LONE SWIMMER CHICK ……..ARE YOU MY MOTHER?
Remember the book ” Are you my Mother”?, the little bird gets lost and asks every man and their dog ” Are you my mother?”, read on……
“How long have I been swimming alone in the dark?”, “Irrelevant”, I answer my own question,” just be patient , head down and swim, every stroke you take is one stroke closer to Magog, Quebec, Canada, make each stroke count, one at a time”, I start to sing, my crew and I had been talking in the car about songs to sing tonight, from some random place I pulled out Kenny Rogers’ song ” You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille”, I sing it a few times it makes me laugh, I switch up to my trusty 10 green bottles hanging on the wall song, I know it takes me close to 30 minutes to get through my kiwi version and as I do I breathe to the side and come alongside a smorgasbord of lights, both kayaks and swimmers, suddenly I recognise someone it is Dave Dammerman a fellow swimmer, ” can I swim with you”, as I ask bright lights approach on my right side, it is confusing, lights everywhere, who is who, is that my support boat”, I scan the area trying to make sense of it all, I hear a shout from the boat, I can’t hear what is being shouted at me, I am blinded by the bright light shining right in my face, I see nothing but the light and the muffled voices behind it, it seems like everyone is shouting at me……but what are they saying? I see someone lean over the side with a feed bottle, what a sight, I swim in and swipe it, thank goodness FUEL, as I am downing it I hear ” Jeff is coming, Jeff is coming, SWIM”, I drop the feed cup and swim away from the boat, alone again.
I swim and swim, the warm feed feels comforting in my belly, I drive through the waves, ” patient, just be patient” I instruct myself and with that I wait, I wait some more holding onto those few words, ” Jeff is coming, Jeff is coming”, I know he will be there but when? Then amongst the jostle and splutter of the waves is my knight in shining armor, Jeff my husband is battling through the waves and he is right beside me, ” fanbloodytastic”, I say to myself, I am thrilled.
I can’t see much, Jeff looks quite dark, I only see one light on the kayak and it looks like it is shining right in his eyes, I feel relived to not have the need to sight now I can follow the kayak, a welcome relief on the muscles in my upper back, then I notice that I am hungry again, how can I be hungry already, I keep swimming, I have trained myself not to stop until my 30 minute feed time, I swim on and on, finally hunger gets the better of me, I pull up, “Jeff how long til my next feed, I am starving”, I ask, ” I have no idea, the stop watch was tossed off when we switched”, he replies, ” feed now please”, I blurt out, Jeff passes me a feed, it is like he is balancing on a trapeze, as soon as he stops paddling to reach for my feed cup and pour hot water into it from the thermos the kayak tips this way and that, I wait silently treading in the water, we manage to exchange the feed cup to me and I pour the contents down the hatch along with a few swigs of lake water, I gag, vomit and swim on.
Jeff and I start slipping into a groove and then Jeff starts to fall back, just a boat length, ” Noooo not again, Nooooo”, I scream inside, “come on Jeff, come on”, the waves are not letting up, I can see Jeff digging it in with every paddle hit, he pulls back along side me, PHEW, I feel grateful to have him by my side.
COMPANY IN THE WATER, WHAT WAS THAT?…..
I have had 3 feeds from Jeff, I know that after one more feed he will head to the boat and switch out with another kayaker, 2 hours on and 2 hours off plus a replemishment of the feed bag. I am feeling strong after my 3 feeds, a state of calm seems to have surrounded me like a blanket, apart from a close call with an abandoned light house a while back and weaving in and out of the other kayakers and swimmers I have not been aware of anything else in the water, I stretch out with each stroke, I feel like I am slipping through the water, I must be moving into the deeper part of the lake, the water is cooler, still rough yet I feel I like I am floating, then it hits me, not like a jolt of ” what’s that”, more like a slither on my thigh, something is soft yet firm and it is on my right thigh, it gives me a shudder like an electric shock or vibration, I keep swimming, my leg is tingling from the sensation, not in pain, more like my nerve sensors all saying at once ” what the heck was that?” I remain in my state of calm not alarmed at all, what ever it was did not harm me, it was a gentle brush, before the 30 minutes until my next feed is up I feel the same thing again, ” I must remember to research what is in this lake when I get back, Electric Eels maybe, that was the strangest sensation I have ever had in the water”, I think.
