Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Women Swimmin' at Cayuga Lake

On Saturday I participated in a fundraising event called Women Swimmin’ for our local Hospice Care Center. After my oldest son’s death I went to grief counseling at the Hospice Center. I wanted to give something back so I decided to sign up for Women Swimmin’ this year. So on August 8th, along with almost 300 other women, I swam the width of Cayuga Lake. We had to raise a minimum of $125 to participate in this event. It was a 1.2 mile swim – with lots of kayakers along for support.

The swimmers were divided up into two waves. Each wave was divided up into pods of about 15 women each. A huge two story boat took one wave at a time from the dock at the Ithaca Yacht Club over to the shore at Ivy Point – on the other side of the lake. Each pod took turns jumping from the boat into the lake. Kayakers were there waiting for us and escorted us the 1.2 miles back as we swam.

I loved being a part of this community event. I can’t find the right words to describe how it felt to be one of the women who participated in this swim. It was exhilarating, emotional, and empowering. I was in the second wave of women and as we boarded the boat we were cheered on by all those who came to watch us swim. My mom and step-dad were there – as well as my husband and my two youngest children. When the boat left the dock, all the women on board let out huge cheers of joy. It brought tears to my eyes. We passed the first wave as they were swimming back – and many of them stopped in the water to cheer us on. It was amazing seeing these women bobbing in the water and waving to us! When the boat reached Ivy Point all the women on board let out another cheer of joy! There were about a hundred kayakers in the water waiting for us and they enthusiastically returned our cheers!

I was pretty confident I could do the swim – but it was also comforting to know that I could rest at any point by hanging on to the end of one of the kayaks escorting us. When I first leapt into the water I couldn’t see when I surfaced . I couldn’t figure out what happened – did I loose my goggles and my contacts? I immediately panicked – how would I be able to see to swim back? It took me about a minute to realize that I still had my goggles on – but they were filled up with water. I emptied the water out and tried to start swimming but I was still panicky. I couldn’t relax – and my goggles kept filling up with water. My pod was pulling away from me and calling for me to catch up. I started thinking that this was the most foolish thing I’d ever attempted – I didn’t eat enough to keep me strong. I already felt weak. My arms were already tired from struggling. What was I going to do?

I know this sounds silly – but I was so panicky that it took me about five minutes before I realized that my goggles were too loose! It finally occurred to me that all I had to do was make my way over to a kayaker for help. One had already spotted me struggling – and was making his way over to me. He asked if I was alright - so I asked him if I could come over for help. He tightened my goggles up for me, introduced himself (Jeff), and said he would stay with me for the duration of the swim. He must have pegged me for a hysterical swimmer (which I was at that point).

By this time my pod had long left me behind. I was alone. I just put my face in the water and swam. Jeff stayed to my right. There was a strong current that, along with the wind, pulling me to the right – but with Jeff on my right I stayed on course. I quickly learned not to fight the rolling waves and let my body roll over them as I swam. Once I started to swim, I swam the whole way without stopping to rest. I felt strong and was never out of breath. I stopped only once when I passed a marker to ask Jeff if it was the half-way point – which he confirmed. When I passed the ¾ marker I knew I was about a quarter mile out so I picked up my pace. I can’t describe how it felt to be coming in close to the dock and seeing everyone there cheering.

This wasn’t a race – but I did time myself to see how long it would take me. From my leap into the water until I climbed up onto the dock it took me 1 hour and 4 minutes. Given that I probably lost 10 minutes to my initial difficulties, I estimate I did the 1.2 miles in 54 minutes.

Allow me to strut a minute. I swam the width of Cayuga Lake without stopping. Two years ago I was 49 and never thought this kind of feat was achievable. I am now 51 and I swam 1.2 miles across Cayuga Lake without stopping.

::chin up, shoulders back, struts to and fro:: Oh yeah – I’m bad.


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