IMG_0996.JPG (359489 bytes)SLAM Open Water Swim 2008

First of all the good stuff: Katie is back! Amazingly Katie had baby JR and waited patiently until the Doctor said go ahead train. She has determinedly gotten back into the swing of things.  Aron and little JR came to see Mommy swim the mile. Another good thing-most of our masters swim group participated including Coach Tom and what a treat it was for us all to be out together.

IMG_0993.JPG (345529 bytes)I would not recommend swimming two miles in a lake the day after you ride 102 miles.  A couple months ago I ran the Tour de Cure by Liz and I figured she would say ride 50 and then do the open water swim the next day. But NO she did not instead this was her reply: "I love the idea of the Tour De Cure 100 miles.  And the open water swim the next day WILL be rough but do-able.” Somewhere after that I think she mentioned that this would make me tough.

IMG_0995.JPG (357337 bytes)Swimming comes pretty easy to me and I figured this would be no problem. I mean, hey I have swum a lot of open water and I am powered by strong arms, so what if I have tired legs from the bike. I didn’t think much about it because I was freaking out about riding 100 miles.  There is only so much a person can fret over and the ride was it for me. I was blissfully ignorant of the shape my body was in until I got in the water and reached the ¼ mile point. Then I realized that I was in deep crap. This was hard. Not only that but I wasn’t keeping up with the other swimmers, I was falling far behind EVERYONE. I’m not too bad a swimmer and this was a bit unsettling. Hmmm, I was last. Maybe some of them went out too fast and will crash and burn I thought as I vainly tried to deal slam82.jpg (49737 bytes) with being dead last. We had a bit of wind on the course and it created mini-whitecaps. The waves would hit around bicep range. They would slap you and then you would roll on. I found perverse pleasure plowing against these choppy waves at first, because hey, I’m strong. I have big arms, I can do this. Then I would look up and see that I was falling further and further behind. It was really weird, I was working hard and last. Last? Ok, last somebody’s got to be last and I guess it was me this time. Not sure what else I can say about this swim. I fired Liz a couple of times and decided that she is full of sxxt. I realized that I was going to finish so far behind everyone else that there would be no post race food and I was hungry. I had lots of time to think. I prayed. My arms were so tired. Really tired. 

slam81.jpg (57264 bytes)It’s an interesting situation when everyone else is finished and the sight seeing boat is back out on the lake, when the kayaker lifeguard follows you in. It’s embarrassing. Beyond the embarrassment was the sheer exhaustion. I made it to the last buoy and I was swimming into a shore congested with stuff. I couldn’t differentiate where the exit was and there were no swimmers to follow in.  I had a general idea, but I was physically wasted. Josie knew because I looked up and saw her standing alone at the end of the dock. She became my lighthouse. I just fixed my eyes on her and struggled to get to her. Josie knew that I was suffering and became my beacon. Later she told me she had worried “Where’s Donna? Where’s Donna?”slam83.jpg (52119 bytes)

You know I always stop to ask “What did I learn?”  Again, I have to say  you can do more than you think. I should pause here and make this one paragraph. I mean it, you can do more than you think. It might not be pretty, it might not be fast, but you can do it.

Donna DowellWhen I arrived home and shared my challenging experience with Maurice, he asked "Why didn't you just swim the mile?" I  replied that I needed this and if I have a really rough wavy day in Florida, it will not intimidate me, because at least then I will be starting fresh, and since I accomplished this tired, I could do Florida fresh.

I also learned that when you think there is a light at the end of the tunnel there is not. Ok, I’ll elaborate on that one. On the second loop I had passed the ¼ mile point and I saw a lime green cap ahead of me. Great I thought, I am catching up with someone. I kept swimming and a couple minutes later Bamm! My head crashed into the slam85.jpg (62417 bytes) head of another swimmer, two hard heads butting together. The guy stops and I say “Sorry” and he says “You ok?” So that swimmer I thought I was catching, ha, ha, he was heading back. False hope.

Another interesting thing is that nobody really cares how accomplished you are. My friends who I swim with in Masters said great job when I finished and you know what? They would have said that if I came if first, or slam87.jpg (59674 bytes) like I did today. In fact while I was toughing it out I knew that Josie and Katie both understood that it was hard for me and what’s nice is that, friendships aren’t based on athletic performance.