Before I moved to Oman I did some googling looking for events that I might like to participate in; top of that list was the Fahal Island Swim. This is an open water swimming race from (surprise, surprise) Fahal Island back to the mainland at PDO (which stands for Petroleum Development Oman). There is a beach club at PDO, with a pool, boat storage, BBQs, a golf course etc – a nice place about 20 minutes drive (well, it was pre-6am on a Friday morning!) from where I live and work.
The race is 4.1km if you manage to swim in a straight line and in order to participate you must have your very own personal support crew consisting of someone in a kayak or on a paddleboard; fortunately I had a willing volunteer – a friend from work, Giselle – who was able to be my support crew for this little journey. We don't have a kayak so we booked one through Justin at Muscat Adventure Centre (http://www.holiday-in-oman.com/) and it was ready and waiting at PDO when we arrived – perfect! So, Giselle had to set of early with a beach full of other support boats to paddle out to the island while the swimmers got organised – she was really pleased that she also got the event t-shirt at check-in…it's not always the case that the support get something out of it, so that was a nice touch by the event organisers.
After group photos and getting our race numbers written on our arms (presumably to identify the body more easily!) the swimmers congregated on the beach to be assigned to the boats that would take us to the island/start. This was when I realised that it was much more choppy than I would have liked and it kind of set the tone for the morning.
The water around the island was beautiful – crystal clear – and I was ready to swim. However, possibly the biggest challenge had to occur right at the start – the rules state that swimmers have to find their kayaker before reaching a certain point and with 150 swimmers and 150 kayaks in the water I had underestimated the challenge that this would present! It took me 10 minutes of treading water and shouting Giselle's name before we were united and by then I had already come across challenge #2: jellyfish.
By the time we were about half way I had been stung countless times and I was sea sick. Now, I get sea sick all the time on boats and I had taken tablets, but this was worse than I have been in a while and since I was only half way there, there was no escape. Oh, and Giselle was sea sick too, so basically we were 2km from land in the sea, it was choppy, we were both feeling sick and of course, there was no way I was going to quit and get it all over with! G took the travel sickness medication and we went on our way. Because it was so choppy I was mixing freestyle and breaststroke as I found it less nauseating to keep my head looking straight ahead rather than trying to breathe to the side. Anyway, a few more stings, some actual vomit and cramp in both feet and I was back on terra firma!
I was disappointed with my time (which I cannot even remember now as it's taken me too long to get round to writing this!) but I know that next time I will be better prepared. Perhaps I need to get Diana Nyad's stinger suit ready for next years attempt! There's a group of swimmers who train in the ocean all the time so I plan to join them on Fridays when I return from my summer hiatus (8am at the Hyatt if anyone is reading this who thinks they'd like to give this a go and wants to be well prepared!) and next year I'll do better and hopefully I'll have a different colour towel to add to my yellow 2017 Fahal Island Swim finishers reward.
I'd just like to say a massive thank you to all of those involved in the organisation of the event, both in the lead up and on the day; thank you!