Almanac Swimming: Lorne Pier to Pub 2018

Pier to Pub 2018


I rise with the alarm at 5.00am. A quick shower, eat my bowl of cereal full of carbs, and finish off  breakfast with a coffee. Gazing pensively over the distant paddocks I watch as the sun rises, and I start thinking about the day ahead.


I’m up early to participate in my sixteenth Pier to Pub ocean swim in Lorne. Although I’m only a forty minute drive from Lorne, I need to leave early if I expect to get a car park. With an estimated influx of 25,000 people into Lorne on this day, including 5000 swimmers, the township will be bursting at the seams, and car parking at a premium.


The sky is overcast with some heavy, low threatening clouds, the forecast is not particularly promising, and some intermittent rain begins falling as I turn from my driveway to the coast.


I’m hoping conditions are better in Lorne. Often the weather on one side of the Otways can be warm and sunny, while the other side can be the complete opposite, so with this mind, I try to maintain a positive frame of mind.


I listen to “Vital Bits” on 3RRR as I drive through the Otways, the reception surprisingly good. The music is generally the Americana genre I enjoy listening to, and the tunes help to take my mind off the swim ahead but not for long. Soon, steady rain is falling and without any associated wind, this is the rainfall that can settle in for some time. At least it’s not cold I think to myself as I check the outside temperature on the dashboard.


The rain has cleared as I arrive, the sky is still overcast though long sunbeams impressively stream through the clouds to lift the heart somewhat.


Even before 7.00am, the township is already a hive of activity, and thankfully I find a park near The Point. Many cars pull in around me, doors open, people hop out, arms are stretched, some yawn, and like me, obviously relieved to have found a park after an early start.


From the cliff, looking across the bay to the Airey Lighthouse the sea looks fantastic. The tide is full, fairly calm, with little swell at all, perfect conditions for today’s swim and I hope they remain that way.


Time to stretch the legs. The beach looks inviting so I step out to the mouth of the Erskine River. The beach is already becoming crowded; people are claiming their specifics spots, towels are laid out, umbrellas raised, and many, follow up with a dip into the inviting ocean.


I remove my joggers and soon incoming waves are rippling over my feet. I’m pleasantly surprised by the water’s temperature, it’s not as cold as I was expecting which is promising for the afternoon swim. I don’t like swimming if the water is too cold!


I join fellow swimmer Frank, and his wife, at the Beach Cafe by the outdoor pool. Frank’s “big breakfast” looks very appetising. Another breakfast is overindulgence on my part I decide as I settle for a coffee instead. We discuss the conditions, consider tactics, and offer encouragement to each other.


Shaking hands, I leave and walk towards the registration area and display stands near the surf club. The area is very crowded, even at this time. Participants are lining up, hoping to beat the rush. This is the worst part, the wait can be tiresome, luckily I’ve got my earphones and I listen to a podcast I’ve been avidly following to help past the time.


After I’ve collected my Pier to Pub T-shirt, swim cap, and timing device I wander off to check out the various stalls and displays but I’m not tempted to purchase anything.


I must be getting grumpy! But this is a pet gripe of mine. Why do people, usually yuppie types, bring their dogs to events such as this? It’s crowded, shoulder to shoulder crowded, and they are trying to force their way through the crowds with their dogs, nowhere to go, leashes becoming entangled, people getting aggro, it’s infuriating!


To calm myself down, I realise I need to get away from this congestion so I make my way back to my car. As I walk up the path, I notice virtually every patch of grass in the picnic area on the cliff has been taken over by beach shelters, bags, towels, and people; and, it has started to rain. Not a lot of shelter here, they’ll get wet I think to myself, pleased I won’t have any worries in the protection of my car!


I eat some pasta and a banana, recline my seat to a comfortable position and settle back to rest. I set the alarm on my phone, as a precaution against falling asleep, close my eyes and attempt to visualise the swim ahead of me.


