THE last runners in the Cape Aquathon come slowly into view along Anglers Road. The second last is Andrew Kontogouris running and walking in turns. The last is his mum, Earlene, toiling in the sun and looking dead beat. But she rounds the marker and begins the homeward run looking refreshed and even manages to give a bit of cheek to the crew with the water bottles.
“Yes, I was tired,” Earlene says after finishing her 19th Cape aquathon in 20 years. “I didn’t practise seriously like I have done in previous years. I wasn’t really interested, thought I would back down and only swim. I had to check it out that there were no dumpers this year.”
This should have been Earlene’s 20th aquathon but she missed last year because the sea was too rough, breaking her record of 18 straight aquathons.
The 81-year-old is aiming to finish her 20th next year. The award for five years of consequitive entering is a medal, at 10 years it is a wooden clock, and so it goes. When Earlene approached the marshal in 2014, she said, “Next year I want Big Ben.”
She is hoping that missing 2015 doesn’t mean she has to begin again.
Earlene also plans to have another go at the San Remo Channel Challenge this year. She practises with the Turtle Smugglers of Cowes whenever she is down from her home in Healesville and usually swims every morning in the pool when home.
“The Turtles have helped the Cape committee a lot over the years with rustling up competitors and donating funds.” Earlene said.
As Earlene ran back to the finish line this year, a group of young bystanders called out, “Where’s your granddaughter this year?” Thirteen-year-old Vashti usually runs beside her.
Earlene asked the girls to run with her. “You are all my grand-daughters today,” she said..
She hopes to enter the Capeaquathon again next year.
The Cape Paterson Surf Club needs 150 entrants in the aquathon to make a profit. This year there were 120 competitors.
Just a few weeks after having competed at the Cape, Earlene Kontogouris again joined the crowd in the water, this time in the Cowes Classic.
During the swimming leg, despite being told by a life saver that she should go back and try to get a better line to the marker buoy again, Earlene looked around her and said, ”No I can make it to the marker buoy.” But she had misjudged the currents which took her too far to the right. She missed the buoy by about six feet.
Earlene was the last swimmer in and the last runner in. She was happy to have completed the course again.
She recalled that after an earlier race, another competitor, seeing her massaging her aching feet, said, “Take a bottle of wine, wrap it in a towel then with your feet roll it back and forwards. The best thing about this treatment is that you get to drink the wine after this exercise.”