I woke up for swim 9, which was back around Sandycove, when there was a knock on my door. My lower back was killing me. I lay there thinking. What I really wanted out of this trip was to swim as much as I could safely and to complete the 6-hour so that I can have all my paperwork completed for the Channel. When I sat up and was just so sore, I decided I really shouldn’t try it. I told Sarah I wasn’t going to come swim that morning. I was going to go back to sleep and see if my back just needed a break from the swimming and the sighting and all of that.
Score one for maturity, I thought to myself as I lay back down.
Swim 10 – The Speckled Door
That evening we swam from a Pub called The Speckled Door to Sandycove Island. It’s about a 5 km swim. We almost missed the swim, because a group of us had been out playing on a sail boat all day. I had never been sailing before! What a treat! The fellow who took us was one of the first swimmers to swim around Sandycove and to create the club. He’s a grandfather now and still swims at Sandycove all year long; even in the winter! He was a great guy. I loved listening to his stories!
At one point, while we were all on the sailboat talking about swimming and distances and the Channel and all of that; the conversation drifted to ‘firsts.’ See, there is so much water, and there are so few distance swimmers, there’s a good chance that you could be the first to do something.
As I listened, though, I thought to myself that I didn’t really want to be first. Not really. I want to go home. After the Channel, I want to go home. I love it! And I love the adventure… but I don’t want it to be everything; I want to go home. To Vermont. And I want to build a pool in Rutland. I want to teach kids how to swim. I want to contribute something worthwhile to that community.
I guess I do want to be first: the first person to build an aquatic center in Rutland, Vermont. That’s what I want.
Anyway, we were so late getting back from our excursion around the bay that we arrived in style, brought in on the sailboat. We launched ourselves from the boat into the water to catch up with the folks our speed. It was fantastic!
The water was clear as clear could be, and you could see jellyfish, the stinging kind, floating off below you. They were spectacular… at a distance like that. I very much admired their beauty.
Thomas and I had both leapt off the boat, so had Sarah and Rory – a super speedy quick swimmer. I swam in a bit to catch up with the larger group of swimmers. We were supposed to track to one spot and the round the corner and follow the cliffs. Once you got around the outcropping, you could see the red house inside Sandycove bay and follow that all the way in to the slipway.
This swim was shaping up to be lovely! Another one I’d never done before!
I stopped to check on Thomas. I couldn’t see him anywhere. I was treading water madly and caught sight of him way, way far from where I was, just swimming along merrily. He was so far out to sea, it seemed, from where the rest of us swam that I was really worried. I took a line out from the group I had caught up with and sort of swam somewhere parallel to the course; halfway between Thomas and the other group. I just wanted to be able to keep an eye on him. That’s what swim buddies do, after all.
And then… well, the jellyfish didn’t hang out below the water. No… they decided they should chill out along the surface and ALL of them were the stinging kind. And there were a lot, a lot, a LOT of them. I knew I was trying too hard to avoid them. I kept my chin up, looking ahead. I couldn’t help it, I knew that would put ridiculous strain on my back, which had been bothering me all day. I tried to develop a panning system. Breathe, tilt up, tilt down, two strokes, tilt up, tilt down, breathe… I tried to keep my pace steady.
Suddenly another swimmer was beside me: it was Ned. He was confused by my presence and then realized that I had been one of the swimmers on the boat. He told me I should swim closer to the cliffs. The tide was going out to sea, and the nearer I was to them, the better off I would be. I pointed out to where Thomas was swimming and expressed my concern. Ned looked out and saw that another faster swimmer was tracking him down to get him to move closer inland as well.
So I turned myself inland and kept navigating through the jellies. I put my face down once, and there was a huge jellyfish literally right there next to my left cheek. I banked hard to the right and skirted by it. The last thing I wanted was a mouth full of tentacles!
Then, I saw the head of one off to my left and I thought, “Oh good, I’ll miss that one…” But I was only too late to realize that my left arm was pulling through its very fine tentacles. It burned and stung and hurt. Well… there’s a new experience, I thought.
Not long after, I rolled back from breathing to catch something out of the corner of my eye as it slipped under my left armpit. That one REALLY hurt. And the pain coursed along in waves, every so often reminding me that it was there all throughout the rest of the swim.
You could really feel the pull of the tide when you got to Corner One of the Island. It was steady and strong, and I was just as steady and a little bit stronger and I pulled my way inside the island toward the slipway. Just like climbing a ladder. I again left my companion swimmers and managed to get in in good time.
My back didn’t hurt too much, and some antihistamine cream on the jellyfish sting seemed to really help – I didn’t puff out like a balloon or anything. That was refreshing!
Thomas came out a bit later. Ned was nearby and asked him what he was doing so far out from the cliffs.
“I was swimming in line with the red house!” Thomas stated.
Ned said, “I went to get Bethany and she was like, ‘Thomas is swimming back to Italy!’”
We all laughed. I was just glad that we were all back safe.
AND! Now, I’ve been stung by a jellyfish. And I don’t much care for it. But, you know, it’s good to know!
Swim 11 – Iniscara
This was a pre-dawn swim complete with fog and mist and warm, warm reservoir water that was black as night when you put your face down in it. It was a fun swim from last year. I hadn’t gotten very far down the Reservoir before, and this year my only goal was to not hurt myself. I took lots of time stretching out and easing into the swim. I did backstroke. I did breaststroke. I admired the black of the water and the banks along the reservoir as they loomed out of the mist.
I had nobody to swim with at Iniscara, but that was all right with me. You couldn’t get lost, really. I swam along in the 23ish degree water admiring the medieval atmosphere. It wasn’t hard to imagine knights and kings and castles today, with the silver fog and black water and white gold of the morning the sky.
I stretched my neck and relaxed and then did some drills to stretch my spine. Then, I laughed, thinking about Bob and Deb back home and the ‘Leprechaun’ swim, and I started somersaulting up the lake, giddily making myself laugh as I went. I would swim a few strokes, flip, swim a few strokes and flip. I watched my feet tumble from darkness to light and back again. Shapes loomed in and out of sight through the fog. It was hard to tell where you were, but not impossible. I kind of wanted to lose myself in the mist and drifted toward where the fog was denser. I wondered if it would be very hard to get lost…
And then, I looked up and I had reached the dam at the end of the reservoir! I knew I was swimming that way, but I hadn’t expected to reach it! It was a good 3 km from the beach and we were only supposed to swim for 2 hours. I must have been out a long while! I stopped my playing then, turned myself around and swam back toward the beach.
I got back in 2 hours 8 minutes, thankfully, and nobody was missing me. That was a real relief!
But oh, how exquisite a morning it had been. How different from any other swim I’d ever swum! Medieval was just the right word, it had fairly taken me back in time…
Well… made me lose track of it anyway.