A year ago I read Lynne Cox's Swimming to Antartica. She has broken all the rules about what temperatures the human body is capable of swimming in, yet she appears to be a normal person who cares about the same things I do. I was fascinated. This morning when I woke I thought, "Okay Lynn, you and me here." I wanted to test the boundaries, see if my body could maintain its temperature if I worked hard. But I didn't want to do anything foolish.
A small group gathered on the beach. Our local news editor stood nearby, snapping pictures. The sun glinted off the glassy water. Picture-perfect. I dipped my thermometer in the water--63 degrees. Dave, accustomed to an 87 degree pool, was wearing his wetsuit. I had been swimming in these temperatures for the last two days, for shorter stints. I decided to go without the wetsuit. Mark would paddle beside me in a kayak, and I would never be far from shore, though in spots it could be tricky to exit.
In we go! That first immersion, as always, got me moving. It wasn't shocking--just a little numbing on the face. I was so excited that I was breathing quickly and ran out of steam right away. Slow down...we rounded the first bend and the water felt distinctly colder (61 degrees, Mark told me afterwards.) Dave had powered off way ahead of me, as I knew he would. I settled into a pace that was manageable but still hustling.
The second point--right near our daily dip spot--passed me by. Next, the water treatment plant. Not my favorite spot, barbed wire fence and two huge pipes (one derelict) running along the lake bottom, sending the hopefully-well-treated used water out. Somewhere the water comes in here too, and I like that. We drink lake water.
Once past the water treatment plant, I pulled for the "big rock"--the high boulder that daring teenagers climb out to and jump off of in the summer. I'd never jumped off it myself. I started to feel more confident. Was I cold? Yes, I was, and I needed to keep moving. No pausing to chat with Mark, faithfully padding just a few feet away. Breathe to the right--see the golden early morning light on the cliffs, watch little stick figure supporters jump around on the rocks alongside me. Breathe to the left--glassy seas, rising sun, blue horizon. Sensory overload. Constant movement meant a constant sense of clean cold clear water rushing by me. Every manner of rock, boulder, and stone passed beneath me, including shallow bedrock that gave way, with one stroke, to a deep drop-off. I noted that the rocks were covered with a brownish slimy substance--something I am pretty sure wasn't there when I started swimming in this Lake 7 years ago.
Coming around the final bend, Dave was waiting for me. What a guy. I could make it now. I was cold--just how cold, I wouldn't know til I came out. "Katya!" he shouted during a breath, forcing me to pop my head up. "You can't swim in Lake Superior without doing some butterfly!" I laughed underwater. Of course! This would warm me up too. Obligingly I swam butterfly for 12 strokes--my current maximum--then headed in. Everyone was cheering, Dave was on one side and Mark was on the other, and I was swimming on air--full of love, hope, and energy. People are so amazing! There is hope for this world! I am so loved!
The rocks grew shallower, and shallower, and shallower. I swam to knee-deep waters before I stood up, and I'm glad I did because it was hard to get out!
As always, the finish was anti-climatic. We'd had our fun. I immediately dried off and starting drinking my hot water/salt/vit c/honey liquid. My Uncle Alan instinctively put his coat around me, and then my Aunt Peggy came and hugged me. Soon I was shivering, then shivering violently. "I can feel the coolness coming off of you," she told me. Within 10-15 minutes, I started to warm up, and by 30 minutes I was completely normal.
The rest of the day, I felt fantastic--like my immune system had gotten a big energy boost. What a swim! I was ready for more, already calculating a few degrees colder water, wondering if I could adjust to that.
Thanks to all supporters and especially my family and friends who came to watch. Thanks to all who care about climate change and our precious Lake Superior and are doing something about it! Figure out what you can do to ensure a livable world, and get out there and do it!