75km Round Lantau Swim

A City Stroll – kind of…

When we planned this tour of Lantau, in everybody’s mind, Day 2 would be the trickiest and most dangerous. We would have to swim through construction works over the water, then swim through Tung Chung, with barges everywhere, riptides, you name it, in murky and polluted water. A lot of people told us that we were crazy to attempt something like this, but the team debugged the myths through careful preparation and reduced the hazards to the minimum. I fully trust them, so it is with confidence and serenity that I prepared my morning oatmeal on the deck on another radiant day, getting ready for the challenge.

The first hour or so was just magic. We had a slight current in favor, I was fresh as a daisy after a deep rejuvenating night, and my swim stroke was as efficient as it can be. Just for pleasure, I was trying different swim techniques, more glide, catch-up, quasi catch-up, slow cadence, high cadence, arching the back to be above the water, everything worked, smooth and relaxing. If only swimming could always be like this… but also, with all the mileage I have done, these magical moments are the payoff. The watch said that we were swimming 1:20/100m, 20 to 25” faster than in training. OK… there was current, which also explains the effortless swimming. The team also seemed to be in a state of grace, working perfectly. They managed to ‘box us’, one kayak on each side, Bruce side by side with me, the ‘live aboard’ boat behind us, and the speedboat going up and down taking what I think will be awesome pictures (given the photographer on it and the job he did on Day 1). Traffic was everywhere, but again we were fully protected, so much the better, because swimmers are just useless and hopeless.

Imagine one minute: we are at sea level, so waves impede us to see where we are going. We have the head in the water most of the time so we can’ t hear a thing. We think we’re fast, swimming 3.3kph in training and 4kph with current in favor… but 10 or 15kph currents are very common, so basically we would go backward if we timed our swims poorly with the tides. We need drinks, food, stuff that we cannot carry. We really put our life in the support team’s life. The second hour also passed very quickly. The milestones were swallowed one by one: the green barge on the left, the two sand barges in the middle, the so-called Caribbean Coast on the left (what a joke, how dare they call these ugly construction ‘Caribbean’?), Cathay City building straight ahead.

After two hours, we did a longer stop to refuel, and suddenly, coming from nowhere, hot coffee was offered… when I told you that our support crew is amazing! Bruce had starting his shivering jerk at every stop, so hot drink did help. We were at the border of Tung Chung bridges, and we had to choose the right direction and be quick, to minimize trouble with barges. After a quick discussion, off we went… another moment of grace, in spite of the 7.5k under our belts, still feeling strong and in control, watching the bridges passing by one by one. I was feeling amazingly well: training was paying off. It is such an awesome feeling -that only people who have trained at a decent level can understand- when your body reacts incredibly well in tough conditions, when fatigued or under duress…When you feel that your technique remains top notch, your strength and energy exceed your expectations, and you feel that you still have a lot of it in the tank. Bliss, pure bliss! How I treasure these moments.

We turned right and went into the canal, canal that I have seen millions of times while riding towards the airport with roadies and triathletes. I always thought that it was disgusting, with all the construction works, and I had to swim in it. It was not too bad actually, definitely sandy and muddy because of the machines digging for pharaonic works like the HKG to Macau brudge, but all in all, if the mind is not affected, the body just keeps going without questioning.

Suddenly I realized that Bruce’s shivering was taking its toll. He was not keeping up with me anymore, first time in 27k. He started to swim in my wake, drafting. He first started behind my feet but he was making significant effort to stay there and was slapping my feet from time to time, affecting my balance. In race conditions, this behaviour would have received a punishment (namely, a kick in the face!). After the next refuel stop, he started to swim at the level of my hip, much better. It only took 2k to this exceptional endurance machine to recover and swim again at my level. I couldn’t believe it -I really thought he was cooked. I voluntarily breathed on his side for a while, he did the same, and we smiled at each other: I knew he was back in the game, full throttle. The best moment of the day, definitely, and a bonding moment. Endurance can bring so many joyful moments, almost overwhelming sometimes. We were getting close to 15k and monster Bruce declared that he wanted to push a bit more, but an enormous barge cut our way moving dirty stuff all over. We decided to call it a day, after 15.2k and 3h45 of actual swim time. That’s 1:29/100m, surreal if it were not for the current. All in all, while we spent most of our day in a city environment, it did not feel like this at all, for some reasons… quite different from a day in Central, actually.


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Olivier Baillet

Olivier is a reformed banker, proud father of two and founder of Beyond The Line, the endurance sports coaching and consulting company. Olivier is known both as an athlete who has been completing ultra-endurance feats and as an endurance sport coach who has been coaching one on over over 140 executives (to date) to reach their sports objectives. Olivier also does speaking engagements and loves to share about his life journey and experiences.


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