if its not yummy, then we better make it funny.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ocean Swimming In New Zealand!

One nice thing about living in Auckland or any sizable city is that there are more people who share your interests. Take open water swimming, for example. for years I swam in Argyle lagoon on San Juan Island, while I didn't swim daily in the winter I definitely put in miles there in all of the seasons. I can count the friends and family that joined me on my digits without resorting to my toes. Ben White was a lagoon swimmer, he had read some article about cold water speeding up brain injury recovery and decided it must be good for the brain in general. I remember one very stormy Thanksgiving swim with Ben when the waves were so big and jolly we couldn't help but laugh out loud while rising and falling in the confused surf of the lagoon. It wasn't sure where it was going but it was moving and we were along for the ride. I remember Denise Steinbruck was brave and had a swim with me one time, Thank You Denise. One time I took my daughter Nina's whole slumber party out for what my family always called a chocolate dip (evening outdoor swim). We swam all the way across that lagoon at dusk. I was counting little bobbing heads constantly. I felt like a mother seal. We all made it, and headed home for something hot and chocolate. For the most part, though, I was on my own when I swam. Neighbors would politely note if they learned my swimming identity "Oh, that is YOU down there. I was wondering...." Inside they were probably saying: you crazy thing, I'm keepin an eye on you! I was the freak who swam in the sea unseasonally. Herein Auckland there is a whole community of us! There is a three kilometer swim that over a thousand swim anually.

I read a wonderful book called Swimming To Antarctica by Lynn Cox. She swam across the English Channel, from the north to south island in New Zealand, across the Bering Straights (during the dying throes of the cold war... if you asked me, she ended it with her amassadorial strokes) and other amazing stretches of water. I was inspired by it. I wrote to her and she gave me permission to read her book, or excerpts thereof, on the public television station. I never did, though.

I recently swam in my first open water race. It was short- 1.4 km, but I did it- and so did 269 other people! I loved it. I didn't sign up without hesitation though and I kept coaching myself that I didn't have to go, even though I had paid my 20 dollars. I eventually shared the plan with my husband and that made turning back less likely, or less easy. I had a strange behavior the day before the race. I started drinking a beer at about 2:00 in the afternoon (this is unusual). I was just going to have one before I went to test the water, which is down the street. Before I could leave, I got a phone call from the States and I talked for 45 minutes and drank another one or two. Well then, drinking beer became much more interesting than swimming and after even more beer and an enormous dinner and went to bed early. I sensed inner sabotage, I didn't want to swim, anyway. The racers were to assemble at 7:45 am the next day. Was I crazy? Not Sure. I woke up early, as any real baker does, hangover or no. I flip flopped back and forth as to whether I should, could, wanted to go. I remembered a friend's email recently who was telling me she ran a half marathon after a late night of red wining. She actually said she thought it helped her "push through" I wrote her a quick email and pulled the kids out of bed. Jordan fed them (I was working on the carbs Id drunk the night before) Lillian wore a swimsuit for solidarity. I pleasantly chimed that we were probably too late to assemble and would be turned away. Jordan said to think positively, I said I was thinking positively. We made it there. The start point was in Herne Bay, a very posh part of Auckland. The weather was spectacular, there were lots of serious looking swimmers and lots of wetsuits. I don't have a wetsuit and I don't think I need one, certainly not for a half hour swim. About 10% of the swimmers agreed with my thinking and went in swim togs (as they say here). I think being late was fine, less time to feel intimidated or frumpy in my vintage wool coat. I was an "unaffiliated swimmer" and therefore wore an orange swim cap and was in the third and final heat of swimmers. I heard conversations that told me there were organized trainings and practice swims. I headed down to the take off point and waded in and I found myself saying "what the heck am I doing?!" The foghorn interrupted my quandary and I was off with a whole swarm of swimmers. (You can see the beginning of the race in the video clip below this text, including my loping son and my cheerleading daughter.) The first 20 strokes were pretty irritating with limbs splashing and kicking. Half way out to the buoy marking the "path"I was fine. I decided if I finished I was a winner. Desmond on the other hand, in his five year old thinking, was worried I wouldn't win. Hah!
The swim itself was nice. The water was pale and green like jade. The water temperature was about 16 C or 65 F-pleasant. There were slow moving coast guard boats and sleek kayaks keeping an eye on us. If you had a problem you could just raise your hand and someone would paddle over to you and help you. Hopefully your problem isn't: A shark just ate my hand, then you'd really be in trouble. I noticed that the person telling swimmers "Turn Here to shore, you just passed the buoy" was pretty busy, even though the orange barrel shaped buoy was big, lots of us did not see it and almost went on our own longer swim. I was elated to learn that I was almost done and swam stronger at the end than I had the whole swim. I climbed out of the water looking for my loving family with flower lei and kisses, where were they? Oh well, I`ll revel in the moment myself. There is that great feeling that comes after doing something outside your comfort zone. I walked up to the street and headed over to the park where there would be hot and cold drinks, hot dogs, trophies and prizes. By the way, I later learned Id finished 170th, which to me translates to 'not last'. My family parked right in front of me while I was walking and they hadn't seen me. "Look, I made it!" I pulled on a shirt and we walked to the park. There was a great playground there and lots of happy swimmers. I noticed that swimmers, as a rule are a mellow bunch, not much bravado or elitism that I could see. Each of my family ate two hot dogs a piece, making the $20.00 registration fee even more of a bargain. I learned of the next swim, the Chelsea sugar swim 2.4 km. I registered today, but I don't have to go...

1 comment:

  1. Hi! My name is Mladen Levacic, from Croatia, and my hoby is open wather swimming. Now is midle of season swimming marathons on adriatic. You can see our club blog on www.kdpsplit.mojblog.hr . You will not understend text (croatian) but you can see pictures from marathons. My daugter swimm also (better then me!), she´s name is Dina. By! mllevacic@gmail.com


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