellington to Turangi, this first day for Bre and I was more of a pre-swim. (Alice and Laura had already arrived and had a few miles on the board). It was lovely to be in the lake again with the water almost feeling silky.

We swam 2km out from Stump Bay, the original starting point for the length of Taupo swim. It was a great way to freshen up after being in the car all day. The swim was also a opportunity for sole-wetsuiter Laura to go ‘skins’ (we challenged her to drop her wetsuit at least once a day).

Day 1: Getting serious and a new appreciation for hot chips

There were no sleep ins at swim camp. We planned a good 10km swim and were keen to avoid the heat of the day, getting in the water around 8.30am. Camp mum Alice chose us a good course at Pukawa in the south west corner of Lake Taupo. The 2km circuit hugged the coast line and I quickly worked out a ‘course proper’ to not cut corners (swimming one way around a certain boat).

This was the perfect training swim for me. Getting in I felt slower than in the sea and had to readjust mentally. As I got into it however I focused less on how fast or slow or long I was swimming, and more on consistency and enjoying the swim which had perfect conditions. The swim was also an opportunity to practice feeding and sunblock rituals. Our wetsuiter Laura missed the sunblock discussion however and managed to get a nice pink tinge from her skins lap at the end.

We followed the swim with a recovery dip at the local thermal pools and glorious hot chips. We must have been the most excited people to see the food cart!

Day 2: Gravity training at the National Park

Our distance training took a back seat on day 2. We kept our morning swim to a cruisy 3km, checking out Mission Bay (the first bay that you see when driving from Turangi to Taupo). The swim wasn’t without its drama though with Bre surviving an encounter with an angry swan.

The main objective of the day was to get some cross training and acclimatisation in at the Tongariro National Park. We decided to do the Waihohonu Track from the Desert Road to the Waihohonu Hut on the Round the Mountain circuit. The walk was absolutely stunning, with clear views of Ruapehu and Ngarauhoe the whole way and an opportunity to sneak in half an hour of acclimatisation training in the stream close to the hut.

When we returned to Turangi we were ready for another dip to freshen up. This recovery session was in the Tongariro River trying not to annoy fly-fishers. We were left with a new appreciation for river swimming and planned more. (Also being good kiwis, we made sure we didn’t use the same togs in the lake the next day).

Day 3: New Year’s Day exploration

We allowed ourselves a later start on day 3 (New Year’s Day) before heading to Kuratau for our New Year’s adventure swim. We didn’t have any particular distance in mind but decided that we would swim one way for an hour before returning.

The swim course was probably the most scenic of the swim camp, crossing a river mouth, and heading under cliffs, before going past a few water-access only beaches. We stopped in a few places to explore and stop along the way. There were more people on the water than on other swims so we stuck together close to shore and were pleased to have our tow floats on us.

Our hard work over the last few days was rewarded with a well stocked picnic and an afternoon on the beach.

Day 4: Resistance training

Swim camp finished on day 4 with some resistance training in the river. We had decided on our course proper on day 2, choosing a pine tree to swim up to. Despite looking like a short distance, the current made this swim a decent burst of effort. The water was more than refreshing and a good way to wake up before making the journey back to Wellington.

Swim camp seminar: Sunblock for long distance swimming

As with any swim camp, we used some of our downtime (when we weren’t eating) to share open water experiences and wisdom. One of these, our sunblock discussion resulted in a ‘top 10 tips for sunblock when long distance swimming’. We thought we’d share these tips of the trade in the blog:

  1. Sunblock the night before and in the morning for long swims (any swim over 2 hours)
  2. Surf mud doesn’t harm the environment and stays on well – just be prepared for the post swim clean up and potential harm to towels and duvets
  3. Sunblock your bum as your togs enviably come up and nobody likes a burnt butt
  4. If you feel particularly close to your swim buddies, get them to sunblock your back fully sans togs
  5. Wetsuiters still need sunblock and are particularly vulnerable when they take off the wetsuit to enjoy some sun
  6. Most sunblocks are pretty dodgy when put to the ocean swimming test so be liberal and don’t trust them too much
  7. Don’t forget your lips and ear lobes
  8. And don’t forget to reapply
  9. To ensure maximum utility either roll the sunblock tube (like toothpaste), or cut the tube to scoop out remnants
  10. No matter how old you are, don’t be afraid to ask your mum to sunblock your back so you can relive (positive) childhood memories.

Marathon Swimming – Crazy, Awesome, Torture, or All of the Above?

It’s my second summer, the upside of deciding to return home to the Southern Hemisphere, and I really couldn’t ask for a better summer. Making the most of every sunny day, my life has been a bit dominated by swims lately. Just this weekend I joined a local bunch of swimmers to swim 4.5km from Hataitai to Shelly Bay in Wellington’s Evans Bay, and then this morning did the classic ‘swim around the lighthouse’.

In this swimming busyness I got to meet a pretty awesome and unique marathon swimmer. Ion Lazareno Tiron from Ireland/Moldova based himself in Wellington while preparing to swim the Cook Strait – his final swim in the Ocean’s Seven challenge. Ion’s swims are all enormous accomplishments but they sound far from easy. His Cook Strait swim sounded particularly grulling after conditions turned early into the swim.

A couple of my swims this month go beyond the short social swims and fall into the ‘marathon swimming’ category – the Taupo 17.5km Epic Epic and Wanaka 10km. They don’t come close to the distances Ion has been swimming but they are still good challenges. I enjoyed both even though they weren’t easy.

Why do we do it? And why do we love these swims so much?

I struggled a bit mentally in the Taupo swim. I’m not sure if it was the sporatic training or just not being in the zone. It took me a few 2.5km laps to get over myself, realise that I was more than capable of doing the swim, and just focus on what I was suppose to be doing. In the end I enjoyed it. I took it one lap at a time and enjoyed the accomplishment at the end.

Wanaka was a shorter swim at 10km and absolutely magic. The swim was in 18c water, around Ruby Island and surrounded by the Alps. Being a shorter swim, I tried to inject a bit more speed into it and set myself little goals. It wasn’t easy but it was far from the grulling experience Ion got on the Strait. And I loved it.

Us marathon swimmers are a determined bunch. And why? Because we realise the swims are worth doing.

Magical Lake Wanaka
The Ruby Finish
Taupo