Today was the annual Park to Park swim- an approximately 1.5 mile swim across Lake Washington, from Mathews Beach to O.D. Denny Park. Today was also a vindication of my swim from last week.
This swim was an act of faith. Faith that the other side was there, through all the fog. Faith that I'd eventually be able to see the finish line. And faith in myself, that I could make it.
Alarm at 6:12 felt early, but I'd made some wise decisions the night before, stayed in the bar with friends until only 10:30 and didn't have any alcohol. The weather was foggy. But it wasn't raining. My Sister-in-law, J, and her friend, L, picked me up at 6:40. The plan was for the partners to meet us on the other side of the lake for the ride back.
When we got to Mathews Beach you couldn't see the other side of the lake, the fog was so dense. But there was a shadow of a sun behind the fog, and an indication that it might burn off. As swimmers discussed the course ahead of time, another swimmer had said we were to swim towards the white sign on the other shore. Most of us replied with "what white sign?" By our start time, skies were clearing, but that sign was still illusive.
I was in the first wave-- those with pink caps. There were blue, yellow, green and white behind us, starting at 5 minute intervals. People self seeded, based on predicted pace, with the slowest swimmers going out first. I swam this in about a hour and 8 minutes last year and was predicting a similar time for this year. The swim is not timed, and not, technically, a race.
As I got on my wetsuit, I struggled a bit with the demons from last week. I'd had a good chat about it the night before with a friend-- and had re-asserted my belief that I could have finished last week, and could have done it in about an hour, if I'd been given the opportunity. But the self-doubt still crept in. Was the kayaker from last week correct? Was I really in that bad of shape? Was I making a huge mistake by going out into the deep water again this week? The only way to prove to myself that I do have the capacity for this type of swim was to do it. So I did.
The pinks started off, and I started with them. Crawl to begin. I kept up with the pack pretty well for the first three or four minutes. Then, as last week, realized that the adrenalin had me going out too fast, and I needed to slow down. The doubts crept in, already. Was I really too unfit for this? Was my training weaker that I'd thought? Switched to breast, caught my breath, and pushed on.
My 10k time, when I was running regularly, was about an hour and five minutes. This swim is similar to a 10k. However, during most runs I would talk to people-- other runners, volunteers. On a swim, you don't. You are left alone with your thoughts.
During the swim it was impossible to not compare this event to the one from last week. The only time this week I spoke to a kayaker was when I asked for help with sighting. Otherwise, they left us alone. Unlike last week's staff that were on top of me the whole time. This swim supports swimmers of all abilities, not just those who maintain specific time frames. I thought about my nieces, and what we want to teach them about athleticism. They are 7 and 9, and strong, smart girls. However, they come from a genetic stock that means they will never be elite or even strongly competitive athletes. However, we would like them, like me and their mom, to love sport. To want to see what their bodies can do. To enjoy training and pushing their bodies to test their own limits. We want them to love what they can do, and be proud of themselves, even if they aren't the fastest, strongest, or most adept. An event, like the Park-to-Park, supports that. It welcomes all trained athletes to test themselves. This is the type of event I want to support. One that supports swimmers like me.
Mentally I I divided the swim into three sections, of approximately a half mile each. The first one whizzed by. I just got my grove on and it was done. The next one was pure pleasure. The joy that motion brings. The final one was work. But even as I got near the end, I didn't want it to end.
Once I got my groove, I pretty much just put my head down and swam. As I neared the end I feared I'd be the last swimmer to finish. That I was slower than I'd thought. That I'd have that embarassment of the applause from everyone, as I was last. That I'd have DFL (Dead F-in Last) as the letters from this swim as opposed to the DNF (did not finish) I got last week. I don't know why it bothered me so much. I'd been DFL before-- in a 7 mile trail race that had only 36 entrants. I still felt accomplished. But for some reason, last week's swim got under my skin. And I felt like I had something to prove. I turned to look behind me and saw a good two dozen swimmers, including others in pink caps. I knew I'd be fine.
Eventually, the finish banner came into sight, and the white sign on the shore near it. Last year their had been a strong current, away from shore, just before landing. I prepared for it. But it was absent this year. (last year the wind had also been strong enough to cause huge waves and motion sickness, this year it was flat).
J, L, and the partners were waiting on shore. I finished strong and happy. I also restored my faith in myself.