Uh… yeah… Most people wouldn’t call me an angel, but today I got to be one for a few hours.
After a rough few weeks involving my mother’s death, followed by a nasty case of the flu due to my stress level lowering my immune system and then to top it off, a nasty sinus infection, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the couch.
One of the things I’ve been looking forward to for the last year is volunteering as a “Swim Angel” for the Danskin Triathlon which is a fund raiser for the Breast Cancer Resource Center and in which survivors and or their loved ones often participate.
It’s a truly inspirational event (although Sally Edwards presence was missed this morning)
“Swim Angels offer encouragement and act as a calming presence to women who may be experiencing anxiety in the water. Swim Angels will swim alongside participants, offer support, and flag help from kayakers or lifeguards if needed.”
I thought about doing it last year (with some encouragement from my friend Julie), but with only one little (only a 250 meter swim) triathlon under my belt, I didn’t think that I was strong or confident enough to swim the course more than once and support other women.
So I volunteered on the water safety team as a kayaker instead the report is here
But this year, by golly… Nothing was going to stop me from being a swim angel. Not fever (thankfully I had been without a fever for 24 hours by this morning) nor snot, nor exhaustion.
What almost took me out was my intestines.
I came home from dinner at the Icky Boy’s last night to discover that the high doses of antibiotics I’m taking for the sinus infection finally got to me (there just isn’t enough yogurt one can eat) and I spent most of the night running to the bathroom. I didn’t get much sleep and I was concerned about staying awake more or less not having an “incident”. (luckily, I had hydrated well)
I hydrated, ate what I could keep down and headed out to Genesee Park for a lovely sunrise over Lake Washington as the lifeguards, kayakers and swim angels headed out to the water.
I wandered over to the transition area to the REI bike tent to say “Hi” to Bill and BJ from the Tacoma store who were working doing bike maintenance.
On the way back to the lake, I saw the cutest thing, a teen/twenty-something young man braiding his grandmother’s hair as she was getting ready to race.
After a couple of trips to the port-a-potties I squeezed into my wetsuit and hoped for the best.
Stephani (who did the Danskin as her first triathlon last year, and for whom I wore the bunnie ears so that she could pick me out on the swim course) volunteered this year as well. (you can tell how tired I was and how sick I’ve been by the bags under my eyes)
My first “shift” was working the start gate.
Swim angles have swim noodles and we formed a line in waist/chest deep water in front of each swim wave forming the start line with the noodles, did the count down and raised and waved the noodles.
It was fun being a cheerleader yelling out to ask what age group was swimming and who was doing their first triathlon and to get everyone cheering while they were waiting for their wave to start.
I also got the snot kicked out of me. The swimmers did a great job of not mowing us over when they passed us but once they were past us, they kicked like good swimmers.
They gave me two women (I had two noodles) because we were short angels. Nothing like breaking in a new swim angel the hard way.
I swam with both for a while but ended up staying back with the slower of the two women as the other one moved ahead. It took us almost an hour, but we got her around the course moving boat to boat, board to board (they can rest on a kayak or lifeguard’s board without being disqualified as long as they aren’t towed)
I made sure to stay to the inside the course to give her better access to the boats/boards and to keep her from getting kicked/swam over by fast swimmers in subsequent waves.
I got the snot kicked out of me, but that’s OK, it’s what I was there for.
I got picked up by another very nice woman and her sister as soon as I got back in from my first lap and helped her get around in about 47 minutes. We were in the next to the last lap so there were fewer swimmers behind us and I hardly got kicked at all.
Swimming with the swim noodles was as difficult as I heard it was; there’s really no way to adequately use your arms and hang on to the noodles.
I’m glad I had the zoomers swim fins as my tiny little narrow feet don’t give me much power, and I really can’t breast stroke/frog kick well in a wetsuit because the buoyancy makes my butt float too high and pushes my face in the water.
I ended up mostly doing a lifeguard approach stroke (head above water so you can make eye contact) with the noodles under my arms and across my chest. Unfortunately my lack of bustiness, combined with a slippery wetuit that compresses what I do have resulted in a lot of slippage and a need for constant readjustment, but it worked even if it wasn’t particularly efficient.
My neck and shoulders really feel the effects of using a stroke I wasn’t used to and my legs, especially the calves really feel the use of the flippers.
I finished up with a headache, dizzy, my guts twisted up, exhausted from lack of sleep last night and being sick and some very sore muscles.
But more important, I felt a great sense of pride in the women who achieved their (often life changing) goals today while supporting such a great cause.