Remembering Sandycove

An email I received prompted me to take this journey back in time to Distance Week 2012 and that very first day at Sandycove.  I am glad I sat down and wrote it, seeing it all so vividly in my mind’s eye once again.  It’s good to look back, now and then, and to remember where you came from so that you can appreciate where you are and celebrate where you are going…

The truth?  I felt like the one mere mortal dwarfed by the shadows of the gods of swimming.

I had heard the tales of cold water endurance, seen pictures of the Distance Week swims, and listened in rapt wonder at successful English Channel ventures. The very soul of the extreme doesn’t burn any brighter than it does in the swimmers at Sandycove.

On that first day, I stood listening to Ned Denison give his introductory welcome to all of us 2012 Cork Distance Week participants.  I can’t remember the statistics and numbers of successful Sandycove Island Swimmers who had crossed the English Channel, but I remember Ned saying that the Island was magic and the water around it was lucky.  He encouraged us to take advantage of it.  Despite my shyness and propensity to feel awkward and rather intimidated, I couldn’t help thinking that that was why I flew 3,000 miles, spent however many dollars, and took all this time off work – to take advantage of whatever this place and these people, whom I so admired, could offer me.  I wanted to learn.  I wanted to swim.  I just wanted whatever I could get out of every opportunity I was given.

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Deliberate Romance

 It was 257 degrees.

I kind of liked the smell of the asphalt, but probably only because I had been standing next to it for hours.  It made my stomach twist when the wind didn’t blow.  My feet and legs were tired but hadn’t given up dancing just yet.  My eyes felt dry.  I looked at my phone.

11:00 pm.

We had to wait for one last load of mix; a tedious proposition at such an hour.  Grumbling, tired, bear-like growls were emitted from the bull-chested paving crew.  Now, with nothing to do… my ultimate worry descended on my exhausted, fumigated brain:

How am I going to get enough swimming in this week?

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Crew Cut

There was a madness to the darkness.  A cloud covered sky perforated now and then with hiccups in its canopy allowed for a star or two to shine distantly.  When the moon rose, she rose orange – dripping the bold color through an unclear haze.  I’m not sure that anybody else saw the moon.  I’m not sure why I was looking at it.

All around me was the madness that drowned the night in a strange, hushed, anxious hum.  People busy and busier and all business about things.  I wanted to be useful.  I wanted my mind to instruct my body intuitively in the ways of what it meant to be apart of the crew for an open water marathon swim.  I wanted more than anything to seamlessly slip into the tide of the madness around me and to help bring some order in my so doing.

No such luck.  I had to ask what to do.  I had to ask where to help.  First aid kits, radios, extra batteries, blankets, sleeping bags, sweatshirts, Gatorade, water… on and on and on.  The list was endless and time slipped by.  And you knew that something would be forgotten.  Not everything will be thought of.  Whispers and chatter, footsteps heavy on metal gangways and wooden ramps, the gentle sigh of night, and there, in the background – if you really listened – you could hear the water.

I loved it all.
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