Last week was a pretty big week on many fronts. Besides work being busier than average, lots of stuff was happening in my personal life (good stuff) and then I was given an official date for my Hawaii channel crossing next year. On the same day that the date was confirmed, I received news that I have a fully sponsored trip to the Maldives in December for an 8 day (7 night) training camp off a yacht. To top that off my elbow feels significantly better and I was able to train predominantly pain free for most of the week. I had varied my training sessions to include some breathold and sprint sessions and that energised me. My times have been consistently improving over the last 2 weeks and although I have not changed anything (if anything I have dropped my training load somewhat to accommodate my elbow injury) I think it is just an accumulation over time effect that is finally paying dividend.
I had a 3.8km race planned for Sunday which I was excited about as I have not raced much more than a mile in the sea this whole year. It was time to pick up my sea mileage and see where I was at. Sunday arrived overcast and stormy with a wild sea and a significant chop in the water. These are my ‘ideal’ conditions. I love a challenge and I feel the choppy waters are an advantage for me as I thrive in the challenge it provides. I knew the turnout would be smaller, but I was not really there to race. I was there to test my own abilities and see how I would cope in swimming a longer distance in choppy waters.
About half an hour before the race started someone spotted a whale about 500m out to sea from where we were sitting in the club house. As I looked up I got to see the whale tail followed by a splash. It was breathtaking. Whales hold a special place in my heart and they are a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness as well as his incredible awesomeness in terms of creation. The sight of the whale tail was significant to me as it was the cherry on the top of an already very special and significant week in my life in terms of athletic and personal goals/ milestones.
As I set out to start the race, I was again reminded of why I do this. I do it because I love it. I thrive in choppy seas and the challenge of the ocean and I revel in the calm seas that usually offer surprise visits from dolphins, mantas or other fish. I was chatting to friends on the weekend about the importance of enjoying the journey and once the joy of your sport is no longer there, it is usually a sign to move on or re adjust ones perspective.
On my first visit to Hawaii (where I was introduced to ocean swimming) I was privileged to meet and train with one of the world’s leading master’s swimmers who hold multiple world records. We were doing a training swim in the sea and were treated to a visit by some dolphins and this lady stopped the session to play with the dolphins and just appreciate the gift of getting to share the ocean with them. I was struck by her ability to stop and enjoy the swim and actually forfeit the session to rather hang out with dolphins and that has stuck with me ever since. She is still massively successful and has taken time to stop and ‘smell the roses’ on the way. There is no point otherwise.
I maintain that I am training for a marathon
I no longer race although there is still a competitive side in me when I do ocean ‘races’ that will not allow anyone to pass me and I do enjoy catching and passing other swimmers. I never sprint at the start and focus instead, on swimming my own race at an enjoyable pace which will still challenge me. I maintain that I am training for a marathon, not a sprint and so usually do most of these races at my ideal ‘marathon’ pace. After seeing the whales just before the swim, I chose to stop twice to try and see if I could hear them underwater, knowing that a lot of the swimmers were probably too busy fighting the chop and trying to race the person next to them, to actually stop and appreciate the fact that we were in this vast ocean sharing it with some magnificent marine mammals a mere 500m away. The whale will always be a reminder for me to stop and slow down, remember why I am doing what I do, to enjoy the process and ultimately act as a reminder of God’s incredible faithfulness.