August 1, 2017 (Photo: Me at 2007 Nelson Triathlon; by www.bestphotos.ca)
I haven't done as much floating lately. The water is too nice not to be swimming in, so rather than sittin' there floatin' on top of it, I am spending all my time inside of it. There is no feeling in the world like water all over your body. It's the most embracing thing ever. Liquid wonder caressing every part of you!
I am down to my river a few times a day. If I am too tired I will take a siesta on a floaty raft for sure, but as soon as I wake up though, I head to shore to get rid of the floaty so I can get to business...kiss the water with the depth of my soul.
I swim. I tread a lot of water. I float on my back. I bob up and down. I splash. I laugh and giggle. I take the time to appreciate it on my body.
I love the coolness of our water in the West Kootenay. It is so refreshing. If you toughen yourself up enough you can stay in for a long time and really drop your core temperature to make the hot sun a non-existent factor.
A definite other plus of the coolness of the water is that it has a soothing effect on my sore body. It just feels so damned good. Even if I have stayed in long enough that I am freezing, I can never get out on my first try. I always end up turning around and charging back in for at least another dive and glide...usually a few though.
I never don't take the time to consciously appreciate how much I love being in the water, and how it feels on my body when I am in it. Every time! I can’t help it. I am too full of gratitude to ignore taking in that appreciation.
In 2015, when I was doing all those fall time triathlons in the lake with no wetsuit, it was still the same. That is almost a contradiction in terms when you consider the level of anxiety I would get when I would simply be walking to the water's edge before getting in. So many times I even felt sick to my stomach before getting in. I even lost sleep over it. I was doing those for Sierra though, so I didn't mind one bit.
Getting in was so hard, but I always knew if I did it yesterday that I could do it again the next day. The toughest was probably when it was +2 degrees out and pouring down wet snowy-rain. Stripping down and making the seemingly impossible long walk from my van to the water took a lot of mental strength. I had to deal with both the physical side of things as well as the torrid head games my mind was trying to play. None of that was the hard part though. The hard part was when my first foot hit the water. Things started out bad and only got worse.
Maybe it was routine, or maybe it was something else, but it always played out the same. Although it was a gingerly wade, I could easily walk in up to my waist. Once to my waist I always had to pause. My anxiety levels surpassed all the maximum's I knew...even if it had only been since the previous day that I was in the same water. Each day was a clean slate of horrified-ness!
I would stand there kind of rubbing the water on my arms like suntan lotion or some shit. Then I would rub some on my chest and belly. It inevitably felt like I was just putting off getting right in. It was then that I would see a photo in my mind of Sierra skiing in Switzerland, and I would think of the promise I made to her. (Story for another time.) I would get mad at myself for bein' such a lil' Nancy-Boy piece of shit and then charge the rest of the way in.
As soon as I started swimming it felt like thousands of little razor blades were slicing these little slits all over me. It burned. It hurt. It caused my body to tighten up, and feel like my lungs were collapsing in on themselves. Despite all of that, none of it could touch how good it felt to have the water all over me.
The water seemed to be doing its best to tear me to shreds, but truthfully it was having the opposite effect. It made my spirit soar, and I most definitely took the time to appreciate it. The first 10-20 strokes were always special in regards to initializing the embrace of the moment. After that I started to fall into my gruuuve and the meditation within it all took over.
It always seemed inevitable that around the 3/4 way point of my swim, out deep in the cold lake on my way back towards the oat launch where I got in, that my body would completely give out. Instead of swimming across/through the water I would start sinking and my version of a freestyle stroke was reaching up to the water's surface to pull my sinking self up for air.
I felt like lead, and once I pulled my head to the surface I had to convince my burning lungs that they needed to work for one more breath. At that point it was all one stroke and one breath at a time. The ones after that didn't matter if I couldn't get through the ones in the moment. That was the fine line I brought myself to.
My muscles all throughout my body...especially my arms...would start ceasing up and pulling too. The shut-down button had definitely tried to press itself. Despite everything conspiring to work against me and bring me down, my resolve always was the champion of the moment. My deep rooted love and passion for the water rose me above all adversity...that and the burning image of not allowing myself to let down Sierra. I just couldn't live with that. I’d see her face in my mind, and also an image of her skiing the Swiss glacier, and any thought of giving up disgusted me.
When I got out of the water I was so cold that I could barely stand up or walk. It was like I was drunk as fuck on a shit ton of rye n’ ginger’s. My legs just did not want to work. I could barely talk either. I was shivering far too violently to string words together.
One would think that it would take all my mental strength to pull myself through that, but as much of that that strength I used, I still had more in reserve. This I know because even when I was coughing and choking on water trying to gasp for air with my sinking violently shivering body, I still had the capacity to enjoy the feel of the water. I even took the time to enjoy the sound of it splashing on my frozen ears. The refreshing wetness in my mouth and stabbing sharp pains on my eyes! (No wetsuit, no goggles, no swim cap…old-school bad-ass!) The fact that I had the entire lake all to myself didn't escape me either. I really loved that.
