The second mile of the swim proved more difficult that the first. Now that we were clear of the small barrier islands, the full effect of the wind became apparent blowing up waves from the East. Coupled with this, the tide started coming in from Fire Island inlet in full force – in direct opposition from the wind – creating a chumming effect. It felt like trying to swim in a washing machine. I had a lot of trouble keeping my body level in that mess as some strokes would lead me to breath in full waves and others would flip me over on to my back. I think I spent as much time swimming forward as I did up and sideways.
I wasn’t the only one having difficulty with the waves. Each time I managed to get a glimpse of my kayakers they were bailing out their tiny ship. I have no idea how Kevin managed to steer the boat as well as he did but we remained parallel for the entire journey. Having Dad and Kevin along side was very comforting as I was tossed around.
The 8 pairs of goggles we brought turned out to be fortuitous as the force of the waves broke several pairs of my glasses. I must have been swimming the wrong way as I didn’t hear of any other swimmers having this problem. Still, fortune favors the prepared and I dutifully retired at least 5 pairs of goggles that day. My MP3 player was attached to my first set of goggles and I never did get the time to re-attach it to the other pairs. It woud have been nice to mark the time but I was certainly not bored. The effort made the swim seem interminable though.
The effects of swimming in that chop were plain exhaustion. Things didn’t smooth out until around mile 4 or so and by that time I was too tired to capitalize on the relatively flat water. It was everything I could do to keep my arms rolling over. I could literally feel the muscles in my rotator cuffs fraying. Having recovered from a torn rotator cuff 2 years earlier I knew the feeling well. Each stroke I had to make a concious decision to keep injuring myself so I could keep going.
Making the swim even more fun was my ‘farmer John wetsuit. This wetsuit is sleveless, like a tank top, and continues to my ankles. Over time the salt and sand kicked up in the chop made their way into my suit. Each stroke was like sandpaper. I began to understand why some swimmers opted to do the race in speedos. Despite the pain and the open sores the suit created along my chest and under my arms I was very thankful for the buoyancy it provided. I am not sure I would have been able to finish with out it. The fish even got in on the act with something biting me on my toe! That was another nice open, bleeding wound for the salt water to creep into. FUN!
Each time we would swim past a marker, I would ask Kevin the time. I would calculate my average speed in my head and the results were not impressive. I figured I was dead last. By the time we were at the 3.5 mile point I could plainly see the masts of the sailing ships in the harbour we were aiming for. Nothing to do but keep heading that way. Every so often I would ask for some water. The salt water had gotten into my mounth and I’ve never been as thirsty as I had been on that swim. Unfortunately my throat was too sore to swallow so I could only swish the water around in my mouth. This provided a little comfort but not much.
I remember being disappointed in myself towards the tail end of the race. I began evaluating where my training went wrong. Did I really give supreme effort in my training? No. Should I have dieted and cross trained? Yes. Why didn’t I hire a swim coach to help my technique? Thoughts that I had wasted, absolutely squandered the last 18 months of my life played through out my head as I slowly made my way to the shore.
By mile 4 I was absolutely defeated. Luckily my kayakers were not.
By mile 4 the sun was shining, the water was flat, and Kevin was obviously having a great time! He had his sunglasses on and a ridiculous excuse of a boonie hat and was working on his tan. Gone from his mind were any thoughts of capsizing or bailing out water. He was on vacation! So Kevin started doing what any training partner would. He started yelling at me to go faster!
I remember being so tired that I flopped on to my back for a minute. I looked out on the horizon, the place I had swam from and I could not see the beach at all. What I could see were a bunch of other swimmers and kayakers! I wasn’t in last place. I was still in a race! And it was time to go faster.
Well, my mind was made up and I put everything I had into finishing strong. I don’t think my body complied with the request to increase speed but I will say that it was a lot easier to swim the final mile and a quarter without those negative thoughts weighing me down.
It was soon after that I was swimming past the docks and I could hear the crowds cheering. I had done it. I had finally finished. A goal that I had set sitting on a plane returing from the Holy land 18 months earlier was finished. It was a hell of a journey. What an amazing feeling. I don’t have the words to describe it. So I’ll let someone else do it for me;
“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”