Swimming in a Storm

Not all, but several of my life’s most intensely  emotional and spiritual moments have been associated with open water, whether that be in a lake, an ocean, a creek or a river. I am drawn to the water where ever I go and when I fully immerse myself in it, I feel like I have come home.

I find that swimming in open water energizes me with a feeling of having near super human powers. When I am depleted it restores me, when I take it for granted it challenges me and when I am most in need to find an answer or mend my heart, the water heals me. Open water is many different things to me and I would not be complete without it.

I try not to compare my ‘most’ intense open water experiences because each of them is uniquely different. I have kept a journal of my most ‘memorable’ open water experiences and it gives me comfort to know that I can retrieve them at any time and that I will be filled with awe and wonder when I read them again.

Today (July 9th) I was gifted to have an extraordinary open water experience and it will most certainly become part of my open water swimming journal. For the past 6 weeks I have been helping the (Across the Lake Swim Society to prepare over a hundred swimmers for their ATLS event this coming weekend. I have felt tremendous pride in the courage, determination and fortitude these swimmers have demonstrated in overcoming their fears and anxieties of swimming in open water. Together we have worked through their obstacles and challenges and together we have rejoiced in their progress and success.

We were  giving some last minute instructions to our group when I happened to turn and look at the lake. I stopped breathing when my eyes saw the image unfolding in front of me. The upper part of the sky was completely black and foreboding but the lower part of the sky was pure white. There was a dense wall of fog slowly creeping up the lake like a ghost. In between the black and the white portions of the sky, there were large grey clouds billowing down to the shoreline. I thought I saw a small black tornado funnel off to the left, it looked vaporous and eerie.

There was a group of swimmers that had already started their swim at the 0 buoy  and they were following one behind the other. I thought I was dreaming when I saw a single ray of sunshine break through the clouds and shine directly over their heads forming a brilliant golden hue. There was no other light on the lake, only that ray of sunlight above their heads. I was totally hypnotized!

We quickly got our swimmers into the lake as we knew our time to swim was limited. The surface of the lake had turned from relative calm to rapid chop within a matter of seconds. I glanced at the sky in the distance, and it was like the Gods of Thunder were galloping towards us and they were going to consume us all. At that same instant the wind changed from a breeze to a squall making it hard to stay upright much less swim. The wind was like a wild beast raging down and tossing us about like we were leaves on the surface of the lake. Next came the rain, it was torrential in force and it felt like rocks bouncing off of us. Some swimmers were laughing, some were gasping and I am know a few of them were crying. I don’t think anyone there had ever been in an open water tempest such as this.

Everyone started swimming which was quite remarkable now that I think of it. Mark and I were doing our best to guide our group to the next buoy one at a time. I turned back a few times to check on some swimmers that I knew were struggling. Once I knew the swimmers were OK, I would set my course back to the next buoy and I was swimming like I never have before. I felt like I was moving at light speed and each wave that I swam through gave me more energy to reach my next destination.

I can’t remember which swim buoy I was hurtling towards but I knew the waves and the wind were now at my back. The push felt absolutely amazing and I was literally soaring through the water like a torpedo. Our group somewhat gathered at the 450 marker and we were shouting and laughing at each other in amazement that we were still alive. We proclaimed that we were going to give it our all to get back to the start buoy and off we went.

A few minutes later we were intercepted by our race director Peter Rudd and his team telling us we needed to clear the lake. It was a good safety call to make under the circumstances. We obeyed the request immediately and made our way to shore.

The storm had left much destruction in its wake, it had ripped up one of the ATLS tents and it had blown and soaked everything else all over Gyro Park. No one seemed to care about the loss of any material items. I paused for a moment to look at the faces of the swimmers now safely ashore. I could tell that everyone who swam on July 9th at the ATLS clinic found a part of themselves they never knew existed. We were Open Water Swim Warriors on this day and we were  ready for our Across the Lake Swim on July 16th, 2016.  

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