The sun was shining. As we stood on the shore of Coventry Lake, the back of my wetsuit was getting lightly toasted by the morning rays. The mellow warmth was a nice counterpoint to the brisk wind and the chilly waters, swollen from the monsoon that had just swept through the day before.
The sun is my friend, I thought.
We did one practice start. A quick rush into the water, turning 90-degrees to the right, swimming to a buoy and then another 90-degree turn back to the beach. As soon as we started, I thought, “What the hell am I doing? I never swim this fast. Slow down!” There was some sort of frenetic magnetism to this moment, dragging me along at a speed that was not my own. I put the brakes on and tried to better pace myself. Then, we were hauling ourselves out of the water like the first fish that decided that life on land might be something worth checking out.
Then it was time for the main event, a 1/2-mile swim across the lake to the house with the picket fence. The way out to the house was manageable. I breathe on my right and was able to use the shoreline as a guide. The return trip was a different story. Looking out into the open water each time I took a breath provided no reference point. I counted ten strokes and then switched to breaststroke to get a visual on the lifeguard stand that was my landmark. Blindness. That’s what I saw. Bright. Incredible blindness. My friend, the sun, who had so kindly warmed my backside earlier that morning, was now filling my field of vision with complete and utter brightness. I could see nothing. Was I moving in the right direction? I checked with one of the workout leaders in a boat and she said I was going in the right direction, so I swam on. Every time I looked for my landmark, I got an eyeful of solar power. I tried to look for my fellow swimmers, but wasn’t sure if they would be reliable guides…plus I couldn’t see them.
At some point, a lifeguard in a kayak came alongside me and told me to head left. A few minutes later, he paddled up and said, “more left.” So, I went more left. A few minutes later, he instructed me to swim “more left, like 90-degrees left, you are totally off course.” How the heck could I know? It’s not like I was a dolphin or something. I was able to see that he was correct and that I was swimming into a giant collection of boulders.
I made it to shore, positive that I had, due to my scenic route, swum much more than the assigned distance.
Dripping and a little wobbly, I made my way to my bike for the ride portion of the weekend. We pedaled off for several miles of riding, which was ok, other than being still soggy. There are some things I have enjoyed less than riding a bike in a wet bathing suit, but none come to mind at this moment.
However, I again finished the workout, amazed that I had, almost a little proud. One more step along the way in my uncomfortable journey to the finish line.
Published June 21, 2013