Felicity Harrison - Palm to Shelly
Palm Beach to Shelly Beach
24 km (14.9 miles)
8 hours, 12 minutes on 20 February 2021
Observed and documented by Emma Radford
- Name: Felicity Harrison
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 30
- Nationality: Australia
- Resides: Sydney, NSW
- Ashleigh Clarke - paddler
- Thomas Du - skipper
- Dave McKelvey - paddler
- Emma Radford - observer
|Team Poach||Bar Crusher 575c||Rose Bay|
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Budgy Smuggler thin-strap racer, silicone cap, goggles, channel grease.
- Body of Water: Tasman Sea
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: Palm Beach (-33.598644, 151.325791)
- Finish Location: Shelly Beach, Manly (-33.800470, 151.297607)
- Minimum Route Distance: 24 km (14.9 miles) (map)
- Start: 20 February 2021, 07:50:00 (Australia/Sydney, UTC+11).
- Finish: 20 February 2021, 16:02:11
- Elapsed: 8 hours, 12 minutes, 11 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (C)||23||24.6|
|Air Temp (C)||22||30|
Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
by Felicity Harrison
I had signed up to swim in the Palm Beach to Shelly Swim in an organized event with approximately 30 other swimmers. The event was planned for February 6th, then postponed for February 13th and then April 17th due to poor weather conditions. When an event of this size is delayed it really messes with your head. I had a training schedule that was tailored for swimming this marathon in a certain window of time. So when it was delayed twice it was really mentally tough for me. I had started ‘tapering’ which means to swim less and less and get your body ready to swim, plus I was eating around 4000 calories a day. I was feeling pretty sick from eating so much and not swimming! I was monitoring the weather and noticed a window of opportunity for February 20th – so I rallied my crew and set out to do the swim outside of the event (solo).
On the day I was supported by a boat and a kayak. I swam in between the two the whole way. My crew consisted of my skipper Thomas, my official observer Emma and two kayakers: Dave and Ash. I wore a one piece decorated with the Aboriginal flag, recognizing that I was swimming through several different countries and paying my respect to their elders: both past, present and future.
The conditions on the day were great. I had a southerly wind, but it was really mild so it didn’t feel like I was swimming into it. We had an easterly swell- making Dave sick- but fortunately no one else! It rained for the first couple of hours- which was very peaceful. The water had that glassy quality to it and I enjoyed seeing the droplets hit the water when I turned to breathe. I stopped every half an hour to “feed”. Emma threw me a bottle attached to a rope which I would tread water to drink, trying to keep my stops to less than 30 seconds.
I had set up a rstracker so my friends and family could map my progress throughout the day. They were all included on a group text where they could send me messages of support which Emma wrote on a whiteboard and showed me during the swim. Seeing little jokes, messages of support and love made such a big difference to my state of mind throughout the swim.
At around the 2 hour mark – so approximately 6 kms in – I was hit by a big bluebottle. It wrapped around my arm and got stuck in my armpit. From then on I was stung approximately every half an hour until the end of the swim. My crew gave me Panadol and antihistamines to deal with the pain. I was dealing with it until about the 20 km mark (6 hours in) when I felt my back and stomach started to ache. It was unbearable. I had to tread water and pant a few times! I knew this was my body not dealing with the toxin build up. At this point I knew I was so close to finishing: I could see the pine trees at Manly. I could keep swimming –very slowly- with this pain. I told myself that all I had to do was get to Shelly and I could call an ambulance. Luckily, after 45 minutes, the pain subsided and I had a second wind. I had a sip of watered down Gatorade and a few red frogs and powered in to shore!
It was surreal finishing the swim. As I rounded Fairy Bower headland I could finally see the bottom for the first time in 8 hours. Then swimming through people at the beach was funny. I was covered in white zinc so I must have looked like a sea monster coming to shore! I had a few weird looks. My friend Ian was waiting on shore with strong antihistamines, iced water and an ice pack. That first sip of ice water was heaven!! I had finished the swim in 8 hours 12 minutes. I was happy – but just desperate for a hot shower! Its only now sinking in what I did.
I am so proud of what I overcame in this swim. It was my first solo swim and first where I had to deal with multiple stingers. I was most proud of my sheer determination and resilience to finish it. I never once considered getting into the boat and abandoning the swim: even under extreme pain. I have come out the other side of this swim knowing more about what I can endure than when I started.
Click to enlarge.