Hanging on to the buoys

image via newsdayWhen I was 49, I decided to learn to swim and to participate in an Olympic Distance Triathlon.
Yes, you read that right…learn to swim!
Even though I had grown up on an island, what I used to do in the ocean was not swimming. It was simply not drowning.

So on the day of the triathlon, I looked out over the lake at Disney World and I counted the buoys that marked the swim course.

The idea is to swim as close to the buoys as possible and use them as a guide to swim the distance of one mile.

My strategy was VERY different.

Since I had only learned to swim properly six months prior, I could not swim one mile in a single go.
I had practiced “buoy to buoy” so to speak.
I had also heard that swimmers were so eager to finish first that they kicked you in the face, kicked off your goggles and pretty much ignored that you we also trying to finish a race.

I remember the night before I left for Disney World I had a neighbor who had done many triathlons and I asked him for advice.
He said, with a smile, “So when’s the Tri?”
I smiled right back and said, “In two days.”
He shot up from his relaxed seated position and said, “WHAT?”
He seemed to think I had waited too long to ask for help.
So I asked him for just one piece of advice.
He said, “Be careful of the other swimmers. Wear two swim caps and sandwich your goggles between them, you may hold on to them longer. Swim away from the buoys and this will lessen the chance that you’ll get kicked in the face.”
I said, “Ok, see you in a week.”
He looked at me like I had lost my mind.
Well, I took his advice and I wore two caps, I sandwiched my goggles and I swam WAY away from the buoys (even as an amateur I know that this may have doubled my swim distance).

I was NOT kicked in the face.

I added my own bits of advice.
I swam buoy to buoy!
The WHOLE way!
Want to know what else I did?
I imagined that a childhood friend was standing on each of those buoys and they were TAUNTING me like they usually did.
I imagined them saying things like, “Indrani, you’ll never make it to the next buoy!”
I imagined myself cursing them and saying, “Watch me!”
I did this for about seven buoys.
The last two buoys were different.
All of a sudden all of my childhood tormentors were piled together on the last remaining buoys and they were screaming things like,
“You GO!”
“Don’t you DARE give up!”
“We BELIEVE in you!”
I even caught myself laughing out loud as I clung to the final buoy.

At that buoy, a young man in a canoe, came up and asked if I was tired and asked if I needed to hold onto his life float.
I told him I was tired and I was worried that I was swimming in zigzags so I was really using more energy than I needed to use.
He told me that if he saw me zigzagging he would slap the water with his paddle, I would hear it and look up and see how to correct my course.
He then said, “Ma’am, please don’t give up. All of us out here on the lake want you to finish. We are all rooting for you.”
I laughed at him and said, “I am from Trinidad, I turned 50 two days ago, I learned to swim six months ago and I am like the Jamaican Bobsled Team… I will never give up!”
He laughed and said, “Ok, see you on the beach.”

Dear readers, I finished dead LAST! But I finished.

Love and light,