I rarely have time for such things, but this was a unique weekend, and I uniquely had time to compose a weekend swim recap for you. Fair warning, it’s a long one: I turned around from a border busting swim and family vacation in Vermont to take a personal escape for a little more swimming in Colorado with my sister, Julie. We grew up here, but I moved away 26 years ago—which is hard to comprehend, how have so many years gone by? Everything seems so big, crowded, and vaguely familiar. It’s an odd sensation. After much ado for camping supplies and food stuffs, we made it to Wellington lake at 8000 feet elevation just a skosh before the sun tucked in. We got the late comers welcome, meeting cliff notes, and set up camp before dark. I was road weary, to say the least, I could hardly wrap my mind around what I was about to embark upon, and had no idea what I was thinking when signed up for the Cliff Backyard Ultra Swim:https://mountainswimseries.com/eve…/the-cliff-backyard-ultra
I woke up Saturday feeling horrible. My stomach, my head, my body—just horrible. I hoped that water, a medium that I often considered to be more familiar than land, would make me feel a modicum better. Right on time, at 6:02 am, 16 foolhardy swimmers and I hit the water. It was warmer than the air, a refreshing sub 70. I felt as though I was thrashing about, but rounded two buoys collecting the requisite number of cards, and finished my 1.5 miles with 17 min before the next opportunity. I ate crystallized ginger to settle my stomach, drank water to ease my pounding head, and wondered if I could make it one more lap.
On lap two, the sun was higher in the sky, the buoys were clearly visible, geographic sightings in place, I settled into my stroke and my place well behind the lead pack. I arrived to shore, relinquished my cards as evidence that I’d visited each buoy, felt comfortable about the pace I established, but I still felt horrible. More ginger. More water. Maybe one more lap. And thus my motto for the day was forged.
So how does a person go from, “just one more” after lap one, and get all the way to 16? Easy: salty blue corn chips, warm cinnamon sugar butter tortillas, hot chocolate, ramen noodles, Julie, Kristi, Steve, Diana, inspiration, support, encouragement, love, and Sarah Thomas.
Don’t get me wrong, it was hard. It took three laps to right my stomach woes and a few more to kick the headache. Mid day brought bright sunshine and warm outside temperatures that made the water feel frigid for the first mile. I’d return to shore finally acclimated to the water, get out, get warm and dry, then do it all over again.
My personal pep talks centered around, the financial investments that had been made to get there and leaving my family for a weekend of swimming. How could I go home and tell my kids that I quit when I hadn’t even swam my longest time or distance? Then my wonderful friends Kristi and Steve showed up with their two boys. Diana and her two kids came all the way out to support me, could I do just one more?
There was a fly by thunderstorm. Bald eagles soaring overhead. Gorgeous scenery. Lake goers drifting onto the course. Rain. Wind. Pockets of sunshine nestled behind sheets of gray. Glassy calm. More wind. A torrential downpour. Thunder. Lightening! Sun set. An encouraging voice from my swimming idol. Twilight. And then it was really dark. On lap 16 I swam past the far buoy, accidentally sighting on a light on shore. With only two left in the water, we had kayak escorts, but had to do our own navigating. Graciously, my kayaker let me know I had swum long, I was so glad to turn around. The wind whipped up washing machine style. My kayaker blew ashore. Fortunately the finish was very well illuminated. My everything had been hurting for at least 10 laps. I knew I was done for, but I also knew it would be hard to quit. When I landed and Sarah said I had just 3 minutes if I wanted to go again, I threw in the towel. I had been posting the same time for each 1.5 mile loop all day long. But when I missed my time, I decided to relinquish the rock to Last to Fail Stephen Rouch.
I can’t stop crying every time I think back on Wellington Lake. The people. The heart. Just epic. Sarah and Karl, thank you for creating an event that allows a middle of the road swimmer like me to be buoyed by support and encouragement and achieve more than I thought possible.
Thanks to my husband, Noah, who wrangled our darling munchkins ALL weekend so I could swim laps for 16 hours in a high mountain lake.
Lastly, my sister stepped up to crew for me without any idea what she was getting into. But she took her job very seriously and prepared more than I could have ever suggested or recommended. She was perfect for the job and I can hardly express how grateful I am to her for being there to look after and support me. I think she thought I would quit sooner, and defying her was a pretty good motivator—fortunately, her closing comments before we drifted off to sleep after hour upon hour upon hour of watching me swim were, “are we going to come back next year?”
#intrepidwater #adventureswimming #secondtolasttofail #lastwomanstanding #renewedfocus