it’s a toss up.

On Saturday morning, I got up early to drive over an hour to get to a swimming hole near Allentown PA. Swimming hole sounded weird, but that’s exactly what it was. A place called Dutch Springs I’m guessing was quarry at one point in it’s life. Their website is geared toward scuba diving but had one tiny paragraph about swimming. When I called the day before, they said I could use the whole hole to swim. It’s 1.3 miles around the perimeter of the water. Just after 9 am I pulled into the empty parking lot. I was instantly happy about that. When I walked up to the entrance, I reverified that I was able to swim there. I paid my entrance fee and was told to pull my car through the gate. I turned left as instructed to get as close to the water as possible (opposite of  the Clark W Griswald technique). To my surprise, the place was packed! My happiness quickly turned into something else. I got out of the car to see how big the place was, and everyone there had scuba gear and seemed comfortable being there. I read the posted rules by the water entrance and walked around to see if there were any more (which there weren’t). I scanned the water and saw one swimmer way out in the distance. I was intimidated by how big the water surface was, but walked back to the car to get my wetsuit on anyway. I knew I couldn’t get in the truck and drive away and feel good about myself, so I went to the passenger side to get dressed so there was no temptation to do so.

In went one leg, then the other, the first arm went in like I’ve been putting on wet suits my whole life. I had a little trouble with the second arm and could quite figure out why. Finally, in it slipped. Now, to zip up the back…. Hmmm, the zipper is in front. I put in on backwards! I took it off just as quickly. Any swim cred I would have had, quickly disappeared.

A few encouraging thoughts and a couple of minutes later, I was walking to the entrance (with my suit on correctly). I stopped to ask a group of people there, what the markers were for and if there was anything I needed to be careful of. A woman with her son were at the entrance waiting for her other son (who was diving), and she wished me luck and to have fun. I told her I didn’t know if I was going to last 10 minutes or 2 hours, but hoped to see her later rather than sooner. There were wooden steps leading into the water and went down much further than I needed. I saw a group of divers to my right and decided to stay far left to get out beyond them before I started swimming. A combination of a doggie paddle and occasional backstroke took me to the longest part of the pool away from the divers (about .4 miles long). I waited (and waded) there for a few minutes trying to get the nerve to put my face in the water and start swimming. I don’t know why I was so nervous, it’s impossible to stay under water with my suit and swim cap. I could turn over and lay motionless, close my eyes and feel like I was on the beach. My face would never submerge. The only thing I would feel were the waves. With high winds yesterday, the surface of the water had pretty decent waves (probably 1 – 1  1/2 foot swells). A few deep breaths and the thought of chickening out in November were enough to get me going. Once I took one stroke, I knew I’d be OK and didn’t stop for over an hour. I’m guessing I swam 1.5 miles and felt really good about myself. My breathing was good, my sighting was good and my energy was seemingly endless. I concentrated on taking my time and took a really slow strokes. After 4 laps I had to get back to where I got in.  This time, I swam as confidently as had been doing all day. About 40 feet from the exit, I noticed divers below and in front of me and navigated around them. What a different experience on the way back in. On the way out, it was survival and overcoming fear, on the way back in, it was confidence and awareness.

I got back to the dock and the woman was still sitting there, her little boy saw me and smiled. He looked back at his mom, like “there he is”. My feet weren’t very steady, so I took the stair climb slowly. She smiled and said “that was almost two hours, you should feel good about that”, and I did. I strutted back to the car with my head held high and shoulders swaying. I’m not sure if I’m more excited about overcoming the fear, or having confidence in knowing I will complete the 2.4 mile swim next month.

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