For experienced pool and ocean swimmer Caroline Makin, going through lockdown in Canberra left very few options for maintaining swimming fitness.
So, like any rational, sane swimmer, Makin took the only option available – the ice-cold depths of the ACT’s Lake Burley Griffin!
“My first attempt to swim in the lake – Lake Tuggeranong – (with a wetsuit, thermal neoprene cap, gloves and socks) saw me manage around 600m as the brain freeze was unbearable with the water temp at probably around 9-10 degrees,” said Makin
“I wasn’t even sure if I could try it again – it took me another 10 days to have the courage to try again and the next time was not quite so bad in Lake Burley Griffin and I think we managed about 1500m.”
Caz, as her friends know her, was a successful junior swimmer in the United Kingdom, and she credits her father as the motivator behind her early successes.
But, as is the case with many swimmers, she stepped away from the sport in her late teenage years. It wasn’t until moving to Australia in 2009 that Caz ventured back into the world of pool swimming and rediscovered her love of the sport.
“I joined a masters club (Tuggeranong Vikings) in Canberra in October 2009 and about six weeks later I had my first nerve-racking attempt to dive off the blocks for the first time in 25 years at a small meet called The Tuggeranong Challenge, which gave me the taste for racing again. I was then pretty much addicted!
“What I love about the masters swimming community is the many wonderful friendships I have made with swimmers from all over NSW and Australia. I love the passion that people have for their swimming and for racing, the laughter around the pool deck, and the support that Masters swimmers give to each other.”
The Masters swimmer and coach, who lists the Tathra Wharf to Waves as her favourite ocean swimming annual event, was first introduced to ocean swimming by friends made in the Masters Swimming world.
“My Masters swimming friend and fellow coach, Anne Smyth, has been integral to me finding a passion for open water swim racing as she encouraged me a lot to keep trying new events and longer distances especially in the early years of me taking to the open water!” said Makin.
And much like the numerous medal hauls that Caz has achieved at the Australian Masters Swimming National Championships, success has come quite readily in the open water version of the sport.
“I’ve raced in lots of ocean swims around NSW, which is quite tough at times due to the travel required from Canberra. I’ve done nine consecutive years of competing at the Tathra Wharf to Waves, with podium and first-place finishes, the Sydney Harbour Swim a couple of times, the Cole Classic a number of times working my way up from 5th place in my age group to 1st place a couple of times.
“I’ve also won the Huskisson Ocean Swim 1k a couple of times. I’ve done many a swim leg in a triathlon as a solo triathlete or as part of a team. I have completed the 9km National Capital Swim in Lake Burley Griffin twice as a solo swimmer and in a 2-person relay a few times – once with my sister when she was visiting from the UK – and we won the fastest female under-50 team!”
The highlights of Caz’s swimming career though have been the opportunities that Masters Swimming have provided for travel. Competing in the World Masters Games in Budapest, Hungary in 2017 in both the pool and in the 2.5km open water swim stands out as a real highlight, as does her first-place finish in the 5km open water event at the 2017 British Masters National Open Water Championships.
“I am so proud of my own achievements and my hard work in the pool and ocean, but the icing on the cake was when my Dad was overjoyed with my achievements. He only once came to Australia, in 2012, and was able to see me swim as an adult in a small ACT meet that we arranged specially to tie in with his and my mum’s visit – he had his clipboard and stopwatch and was going up and down the pool deck taking my splits!
“This is one of my most special swimming-related memories.”
And as for swimming in the lake in our nation’s capital?
“There was a small group of crazy swimmers who would venture into the Lake during this time, and we all did it for our mental health more than any real attempt to retain swimming fitness.”
“But we were all truly thankful when the pools did reopen!”