August 17, 2008 - 8:58 AM
I stood on the beach and pointed out the swim course to my father.
"So how many loops do you?"
I had to resist the urge to smack him upside the head.
"Just one," I replied. "Once time around is a mile."
He stared at the water for a moment.
"Once is a mile?"
"OK. Good luck."
I had never done a mile-long swim in a competition setting before Saturday, though my friend, Joe P., whom I convinced to do the Carly's Crossing event with me, reminded me that we were swimming the "non-competitive" one-mile. We weren't in a race. Heck, we didn't even have to rip ourselves out of our wetsuits and sprint to get on our bikes. We just had to lazily finish the swim course.
Joe Zwierzchowski, the founder of Carly's Crossing, had invited me to do the one-mile swim with him after reading about my triathlon training and my baby steps in learning to swim.
Carly's Crossing is a fundraiser to help children with cancer at Roswell Park. It was a great cause and Joe Z. was so enthusiastic and encouraging I decided to jump right in.
So it was me, Joe P., Joe Z. and Jeff D. in wave five. We went off after the "competitive, timed" mile swim (which Joe Z. also did) -- though I did catch someone refering to our event as the "relaxed mile." I liked that name much better than non-competitive. "Relaxed mile" sounds intentional and deliberate and less wimpy than "non-competitive."
But relaxed or not, I still had a few false starts when I got in the water. That white turn-around buoy was pretty far away. And though it was for enjoyment, I still didn't want to embarrass myself.
I had some trouble starting my stroke (granted there were some pretty high patches of weeds, but nothing like the Summer Sizzler at Grand Island) and gently pushed myself forward in an above-water breaststroke. Joe Z. told me to take my time and Joe P. told me not to get frustrated.
I put my head down in the water, took a long stroke and turned to breathe. Relax. Repeat.
"That's a good looking stroke, Amy!" Joe Z. shouted back to me.
I kept going, stopping only a few times -- like once when I followed Joe Z. and ended up inside the buoys. He just cut through to go back on course. I swam around the buoy, and promptly got tangled in its anchor cord.
Continuing on down the course, I did my famous move where in one stroke I manage to turn myself from a straight line to my target to 90 degrees off course. This smacked me right into Joe P. not once, but twice.
It was pretty funny and luckily near the turnaround, giving me a chance to catch my breath and look back at shore and the skyline which was blue, calm and beautiful.
On the way back I somehow drifted far off to the left (again, I was following the swim cap of Joe Z.) and the kayaks had to lead our four-person group back toward the buoys and the course. (So I'd like to think I actually swam more than a mile, what with my off course diversion on the way back).
Out of the water it was high-fives all around. Joe Z. quickly disappeared as he was swimming the course again with his son and then finally with his daughter. (Yes, Joe Z. was swimming the one-mile course four different times.)
As time goes on, I enjoy swimming more and more. My goal isn't necessarily to become a fast swimmer -- just a consistent one. And I figure that if I can keep myself relaxed and loose, like I did in the Carly's Crossing swim on Saturday, the triathlon swims would be just fine.
I thought of the one-mile Carly's Crossing swim as a bit of a marker for me -- someone who learned to swim over the winter and struggled with nerves in the open water.
The distance turned out to be not so difficult after all. My time (we figured it took about 50 minutes or so to complete it) wasn't horrible, especially considering we did chat at certain points along the course.
Most importantly, I had a fantastic time.
And that's a big part of what this journey is all about.