NEW KAYAKER IN BIG YELLA, BUT WHO?
Jeff gives me my final feed, I swim on alone, he turns and paddles back to the pontoon boat, ” I wonder who they will send out next”, I think, I can only imagine how hard it must be to get out of the kayak in these conditions and for a new kayaker to navigate into the boat. I continue to swim and notice a kayak coming towards me, ” no idea who that is”, I think, I swim along side the kayak, I still feel calm and now also curious, like I am the seal in the large tank in the zoo, no where to be but here, my only entertainment is who comes by to see me, ” now who do you think this is, come out, come out whoever you are, show your self to me”, I make a game of guessing who it is, feed time arrives, ” finally I can find out who is the mystery kayaker”, I smile underwater at the prospect, someone new to interact with, goodie, goodie!
Feed time, I stop swimming and the dark silloette in the Kayak turns towards me, ahhhhh BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT, the headlamp is angled right in my eyes, I am blinded and can’t see who is there, then I hear the cheeriest voice ever, ” What a lovely night, the moon is just beautiful”, says the voice, I am overcome,” Cynthia is that you, so great to see you”, Cynthia goes about mixing up my feed and saying the most positive of statements, by the time I have downed my feed I am swimming off looking at the moon on my left side thinking ” Yes what a lovely night, how fortunate am I to watch this moon all night and if I am patient I can see the sunrise too, how lucky am I?”
Turns out very lucky, my crew has stuck by me through this rugged start, we are making good progress and at my next feed Cynthia says ” Welcome to Canada,you are over the border now”, it is music to my ears, I swim even stronger, but amongst all this good and uplifting news I am noticing pain in both my thighs, right up into my hips, it is a constant muscle soreness, the muscle feels like it is in a state of constant contraction, a nasty cross between a muscle strain and a cramp and it is not letting up. I evaluate the options….number 1, stop swimming NO, not an option, number 2 release the muscles by drawing your knees into your chest at the next feed, YES, I try this at my next feed, it helps for a few seconds, I feed, vomit and swim on, the pain is right back. OK option number 3, massage your thighs with your hands at your next feed, 30 minutes comes around again, while Cynthia is mixing the Kayak I rub my thighs, it feels great BUT as soon as I touch my legs I realize that I have made a BIG mistake, GREASE, all over my thighs, I forgot I had greased them and now it is all over my hands,” must remember NOT to touch my goggles with my greasy fish hooks”, I make a mental note, hands free for me.
ANTICIPATING THE SUNRISE…..
So here we are Cynthia and me swimming into the night, I have maintained the strong stroke I started with, for the last few days I have been studying the lake, where it is deepest, where the cold springs are said to lurk and the fore-casted air temperature hour by hour, between 4:00am and 7:00 am I project it is going to be the lowest air temperature, my plan is to keep up a good effort level and maintain a workload heavy enough to keep my heart rate elevated enough to warm my body in this colder mid lake water, so I stick to my tactic:
RELAX, SWIM STRONG AND IN CONTROL, YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LET UP, KEEP WARM BY SWIMMING SRONG, GET COMPLACENT AND YOU ARE OPENING THE DOOR AND INVITING HYPOTHERMIA TO COME ON IN, NOT TONIGHT….
As the moon lowers things get dark, the wind begins to drop and it gets still and cold, the cold air feels like it is boring a hole into my head, I plunge it under the water as I swim knowing the water will be warmer than the air, I still feel pain in my thighs and every now and then pull my knees up under my hips in a sort of a frog kick to release the intensity of the pain, it dulls for a few seconds and then returns. The darkenss goes on and on, the only thing I am focusing on is a sign that the world has turned enough to start bringing the sun into view, I can’t wait, this feels like the coming of the first sunrise ever seen, I am poised on the edge of my front row aquatic seat waiting for the show, my patience pays off and soon after my 6:00am feed, after 6 hours of swimming the sky begins to light up, I can see Cynthia’s smile in the kayak, I am elated, I have made it through the night and soon the sun will rise and warm my back, I can’t wait.
