Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war. ~Loren Eiseley
I was threading water in the middle of Janao Bay and I was getting disoriented. The swim out wasn’t all that difficult but the swim back, against the current, was zapping me of whatever energy I had left.
I was getting tired trying to find those white buoys. I had already managed to swim about a km out towards the raft. Everyone I was with in the swim pack had disappeared. It was just me and the deep blue-green sea. And although I believe I am a strong swimmer (the other alternative being that I’m just crazy and I want to torture myself), it was very disconcerting to find myself alone and unable to see beyond those waves that seemed to be getting stronger by the minute. Where the hell was everyone else? And how could I have gotten myself so lost?
Fact 1: Next to running and running marathons, I love swimming in the open water best… And on some days, I suspect that it’s the other way around…
Fact 2: If I wasn’t already set on running across that bridge on the other side of the Pacific and, of course, saying hello to the piano guy then I would be doing this instead–-The 3rd OLANGO CHALLENGE. It’s an open water swim event (1.5K, 3K, 5K) that starts out from Lapu-Lapu City.
Fact 3: This swim is scheduled on the 24th of April this year. Ack! I will be in Monterey, by then getting ready to run in the THE BIG SUR MARATHON with a friend on the 25th. Yey!
I did two open water swims last year. The first one was a 2K swim in Anilao. Huge waves greeted us and lots of colorful fishes accompanied us during the swim. It kept the terror at bay. A good thing too because this was the first time I had ever done this. The second time was for a 3K swim off Hamilo Coast. The waves were much more manageable this time around. There was no sign of the colorful fishes this time. It was just deep and dark waters out there but both swims left me hankering for more.
Swimming in open water is always a thrill for me. There is a certain calm that I get only when I am swimming. It is an absolute fantastic blue silence minus the static and the white noise that is almost always there when I am going about my regular day. It comes only after I’ve pushed myself past a certain limit. It comes swiftly and gracefully and then it hangs over me for the briefest and most fragile and pleasurable of moments. It is an amazing feeling. And it is the promise of that moment that sometimes will keep me pushing beyond points where my body would normally cave in to the stress of the elements.
“Pray!” I hear a voice in my head. It sounds very much like my Piano teacher. And then I realize it is my Piano teacher, Sr. Xaveria! Having moved on to the great beyond, she hangs around in my head more often now. So many years ago, she taught me that before I do anything, before I start anything…Pray, she would tell me. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Pray before you start. Pray before you panic. Trust and then let God be God.
So I start praying an old prayer of protection: The light of God surrounds me, the power of God protects me, the love of God enfolds me, the presence of God watches over me… And wherever I am, God is.
I repeat this prayer over and over as my hands drag through the water in long sweeping movements. It’s a relentless and persistent push and pull. My body twists and glides through the water. I look down and from the corner of my eye, a school of fish darts by and then they bank and they swim right under me. Brilliant light filters through and light fractals float on the surface of the water me. I forget about my ongoing battle with the waves. I relax enough so that I feel at once both light and graceful. Swimming, if you really think about it, is the closest thing we can get to flying. We have full control of our bodies as we spin and tumble and float under water. Where else can we do that? Certainly not on land!
Something suddenly floats up to within my line of vision.
“Oh what bold aqua blue trunks you have!” I tell the man when he pops out of the water.
“There you are!” He replies though we have never seen each other before.
He grins and points towards the shore. Stop looking for the small white buoys he tells me. They are too small to see in these choppy waters. Just keep swimming towards shore, that’s our ticket home!
Come on, he shouts out over the churning waves. I watch him as he disappears under the water only to reappear a few meters down. Come on, he repeats, his voice more urgent. It cuts through my stupor. I stop threading water. I stop hesitating and I dive headlong under the waves after him. Once again it’s a relentless push and pull… And once again my hand rakes in fluid grace and joy as seawater skims through my fingers.
The 1st Speedo International Swim Masters Series Philippines 2K swim 6.21.09 47:43 (AG) / Hamilo 3.5.8 3K swim 11.21.09 1:27:21 (3 OA)
For more info on THE OLANGO CHALLENGE or to register, go to this SITE.