The Rotto Swim Files: Volume 1

I’ve always been a swimmer. I spent my youth doing squad training up until the age of 18 or so when uni life took over and the idea of spending my winter mornings in a pool from 5.30-7am no longer had any appeal. I was a pretty good swimmer, swimming competitively and training once, sometimes twice a day for years. Eventually there came a point where the desire for a normal life trumped my desire to progress as a swimmer and I rebelled against the pool. I think it was a good thing in the end – I went off to try different sports and different activities to try fill the void that hours in the pool once filled. I still felt so completely at home whenever I did jump in the pool or ocean for a casual swim but the idea of joining a squad again made my stomach turn.

Skip forward 14years and I’ve spent the last couple of years with my physio clinic supporting all the swimmers at the end of the Rotto swim. I’ve watched and treated and listened as they’ve prepared for the swim and have been privy to their euphoria when they cross that finish line and stumble exhausted, yet so proud, onto my treatment table.

I always knew that one day I would have to tick the Rotto Solo swim off my to-do list but had no interest in doing that anytime soon. Until this year. Something changed in me (perhaps having friends and clients close to me participate in the swim this year) that made me decide to take the plunge (hah). However, as always, there was a caveat with my own self. I would do the Rotto Solo swim BUT, I had to do very, very well in it. If I was going to train properly and jump back in the pool to be prepared for this swim, then I was going to go all out. I didn’t just want to finish this crossing, I wanted to place in it. As in top 3 swimmers.

Tall order? Yes. Will I make it to the end? Who knows. I flipping well hope so.

This is my diary of my year preparing for the Rotto Solo Swim. Feel free to join me for the ride (and hold me accountable for my actions and decisions). Here we go...


Rotto Swim 2019 is over and done with. Everyone has recovered and doesn’t want to think about anything to do with water, boats or a little quokka-infested island off the west coast of Perth. Except me. I’ve made up my mind. I’m doing a solo!

But first things first. Our little regular Thursday night squad (we’re called the Dugongs) which consists of a core group of 5 us and has a few members who fluctuate in and out isn’t going to be enough to prepare me for the swim. I mean, currently, we each pick a drill or two and off we go. Thirty minutes later and we’re out the pool and heading to Thursday night markets in Scarborough to watch the sunset and eat some delicious food. (really, it’s about the food for me)

So, I’ve been hunting around for formal swim squads to join. The most frustrating thing is trying to decipher the websites and figure out who I should call, when the squads are actually held and where! I understand that most are volunteer run but still! Surely they WANT swimmers to join? Surely they’d make their website user-friendly. SURELY, they’d have a phone number somewhere that I can use to contact someone. Alas, a few weeks go by and one of the 3 clubs I manage to email gets back to me and says I’m welcome to come down for a trial – “just rock up”. So begrudgingly I prepare myself for an early morning start in a few weekends time. Luckily, before I get the motivation to try one of these sessions, I come across e Swims website. I have heard about Elena from a couple of my favourite clients who have raved about her in the past. I know that she works particularly with swimmers wanting to do the rotto swim and that she’s really good at structuring and giving advice on everything from food to training to loading pre- rotto. And lo and behold, she happens to have a 3-week technique course starting the following Monday. She also has an amazingly easy website to navigate! It’s fate!

I know that my main concerns with getting back into squad training are that 1) I’m going to burn out too quickly/get too sore to treat and 2) that I will get over it too quickly, freak out and change my mind about committing to those early morning starts again. So this seems perfect, a 3-week term and then I can do my own thing for a few weeks before joining her actual rotto squad in October. Done deal.

Now, I should quickly interrupt at this point to mention something I left out earlier. INITIALLY, some of those good friends who did the rotto swim and a few who started the Dugong squad with me were the ones who actually motivated me to get back into swimming in the first place. It was decided that four of us (two girls vs two boys) were going to pair up and do a duo! Boys against Girls. The competition was on! I felt like this was a great introduction into getting closer to a solo to rotto. HOWEVER, the more I thought about it, and the more I spoke to other people who had done both the solo and the duo, the more I thought I’d rather just get the solo done. I felt like the duo would actually be harder- with sprinting and constantly getting in and out of the boat – plus, I was very nervous that I’d only get one year of swimming out of this and then I’d be done and wouldn’t ever contemplate doing the swim again – so I’d rather just knock the solo on the head and get it done. So I backed out of doing a duo and instead, tried to convince one of the boys to do a tandem solo with me.

SO, after my first squad session with Elena, I shoot her a long winded email explaining my goals and what I’d like to achieve and surprisingly, she replies with an equally long-winded email supporting me. She doesn’t laugh in my face about my ridiculous goal or tell me that it’s too far-fetched or that there’s no way I could possibly reach that considering I haven’t swum in 14years, but she tells me what I need to achieve to get close to my goal. In dot point form. This lady is speaking my language. If I wasn’t sure about whether I wanted her as my coach, I most certainly am now.

So here we are - The spreadsheet has been filled out with my plan for slowly increasing my weekly kilometers between now and October (to get up to 14-17km/week). My goals have been set regarding what speed I’m currently swimming at vs what I want to get to (1.50/100m training to 1.15/100m training). And I’ve convinced my mate to do a tandem duo with me and join eSwim. The three-week term is over and my sprint speed has improved from 1.23sec/100m to 1.20secs. My technique has changed completely to suit a long distance open water swimmer now vs my natural pool swimmer habits. I have (accidently) swum in the same lane as the woman who has come first the last two years for rotto solo swim and seen how ridiculously fast she is and realised that it may, in fact, take more than 1 year to get anywhere close to the top 3 swimmers. I’m still going to train as though I’ve got a shot.

It’s full steam ahead....

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