08 July 2009
When It’s Time, It’s Time
We drove down to the coast Saturday night and I was ready to go. Everything looked good - the weather, the tides, the swimsuit, the “feeding...” I did a short one-hour “fitness” swim and we headed to dinner. That’s when the call came - high winds, no go. Not sure when we can fit you in again. Shock. How could I wait? I was ready now. Another week of pining over this and I would potentially go completely mad. The pilot says he’ll meet me in the morning to talk options. I attempt to calm down.
The evening progresses and my head is spinning. My Mom is here. The team is here. I am mentally HERE. A week could turn into a month. A month into next season. I am no fun. The morning comes. I talk with the pilot. No space the rest of the season, but a possible cancellation at the end of the month. Possible cancellation. Another month of waiting. The expense of lodging, food and the like. My Masters degree. Mom is here now. The team is here now. I am ready now.
The decision is made. I’ve got to do something now with this frame of mind. I need to target this focus. I need to prove to myself I can do it. “I’ll swim a marathon in the harbour instead. I’ll prove to myself I can do it. We’ll save the thousands of dollars it costs to rent a pilot boat. More money for Harvey. A way to close this chapter of my life and still feel like I’ve done something amazing. It is on.
I’m in the zone. Sunscreen on. Suit On. Vaseline On. Cap On. Goggles On. Crocs On. The final walk down the pebbly beach of Dover. “This is it,” I say to myself. “Lets bring it home.” I chuck my Crocs to shore. This is between me and the breaker wall now.
Hours one, two and three go slow. There are no half-hour feeding stops on shore. The cold sinks in, as usual, just after the second hour mark. I come in to feed at three hours and I’m shivering. “I’m cold,” I shout to the beach. “Remember what your coach said,” Lianne reminds me. “You’re not going to get any colder.” Realization. Happiness. “Oh my gosh, I’m not!” Back to the water I go.
My mind twirls on about the good weekends and the bad. What I’m going to say afterward. The knowledge that this could be my last dip in Dover Harbour. Happiness. The cold starts to fade. The soreness in my shoulders diminishes. It is on. Now all I need to do is kick the hip pain. I get to the wall at four and a half hours and am greeted by a swarm of jellyfish. How about we split the harbour equally between us? Thoughts? Reactions?
The half-hour feeds make things easier. “Just to the wall and back,” I tell myself, again and again. It becomes my mantra. “Wall and back. Wall and back. Wall and back.” Suddenly I’m at hour five. Aditi and Lianne give me new topics each time so I don’t get bored. Name a song that starts with every letter of the alphabet. My perfect partner. How to improve LSE. Biscuits vs. Cookies. I’m in a zone. My hips loosen up and nothing can stop me. My mind is busy, my pull is strong, my legs are coming with me.
At six and a half hours people start showing up. I am greeted on the beach by a swarm of friends and of course, my amazing mother. They’re with me, and their energy begins to recharge my batteries. John tosses the feeding bottle to me and I sip it quickly. The cold is completely gone now. Just two more hours and I’m there.
My mind drifts back to the first two hours. “If I could do those, I can do these.” Now, all of a sudden, I’m thinking about how I’ll miss all of this. Not spending endless hours cold on Saturday and Sunday, but pushing my limits. Doing something human beings should not do to help someone in need. I decide that something must come next. Something equally difficult but a touch warmer.
Without warning I’m in for my last feed. Just 30 more minutes to hit the near marathon marker. I’m churning away - lots more effort to go a distance that now seems quite far away. My mind drifts back to the first hours. I begin to wonder if I’ll cry, laugh, smile, feel indifferent. I begin to wonder how I should feel. How I should react. A happy dance is definitely in the cards. I reach the wall for the last time. It feels good.
My arms are flailing and my legs are dragging behind as I pass the last beach marker. My hands are hitting the sand below. I can stand up and walk in! The smile comes. So does the happy dance! I did it. I did something I never thought possible. Pushed my limits beyond reasonable, and all in the name of service.
In that moment I may have never been more at peace. I did it and no one can ever take that away from me. Next stop: Kilimanjaro.
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