The Big Issue : Edition 554
#VENDORWEEK 26 JAN–8 FEB 2018 13 PHOTOSBYJAMESBRAUND I DON’T WANT to brag, but I may have found my raison d’être. Could be a book in it. Here goes: if you can’t be a winner – and lord knows most of us can’t – win at losing. On 13 January I completed the annual Lorne Pier to Pub open-water swim, and it has to be said, I did it badly. No really, no need to demur, I came in 4594th, out of a field of 4601, with a time of 46 minutes 01 seconds over 1.2km. That’s seventh last, people. There was seaweed that made it to shore before I did. It’s a strange kind of humiliation, being passed and outswum by rolling waves of sexa-, septua-, octo- and nonagenarians. Sleek as seals and twice as fit, all of them. We swam in waves of gender and age, youngest to oldest, distinguished by the colour of our caps. I began my race in the “Seniors” (50–59 year old women, orange), and ended up lurking somewhere between “Super Legends” and “Born Before Electricity Was Invented”. When I finally reached the beach, pigeon-toed, staggering like a drunk and pumping the air in triumph, one of the elders who’d left me in his wake was being helped by two assistants along the sand to his wheelchair. Oh yes, I am majestic in the water. Enquiring minds might ask what I was doing there. At the largest open-water swim event in the world – complete with commentary tent and topnotch celebrity commentator Brigitte Duclos, actual Olympians racing and a wetsuit sponsor. These are not my people. It was, I realise retrospectively, swarming with swimmers, who take it Very Seriously. The event was won in 10 minutes 54 seconds by a 16-year-old from the Gold Coast, Hayden Cotter, who beat Australia’s freestyle champion Mack Horton into second place. I reckon Horton would have quietly fancied himself, too, what with winning gold at the Rio Olympics. Myself, I’m more of a “swimmer”. I mean, I love the water and take to it regularly, doing a bay swim or a lazy » Fiona Scott-Norman (@FScottNorman) is a writer and comedian who prefers to leave the overachieving to others. FIONA Life in the Slow Lane “I’m the duffer in the slow lane wearing vintage bathers who refuses to put her head under water.” kilometre in the pool. But I’ve never tried to improve. I’m the duffer in the slow lane wearing vintage bathers who refuses to put her head under water. The only people I can overtake are genuinely missing limbs or doing the dog paddle, but don’t put money on me. Last year I met an interesting sheila at a winery who sported the Pier to Pub T-shirt, and I had a moment. “Come on,” I thought. “1.2km – you can do that. Have a crack.” And I trained, but my goals were modest. I learned to wear goggles and put my head under water. I bought a nose clamp. I swam 1.3km in the bay. And, done. Which is why, unlike the thousands of sea-whippets I was surrounded by, I began my race at the back of the pack with fogged up goggles, a wetsuit that inhibited my breathing, and no idea where to go. The siren went, my 200 fellow Senior ladies racked off, and I found myself turning in hyperventilating circles trying to sight a bollard. A kind woman paddling a kayak appeared to assess if this idiot was In Trouble. We agreed I should take off my wetsuit because, you know, breathing, and I struggled out of it seconds before being swum over by 200 highly intentional Senior dudes (blue caps). And then, dear reader, I swam, poorly, for 40 minutes, I landed, and I victory-pumped the air because I am ridiculous. Look, someone has to be the rodeo clown. Because young Hayden, frankly, is too high an achiever. I’m doing it for the rest of us, aka most people, who wouldn’t consider a 1.2km open-water swim if their arses were on fire and this was the only way to put it out. But if I can do it, clearly anyone can. So...next year?