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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Punched By Poseidon, Nixed By Neptune

The open water is a magical place. Lakes can be tranquil, oceans can be alluring, channels can be inviting.

But, from the perspective of a single swimmer, the open water can also become suddenly turbulent and immediately troubling. Flip on a switch and channels turn to a lumpy mess that is impossible to cross for swimmers that can only traverse the water's surface at no more than 3 miles per hour...at best.

Weather, temperature, marine life, winds, tides and currents are the obstacles that must be just right for a successful swim. Not too warm, not too cold. Not too strong, not too plentiful...but just right.

Years of training, loads of money, a fearlessly positive mind, months of promotion, and teams of experts are the tools that marathon swimmers use to prepare for their swims.

But Mother Nature always has the upper hand. When she so desires, mankind just is not getting across, through or over to the other side. Slapped down, beaten up, thrashed about: swimmers have experienced this never-ending battle with oceans, seas, lakes and channel since well before Matthew Webb's time.

With two recent marathon swims of note, Stephen Redmond's aborted attempt across the Tsugaru Channel yesterday and Paul Lundgren's 24-hour shot at the Sea of Cortez last week, Mother Nature clearly showed she was in charge. Swimmers do not conquer channels; more likely, Mother Nature showers down an ephemeral sense of maternal benevolence temporarily allowing a lucky few to get across.

Redmond and Lundgren, similar to legions of open water swimmers before them, are courageous, audacious and tenacious. Redmond and Lundgren are hardened men guided by expert escort teams, supported with loads of technical equipment and reams of meteorological data. They have the Right Stuff and they have what it takes. But they both ran smack into angry seas on their marathon attempts.

And others will too.

But the nature of the sport is that open water swimmers will grease back up, adjust their goggles and return again for another bout with Mother Nature, hoping for the best and preparing for the worse.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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