Is it me, or is it cold?
Day two’s swim started from a tiny little alcove toward the end of Lama Pass; right where I ended the day prior.We were off to a bit of a “oopsie-daisy” kind of start. We were all so keen to get started that we started one man short – Matt! we forgot to wake him up. By the time we realized he was missing we were half way to the start spot. I wanted to turn back but we needed to keep pressing forward because of the tides. I was angry. I have always believed that each crew member brings something of value to the team and no one person should be left behind. We are family. In Hawaii they call it Ohana.
It can be very hard for crew sometimes when they have to make decisions. They are typically focused on the swimmer and getting them to where they need to be. Knowing that, I think most people would have insisted on continuing without Matt and having one of the other Crew take on his tasks. When I explained however, the notion of Ohana and how I felt about my crew, everyone immediately understood – we are one, we move tgether. Colette quickly turned her boat around and returned to Drifter’s Cove for Matt.
I entered the water from the tiny ledge of the alcove. It was cold. My crew assured me that the tide was working with us and that I would get a nice push into Fisher Channel – and I did. I was grateful. Pam and Corey were on either side of me the entire time.
A few hours into the swim I reached the red canister I had seen on the charts. I was now well into the channel. The water felt really cold; colder than I had been in for an extended time before. I let Corey and Pam know that I was more aware of the cold than I was yesterday. I could tell it was colder but knew that MJ would not let me know if it was, so I continued to swim.
The wind started to pick up and push me up the channel – the opposite direction I wanted to go. My crew encouraged me along to minimize the impact – but they never lot on what was happening. I knew though. When we were at the red canister I could see the water pushing me back up the channel. But there was nothing I could do except keep swimming to the other side.
Corey and Pam found land marks for me to aim for as a way to keep me focused. I was getting beat up by the waves. They kept hitting me from the side. The didn’t look big, but they packed quite a punch.
About 3 hours into the swim I could feel my body changing. I was really cold, I was slowing down, and I found it hard to swim more than a few hundred meters at a time. The shore didn’t seem to be betting any closer. I decided to swim 100 strokes without stopping as a way to focus. I told Pam. She very cleverly suggested I swim a pyramid starting with 100, then 200 and 300, and then 200, and 100. It worked, for a while.
I looked to Pam when I next stoped and told her I was really cold. “You need to get me to the shore” I said. I don’t have much time.
MJ had Matt and Colette motor ahead to shore and find a landing spot. Pam pointed them out to me. I could see them but every time I stopped I didn’t seem to be getting any closer. It felt like I was in another treadmill. Pam reassured me that I was and we would get there. I kept swimming.
After what seemed like an eternity I could finally see Matt and Colette on shore. I swam and swam and swan until I could see the bottom. And then it happened. I landed. I had crossed Fisher Channel.
The crossing took between 3 and a half and 4 hours, much longer than I had anticipated. I felt so defeated but then remembered where I was swimming and was informed of the conditions I had been in. The water had dropped to 9C, the air temperature about the same, it was clouded over and the wind was about 20km / hour.
Of all of the things I had to contend with on that swim I think the temperature was the hardest. I will never forget the feeling of my body slowly slipping away from me. Everything begins to thicken and you move slowly. Exhaustion and frustration sets in quickly. These are things I need to remember and learn to manage when I swim through the night in August in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.