Today marks the second anniversary of Team A Long Swim’s trip across the English Channel. We had a Team dinner this evening, with an English-inspired menu that Susan put together. As part of the Team, even our friends Meghan and Eileen were able to join us. Meghan ran the Team like clockwork, and Eileen probably should win an award for being the youngest-ever crew member for any English Channel swim (she had just turned eight when we swam). Susan even wore a necklace that she made from a shell we picked up from the beach in France. We laughed this evening until we all got smile cramps.
Everyone dredged up stories about that day, including the fire drill of getting to the Sea Satin the morning after we arrived in Dover, the dreadful sea sickness they felt during most of the 14-hour ordeal, and what a cold and croaking mess I was when I climbed on the boat after the swim was over. Many of the stories were pretty funny, but since I wasn’t on the boat and didn’t experience them, I feel a little left out; after all, as the teammate in the Speedo, I was busy with my own stuff.
They recalled how the swim itself was broken into two roughly equal segments. The first seven hours was in confused and choppy seas with waves that reached five feet. There were times that I was in the troughs of those waves and I couldn’t see the boat (or anyone on it) that was twenty feet away. The second seven hours of the swim was in darkness that was so dark that being in the water was like staring into oblivion. With the darkness came calmer seas, and (as scary as oblivion can be) I decided that I would opt for darkness over those kick-the-crap-out-of-you waves any day.
After fourteen hours, eighteen minutes and 40,538 strokes, we were done. We had made it to Wissant Bay on the French shore, and that is what we had all set out to do. The wail of an airhorn piercing the early morning air told us that we were part of a pretty select club. Landing on the deserted beach may have been one old, cold and wobbly knucklehead in a wet Speedo at 3:00 in the morning, but I knew that I wasn’t there alone. In addition to my family and friends on the boat, there were an uncountable number of people who were there with us in spirit.
Last night, Susan pulled up some short videos that she had posted on Facebook during the Channel swim. That led us to look at the comments that people left, many of which are pretty emotional and overwhelming even two years later. In addition, dozens of people were following the path of the swim on a website that had little GPS signals. There was a lot of chatter between all of the people following us, many of whom didn’t know each other. We were all together because of a single event in which we shared an experience, and I feel humbled and honored to be part of that.
It has been said: “Walk in, swim across, walk out. That is what makes a good day in marathon swimming.” By that yardstick, August 21, 2011 was definitely a good day for A Long Swim.
We celebrated today by laughing and telling stories, and I hope that we celebrate every year on August 21st. We celebrate the success of our Team and every person on it, whether they were there in person or were there virtually. We will never forget that feeling.
See you at the beach. I will report back.