Night Swim 1 - Bats, Tangled In Weeds, Eagle Fights, Full Body Convulsions, Passing Out In The Water
I've been a mess the past couple days because of some devastating news. I've been in a constant stream of tears that hammer me anywhere...stores, sidewalks, driving, and the worst being at home. I wasn't supposed to do my first swim until tonight (Thurs Aug 12th), but I couldn't get out of my head, so I just said,
"Fuck it! I have to go now. Prepared doesn't even matter..."
So, referencing a bit of that devastating news, I sent a message to Mike and Aszjeca to see if it was OK to park my van at their place a day early 'cause I couldn't get outta my head, and I just needed to get on with it.
The two of them have been fantastically awesome. Neither of them have even hesitated in helping me out on that end of my swim(s). I'm very grateful for them for sure.
I left a bit later than I thought I would, but only by maybe 45 minutes. Looking back, that 45 minutes actually did make somewhat of a difference on the back end of the swim for the positioning of where I was in reference to just before dawn when the eagles started coming out. I'll get into that later...
I dropped my bike, and some clothes, off at Jana's place in town, as that was my destination point right off the water. Then I went up to Mike and Aszjeca's to get set to go to the beach.
I was remarkably scattered, but not very surprised by that. My head just wasn't together. I got into my wetsuit, packed up my stuff, and walked to the beach. I enjoyed the walk. It felt what I imagine to be when a fighter is getting their hands taped...where a mental switch is flipped...
"It's go time!"
It was pitch black through the path to the beach, but I got 'er navigated OK.
When I was at the beach, I took out my mixture of some ceremonial tobacco I grew, as well as some sage from one of my triathlon trips to the Okanagan a few years ago. I said a prayer as I gave an offering to the earth and water before I got in the water. That was important to me. I had to do this right, regardless of not being prepared in every other way. I needed to commit my soul to what I was doing, and ask for blessings...not even really for my swim, but for the bigger picture of what I am trying to do.
Except for scouting the beach last week, I hadn't been there since June 1999, when I first moved out here from Salt Spring Island, and was looking at a place up in Proctor a but further up the west arm, and across a small ferry.
I know there is some undertow at 6 mile beach, and that people have drown there before, so I needed to be aware of all of that. Getting up there though, and walking into the water, it wasn't a big deal at all. I just walked straight out towards the middle, which was quite a bit before I hit a deep enough level to start into my swim.
Once I was swimming, it was just swimming.
I thought it would be darker, but man, was I ever wrong on that. You could see this illuminated patch looming in the distance...Nelson. Also, the homes along the beach in the 6-Mile area kinda made me sick with how much lights they leave on overnight. Does nobody care?!
The amount of light drove me nuts. I just made sure to look to the other side of the water where it was dark...unless I was looking straight up in the sky. There wasn't too much to see up there though as smoke had started rolling in, so the sky was covered up when looking from below.
I felt like I was swimming forever and just going nowhere. The lights above Nelson seemed to get closer and much further at the same time. It also felt like I was in the water for hours the first time I looked at my watch.
"Fourty-five stinkin' minutes?! I'm fucked!"
The main going through my head in functional terms was to just keep moving. Hands, feet, legs and arms...keep 'em moving. Smooth, fluid motion, but keep moving.
(**I'm gonna kind of skip around here at times...)
I started getting really cold before I hit two hours. When I hit four hours, my teeth were hurting from chattering so badly. When I hit about 6 hours, I was so cold that I started having full body convulsions.
The water was smooth and calm all night, but as I was approaching Nelson just before dawn, for the rest of the swim, the water became mildly choppy, and the top current was pushing upstream. Because I was in the full body convulsions at that point, the chop in the water made it so I started choking water down, and was hacking up a mess. It was annoying, but I also found it humourous.
Earlier in the day, I went into Bella Flora to get some more flowers for the art project I have been working on, of which this series of swims had become a focal point of.
I told Kyla that I would send her a message before I left, and then when I was finished. (I did that with a few people. I'm rolling solo through the dark water of night, but I'm not a complete idiot.)
I don't remember if it was at the store, or messaging before I headed out, but Kyla made a crack about bats.
"Huh?! Bats?! I never thought of that!"
Turns out, that was a great call by Kyla!
There were bats zinging around my head for about 75% of the time I was in the water. Those lil' fuckers got close to smashing me in my face. They made me laugh, a lot, and think about how much Kyla called that one...
"Nailed it, Kyla!!"
I could picture her laughing in my face about it, which made me giggle more. (You know...those times when friends laugh in other friend's faces in times of minor peril...)
I heard fish jumping all over the place. I'm used to that in the water in long swims, but there were a few fatties that jumped right by my face...like, getting hit in the face by their splash.
That was trippy, but I was diggin' it, maaan...
The one thing that really surprised me were the weeds I hit.
I made sure to be right in the middle of the west arm. I wanted to be as far away from both shorelines as I could, which obviously means right in the middle. I wanted the deepest water underneath me too. So, I stuck in the middle.
It was maybe around halfway through the swim that I felt my hand plow through some weeds, and then right away, my feet started getting tangled in them. That changed the entire dynamic of what I was doing.
The first thing was how puzzling it was that I could be that far in the middle, yet have this crazy swath of weeds to deal with. I didn't enjoy it at all.
