The lightening woke me up at 4h15am, before my alarm did. There was a serious storm brewing and this added to my already frayed nerves. We got into the cars – my fan base and I – and left for Midmar Dam at 5h30am. It stormed from Durban to Howick and then miraculously opened up as we approached Midmar. I was relieved; the fear of having done all the training and then not been given the chance to TRY and swim due to the weather, far superseded the fear of at least trying to swim it whether I made it or not. Besides my whole family came out to watch, there was no way I wasn’t getting wet.
We were early enough to get great parking and a good picnic spot and the Port-a-Loos were still in good shape at that time of the morning. I had my two bananas and this drink my husband brewed for me – honestly I think all these endurance and slow energy release sachets that you mix with water are a waste of money, but anyway I drank it, as I had while I was training and let me tell you it does nothing for me. I was a bit nervous, not the same nervous as getting your spinal block before you have a Caesar, I think I was more nervous of the embarrassment of being fished out and taken to the other side on a boat, rather than swimming there!
The part that made me giggle was having to waltz around in my swimming costume ONLY. I’m the kind of girl who likes the safety of my towel around my waist, until I am ready to actually swim or tan. But I was surrounded by costume-clad bodies – in ALL shapes, sizes and colours and when in Rome, you do as the Romans do of course, so I pranced around oblivious to my jelly thighs and cellulite.
So I caught a shuttle from the one side of the dam to the starting side and took my place in my holding pen and the atmosphere was great. All the ladies were chatting and laughing and the general air of excitement was tangible. There were some very little people, they could have been six or seven years old and there was some old people who looked way over 70! I was an unseeded swimmer so I was right at the back with the white caps. In a way this was good because this was the no-rush crowd, most of us were doing it for fun and not to win so everyone was easy going. However I know now that the secret is to get away from the crowd as fast as possible, once in the water.
The mile seems A LOT longer in the open water, than it does in the swimming pool. Firstly, there’s people kicking you in the face, grabbing your feet from behind and sometimes almost pushing you under. Secondly, the water is obviously more choppy due to the hordes of people kicking and splashing and this adversely affects your swim. Thirdly, there’s no wall to grab on to when you feel like you just need a minute to catch your breath and you can’t stop halfway to adjust your goggles or pull your swimming costume out of your bum. My first struggle was trying to find my own space – I mean you would think in a massive dam, it would be easy to find a spot and swim your heart out. Not. My second struggle was actually swimming straight, I swear I swam about 2kms with all the zigzagging and blind swimming I was doing. I don’t swim breaststroke and swimming freestyle with your head facing forward is difficult. So every time I did lift my head, I was off course and had to readjust. My third struggle was other swimmers – every time I found my groove and got into a nice breathing rhythm and found that my arms, legs and lungs were all cooperating, I’d swim into someone or someone would swim into me, and I’d have to stop, regroup, and start over. Lastly, my greatest struggle was in my mind. You KNOW your body can physically do it – I’ve been swimming a mile a day for two months – there’s no way I wasn’t physically ready. But boy I felt like giving up more than once. I kept looking back to see how far I had swum because it just didn’t look like I was getting any closer to the finish. And every time someone swam horizontally pass me to get to the lifeguard boat, I thought yes that’s all I have to do. But I kept thinking of all those people waiting for me at the finish, I kept thinking that I COULD NOT BLOG about how I was pulled out of the water! I’d have to say that embarrassment of failure kept me swimming. Ha. When I could finally see PEOPLE dotted on the horizon and smell the boerewors on the braai, I started to see the light again. I swam as far out to the sidelines as I could, and just swam like my life depended on it – which it did because I was exhausted! I finished my race in just under 45 minutes, but that was the last thing I was concerned about, I grabbed my medal and ran… ok, hobbled past the finish line.
I felt awesome at the finish, proud as punch. And it really did feel like it was all worth it. I’ll be doing the race every year for as long as I am able to. I think what I’ve learned from this experience is that I do limit myself in many areas of my life. I’ve always said I am a realist and try not to look at the world through rose tinted glasses, but what I’ve realized is that my realism often harbours my potential and subconsciously I’m always looking at the glass half empty and crediting it to “being realistic.” I’m going to start putting myself out there more often and see just how far I can go. My husband wants me to start jogging with him. I use the word jogging very loosely – I picture myself walking at snail’s pace (there I go again – forgive me). I said to him that if he kits me out with decent shoes and snazzy sweat bands for each of my wrists, I will consider his offer.
I must just make mention of what a well run event it was. From online registration, down to collecting your medal at the end, everything ran seamlessly and without drama. Just the way I like things done. The kids had an awesome day out, we picnicked on the banks of the dam afterwards and besides the race itself, it does make for a really good day out. The Midmar Mile will definitely see me again next year! I did it! Yay me!