TRAINING on freezing mornings and facing horrendous surf conditions are enough to test the determination of any elite sportsperson.
The risk of sharks and getting struck in the head by a wayward elbow add to the challenge.
However, dedicated Ipswich ocean swimmer Shiralee Bielenberg is proof you don't need to live by the sea to excel in gruelling saltwater events.
Having won this year's Queensland ocean series in her age group (40-44 years), the Ipswich podiatrist is about to lunge feet first into a major international competition.
She's leaving Australia on June 8 for two open water swims in Vanuatu - over 3.2km and 3.8km.
Despite training in pools around Ipswich, Bielenberg has been able to handle the unpredictable conditions ocean racing often presents.
"It can be tough. I got dumped really badly at the Caloundra swim this season," she said.
"I've had a couple (of ocean races) over the past couple of years that have been just really horrendous. They've been on the verge of calling them off because conditions have been that bad."
The North Ipswich competitor has also faced the full brunt of recent chilly mornings, adding a fourth training session a week to prepare for her Vanuatu mission.
She's been regularly hitting the Ipswich Grammar pool water at 5.30am, increasing her workload with another testing 3km session at Leichhardt pool.
"Dragging myself out of bed is the hardest bit," she said."It's getting up early in the mornings because unfortunately with a family, I don't have time to do it any other time."
However, while Ipswich's cold mornings have stretched her resilience, Bielenberg is hoping for ideal 20-28 degree conditions at her first overseas competition.
"I'm expecting the water to be very warm and hopefully lovely and clear and calm," she said.
"And not too many bities (nasty surprises)."
Bielenberg's first swim is on a Saturday with her second event on Tuesday.
Having won state series events from 2.5km-3.8km this season at Tangalooma, Coolangatta, Caloundra and Dickie Beach, she's excited about what awaits in Vanuatu.
"It's a fantastic opportunity. It's great to swim overseas," she said.
"Certainly my training partners and I said we'd love to do that one day. It's one of those bucket list things."
Bielenberg appreciates the help of those training friends after she was talked into ocean swimming about five years ago.
Bielenberg has also enjoyed success with Ipswich masters triathlon teams, regularly completing 1.5km swimming legs.
"I thought I need a bit of practice at this so I started doing some ocean swims as well," she said, recalling how she started.
"I've enjoyed it. It's good fun to do with the other swimmers with me. I'll do it for as long as I can."