7-8 HOURS, A DARK HOUR…….
Cynthia paddles in, time for a relief kayaker, out comes Jeff, he is smiling and bundled up in a winter hat, gloves and jacket, he looks cold, I check in on my body, my core is warm, my hands and feet all have feeling, the only spot feeling the cold is my head and bare back, I choose to ignore those parts of my body and focus on the areas that feel warm, just as I change my focus the pain in my thighs, after 4 hours dissipates, my thighs are not screaming at me anymore, I feel relieved.
The sky is stunning, yellows, oranges and reds, 7:00am rolls around and the sun tries to heave itself from behind the hills, ” this is taking forever”, I think, finally the sun peaks over the hills teasing me, ” come on sun, just a little higher, you can do it”, I wait patiently and then I see the rays on sunshine hit the water and me, what a beautiful thing, I have imagined this for hours, now it is here, Wahoo! But things don’t perk up, the sun seems awfully powerless this morning, there is no heat in it, if anything I feel colder and to add insult to injury the winds has started to pick up and we are now swimming in the shade, no sun for Jeff and I. I feel down, I feel despondent and frustrated. Next Feed I ask Jeff , ” hey when will we be out of the shade, how many miles have we done”, Jeff passes me my feed, I swallow and swim on, I am in the shade and seemingly swimming alongside of the longest hillside ever, this is my darkest hour.
After a while the pontoon boat pulls alongside my left side, I look at the boat and think….
” I am feeling pain in my shoulders with every stroke, I am cold, things are very dark in my mind, I can end all this pain and just get in the boat”.
” I am not getting in that boat of my own free will, I will be in much more pain if I do, it will be mental anguish, the anguish of giving up, memories of the torture swim in Ireland rush into my head, during that swim I got in the boat, I did not make it to the beach, it is still fresh in my mind….I am not giving up, I will be in less pain staying here and swimming for as long as my mind and body are able “.
And that is that, the only thoughts in my mind now are thoughts of Magog, I don’t know what the beach looks like, but I have plenty of time to imagine, the round smooth rocks, the water warming near the sure, the sand under foot as I walk out of the water and me, on dry land fist pumping both hands up in the air victorious after navigating this battlefield Lake Memphremagog.TIME IS FLEETING…..
I have lost track of time, it seems to be slipping away, like sand slipping through an hour glass, I have been trying to estimate how far down the lake I am, from how many hours I have been swimming, but I’ve lost track, when I asked Jeff where I was a few feeds ago he said ” half way, nearly 13 miles”, I was excited and picked things up, time went by, Cynthia is now with me “you’re doing great you are at 12 miles”, my hopes crash, how could I be further away from Magog than I was a few hours ago” I think, my heart sinks, ” pick your self up, the only thing that matters is getting to the other end, just swim”
JUST YOU AND THREE OTHERS….
Jeff comes back out in the kayak, ” just you and three others left” he says, that one sentence shocks me and makes me even more determined, “11 of us started on this quest, Memphremagog has defeated 7 of my fellow swimmers, she might be putting up one hell of a fight but she is not taking me out “, I declare to myself, ” we are doing this” , I say to Jeff and with that we are off once more. Feeds come and go, I don’t know where we are, every now and then I see the pontoon boat on my left, behind it trail the 3 kayaks belonging to the rest of my pod, the faces on the boat look cold and tired, like poor lost souls, I dive my head under and swim looking the opposite direction when I breathe, the pontoon boat is spooky.
MAGOG IS THAT YOU….
