There are moments on every swim that define the trip, an image, something that we see that seeps deep into who we are as people, as swimmers-and despite the fact we've never met-it doesn't matter..we are all there for the same journey.
|The defining moments of team walking|
at -30 deg
One of the memories from Tyumen Siberia for me the togetherness that jumped into action, sitting on a sofa anxious when in walks Aleksandr and Mariia smiling after a fantastic swim at night in the Ice Hole?? We were shocked but all of a sudden it was possible. Being there for the South African 1,000m club, being there to witness Henri swim 1,650m at -33 deg air. We hold people in different spaces, I had never met Kieron and Ryan, Ram we had swum with in Donegal. He knew how we worked, how Noel was the minder. We would share little in our swimming backgrounds but there was a streak of madness, that is what makes us tick, a sense of belief, a casual acceptance, something that makes you want into their company.Everywhere we looked there was possibility but respect.
The decision to take on the 1 km at 0 Deg for the Ram, Kieron and Ryan looked a lot more troubling than it was for us, who they are as swimmers carried weight of expectation.
"We didn't travel this distance not to try it" was a sentence Ram had said, it was said in a tone of camaraderie and reassurance as if they themselves were building to a decision.
|me 14 miles off the south coast of Ireland where the water |
was huge, but there is honesty out here.. .
The hours leading up to the swim were not ideal for any of us, the indecision of distance can take so much energy, the absurd cold penetrating our feet standing for 3 hrs at -30deg, the pain in our fingers as we walked about seeking answers and then the bloody medical clearence.. damn the body and the late nights!! all self inflicted might I add..That's completely true...Words from Aleksandr saying "Go to the pleasure but not to the pain.. " It made sense- Christian Vergera chatted as if we were long lost buddies but we emailed once. The Russian ladies gave out a warm liquid, language being an impossibility we just threw it down not even questioning.
Chatting with Kieron and Ryan, there were silences, an understanding that not every swim is finished when you get out of the water, without the knowledge of the reheating, there was a blank..a nervousness that we were not in control off. They all took off walking the route to the hut, managing the risks that exist, and visualising the journey.
|Andrew Chin in the|
angry Straits of Magellan
Before Ram traveled to Ireland last year to swim with us, I remember a quote that I had read and stayed with me about their adventure to the tip of Cape Horn. ..
It said "The team has accumulated enough confidence to take on this challenge and this is the time.. " says it all..
Ram, Kieron and Ryan between them would eclipse a moon with their experience and their sense of adventure but not for a second, was there a sense of entitlement about today.
|Padraig and Noel with Anne Marie|
The fog was dropping as the daylight left us, the air around the pools thickened and breathing became a challenge. Anne Marie and I had completed our little jaunt, 30 minutes of recovery, Jackie was out of the sauna and back poolside with Noel. Padraig was next off the hop, nerves filled the air as he dived into the water. 150m completed, Padraig switched to breast stroke, his goggles fogged and froze over. Already with compromised vision he had little choice but to lift them up. He powered fast and strong but his eyes exposed to the ice, as his lashes froze, with water crystallising on his beard.
|Ice on Padraig as he exited..|
The defining moment of the entire weekend came for me when Kieron and Ryan stood on the deck.. Ryan asked me to count the laps, but as the boys took their positions I was on the wrong side. Alekis took Ryan. Kieron was on my side. Both bodies launched through the air with immense power.
|And they're off..|
|After 800m nothing changed.. arm for arm..|
There was no high fives, there was no elation it was straight to phase two, get them out of here.
"Just let the women in the sauna do their job, they are brilliant and they will know what to do to reheat. Do what you're told" it was the solid statement of do what you're told. Off we all ran.. really we all ran to the sauna-there was a crowd running but then we had to run back as down at the other pool Henri Karma was speeding through the 1,650m, at this stage of the evening the fog had dropped. The water was covered in darkness. Cameras froze and taking hands out of our gloves caused anxiety.But he pushed and pushed at speed that I had never witnessed. Lengths shouted by Alexsandr. Despite everything every swimmer was there for each other, going through each others journey
|Mariia in her Raindeer boots and Cristian R|
Maybe it's because of the journeys that we have had that we see ourselves in each other, memories that we are defined by, the experiences colour our expectations and in the face of indecision or uncertainty the only thing that matters is being there. The fact that everyone is safe is the priority. That primal obligation of looking after each other.. Medals are so inexpensive but one thing for certain, we had never met three days ago but goals were the same -Survival and Adventure and Staying alive.