Well for my 2 or 3 readers, those that don't know.... For the past 3 years since I swam the channel I have dealt with some ugly injuries, shoulders, back, TBI (brain injury) and a set of torn tendons, the Achilles is the last to heal and has just been an ugly process. Not healed yet!. Bear with me through the background:
Last year when I was swimming the 10K in Santa Barbara I had one of those 'come to Jesus talks with myself.' Do I continue to swim or quit? Soon after I tore all the tendons and decided not to make any decision because it would be highly skewed. After a year of trying to heal the tendons, crutches, surgeries, etc... It became time to swim come hell or high water.
I entered the Trans-Tahoe knowing that I would be slower, heavier and not in the shape I needed to be in. I was also concerned about the ankle (entering and exiting the water is a problem). But I love the lake and have had some of my best swims there, both lengths of the lake and 3 Trans Tahoes. It is a beautiful lake, one of my two favorites, Loch Lomond being the other. I swam 8-9 miles that day, got torched almost beyond recognition (the local police could have saved electricity by just putting my head through the squad cars and pulling people over), blisters, etc. came from being very melanin impaired and bullfrog not being up to the challenge. I chose to pull from the swim due to an issue with calf cramps that were getting to close to my ankle and tearing at the tendon. It was a drama, into the boat using the sling because my leg couldn't climb the ladder. All in all it was a good swim, just a lot of settling myself down and fighting a necessary decision to get out when I couldn't continue to swim through the cramps. The real problem was that it was totally avoidable had I used what I've learned over the years. But it was still a gorgeous swim but a frustrating one.
Now to the Boston:
Well two weeks to recover from the burn, my back is still bright red and parts of my appendages are still peeling and it is time to go again, Boston Light Swim. 8 miles, part with the tide, part with a cross tide and part against the tide. Even though I've lost 80 lbs of the prednisone weight from the head injury and can fit suits that were not even a thought a year ago, I'm still heavier than I want to be and speed work hasn't been in the cards with the ankle. So, it is the night before and I'm nervous, I absolutely don't want another DNF or a 'retired' this year. So I have a few goals for this swim:
1. Have fun
2. Finish the swim
3. I'm going for DFL 'dead fat last'
4. No injury to the ankle
They sound pretty easy right? So, why am I still nervous the night before and don't want to go to sleep...
Well I get up and get packed, head out to the Boston City Yacht Club at o'dark early. I'm kind of in that early morning stupor and realize there are plenty of people to get in my way, why am I doing it to myself? I will swim with what I have, no could'uvs, should'uvs or would'uvs, just what I am and have today.
On the boat I'm putting on the sunscreen, heavier Bullfrog than the one that didn't work two weeks ago.... and taping my ankle and downing a blue Gatorade and vanilla Gu. While there are a lot of wetsuits (safety first). I'm one of the skins, no wetsuit.
We are starting off of the boats so there is no clearing the water prior to the start, Yeah! I get help painting my back with Bullfrog, on a side note 'did you know I can't find zinc oxide any place north of Boston, even the running store doesn't have it?' Michelle of course has put her sunscreen on at her hotel prior to coming to the boat, don't you love really organized people? I figured I was just lucky to have packed it... ;-) And last I put on the Bag Balm in the areas I chafe... It doesn't work for warmth...
So I have goggles and cap and have gone over my feeds with my pilot and VikTOR who is Russian. And no, there is no capitals mistake, his name is pronounced VikTOR. The little boat sets off and I announce to the waiting swimmers my goal 'beat the lobsters.' Hey everyone has to have a goal and there is a lot of laughter from the other boats.
The horn blows and we jump off of the back of the big boat, thank goodness, I had to go... since we set off and guess what 'I'm not seasick either!' It is always iffy with me and boats. No wonder I like the water better, in it not on it.
So the water is pretty cool with a few warm spots, about 62 degrees out at the lighthouse, Tahoe felt like 80 degrees, it was probably in the 70's. This was so much better once I settled in. I like cold water better.. It is overcast and the islands are wrapped in mist but you can see the lighthouse clearly behind you. It is the last look I will take, after all these years I have learned that islands follow you and you never get any closer to shore. Just concentrate on the boat to my left...
Freaked myself out once in a patch of floating seaweed, I should be used to it but that first big patch still gets the heart pumping... Ok, laugh about it and move on. After we pass a couple of channel markers and quite a few lobster buoys, there is the first island. By the way my favorite channel marker had a bell in it, you could hear it roll across the water, I kept looking for another one that chimed to no avail.
As we moved past the island, I'm still bi-lateral breathing, something impossible 2 years ago. And as we stop for a feed, a two-masted schooner comes out of the mist at full sail. It was gorgeous, looked a very much like this.
Being at the back of the pack has it's advantages, I would have missed this had I not been there. We watch and wave to the passengers as it goes past. Can you tell I'm swimming, not racing?
Then at another feed, a tug boat demands the right of way, like me and my pilot are going to argue? They are much bigger than us, go ahead we'll just watch.
By the way in my boat, VikTOR has been doing yoga. Now to picture this, a younger Telly Savalas or Yul Brenner, no hair and a Russian accent doing yoga in the front of the small boat in between feeds and then he takes off his shirt... It definitely keeps up the interest when breathing that direction....
