Ok so I’ve never really expunged about the fact that I love the movie The Princess Bride. I can pretty much recite all the lines from it. If I have the opportunity to work those into everyday conversation I consider it a good day (Hey it’s not like these lines really fit in everyday conversation). However, while swimming my 4th Pennock Island Challenge in Ketchikan Alaska the words of Inigo Montoya came rushing into my head.
I know you are probably thinking of the lines from the boat after Buttercup launches herself into the sea. No it wasn’t the following:
Vizzini – JUMP IN AFTER HER.
Inigo – I can’t swim.
Fezzik – I only dog paddle.
It was the point where Inigo is drunk in the village yelling at the Brute squad. Forgive me as these are rough quotes. “I’m waiting for Vizzini. Vizzini said if something went wrong to go back to the beginning. So I have.”
The Pennock Island Challenge is my beginning. In August 2006, I took my first leap into cold open water marathon swimming and I never looked back. I was the only out of state swimmer and everyone just took me in. Since I was a pretty lonely open water marathon swimmer in Oregon, I was beginning to believe my friends that maybe I was crazy. Then there was Alaska and a whole family of swimmers who just loved the water. No one was crazy or at least we weren’t crazy alone. It was fantastic. I still have that feeling 4 years later.
I’m sure that Willie Schulz didn’t think I would make it through after the safety meeting and his very strong precautions about hypothermia I walked up and asked “Um, so what are the signs of hypothermia?” He thought briefly that I was kidding and then this look of dread came over him. Nope not kidding. He gave me some high level overviews and then probably went to my kayaker and told him to watch me closely. I made it through and Willie was at the finish when I touched the buoy. “What did you think?” My reply “I’ve never hurt so much or been so happy in my entire life” Thus a cold open water marathon swimmer was born.
As you all know, these past 6 months have been a rough one. I’m still trying to navigate the waters, so it was time for me to “return to the beginning.” Every trip back to Alaska brings a renewed sense of purpose for me and cold water swimming. This year was no different. In a way it is like returning home to my first cold water swimming family (which has grown so much in 2 years 🙂 ). Per usual, I made the quick trip up and caught up with all my friends. The trip is never long enough and I never have enough time to talk with everyone, but each moment is cherished.
Plus after 4 long years, I accomplished another goal. I finally saw a black bear in the wild. It was a magnificent creature, but much smaller than I anticipated. I was watching it fish in a small stream when all of a sudden a saw a small dog bolt from a house barking. I thought for sure I was in for a true Discovery channel moment, but alas no. The black bear took one look at the dog and took off running. I was a little disappointed. First here was my first look at a black bear in Alaska and then just as soon as it started it was over. Hmm…maybe more to look forward to in 2010.