I woke up uncharacteristically late today and it discombobulated me; threw my plans into disarray. I ended up heading down to the Albany Bulb by myself at 7:30—a group had gone in at 7 and another was going in at 8, but there I was betwixt and between.
Part of me was looking forward to a solo swim as an opportunity to see if I’d really moved on from my shark collision. The water was warm and gorgeous. It was a bit windy, which had cleared away a lot of the dingy air of the last few days and San Francisco twinkled brightly in the distance. I swam confidently toward the Big Tree, my body strong and luxuriating in the delicious water.
After a little while, the chatter in my mind started up. Some of it bad: fear of shadows under the water; persistent thoughts of a seal that forced me to lift my head and scan the horizon. Some of the chatter was good; imagining my day, the writing project I had started yesterday and was looking forward to jumping back into today. A lot of it was boring; counting my breaths by five, by three, forgetting where I was, and starting the count again.
I spent a lot of time wondering how long-distance swimmers keep their minds occupied for the endless hours they are in the water. Yesterday Susan shared a video of a fellow Bulb swimmer’s recent swim from Catalina (21 miles, 10 plus hours of swimming!). It was incredibly inspiring and beautiful. I’ve always loved stories of long-distance swimmers (long-distance anythingers), but with the kind of awe reserved for wildly unimaginable things; as if the accomplishments were being achieved by a different species of human altogether. This time, though, watching the video tugged at something else in me.
Conny, the woman who did the swim, swims from the bulb fairly regularly along with several of the members of her support team. One of them is currently training for the Catalina swim and I often grill her in utter awe when I see her emerge: How long did you go for? Where did you swim? What was it like?
So maybe it’s because of the familiarity of these swimmers, but, for the first time, hearing about such an impressive feat stoked a little fire in me. Could I do something like that? It’s as thrilling to imagine as it is implausible; the obstacles between my current self and a swim like that are multitude. And one of the big ones is all of this chatter in my brain. What do these swimmers think about for ten hours in the water? Do they drive themselves crazy? I will have to ask the next time I am changing at the circle with one of them. In the meantime, I will keep dreaming.