Day 9 – The Torture Swim
Total Brain Body Confusion Swim 10am
Today is about mental training and for me learning lessons the hard way, during the torture swim last year I got in the boat, I didn’t land on the beach and it burned in my brain, so much that it helped fuel my fire to keep swimming 15 Hours and 30 minutes down Lake Memphremagog last September, it helped me to keep swimming when my support kayak and the support boat were no longer by my side in the dark of that night early in the swim, I was alone, rather than panic I thought back to the 2011 torture swim, ” if your boat disappears SWIM”, Ned said….. and swim I did.
Now here I am willingly showing up for another torture swim, do I know that the torturers are doing their best to sabotage my swim YES, do I take it seriously YES. I arrive early and survey the scene the day is overcast and gray…….
Ned gives us instructions, the tortures enter their boats, me and my fellow swimmers walk the long walk out to the water, I feel like I am walking the plank on Captain Hook’s boat……
Into the water we go, Ned has told us that he plans to split us up from any swimmers we have taken comfort swimming with during distance week, I look over at Colm, we have swum together a lot, ” best to swim out with another swimmer, Colm and I are sure to be split up”, I think , I spot Jenn, a strong and upbeat swimmer from California, and move towards her, we give each other a knowing look and stick together as we enter the water, we swim side by side out around the island, she is a great pace to swim with ” this is fun”, I think, ” much better than last year”.
” Swim over there”, someone shouts from the boat, we do, boats zoom by, the wake jostling us about, ” turn around”, shouts a voice angrily from the boat, we do, this continues for sometime, then the boat is stopped, ” they want us”, says Jenn, I look up and see 3 or 4 swimmers treading by the boat waiting for a bottle of water, I wait my turn, every minute I wait I can feel my body temperature dropping, I drink the water and swim on, ” that way”, I see a raised arm, the other swimmers are sent the other way, I feel abandoned, suddenly it seems I am very alone.
I swim on and on,” sighting too much”, I think, I am confused about where I am swimming and now am concerned that I can’t see any boats, my jaw is locking shut, my hands have adopted a claw shape, ” oh dear, I should be sprinting to warm up”, I think, yet I don’t.
Ned returns and yells at me to swim, “SWIM to the Red House”, I can do that”, I think, off I go,” he said swim to the red house, I love the red house”, I am excited to have a destination, I swim, I sight to see the red house ” hey where did it go, it’s not there anymore, how did I get turned around”, I can’t figure out what is going on, I swim on, “I am pretty sure I am swimming consistent”, I think, but apparently not Ned pulls up in the boat, “YOU have stopped 5 times in the last 5 minutes, YOU are worrying me, GET IN THE BOAT”
My heart sinks as I hear the words, I obediently move to the ladder at the back of the boat, my hands are so clawed they can’t hold the ladder, 2 sets of hands drag me in, I sit in the front seat, dejected. Ned pulls out all sorts of clothes, a cup of tea is thrust in my hand, I hunch over and shiver and shake, I am the first one pulled, I feel down, I am devastated.
We follow the other swimmers in the boat and I listen, I watch the other swimmers, I am happy to see then doing well, I warm up a bit and have the chance to have a birds eye view from the boat of the ” what to’s” and “what not too do’s” as the torturers give a running commentary of the progress of the swimmers in the water, ” he keeps stopping, that is not going to do”, says one, ” he can’t swim in a straight line to save his life, if he swims away from the boat like that in the channel the pilot will pull him”, the comments keep coming and I learn from each one.
Another swimmer is pulled, ” time to drop these two to the shore”, Ned says, he radios Robbin, “get ready two swimmers coming in”…..
Ned pulls the boat a few hundred meters off shore, ” this is as close as we can get, you’ll have to swim in, sorry a bit tough having to get back in so soon”, Ned says, I struggle with clumsey hands to get my cap, goggles and ear plugs situated, then slide into the water and swim in to Robbin and the Tiger Blanket, I am both pleased and sad to be back on shore.
Robbin wraps me up and we wait for all the other swimmers to swim in, one by one swimmers make it back to the slipway, most swim in, some ride in the boat, the torturers arrive on shore as well and we gather to talk about the swim. ” This could all happen to you in the Channel, your boat disappears, the crew drops your feed overboard, you get the wrong feed, you don’t understand what your crew is yelling at you, your job is to SWIM” says Ned. One by one we share our major obstacle, then the torturers share what they saw, ” I saw a lot of stopping and looking around……NEVER F&CKING STOP SWIMMING” says Gabor, it hits home hard.
We gather up our things, I take a seat above the slipway, I sit alone away from the group, I feel down…..
Ned sits his tall frame down beside me, ” You’ve got to keep swimming, you were doing the seal out there”, he says, with that Ned mimics a seal with his head out of the water rubber necking to see what is going on above the surface, I don’t laugh out loud, I am far too down for that, but I do find myself smiling inside and perhaps allowing a slight curl on the side of my mouth, ” with your build, you have to swim”, he says, ” I HATE GETTING IN THE BOAT”, I reply, ” I know you do”, he responds and with that gets up and is gone. I get up too say my goodbyes and head back to the house, the afternoon flies by and I find myself still feeling low by evening, ” I know I have to work through this” I say to myself, ” the idea is to learn by doing you have to take this lesson, digest it and use it to serve you well in the Channel, I think, ” time to move on”, I declare and I do, I go over my take home lessons from the day, they are:
Follow Directions from the boat
Don’t stop between feeds
Don’t look Up
If you don’t see the boat just keep swimming
Now on to tomorrow’s swim, and with that I start packing my stuff for the morning, as I am getting ready the phone rings, it is Jeff, my husband, ” Hey how are the swims going”, he says brightly, that was all it took I start to well up and sob, ” not good, I got in the boat early, I sucked”, I sob the answer to him, ” hey I’m sure you were not as bad as you think”, Jeff replies kindly, ” YEEESSSSS I WASSSSS”, I stammer out the words, Jeff continues to reassure me, finally he says, ” Heidi wants to talk to you”, my daughter Heidi’s bright cherry voice comes on the other end of the line ” Hi Mum, I LOVE YOU, how was your swim today?”, ” I had a bad swim today Heidi”, I reply, ” Mum, your worst swim day is amazing to all of us back home, no one here could even put their big toe in the water”, says Heidi, and with that I smile warmly, ” go figure, I am am uplifted by my incredible 12 year old daughter”, I think as I reply to her, ” thanks so much Heidi I LOVE YOU.
With that the phone call was over, I survived the day and turn in to bed ready to give my final swim my all….
How will the last swim go? I’ll keep you posted
Within each of us is a hidden store of determination
– Roger Dawson