When I was dealing with all those weeds, and having them wrapping me up all over the place, I didn't panic, but I start swimming frantically from side to side. I wasn't trying to make forward progress, but rather just trying to find the deep water again to get away from these things.
This went on for 20-30 minutes at least. Aside from my hands and feet getting tangled in them, the weeds had also started wrapping around my neck. Oddly enough though, I didn't mind the weeds around my neck and on my face, but I hated them on my hands and feet.
When I first hit them, I was treading water, but I immediately started swimming proper, and dug in. This lifted my body right to the surface. That still wasn't enough.
Eventually I just rolled over onto my back, and floated while only using my arms. I calmed right down, and took on a nice easy pace. Gentle in motion, smooth and fluid. It was then that I was looking up in the sky through a little crack in the smoke to the heavens above, and I saw a cluster of three shooting stars.
I immediately made a wish for a friend, and started giggling.
It made me appreciate the weeds, because without them, I would not have seen those quick three shooting stars paint the only small patch of sky open to eyes below.
It's so crazy how things can work out.
The real crazy part was just before dawn. That's when the eagles, osprey and other bigger birds came out in place of the bats.
While it was still dark, and I could only see mostly silhouettes, I had two eagles come at me at once. It wasn't as crazy as the first one I had to fight a few weeks ago, but they were at me. They were circling me in a teamwork fashion. I had to keep circling in the water to keep an eye on them, yell, splash and wave. They kept at it.
With me circling in the water, I ended up getting tangled in the line my floaty and dry bag were attached to, so much so, that the two bags wrapped right up to hit me in my face. When that happened, I grabbed one in each hand and waved them. That's the only thing that finally deterred the two eagles to move on.
I had two more single eagle close(ish) encounters as well. I can only say, "close(ish)" now because of the crazy one I had inches from my face a few weeks ago...
"That shit was close!"
The gnarliest of the night was a different bigger bird, smaller than an eagle or osprey, but it kept circling and dive bombing me. It was darker, and also before dawn.
I had to be on serious alert. I had all these birds of prey whizzing by me from all sides. It was dark, and they were only silhouettes. I'll tell you this, it was definitely one way to train the senses.
That's the kind of reason why I like to walk in the bush at night with no light, so I can train my senses to be able to see in the dark without it, and be better prepared to deal with encounters that I cannot see.
It falls under that whole principle of train yourself to be uncomfortable, so you can be calm and comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
There's always a reason to why I do many of the things I do in regard to how I carry on in the natural world. I have to look beyond the obvious to be best prepared to deal with situation that might kick off at any moment.
I'm gonna try to get ahead of the eagles during tonight's swim. This way less about sight seeing for stars, and more about digging in and positioning myself further down the water in the time just before dawn when all the birds of prey come out and start ravaging the water...with me in it.
The other thing I haven't mentioned is that I had been up since before 7:00am in the morning. Despite being exhausted, I couldn't sleep, even for a short siesta, because I was too broken and in tears all day long. So, by the end of it, I was up for close to 28 hours.
Aside from how freezing cold I was, and the resulting full body convulsions, I had that deep exhaustion consuming me into a new first.
I literally passed out while swimming. I was nearing, or around 7 hours in...the home stretch. I nodded off mid-stroke and passed out for the split seconds until my face hit the water to snap me back out of it.
I've never had that happen before. I've rolled off floaties while taking siestas, but that's just always hilarious...
"The ultimate alarm clock!"
Needless to say, I was exhausted in every cell in my body, and I was freezing into convulsions that made me choke down water. I made the decision to come out at Red Sands beach, which is only a short little walk to Jana's place, where my bike was.
The difference in time it would have taken to swim that last fraction of a bit was pretty crucial in my well-being...especially for how unprepared I was. I wasn't happy about it, but it was a judgement call I had to make.
I feel like I cheated, and therefore failed, but the way I justified it in my head was to make up the ground on that last little swim over the next upcoming days with the other swims in front of me.
I feel like I betrayed myself, the piece of art that is all a part of this, and the muse behind it, but I just had to make the call.
I'll figure out how to make it right.
Jana's daughter locked her bike to mine by an accident last night, so I had wake up Jana to get the code. She gave me a ride to Mike & Aszjeca's instead of me having to ride out to get it. It's only a 10 or 11km ride, but I was a mess. When we were driving up there, my lips were numb, I was having a hard time making words to say to Jana. I was also nodding off. So, she saved me on that one.
I have been a write-off all day. However, I did get in some time at the ball court, and then down to the water for a quick little dip...then up for another couple siestas. Awake or asleep, I didn't get out of bed much. I just laid there staring at a short video of a frined singing a song she played during the rainstorm the other night. It's the only thing I have found solace in with that devastating news I got.
I've just been in and out of tears with that song playing on repeat.
My body feels like it needs 99 massages right away. I'm beat to shit. I feel like I have heat stroke in my head and a hangover, and my muscles are aching all over, and I do need more sleep, but I here I am getting ready to go out again for round two.
No messin' around this time. Tonight is about gettin' 'er done as fast and efficient as possible so I can avoid the pre-dawn eagles and get home into bed much sooner.
It took me about 7 1/2 hours to do, and I dropped just over 2 pounds doing it.