Thursday 13 June 2013

MIMS 2013: Part II

In the previous post, I discussed some of the more difficult and disappointing aspects of my MIMS experience, but there is also another more positive aspect to the story.

Firstly, a solo swim is never undertaken alone, and I was privileged to have the support of an incredible crew in Patti and Julie, boat pilot John (in the good ship Fransea), observer Bill and kayaker Jeff, who paddled attentively by my side throughout the day without a single break. Jeff teaches science for a living, and later told me that it felt very decadent to be able to work with someone who thinks in metric a delightful meeting of minds in the random assignment of a science teacher and this most unscientific of Brits.

All those around me were utterly unflappable, endlessly encouraging and worked so hard to make the day a success and get me round the island. As a result of the boat shortages, I was also paired off at the very last minute with another swimmer -Jim Neitz - whose crew joined the Fransea. I was getting really stressed by the delays and confusion as we waited on the pier before the swim, and I have to confess that at first I struggled to get my head around this new turn in events, unable to process the possible consequences of this pairing for both of our swims. My anxiety levels rocketed, and my focus was fizzling away by the minute. Adaptability is not one of my strengths, especially when I'm stressed, but Jim was amazingly positive and constructive - we walked along the dock and talked, shared prospective swim times, and got to know each other a bit. I am especially grateful to Jim for stepping up and refusing to let this be anything other than an opportunity. 

Our respective crews, kayakers and pilot also rose splendidly to the sudden change of circumstances, and even when we got a little separated later in the swim, the Fransea shuttled calmly between us, making sure our kayakers were well stocked with our feeds, bellowing encouragement and generally being amazing. And in the midst of all this, somehow, Patti and Julie still managed to deliver my traditional 6-hour treat of two black jelly babies (much to the bemusement of Jeff, it has to be said), and more importantly, they were both instrumental in persuading this rather deflated swimmer to get back in after the repositioning and to finish what we'd started. Outstanding, one and all.

Secondly, even though I didn't beat the tide turn, in my own terms, I swam well, was well prepared and I gave a respectable performance - something that I didn't really manage to do in Mallorca. In the face of the ebbing tide, I fought to the very edge of my capabilities, pushing so hard that I was seeing spots behind my eyes, and I didn't stop trying until I was pulled, no matter how incrementally slow my progress. I lost the battle, but at least I can say that whatever else happened that day, I didn't leave anything behind in my efforts to complete the swim. The feeds slipped down nicely, my stroke rate and pace remained pretty steady throughout and aside from a brief attack of the grumps after I got back in at the Harlem River (which I grumbled away into the water and then got over), I was a very happy swimmer. Overall, I feel proud of what I managed to achieve on a challenging day.

And thirdly, even though I didn't swim round Manhattan ... I SWAM ROUND MANHATTAN!! And let me tell you - it's really something to see from the water. 

I don't think that there's much that can compare to swimming down the Hudson towards lower Manhattan - the iconic skyline, the Statue of Liberty in the distance, the end of a day's swimming in sight. But beyond the iconic, the scenery throughout ranges from narrow urban waterways to wide, tree-lined expanses, each stretch of water with its own taste and texture, offering an endlessly changing view punctuated by majestic bridges and totemic buildings. Extraordinary.

Its only right that the boat assisted swims arent counted as officially sanctioned swims, but it counts in just about every other way as a long, difficult, amazing, exciting day of swimming. In tangibly physical terms, the 10 minutes I spent on the boat seemed a pretty meaningless form of assistance the following day as I struggled to raise my arms above my head. And even though I knew unambiguously that my swim wouldnt be officially recognised, I still felt the absolute elation of completion as I slapped the finish buoy with all the triumph of an Olympic medalist.

This, then, is the other side of that mixed bag of a day a good performance, with a fantastic crew behind me and in an incredible location. It was, in so many ways, a good day out on the water.

So thats my take on MIMS 2013. A mixed bag, with a disappointing result and some truly awful moments , but also some exhilarating ones too. Julie Farrell captured all of this gloriously in her Twitter feed of the day, and this comprises the final part of my MIMS 2013 story. You just never know whats going to happen when you give a Texan access to your Twitter account.[see Part III]

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