Hey Steemians, I know it has been ages since my first and last post, but I’m finally back, so it was not my last after all (I tend to start things and somehow never get back to them). I’m dealing with a bit of a disappointment at the moment. Every year I promise myself that I am going to train real hard and become some kind of athlete, and I never quite have gotten there. Well last year I did do my first triathlon at the end of February. Biking and walking/running is pretty easy to do, right? The swimming part is the challenge, because I have history with swimming, bad history. So last year, I did dive into that very choppy Grabouw dam for the FedHealth Xterra Lite 400m swim leg of the triathlon, but I did not get very far. The dam was deep and dark. The wind was pumping and those waves were at least 50cm high. And I have never ever in my entire life swum open water. All I’ve done was swim lengths in pool at the gym. So I have to admit this, as shameful as it is, but the lifeguard let me hang onto his surfboard and he pulled me out.
So the bad history I was talking about….. When I was thirteen I almost drowned. My parents had bought a new house and a new business, which meant they were hardly home. The new house had a huge swimming pool; it probably was a 5m by 10m size. I kid you not it was huge, and it is definitely not my childhood memories that are exaggerating this. But because my parents were so extremely busy trying to make ends meet, a lot of very important issues just did not seem to cross their minds. For example the fact that their two younger daughters could not swim and they had just moved their family into a house with a very big, very deep swimming pool.
It was summer holidays and the whole neighbourhood’s kids were at our house. The previous owners did not allow the neighbours to swim in their pool. So when we moved in and our gate was constantly open and my mother left us huge stashes of food in the morning before she left to go assist my father in the new business, the kids obviously flocked to our house. This was absolutely the greatest time of my life. Or so I thought.
Until that fateful day. My friend and I were cruising along on one of those inflatable pool lilos. And we were drifting towards the deep end. I was getting seriously worried but she reassured me that I’d be OK. Of course I was most definitely not going to be OK. One of the silly boys decided to tip our little inflatable raft. My friend dived in and swam to safety. And I just dropped down to the bottom of the pool. I was stupid. I did not even flail my arms. I just stared in horror as the bubbles of air escaped my gaping mouth and rose to the surface. I accepted my fate just like that. Just like that. No fight in me. No common sense or logic to jump to the surface or reach for an arm or a leg to pull myself up. My arms and legs just hung like heavy lead, as I sank further down. I don’t think the pool is that deep, maybe 3m, and I was probably fully grown by then, and I’m about 1.72m. If I was clever I could have jumped real hard and cried for help. The kids were completely oblivious to my ordeal. They splashed and swam and dived and churned the water above my head. And I was drowning, without any fight in me. Obviously I did not drown and die, or else I would not be writing this. Suddenly someone wrapped their arms around me and pulled me up to the surface and I gasped for air. I was rolled out onto the hot steaming pavement where the small puddles of warm water that gather around the pool bake in the sun. The warmth flowed into my now completely ice cold shaking body. The girl that saved me was one of the neighbourhood kids. But she was about 5 or 6 years older than us. I think she was probably watching and noticed that I did not resurface or something like that.
The next day she came around and forced me to get back into the pool. I had vowed I’d never return to anything that even closely resembled a mass of water. But she persuaded me and spent an entire morning teaching me and my younger sister to float and hold our breath and dive into the deep end and doggie paddle to the edge. Obviously she was just a kid herself and she probably decided her good deed was complete. So I never really learned to swim. I could just hold my breath and float and kind of get myself to the edge of the pool and hang on for dear life. And that’s how I spent my summer holidays at home splashing and “swimming” in our pool. Or sitting by the edge reading a book.
It only occurred to me many years later that I should actually go for swimming lessons. Although initially that realization did not get me very far. It was 10 years later and I was training for a 6 day hike. It’s a 90 km hike in the Fish River Canyon in Namibia. Apparently it is the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon in America. For some reason I started getting serious knee problems, and the physician I was seeing at the time advised that I stop all forms of hiking, running or cycling, and suggested I swim to maintain my fitness level and strengthen my legs. But what I did not tell him is that I can’t swim. I googled what was best for knee injuries, and the only thing I could find was how to use the kickboard without further injuring your knees. So I got all the gear, joined the local gym that had a swimming pool, I also got one of those swimming boards that they use to practice their kicks. Luck was never on my side when it came to an indoor gym. As I approached the pool I noticed that the entire swimming squad was there. I swallowed any sense of pride or dignity that I had left in me, and timidly slid into the clear blue water, adjusted my goggles, grasped onto the board, and started kicking my laps up and down the length of the full 25 m of the pool. I was midway in my third or fourth lap when I felt someone tapping on my head. To my utter embarrassment the swimming coach was towering above me on the edge of the pool. “what are you doing?” he asked with what I am pretty sure was complete disgust. Maybe he was just amused, but he looked downright irritated with this little nuisance in his training kingdom. Without thinking I opened my mouth and blurted “I’m swimming”. “No you’re not” and he promptly grabbed the board out of my hands. He spent the next half hour teaching me some strokes and how to put my head under the water. Hahahahaha. It must have been a sight for sore eyes, because I was petrified of breathing out under the water. He gave me a few things to [practice for the next few days, and said to meet him there every other day or whatever his schedule was, I can’t remember. He was serious about this. He said he’d train me while his team did laps in the pool. Writing this now, I am upset at myself for not taking up that golden opportunity. But I was sooo embarrassed and soo shy those days. The truth is I never returned to the pool and I never went on my hike in the Fish River Canyon.
Fast forward bout 7 years, and I finally summoned all the courage in myself and went for serious adult swimming lessons. I paid a lot of money, but I reckoned it was a good 30th birthday gift to myself. Obviously my first lesson was a total disaster. My coach asked me to show him what I do when I am in the pool. So I splashed around as best I could, did my doggie paddle, and rolled over on my back to float. He raised one eyebrow and went down on his haunches and in a very deep hushed voice he slowly spoke “don’t ever do that again”.
I do swim lengths now, but only breast stroke. And sometimes I get it all wrong and have to stand up in the middle of the gym pool, waist deep and cough my lungs out, because I still almost drown every time.