Hour after hour goes by, feed after feed, all I want to know is how many miles to go, Jeff tells me 4.75 miles, ” sweet I can do that, that is the length of my Picnic Island to Little Italy loop at the Green River Reservoir where I train, I do that all the time, I can swim that, I know I can, 2.5 hours tops”. I am excited this will all be over in just a few hours and I will finally get to live the dream….walking out over the smooth rocks and onto the warm sand in Magog, Quebec, Canada, I feel excited. I swim, swim and swim some more 1, feed, 2nd feed, 3rd feed, 4th feed, that’s 2 hours, 30 more minutes and I should be there, Cynthia takes over paddling, I sight to see Magog, I see nothing but lake ahead of me, where is the beach, WHERE IS IT? Finally Cynthia stops me for my 2.5 hour feed, ” how many miles Cynthia”, I ask, I am expecting her to say” half a mile”, or ” Oh Charlotte, it’s just around the corner, 15 minutes and you are there”, but Cynthia doesn’t say that, she says……” 4 miles to go you’re doing great, come one just a lap around blueberry”
What a blow, I feel like I have just received a hit to the head with a baseball bat BAM, how could it be still 4 miles to go, there is only one thing I can do, put my head down and swim and it hurts, every muscle in my body is screaming at me, ” DID YOU MISS THE MEMO WE ARE SPENT”, not yet muscles I reply, we swim on. 1 feed goes by, 2 feeds go by, 3 feeds go by and still no sign of Magog.
TIME TO BRING IN THE HEAVY ARTILLARY…
And with that in comes Deb in the kayak, I am thrilled to see her, this is the time I need her the most, “how far Deb”, I know she knows where I am at, I am in pain, there is no doubt in either of our minds that I am going to make it to Magog, it is just a matter of how long is it going to take? You have just over a mile SWIM. I desperately want to see that beach, I stop to look, every time I do Deb shouts SWIM, stroke, stroke stroke, I am crawling along, the water has warmed up and it is now quite shallow, Deb stops me to feed,” banana?”, ” Yes”, I reply, I get half a banana, gag and swim on, I stop again,” SWIM, there…. the orange buoys” Deb commands, I put my head down and swim, finally I have a landing in sight, the orange buoys, my mind is coaxing my body to respond……
” swim to the orange buoys, you have been so patient, now it is time to swim in, come on do it, NOW”
I swim and swim, apparently making very little progress I know this because I peak, I have to strain my eyes to see the buoys, they don’t look any closer at all. The pontoon boat is there lurking waiting for me with those coffin like kayaks dragging behind it, I dive my head under water to hide from it and SWIM.
THE END IS NEAR….
I can see the rocks on the bottom, it is so shallow I can almost touch them with my hand, ” maybe I can stand up and just walk the rest of the way?”, I think, I know that will not happen, my legs are sure to be unstable after all night and most of the day in the water, I limp onwards until the orange buoys are big and right in front of me, I swim through them and know that anytime I can be done, but not yet, I am going to stand up and walk up onto the beach for that fist punch….I can’t believe this is happening, I am here, the dream is about to become a reality, I have been living the dream for so many hours, so many days for weeks….dream it, believe it, achieve it…could this really be happening YES. I feel the smooth rocks under my hands just like I imagined, I lift my head, the first thing that strikes me is the sandy beach, and the cheering from it, I hall myself to my feet and collapse, my legs are unstable just as I thought, I give it a few more tries and then I make it, and walk out onto the beach, my crew are there already, I raise my hands, I am thrilled, WAHOOOOOO!
Next thing I know I am being wrapped in a towel and blankets, hat on and I am in a chair with a hot chocolate in my hands, WOW what a feeling, we did it me and my crew, Lake Memphremagog put up a great fight but we left victorious.
I sit for a bit and warm up with the help of the blankets and hugs from my crew, I suck down the hot chocolate, my chair is facing the lake, there are people everywhere around me all a buzz with congratulations and cheers, my crew are hugging me, others are rubbing my back, yet for those moments in that chair wrapped up in all those blankets I am not living the congratulations and the pats on the back, I feel a quietness, I reflect, even just for a few moments amongst all the bustle on the beach it is just me and the lake, staring at each other square in the eyes, quietly saluting each other, what a battle from both of us, I respect the lake and I get the feeling she respects me, what a formidable opponent and one I will never forget.
Next up, time to clean up, inspect the damage and lick my wounds, will I discover any wounds from the battle?…. I’ll keep you posted
Success isn’t being the superstar who always gets the applause: It’s sitting back and letting someone else get the credit -Ken Harris
Thanks to ” The Superstars”….