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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Recapping Tethered Open Water Swimming and other tan line tales...

     "You've been given the innate power to shape your life" Steve Maraboll 

..... Recap of my attempt at 13km of tethered open water swimming done in loops across Little Lake Colbourne Ontario July 20 2013.

    As anticipated, the morning of the swim began under cloud cover. The sky always seems to mirror my doubt, my fear.  The swim started in their shadows as if an inner battle was on the brink of waging in these calm waters.  I have never crewed a 100mile racer, and can't imagine that crewing a 13km OWS for a stubborn, albeit giddy, blind girl is a simple task. However this feat would never even had made the sandy shore line without everyone's help and support. Endless thank you's go out to all the help I received this day.

    At 7am we braved the first crossing.   Scott and I tethered through the green waters ("green? Really?" "Yes green" how fitting to be surrounded by such hope). Each stroke built confidence in my soul. Each breath reminding me I was prepared. Each minute drawing a new image of my idea of this day's outcome. About half way back again, the sun came out and I knew the wetsuit would have to go if I'd make it through all 13km. We had started in the quiet, in the hush, before the cottagers knew why potential and ambition were seeping through their windows. 

    "Every day is a blank page that you could fill with the most beautiful drawings" John C. Parkin

     We swapped guides for the second crossing. Wetsuit shed like the loss of a worlds weight off my skin. Here is where my thoughts should have contained some momentary wisdom to lather on some sun screen. There's no better way to cement your tri suit tan lines than to ignore the sun for the reaching of a goal in front of you. 
     David took to the tether for crossings two and three. The average crossing was 1500m. At the end of each loop there was soup, gels, vega drink and water. I had an amazing crew who would bring food into the water as getting out was painfully cold and turned my lips blue in seconds. Crossing four brought Veronique into the tether. It also made me extremely giddy, as if all inhibition, all sense of fear seemed laughable. Because in this moment here I was in the middle of a lake doing what most considered impossible. And here was a canoe beside me and a beach full of friends and family who believed enough that if I believed it..... It was quite possible. 
     My coach Steve, had said that morning "it's just a day at the beach with some swimming thrown in".  And at the 6km point I thought how fitting.... In the beginning of any dream you must first have desire. In the middle you must have humor. And in the end..... Well I wasn't sure yet. Time will tell, she always does.
     And so we kept swimming. And I kept singing. In my head old Raffi songs mixed with bubbles and CCR and some distracted moments when I knew why there are no line ups at the portapots at tris... All kept me going.  David tethered for crossing five and Amy came along for awhile too. And I felt good. At peace with effort, in harmony with breath, consistent with each stroke carrying me further towards the goal. 
     Afternoon had hit the beach and the sounds of children playing brought me to shore each crossing. Veronique, who I'd only met a month before, bravely took the tether again loop six and while I sang under water we covered 2km. Jennifer tethered loop seven and I couldn't help but smile. Of all my friends, she is the one who never questions my crazy. In fact I believe she expects it. Today she had come with her canoe and family to help crew this step of my crazy. 
    Something changed at the start of crossing eight. Some mental switch was being flipped. The water teased resistance, threatened one last battle of rites. With Scott back at the tether we swam through. The first half of this crossing I desperately attempted to make peace with the karma that wanted to erect the oh-so-familiar wall here. I made promises to the fish to stop peeing in their lake. I sang some Beatles in my head. The mental side is always and forever the biggest hurdle. 
    At the opposite shore I handed the tethers and therefore my entire safety net, into the canoe where Jennifer, Kevin and their children would get us across one last time. We had agreed this last crossing would be my ultimate sudden death round with fear. The only way to find myself in these waters was complete and total isolation from everything grounding, to lose myself in the current. 
     The sun, high in the sky, kissing my well done skin, was daring me to finish... To claim this space. And in that moment when all time stands still and all you've ever known fades away, you get a chance to turn back and say not today or an opportunity to push forward and start redefining yourself. With Kevin sporting a white towel like a cape in the canoe for me to attempt to spot and Scott somewhere in the water, I chose to swim. I chose to not let myself down. I chose to let the embracing bubbles guide me back to shore. 100m or so from the buoy line, (not that I knew that) I had so many tears collected in my goggles and such am overwhelming sense of finish just out of reach.  I turned onto my back, took in the now cloudless horizon and paused. Then I heard Jennifer promise I was close and instruct that I should just keep going.  Trust, when felt without reservations, can move mountains ( or in this case a scared blind girl in a lake). We all hit the shore smiling. 
    Funny how chaffing, sunburn and fatigue are meaningless until the dust settles. Funny how a silly small belief in yourself is so potent and powerful. Funny how the best days seem to last forever in your heart setting spark to new dreams. 

Swim stats;
13.58km covered 
6hrs 9min
1500m in a wetsuit
12.83km tethered
750m untethered 
6 gels
3 cups of soup
2L of water 
4 brave guides
8 crew members
17 songs sung
2 new goals set

    This swim was step one of my summers goals of mimicking an ultra man tri. Next step is a five day 500km tandem bike tour. And the following week a hopeful 100miles covered at Dirty Girls 48 hrs ultra race. And the lyric left in my head post swim.....

"I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for" John Mayer 

Much love,

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