I love being in the water and swimming so much that the depth of that passion can easily take over all sense of logic and reason. That's why I gave up lounging in a floaty for the most part this summer when the water became tolerable for me. Sitting/laying on a floaty on top of the water under the hot sun feels like such a waste of time when I could be in the water instead. (It's like sitting in the ski lodge rather than charging the hill. You're just wasting runs and might as well go home.) Obviously swimming time in the lakes in the mountains in Canada is very limited, so I don't like to waste it. I feel that gratitude derived from that frame of thought every time I get in the water.
I hit that meditative state yesterday when I was treading water for a long time. I've been wanting to do something epic again, but have had no idea what that meant. It has been really eating at me and driving me half insane though. (I have had a couple attempts a bunch of months ago, but they got derailed because of much more important things.)
As with all the big stuff I dream up, I don't really think about it...things just kinda come to me from outta nowhere. Yesterday was that epiphany time again. I was happy about that. A picture of a nice big swim for myself came into mind. It is one that I don't know if my shitty body will let me do, but I know it is one that my mind will pester me to go for, and will destroy me over if I don’t at least take a shot at it.
I'd like to try to swim from Balfour down to Nelson. That is a 35km drive on the shoreline tracing road, so I guess the swim wouldn't be too far off of that.
I don't really see that as a big deal, nor do I see it as epic, but it would be a fun challenge. I can tell my body is in extreme objection and revolt even though it has no idea what that kind of a swim will mean. My left shoulder is the first point of extreme collapse that I can think of. My wrists are next. Then my ankles…and on and on…
The real shitty thing is that I have only had this idea now on the last day of July. There is no way I could be ready for that this year. Who knows how long it would take me, but it will easily be over 24 hour straight hours.
Aside from all the physical preparation for such a thing, being in our chilly water for that long, even in the height of summer, I would definitely need to swim in my wetsuit. That simply cannot be avoided. I am a long way from fitting into that right now. The current Nelson Burger Tour I have been doing does not help with that either…it is definitely pushing me in the other direction. (Giggle, giggle)
I think I could pull it off in a month of time as far as physically being ready to at least try the swim because I have been building some good muscle under my fat, but I couldn't fit into my wetsuit that fast. I am about 50 pounds above my ripped race weight that my wetsuit is sized for. Fifty pounds isn’t that big of a deal to lose, but in month it can’t really be done in a healthy way.
This all means that I would have to wait until next summer. That seems so far away. I also have to consider that, if my body history is any indication, my body is going to collapse again sooner or later...possibly with in the next year. When it does I will lose a fat chunk of time again. I can only hope that it holds on til after the end of next summer.
(2007 Nelson Triathlon - www.bestphotos.ca)
Aside from my part in that kind of swim, as far as the physical endurance, exhaustion, and hunger, etc, I also have logistics to think about. The big part of that would be needing someone to come with me in a kayak or rowboat or something. Being more than 24 hours, I imagine I would need a couple people to take shifts.
All this is neither here nor there, because I know for sure if I'm gonna go for something like this I will be able to find people to support me. It would be like in this photo my friend Phil Best took of me and the firefighter kayaker guy during the 2007 Nelson Triathlon…paddlin’ beside me while I do my thing.
I also had another long shot mini idea on top of all this. By next summer I will have lived here for 19 years. In all that time I have yet to hike up to Pulpit Rock. I have the image burned in my mind of swimming to the property right below the trailhead leading up there, and then go from the swim to hike to the lookout. That’d be the little cherry-on-top nice touch to the journey if I am able to pull it off. (If I get ‘er all done, I have a feeling someone’ll have to scrape me off the rock, and then drag my busted up self down the hill. It’d be worth it though.)
I already have a picture in my mind of a trial run from the 6 mile beach into town with a target date of July 9th. (That is the date of the final Grateful Dead show ever as well as the day I did my first trial run triathlon for myself in 2003.) Even that short swim will likely tear the hell outta my body, but it would be a good way to catch a glimpse into how my body is going to function. The only way I will find out the truth within any of it though is to just fuckin’ go for it. I can only hope and pray that my body somewhat holds up until the end of next summer. I will be crushed otherwise.
Although swimming from Balfour to Nelson isn't really an epic thing to do, it would still be little step in the direction of a tad bad-ass. Now that it is in my head I am actually really psyched on it. Waiting until next summer is a huge problem though. A huge one! My desire to really bring out the animal in me is burning too deep right now, and with each passing day I get a bit more frustrated; so even with this swim on my mind, I find myself lost in thought about something seriously bad-ass I could do. Until that reveals itself to me, the desire is gonna burn a hole in me.
This is another time I find myself teetering on the thin line between patience and horribly impatient.
**I just went back down for another swim when I finished writing this. On my way down to the water I had the thought that the best time to do the swim if my body is functional is the pinnacle night of the annual meteor shower around August 11-12. In 2001, I did the 40km kayak down from Queens Bay to Nelson at night during the meteor shower. It was phenomenal! The sky was falling down all around me while I paddled and felt the rhythms of the water. (I very highly recommend that to everyone) As the sun was coming up fish started jumping all around my boat! Daaaaamn!
I think that would be a great time to take a shot at this, not just for me, but also for my spotter. I think they would really enjoy the paddle under a sky full of shooting stars.
I really hope I have this in me…
Stuff Writin' About Kinda Guy
I am a simple guy who likes to dream of the impossible and go after it. I have found fun in writing about my journey as well as other things that inspire me too.