Danskin 2010 – Race Day Report

Today is the eve of my 34th birthday. The soreness from the race is gone and I’ve had a few days to get back into the grind of day to day work. Today is a day like any other, but I have found myself taking inventory – I suppose on our birthdays, it is what we are supposed to do.

Training for the Danskin was, in a way, an inventory as well. Each training day, I’d number my aches, the minutes of lost sleep, all the reasons why I didn’t have time to do this. I’d count strokes and steps and minutes and laps. When those seemed too much to do, I’d just count breaths.

Standing in the water on race day, I found myself counting women. There were about a dozen swim caps I could see in the water from the wave ahead of mine – little bobbing yellow blurs, seen without my glasses. They had to be close for me to see them, so i knew they were slow, and I knew they were scared. To my right was a woman waiting to begin her first race ever. I’d leave her behind in the first minute and never see her again. To my left were a dozen friends – chatty, grinning. excited. Ahead of me was an older woman, looking grim and determined. I counted them and cataloged them and I wondered who I was to them.

The race start took me by surprise and then we were off in a churning rush of hands and feet. There were exclamations and apologies as we sorted ourselves out and the bottom dropped out of the pond. I took a few hard strokes to test my muscles. I fought hard against the urge to sprint ahead and try to gain some ground. I felt light and sleek in the water – my body knew exactly what to do and I turned my inventory inward.

I am 34 years old – that’s thirty-four times around the sun.

I have married one man twice. Yep, twice to the same guy. We’ve been married 11 years.

I have two children. They are six and four years old. They were each delivered at 39 weeks. They were each nursed for 12 months. Neither has slept a single night all the way through.

I have totaled one car.

I have had one miscarriage.

I have traveled to five continents.

I have been to Disney 87 times.

I have five email accounts.

I have no pets.

I have two blogs, one public, one secret.

I have one sister.

I have been working at the same place for 12 years.

These thoughts carried me around the course, passing markers and swimmers. Swim angels called out to women but I pushed through because I knew none of them were talking to me. As I turned around the last large marker and headed towards the beach, I began to count the women who’d brought me to the race today.

Paula, my mother-in-law, who is cancer-free for 11 years.

Karen, a co-worker who lost her battle with cancer.

Christina, my best friend. We went to high school together, but weren’t best friends then. Cancer-free for three years, she is one week older than me. Our children say they are going to marry each other.

Merry, my high school best friend. We haven’t spoken in many years. She was diagnosed three years ago, and I do not know her status.

Magnolia, my mother’s best friend for the last 44 years. She is in the fight of her life.

Betsy, cancer-free for 30 years, with children, grandchildren, and a fiance.

Pushing hard through the water, I felt a wholeness I hadn’t really thought possible. Every stroke, every breath, reminded me that the challenge I took on in training is tiny compared to the fight these women are facing. Women like me, whose lives are filled with lists and responsibilities.

In the end, I posted a time that was faster than my training. I came out of the water nearly as fast as I had gone in, and sprinted up the beach find my team-mates. I sat on the grass and watched the women coming in to transition – elated, shaky, smiling, grim – every one of them doing her own inventory, counting the reasons to push through. I could list endlessly all the reasons why this race is a good idea, but really, I just have one reason. For me.

I hope that you did it for you.

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~ by Adverbia on May 14, 2010.

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