Yeah, that's right; the weather didn't want to cooperate. I booked a $60 (scary) hotel room, drove 4 1/2 hours to Charleston ($25 gas both ways), drove around to find the company headquarters so I could pick up my race packet (T-shirt, swim cap, number (299), and lots of little free things), had dinner at Moe's, took a bath, read my new book cover to cover, set the alarm for 5:30, got up on time, got dressed, got packed, drove to the Charleston Harbor Hilton, parked, rode the shuttle to the race site...
And then we all stepped off the bus in our T-shirts and flip-flops, got blasted by a 45-degree wind chill, froze in our tracks, and looked at each other like, "No WAY."
The river was slate-gray with whitecaps as far as the eye could see. The current was also moving pretty swiftly (2 mph), which could have helped us if not for the fact that it was flowing somewhat diagonally into shore rather than straight downstream. Then there was the aforementioned wind, making things even colder and more hairy.
So... we sat. And shivered. And wrapped our towels around us. And waited until the 8:00 start time. I made friends with a bunch of people, particularly a neonatal nurse, a swimmer my age, a middle-aged triathlete who kept saying defiantly, "I don't swim," (it was her weakest leg of the race), and Kathleen Wilson, the only person from South Carolina ever to swim the English Channel. I noticed her because she had my build and haircut, but then I overheard something she was saying about going to Zurich, and we started talking about Europe. Somebody tipped me off later as to who she was, and I did ask her a few questions about how she'd trained, but not half the things I thought of later on that I should have asked. Anyway, she was excited that I was going swim Key West; we sat together on the bus going back and she told me she'd look up the results and see how I did. (No pressure, huh?... LOL!)
But anyway, at 8:00 they decided to put off the race for an hour - the maximum time they could delay it, due to the change in tides afterward. They knew it was supposed to clear up later in the day, but they didn't know if it would be soon enough. So, for a total of 2 1/2 hours, we sat, shivered, wandered around, chatted with random people, made predictions, and hoped.
All for nothing, as it turned out, because they canceled the race. The Coast Guard and the kayak escorts had been out on the water all morning, testing the conditions, and they were getting tossed around pretty good. They said with the waves, there was no way the swimmers would be able to see where we were going (like that 'bowl' of water I talked about in St. Augustine), and they also didn't feel a hundred percent confident in their ability to corral 350 swimmers of various abilities in conditions like that. So we climbed, grumbling, back onto the buses and went back over to the Hilton, a little further up the river, for our 'after-party'.
At 10:00, as we walked up to the outdoor bar where the food was, we all noticed how calm the water seemed...
And as we stood in line, the sun came out.