Monday, July 12, 2010

Oops, I did it Once...

and, after I did, for a few hours (ok, make that many hours), I never wanted to do it again.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to waking up this morning: I kinda wanted to do it again.

Of course, for those of you not following along before, I am talking about swimming an open water 5k.

First, I wondered if I had simply dreamed it. But, then, the proof was still on my arm.

You have to understand that, other than a short stint as a gymnast from about age 9 - 12, I was never EVER an athlete. I was the opposite -- the kid picked last for gym teams (having no ability to hit or catch or smack a ball or run), the one who quit gymnastics because it was ultimately too hard on my body. The one who quit tapdancing and ballet because, well, because I am a pretty crappy dancer. And, yes, I was the one who skied off a cliff into a tree with my best friend and two boys watching at age 15.

For most of my adult life the extent of my athletism, therefore, was relegated to secretly doing Jane Fonda or Tae Bo tapes in the privacy of my own home. For a few years I did some hot yoga to keep fit.

But if there was one thing I wasn't, it was anything that resembled athletic. Or hardy. Or hard core.

And, then, two months ago, I braved an open water swim. I went from being able to do under a mile to a mile and a half and then two. In doing so, I braved not only cold water, horseshoe crabs and other slimy things that hit your fingers and your face as you swim, but currents that could seriously fool you when you're body was already tired. I began to think of myself as stronger and to believe that I could push myself in ways at 45 I never had before.

And yesterday, I showed up for a 5k.

And, I jumped in.

And I swam.

The first half was relatively easy. The sky was magificent and I swam with a friend. A few times we stopped to adjust our goggles, check our bearings and even laugh so hard that we both swallowed water. At about the half way mark, I stopped her and told her to pay attention to the fact that we were both in our 40's and had actually done it, and made it half way through, and to not miss enjoying the scenery as we swam.

At the three quarter mark, she cramped up and had to stop back at the kayak. I waited for her at the turnaround. By then, we must have been nearing two hours in. The swim back should have been not much more than 20 minutes. I felt good. I could do that easy.

But then the current set in. The guy at the turn around boat warned us. She fell behind again, and now, each time I stopped to try to wait for her, the current dragged me back to where I had just swum from. My body was getting tired and I was afraid that I wouldn't make it and the next time she stopped, the kayakers waved me on. For the first time in the race I was alone. I couldn't see her or our kayak anymore. The swells picked up and my muscles really started to hurt. The yellow house to my right stayed exactly in place at my left shoulder no matter how much harder I swam. Thick sharp (?) seaweed got in my face, kept strangling my arms and legs. I started to wonder if I'd actually make the finish.

But somehow, nearly an hour later I did.

When I got out of the water, I had a battle scar to prove it. Something mean had gotten to my neck. It didn't hurt while I was in the water (too many other things distracting me?), but on land it definitely did.

Exhausted but proud of myself, I went home and slept. And slept and slept and slept. Everything hurt. I was glad I did it, but vowed having done it, I'd never ever do it again.

And then I woke up this morning. And I felt good. And I saw the 14 on my arm. And, the first thought that popped into my head was, "...hmmm, when's the next 5k swim?"

So, I guess maybe we'll see.


  1. Awesome. Not only are you a great swimmer, you can write a great "race report"! And an injury to boot!

  2. You wondered at my 3-hour bike ride -- but that's nothing compared to this. On a bike, you can stop, rest, never risk drowning or (for the most part) injury. What you did is epic.

    I feel your pain, but also your triumph after having accomplished a couple of similar feats (maybe I told you here already?): learning to scuba dive, skiing down a 6 km deep woods, double-black diamond trail, and hiking up the 3 km Grouse Grind. Nothing quite like that feeling. Congratulations!

    PS raved about you in today's post (and that didn't even include yesterday's feat). B

  3. Ah, just another way for you to inspire the masses. :)

  4. Yep, this proves that Gae is, indeed, crazy. (congrats, Gae, you must be proud!)

  5. Great job. Proud of you. Next challenge: try walking 18 holes with a heavy bags of clubs on your shoulder. That's real athletics!

  6. Thanks, all.

    Barb, it appears to be a mutual admiration society.

    Jeff, thanks. Actually, I am.

    Rick, lol (and, seriously, that almost sounds nearly as tiring).

  7. Thanks for sharing a great story and congratulations on your AMAZING achievement!! You ROCK Gae!!

  8. Just came over from Barb and Deb's. Congratulations on the swim. Swimming is the most taxing thing around. You use muscles you never knew you had, until they announce themselves the next morning. Just remember the first time is always the hardest, mentally and physically. Go girl!!!

  9. I'm proud of you, Gae! I didn't realize you hadn't been swimming for years and years. Great job!

  10. Pamela, thanks and welcome! Nice to see you here. :)

    Hart, I've been swimming for years -- and always swam as a kid -- but in pools, not in open water. It's a way different beast to swim in open water, that's for sure.

    Went back in the pool today for a break - it was so peaceful and easy. :) But I miss the salt. I think I like the combo of the two.

  11. I'm glad you shared this with us! Isn't it great to do something you hoped you could do, but weren't quite sure? Lots of those kinds of accomplishments for you right now. :)

  12. Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." You did. Congratulations on a life-changing accomplishment! -- Carol

  13. Carol,

    thanks for all your encouragement these past months. You make it look good and easy and fun. And it's definitely two of those. ;)