Flowers Sea Swim: New goals, new discoveries and a rude awakening

I returned to Cayman with the best intentions. I planned to train for the Flowers Sea Swim, the one mile swim along Seven Mile Beach that has competitors from all over the world. There are up to 1100 swimmers in this competition, all ages and abilities.

I’d been told that it was a fun event with lots of prizes for anyone who can finish the mile swim within the allotted 75 minutes. I was told that was a generous amount of time and would be no problem for me, a daily swimmer.

I discovered a few things when I set out to prepare for the competition.

First of all, the date was a lot earlier than I remembered from previous years, when I’m sure it was closer to the end of June. This year, the race is on June 10. That left very little time to prepare after over a month away. Sure, we’d done lots of walking, but I didn’t have a sea handy to swim in or even a pool.

Secondly, it’s  much less convenient to prepare for a sea swim every day than it is to jump in the pool in the morning and kick off  a set number of laps. The sea has no shade, so that means either thorough sun screening or  a sunscreen shirt. The sea outside our door is rather rough this time of year. We require a drive to a more well-situated beach for access and calmer seas.

With an attitude of “Let’s do this!” I set  out the first day, a little queasy, presumably from the rum punch I’d had the night before in addition to wine with dinner. There was a current, but not too strong. I swam for 35 minutes, feeling every one of them as if I was going to die or at the very least, throw up. My head was pounding. My goggles kept fogging up. My hair kept getting in my face.

I came out feeling worse and spent the day in the prone position after a soothing bath. Throw up I did, leaving me completely spent. I was unable to eat anything all day. I had a slightly high temperature, which told me that this was not a hangover.

After some sleuthing, we determined that I had eaten some bad leftovers. It was food poisoning. I swam in the pool the following day and I was very careful with my food intake. It was time to get some training advice as time was running out.

After a long Skype session with our son, I had a training plan. I can do this.

On Monday I went for my next swim, wearing my sunscreen shirt and swim shorts and a swim cap. Here’s the thing about the sea. There are waves. It’s salty. There is no shade. For every stroke in the pool I would need at least two or three to make the same distance in the sea. I swam for 40 minutes, swallowing sea water when I took a breath, resting frequently and wondering if I was completely out of my mind. The positive was that I’d defogged my goggles and they worked just fine.

When I finished the swim, I felt good. I stretched a little, drank a whole bottle of water and enjoyed my little shady spot on the beach until my husband came to get me.

Tuesday; it was a rough looking day at sea, but I checked the forecast and determined that it would be okay in the afternoon. No sunscreen shirt today, as it seemed to hold me back in the water. Swim cap on, goggles defogged, better sunscreen on my face, I went in. It was much rougher than the day before. There was a small craft warning, but fortunately, I’m not a small craft. I stayed in the swimming section for safety purposes while my husband went for a snorkel.

It takes some skill and practice to breath without having a drink of sea water. I tried to build up a rhythm, but my pace didn’t match the pace of the waves. I later found out that the waves were 4 to 6 feet. At one point, I almost choked on a mouthful of sea water. That unfortunate delay was quickly followed by a feeling like something had bitten me on my chest. There is life in the sea. Some things bite. I still don’t know what it was, but sometimes when the sea is rough the jellyfish come closer to shore. Maybe it was a baby jellyfish.

I finished the 50 minute swim, and surprised myself at how good I felt afterwards. I just wish I felt good during the swim. Here is how it goes. I start out and immediately feel the fatigue in my arms. I push through and start to feel stronger, but eventually I need to switch to breast stroke. I look up at a buoy marker and set a goal. I swim for what feels like 10 lengths of the pool and look up, only to get a wave in my face. The buoy doesn’t look any closer. I continue on and check my watch, setting goals for myself along the way.

At one point I took twice as long to swim between the marker buoys as I had the previous run, but I cheered up when the return swim took much less time. Obviously, the current was getting stronger.

I have a 60 minute swim to do today. The forecast hasn’t changed. I know I can do it and I’m actually looking forward to it. I hope the weather improves, but I’ll go anyway, unless there’s a lightning storm.

This is even more important to me now than when I signed up. I need to show myself that I can do it. I also need to do this now, while I’m healthy. I learned yesterday that I may need another foot surgery. I don’t know how long the recovery would be, but this is my window to do the swim.

Three more days to train! Let’s do this!

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