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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Open Water, Intersection Of Talent, Practice & Courage

Since the 1970s, we have often received the honor to escort, paddle, kayak, observe, officiate and report on open water swims and marathon swimmers.

To witness up close another human pushing themselves to their physiological and psychological limits against a variety of elements geared up with nothing but a swimsuit, cap and goggles is always a celebration of achievement that becomes deeply etched in our memory banks.

The swim could be one's first open water workout or it could be a one-kilometer swim by a disabled individual. The attempt could be a channel swim or it could be a triathlete tackling her first ocean swim. No matter who the person is or what the circumstances are, we believe the act of open water swimming is an intersection between talent, practice and courage.

The swimmers who entered the Slam The Dam event in the desert oasis of Lake Mead yesterday were similarly inspirational yesterday. Top swimmers like Lexie Kelly and Mallory Mead had a great battle, one in which we have rarely had the opportunity to witness firsthand. The two women literally went back-and-forth, swapping leads by margins never more than the length of a pool. Each in their own zone, they sparked on and off at different times making the outcome unknown until the end. As we paddled among the top swimmers including Andy Dawkins, Deni Cullom, Andy Bray, Bill May, and Kurt Dickson, it was clear everyone was giving it their all as I heard labored breathing as they turned their heads towards their escorts.

We always appreciate how profoundly inspirational and moving it is to witness an athlete up close and see the physiological effects of their efforts and the elements on their countenance and body. Stroke after stroke what they do is stimulating on an emotional level that is difficult to describe in words, but we just FEEL movement deep within us. When we see marathon swimmers get punished by stinging creatures no bigger than their thumb, when we see the deeply embedded and reddened goggle marks around their eyes, when we hear the oxygenated exhaust that comes from deep within their lungs, it humbles us at the same time it is stimulating visually and psychologically.

Throughout every work day, we tire to be point of exhaustion. Our eyelids droop, our shoulders sag, and our metabolism slows. It as if our body's gas tank has been sucked dry of every last drop of fuel.

Similarly, in the pool and the ocean especially while swimming with fast and focused swimmers, our batteries often run dry and all movement becomes labored. We see these finely-tuned athletes continue on underwater in their streamlined positions, efficient like dolphins swimming along the bow of a boat. And like a content dolphin winking at the boat captain, their smiling countenance at the end of these workouts are a wonder to witness. It is also a harsh reminder that we sit on the opposite end of the athletic spectrum. While these elite swimmers come in kicking like a powerboat full throttle, our heart is racing at its maximum limit and our lungs feel like bursting squeezed between a rock and a hard place. When they are feeling good, our fuel in contrast is more like a tank full of lactic acid rather than adrenalin. As they rev up, we start to sputter, only hearing knocks in our engine.

But we always come back. We wake up from a work-induced slumber ready to go at it again, partly because we are so inspired by these athletes. We return to do another workout because we may not be as fast, but we certainly do not want to get slower as we age.

Jamie Patrick Lives The Adventure. Diana Nyad Lives Large. Craig Dietz does not let limitations define who he is. And there are thousands of open water swimmers just like them.

This is what drives us and many others in the sport, including the next generation of swimmers.

Like 11-year-old Anna Scott and her 12-year-old brother Jordan Scott of Boulder City Henderson Aquatics in Las Vegas (shown above). Yesterday, the duo from the Boulder City-Henderson Swim Team competed in the Slam The Dam event with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of their older colleagues. With mom alongside in a kayak and proud dad Kevin onshore, the Slam The Dam was a family affair for the Scotts of The Stream. "That was fun. There were so many people at the start, but my mom was right next to me.," said Anna. "I want to do it again."

Over and over and over again. The open water is a wonderful place for swimmers of all ages, abilities, and motivations. An intersection of talent, practice and courage.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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