Swim time is 2:05 pm. An hour or so beforehand I kit up. Vaseline is copiously applied to the neck, shoulders, armpits, chest, and back. Next, getting into the wetsuit! Can be fun at times! A plastic shopping bag wrapped around my foot helps to ease my leg into the wetsuit. I repeat this action with the other leg. Now a difficult part; pulling up the suit to the waist without nipping the material with finger-nails. After much huffing and puffing, I’m feeling comfortable. My suit is armless so getting the arms through the arm holes is not as time-consuming. I strap the timing device to my ankle, put my earplugs in, tuck my goggles and swimming cap securely into the top part of my wetsuit, and I’m ready to head to the pier. At this stage, I leave the suit unzipped.


It takes twenty minutes to walk to the marshalling area. Usually, I allow myself fifteen minutes or so to become acclimatised to the water, have a warm-up swim to get my muscles moving and to check my goggles, then I ask someone to fully zip my wetsuit up.


From the water fountains, I drink a few times conscious of the need to keep my fluid levels up. Playful and cheerful banter occurs among the first of the waves in my age group as we group and make our way down the ramp into the water as directed by the Marshall.


We swim to the starting line. It is a line of floats parallel to the pier stretching about thirty or forty metres in length. We jostle for positions along the line, most will pick out a visual site on the hill to the right of the surf club as a directional guide, we psyche ourselves up then wait for the starter’s gun.


A mass of arms and legs move as one churning the water into a roiling, boiling cauldron of foam. The crystal clear water turns white. A mass of bodies going in all directions, a foot in the face, a smack to the head, a kick in the groin is all part of the race. Some hang back and let the mad ones get away!


I keep to the right of the buoys on the shore side. Water is not too cold, my breathing is good, four strokes to a breath, I’ve got a good rhythm going and I’m feeling good about myself. I breathe to my right only so I pick out a marker to my right to follow and hope he is going in a fairly straight line. The pace is steady and we catch some of the pacemakers. I hope I can maintain this pace.


About halfway through the 1.2km race, near the Point, the outward current slows me down and the water becomes choppier, and I swallow a mouthful of seawater. I cough and nearly vomit. This upsets my rhythm and I find I now need to breathe for every stroke as I start to tire. I grit my teeth telling myself there’s not much further to go.


Although tiring I catch some of the slower swimmers from the previous wave. The sandy bottom is not as deep, the swell increases and I know the finish is nearing. The buoys direct swimmers into a narrowing funnel which becomes congested as we search for an extra effort in the finishing stage.


Feet touch the bottom, knees are raised, we try to run, some fall, some walk, the end is near. Keen bodies sprint past me but I can’t raise a gallop so it’s a slow jog up the beach, through the gate, and over the finishing line. I’m stuffed. A young lifeguard unzips my wetsuit, another takes my timing device. Spectators line the barriers cheering family, friends, and unknowns. I have trouble opening the bottle of water thrust into my hand.


I watch as others finish but don’t recognise anyone. My breath is finally back, time to get away from the masses here.


Back at the car I strip my wetsuit off, grab my towel and head to the changing rooms for a quick shower. Thankfully I don’t have to wait.


I’m ravenous. Hot chips sound good….and taste good. I share them with Stan who I run into returning to my car. We compare notes as we eat.


Arriving home I head straight to my computer to check if the times have been put up. My time is 21minutes 29 seconds, which I thought could have been better. I finish 157th out of nearly 400 in my age group so I’m fairly satisfied with that.


Next swim, Queenscliff.

About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Congratulations Col. The post-ocean feed is one of life’s joys. I can only imagine it after swimming 1.2km. With or without a mouthful of seawater.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Great effort Col. You’ve painted a wonderful picture of the event (except for the dogs!).
    How much training do you put in for an event like this?
    All the best for Queenscliff!

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    John, I try to limit what I eat before the swim but certainly looking for something afterwards. Usually a good burger does the trick!
    Luke, I normally swim 2 to 3 km each day Monday to Friday.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    Congratulations on competitive performances sustained over such a long period of time. I’m appreciative that your post conveyed the detail and reality of preparation and participation for the event which gave me (virtually a non-swimmer) a real sense of the occasion.

  5. Congrats, Col.
    I’m not a great swimmer, but I swam the Pier to Pub a few years back just to check it off the bucket list. It is a wonderful experience, despite my head feeling like it had gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. Those serious swimmers don’t mind landing a few punches.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic Colin I have been once to the Pier to Pub swim event when family members were swimming and enjoyed it immensely fantastic atmosphere

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