Do you remember my friend, Mr Competitive? Well he surfaces again because a couple of days ago he frantically phoned and asked if the little guy and I were available for a spot of swimming.
And I was highly suspicious. Because Mr Competitive runs a swimming club and I just knew he didn’t have anything in mind like floating around on a couple of lilos.
The situation was that there was a carnival coming up at Northbridge Baths where his club would be competing against two other clubs. He had some spots that needed filling and could we fill the gaps. ‘And don’t worry, Charlie, I won’t make you swim in as many races as last time‘.
What did I have planned for my Sunday? A pedicure and some overdue waxing. I guess I could push those necessities into the coming week and help out Mr Competitive by swimming with ugly toenails and hairy legs.
So Alfie and I kitted up and off we went to Northbridge Baths.
I hadn’t swum at Northbridge Baths since I was a teenager. The high school I attended used to send us there for a week every December for a week of lifesaving skills. Best week of the school year!
Known as ‘one of the hidden jewels of the North Shore’, the baths have been an icon for the suburb since they opened in 1924. The baths are situated in the quiet and leafy suburb of Northbridge which is on Middle Harbour. This is a harbour pool and due to the protection of the bay, the water is calm.
While the weather for the carnival wasn’t sunny, it was at least a warm day and the water temperature is currently at the highest it will be all year.
I didn’t have a copy of the program and so it was a mystery as to what events Mr Competitive had entered me in. Alfie didn’t have much time to hang around as his first race was almost the first race of the carnival. He swam his 50mtrs freestyle and won his race and was presented with a ribbon.
Then Mr Competitive told me to ‘suit up’ as my race was very soon. What is it?
‘Fifty free in the 30-39 age group’.
‘That’s nice but that’s not my age group’.
‘Doesn’t matter. You can swim down but you can’t swim up’. Excellent. Racing against people at least a decade younger. And, when I was heading for the starting blocks, someone said to me, ‘See that woman over there? She’s in your race. Really swim-fit; just swam the English Channel’.
Is there any hope?
Well, stranger things have happened. I actually won the race. (But not in any way does that mean I’m ready or wanting, to take on the English Channel).
Then there was a relay involving a team of 16 to swim where everyone swims 50mtrs. As I stood on the blocks Mr Competitive said to me, ‘Leave nothing in the tank; there’s a trophy at stake’. Well, no pressure, so I did my bit in the race and our team won, securing a beautiful trophy for the clubhouse.
Then Alfie swam the 50-breaststroke and he won his race. I found myself entered in the breaststroke event as well but this time in the 40-49 age group. I won my event.
Alfie then swam 50-butterfly and won his race. I was then marshalled to swim 50-butterfly and was horrified as it’s a stroke I can only just do and I do it very, very slowly. On the starting blocks Mr Competitive tried to be encouraging and gave me the thumbs-up sign but I shook my head and gave him the thumbs down. I was last to touch the wall.
Alfie swam 50-backstroke and won his race. I was hiding as after the butterfly, did not want to swim backstroke. Fortunately, my name wasn’t on the list for backstroke.
Then came the relays. First there was an open relay for all ages. I think there were 10 of us in that race. By then I was tired and getting cold and I thought that might have been it. But alas, my name was down for the 30-39 relay and then the 40-49 relay. Then Alfie was told he was in a relay and as they were one person short, he had to do two laps instead of one.
I was really pleased when they announced the last race of the day as I was dreaming of a hot shower. But then found out I was in it. I was put in the B-team that consisted of 10 swimmers all on average, slower than those in the A-team. Despite giving it our all, we came last and when the other teams had finished, we still had two swimmers yet to enter the water.
In case you’ve lost count, the last time I helped Mr Competitive I ended up in nine events. Remember that this time he said I wouldn’t have to swim in as many events as last time. A quick tally will let you know that this time I swam in eight events. I guess he’s as good as his word!
The club however, didn’t win the event overall; the day was won by the Northbridge Club. Never mind, we did walk away with one very big trophy. And Mr Competitive’s club is looking for new members and we were invited to join. So added to our schedules is now a Saturday morning race day at 9am.
Despite some inner reluctance both Alfie and I enjoyed our day at Northbridge Baths. We had a celebratory drink back at the clubhouse and enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends. It’s a very social and extremely friendly club and a little bit of exercise on a Saturday morning certainly won’t do either of us any harm.
Thanks Mr Competitive for the opportunity!
And now, I’m off for the pedicure and overdue waxing.
Northbridge Baths: Widgiewa Rd, Northbridge NSW 2063