So, we are swimming by Long Island, in Boston, not NY. There is the big water tower on the island that is pretty. My shoulders are starting to 'wench' a bit. I realize, it is only the tendonitis that I have had for all my adult swim life. There is no rotator pain, no back pain, not problems of any kind except the dull ache of the ankle which I expect. For the first time in almost 4 years, I'm swimming basically healthy. I can live with grumpy tendons, some ice and ibuprofen and I'll be fine. That knowledge just up my spirits because I'm not getting in my way this swim, physically or mentally. I'm having fun, joking with my crew and just doing it. I'm also swimming hard enough that my regular shoulder issues are back. That is pretty cool.
I'm still waiting for the sun to clear the clouds but the ambient temperatures are rising and the water temp is very nice. VikTOR is thinking about getting in but will wait, so more yoga. Do I seem like I'm complaining?
We can see the bridge, it is actually not mist encased anymore. I ask the pilot where he wants to head under it. No beaching of the boat or running aground, it would spoil a great swim. We agree on the 3rd opening from Long Island, there will be more than enough water. So I head there but actually I'm just having a good time. When I get to the point where I can look through the bridge, I can see the Boston skyline and I know I'm half-way there.
Working on my breathing, it is still pretty easy and I'm feeling good. VikTOR has stripped down to his pink flowered suit but I can't whistle so well, so I just tell him that the suit is cool and try to get him in the water. He says 'after the bridge.' So when asked to feed, I decide it is time to just clear the bridge. We head under the bridge and typical of me, I cruise under the bridge on my back looking up at the spans. Each bridge is a little different, so you have to look. After the bridge I feed and tell VikTOR that it is a warm spot. He jumps in and says something about it being 'bloody cold.' To which I respond that it isn't cold compared to first getting in but the proper vernacular is 'f**king cold.' He laughs and takes off, the sun has come out and both boys are shirtless and one has no pants.... but he is in the water, sorry ladies.
VikTOR hangs out in the water swimming breastroke, freestyle and backstroke for about 30 minutes then he decides, enough. It was a great break and we are almost to the last island, Thompsons.
This is a small island that will feel like forever. Another thing is that just before you pass an island on either side there is a really cold spot. The whales must not go in those places very often...
Well, we are off to tackle Thompson's with Spectacle on the right. And yes we are hanging toward Thompson's island, Joe Oakes would be so bummed. But the longer I'm in the water, the more I'm getting for my money! I'm conserving a little because I know there is 2 miles of open channel at the end of the Island prior to the beach with either a cross current still or a head on. It hasn't been a problem thus far and I'm still having a great time. We laugh a little, joke a little and swim a lot We clear the island and head out into the last stretch. You can see the JFK Library off to the right and there is a huge cargo ship piled to the rafters headed to the huge cranes on the left.
Pretty soon there is a Coast Guard boat heading for us with blue light flashing. I'm a little concerned, will they determine I'm not fast enough to finish today? Are they going to give me a speeding ticket? Maybe a breathalyser? Great Gatorade, Gu and Maxim, what do they register? At least I haven't had to cut the salt with mouthwash... These things go through a mind as you see the Coast Guard.
Yep, it looked like that but in Boston on the bay....
But they just pull in behind to the right and follow us. I figure out they are an escort across the busy shipping channel. How cool is that? They just cruise with me, no excitement or anything. But I'm not playing as much, just popping up when a boat gets close. Playing in a shipping channel is stupid at any time. One power boat I wave to pull up to find out if I'm OK? Yep, just wanted you to see me in the water. They were a nice group of guys, but they thought I was crazy. That expression crossing their faces is easy to figure out.
By the way now VikTOR is sleeping in the front of the boat all I can see of him when I breathe are his bare feet. It is pretty funny, at least I'm amused. And Pauly is handling all the feeds and steering the boat. The Coasties say that there is a cross current so just head straight in and it will push me to the L street club. I don't know if I was just correcting or never found the push but eventually we just head for the outer fence. The finish is between the fences that are at the edges of the beach to keep the club a little private, like the South End, Dolphin and Hyde St. piers in San Francisco. So we head in and I see the sand below us, do a roll and let the boat know that the bottom is coming up quick, kind of like a scene out of the Abyss...
I head in and across to where the tiki torches are on the beach. I crawl from the water, and Achilles tendon has no pride. I hobble up the beach a little through the tiki torches and I'm done. The longest part of the swim was clearing the water and through the finish.
The organizers tell me my time and I check on Michelle's final time. She had an amazing swim, I know she is already headed to the airport. It turns out that my time wasn't even twenty minutes last. Not bad for achieving all my goals, event the last one of beating the lobsters.
I had a sip of white wine and a bottle of water, a boat ride and headed home. I got there sat on the couch and next thing it was 8:00 PM..... I take off my suit, realize I brought home seaweed in my suit and decide that a shower will wait until morning, what is a little salt and vegetation? Some advil and sleep...
Now on Wednesday, I'm fully recovered.
The most important things about the swim are:
I didn't get in my own way either mentally or physically;
I really enjoyed the entire experience;
I swam with what I had that day, no could'uvs, should'uvs or would'uvs;
I've come to the conclusion that if I'm not enjoying it, I shouldn't be doing it and that most of the enjoyment comes from upstairs in my head. I don't have to let the world or myself get in my way. So in conclusion, I'm not quitting swimming, just changing my head space instead.