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I swam 1/4 a mile!

October 6, 2012

This post was going to be titled:
“I swam a mile!”

One of our assignments in orientation this fall is to become more comfortable in the water. Ships are a common way to travel here, and they’ve been known to break down or run aground. So it’s a good idea to know how to swim for awhile. At the orientation in Papua New Guinea that we had originally planned to attend, people are supposed to be able to swim a mile by the end of the course. I figured that’s a good goal for me over the next few months.

I am not a swimmer. I flunked swim lessons several times as a kid. Eventually, I was a foot taller than all of the younger kids in my class. My parents took pity on me and let me quit.

In college, I got into running and also biked around campus a lot. One summer when John and I were dating, he and his family did a triathlon at a camp. They’re super into exercising and do things like go hiking in the snow for fun. I wanted to impress them, so I did the triathlon too. Swimming comes first, then biking, then running. I did backstroke most of the time and was the last one out of the lake. After that, my legs were so tired I couldn’t bike up a big hill and ended up catching a ride in the sag wagon for the rest of the biking section. I did run/walk the running part. After I finished the race, I curled up in a ball, was freezing cold, and wanted to go to sleep or die. It was terrible. (John won the triathlon that year.)

John’s family at camp in their triathlon t-shirts a few years later. (The baby is Little D.) I happily cheer for them.

The next semester of undergrad, I took a swimming class. I learned how to swim a little more and decided I probably won’t drown in a swimming pool.

Last year, I practiced swimming at the city pool with John’s family. His little sister, who’s on the high school swim team, gave me a few tips, and I took a few sessions of swim lessons. By the end of the summer, I could swim across the pool a few times without stopping to grab the edge while nearly hyperventilating. Sometimes I even put my head in the water and managed to not choke on pool water.

Wednesday, we and the other new family went to the beach. On one hand, I thought, “Great, we have to swim in slightly rough salt water this afternoon. Little D’s going to wake up from his nap to a babysitter he might not know. I’d rather stay home.” On the other hand, I realized, “My only job this afternoon is to go to the beach and try to swim. I’m on an island in the South Pacific. This could be a whole lot worse.”

We went to a beach where John did a triathlon this spring. There’s a big orange buoy a ways down the beach from the parking area. To get to it, people just have to swim far enough from shore that it’s deep enough to swim. Then they swim parallel to the beach. They don’t have to swim very far out into the ocean. John told us the buoy was 750 or 800 meters. He translated that out of metric for me into, “Around 1/2 mile.”

I recited to myself, “I’m not going to die 5 meters from shore. John’s watching me. I’m not going to drown today. God, help me not die today.” Megan came to swim with me. We said, “That buoy’s a long ways away. Maybe we could make it there. Let’s do it.” She stayed by me awhile, but then I told her she could just go ahead. The whole time, I was honestly thinking of how I was going to write a blog post called, “I swam a mile!”

Megan and I begin our trip to the buoy.

John took this picture of the orange buoy with the camera zoomed all the way in.

After a long time of changing swim strokes, stopping to doggie paddle, perhaps touching bottom a few times, and coughing on salt water, I got to the buoy! I wanted to do the cheer “Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!” that we hear sometimes here when something good happens, but I kept it inside because I didn’t want to scare the kids swimming nearby.

This was the only non-walking exercise I’d done since Micah was born, so shortly after I headed back toward the others, I reconsidered my idea of swimming the whole way back. My legs were sore. I had a side ache. I wanted to be able to walk up steps the next day. And I think I got stung by a stray jellyfish fragment, which made my arm all tingly and a bit sore. So I walked back.

I was still pretty excited about the fact that I swam to the buoy. John told me good job, and I congratulated Megan, “We did it! You swam a mile! And I swam half a mile!”
John looked at me a second before saying, “Um, the 800 meters is there and back put together. The buoy’s only 400 meters away.”
Only disappointed for a second, I rephrased: “We did it! You swam 1/2 a mile! And I swam 1/4 a mile!”

My legs were only a little sore when walking up steps the next day.


Oh, I found these cigarette packages on the beach interesting. As interesting as they are, though, I won’t start smoking. It would only make swimming harder.

Pijin: Simok save killim man.
English: Smoking Kills.

Pijin: Simok save kosim lang kansa.
English (not pictured): Smoking causes lung cancer.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    October 6, 2012 4:30 am

    I am so proud of you! Not only for the swim, but for your refusal to be disheartened. Jellyfish, after all! Just quit comparing to your in-laws–in your own family you’re a swimmer extraordinaire. After all your dad is the one who took adult swim lessons and the private instructor told him he’s one of those people who actually can’t float on top of water.
    Blessings, blessings, girl.

  2. Tammy Hodel permalink
    October 6, 2012 8:55 am

    You’re my hero! 🙂

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