:: eye of the storm ::

About Me

A 27-year-old PA student who wants to visit all seven continents, write a book, work at a pediatric clinic in Africa, and basically meet as many of the world's challenges as possible.

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current mood

Life List

(already accomplished)

Become a PA

Visit all 7 continents

Take a SwimTrek trip

Bike through Western Europe

Raft the Grand Canyon

Improve my Spanish proficiency

Go on safari in Africa

Trace my roots at Ellis Island

Vacation in Hawaii

Work on a hospital ship in a Third World country

Celebrate New Year's in Times Square

Visit all 50 states (29 to go: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY)

See the ruins at Pompeii

Swim in Capri's Blue Grotto

Tour Mt. Vesuvius

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Tour the Colosseum

Visit the D-Day beaches

See the Mona Lisa

Visit the palace at Versailles

See the Acropolis and Parthenon

See the Egyptian pyramids

Hike the Inca Trail

Walk El Camino Santiago

Take an Alaskan cruise

View the Taj Mahal at sunrise

Hike Table Mountain in South Africa

Climb through the Amazon canopy

Walk at least part of the Great Wall of China

Get laser hair removal

Learn to surf, ski, and snowboard

Learn to drive a stick-shift

Learn to play the piano

Go on a tropical cruise

Ride horseback on the beach

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get tickets to the Olympics

Go to adult Space Camp

Witness a shuttle launch from up close

Build a full-sized snowman

Sew a quilt out of my old race T-shirts

Update and continue my Life Scrapbook

Become the oldest person to ever do the River Run

Live to be a happy, healthy 100 years old - at least!

(unlikely dreams)

dinsdag 13 juni 2006

Well, I'm back from Key West, and it was not a success. Any Floridian can probably make an educated guess as to why, but here we go anyway. There were two big problems with this race: first, the fact that the race director misjudged the start time by an hour and a half and sent us all swimming into the current (he used a new system, some multimillion-dollar government computer - "your tax dollars at work", he told us - and it was wrong), and second, yes, you guessed it, the small fact that we happened to be swimming through the beginnings of Tropical Storm Alberto (!). The very fastest swimmers (those who could do the 12.5 miles in less than 5 hours) made it through okay, but the tide changed after that (and the wind picked up a lot, too) and trapped the slower swimmers back behind Sigsbee Island (the halfway mark). I was right at the front edge of that slower group (we had the lead boat in sight for the first 4 miles), and managed to make it through Key West Harbor and up to the top of Sigsbee's, but I can tell you it was pretty discouraging to stare at the bottom and see each stroke gaining me only a few inches of ground. It took me an hour to swim a mile. (And others behind me weren't so lucky; I know of one guy who pushed forward into Key West Harbor, then got sucked backward the way he came at the tidal change.) And as well as getting discouraged, my usual bodily problems were playing up as well - seasickness (although the Dramamine did help) and some moderate shoulder pain.

And then, as if we didn't have enough problems, a nasty thunderstorm blew up; we could see the wall of rain and lightning moving toward us. I had no desire to turn poor Christine and her kayak into a lightning rod, so we got out and waited out the storm under an old pavilion-slash-tiki bar that just happened to be within easy reach. (Some swimmers apparently stayed in during the storm, but that was a dangerous move - the wind was insane, rain was blowing horizontally, we could see nothing but white, and the thunder and lightning were right on top of each other and very violent, if shortlived - so I think we made the right decision, despite the fact that that invalidated my swim.) Later, we heard that a couple of kayaks had actually capsized during the storm and had had to be rescued by a tiki boat, not even part of our race. Pretty funny.

Anyway, after the 35-minute storm, we looked out at the water, and it was like glass - better than it had been all day. I had been fighting wind, current, and big waves for four and a half hours before the storm, and this was a complete 180, and a welcome sight. The rescue boat informed us that we'd made it past the hard part and the current would be with us for the remainder of the swim, so I said, "Who cares if it's not official - we can at least finish." So we got back into the water... and had maybe five good minutes before the wind was back, and stronger than ever. The captains kept insisting that we'd be with the current, but Christine and I didn't believe them - when she stopped to get me a drink of water, her kayak got pushed twenty feet backwards in the blink of an eye, and whenever I tried to say something to her, I had to break it into two-word increments to allow for the waves (caused by the wind) that were constantly smashing me in the face. ("I feel like a salmon swimming upstream!" I laughed at one point.) Whatever current there was - maybe a half-mile an hour - was being more than overshadowed by the wind, because we found out later that it was blowing at almost thirty miles an hour!

When the rescue boat came back, around mile marker 8, we decided to just get out - my swim was already invalid because of our decision to get out during the lightning, and we were both tired of fighting wind and water and waves and never getting anywhere. Not two minutes after we'd pulled Christine's kayak up onto the rescue boat, another boat came by and asked our pilot, Dave, "Are you taking them back to the start?"
"Yeah," said Dave.
"Don't," warned the other guy, shaking his head. "Have you seen the waves on the other side of the island? They're like this." And he held his hand up, nearly twice as high as the side of his boat. "They're 300 yards out and they're breaking."
"Are you serious?"
"Dead serious."
"Wow. Okay, then I'll just take them back to the marina. Thanks, man," Dave said.
"No problem!" And the other boat roared away.

Dave turned to us. "I can't take my boat out there; we'd capsize," he said. "Sorry. I'll take you guys back to the marina, and you can call a cab."
"Looks like we picked the right time to get out," Christine and I muttered to each other, wide-eyed.

Anyway, believe it or not, some swimmers actually did finish; most were fast swimmers who were close to the finish when the big weather problems started and just couldn't bring themselves to give up, but a couple were bound and determined to fight through the weather no matter what happened, and after eight and a half hours (!) they crawled up onto shore. (Those are the crazies who stayed in during the storm.) There were a lot of others, however, who got stuck like we did; there was a definite 'dividing line' as to who finished and who didn't, based on swim speed, and I believe it was drawn right in front of me, because as far as I know, I was the fastest of the non-finishers, stopping at mile 8 instead of 5 or 6 like the rest. And judging by the slow finishers' times (all of whom were still in front of me), if I had pushed through it, it would have probably taken me a total of about ten hours to finish. However, judging by the amount of time I spent in the water, I think I swam the equivalent of about 11 miles, which is almost the full race distance anyway. So I didn't do too badly - I did what I could with the cards I'd been dealt. It's always disappointing not to finish, but sometimes you just have to cut your losses.

Christine and I went back to the starting line to watch the last few people come in, and it was almost as miserable for us on the shore as it was in the water. The wind was unbelievable; you had to speak in raised voices, and innumerable grains of sand were stinging our legs like so many sharp needles. The best part, however, was the birds: they couldn't fly. The wind was so strong that it was the equivalent of a birdie treadmill; the birds that tried to fly into it couldn't make any headway. They'd flap helplessly in the same spot for a few seconds, then give up and go the other way. It was really pretty funny to watch.

Ah, well. Next year can't be any worse, right?

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