31 March 2010

open water swimming

start like a lamb and finish like a lion they say but the finish is some way away and the lion is lurking ahead in the water somewhere hidden a bit bashful a bit reluctant to join in and you don't feel bold and all conquering and you tell yourself to enjoy the present stay calm in the early stages breathe easily relax wait and gather momentum so that you can enjoy the moment for the moment and swim towards that first yellow buoy lifting your head for quick glimpses to get your bearings and make sure you stay straight no matter how many swimmers dart to the right or left or across your path or rush past and ahead you're impressed but not stressed by their speed and purpose keep your own tempo you remind yourself enjoy this swim you want to enjoy the warm sensuousness of the water and pick out the sea grasses and small fish that come into your eye line you don't want to miss any scuttling crabs scuffing up sand and brandishing their claws as they dare you to return there are stingrays out there but you wont see any you've only seen them next to you on the sandbar sometimes or in the shallows when you've been training never in races you've come upon them abruptly and you've been startled by their panicky flourish and their haste as they dart sideways into the gloom but you know they'll never do this when there's a race on they're always well away from the churn of a hundred swimmers and burrowing into the sandy sea bottom or seeking the safety of sea grasses until it's over and although you try not to think about it you hope it's the same with sharks fishermen and boaties tell you they're out there and probably not far away there's a nursery on the other side of plum pudding island they tell you when you're down at port elliot but you've never heard of a sighting in any of your races and you want it to stay that way you want these magnificent but scary scary scary creatures to be super polite and move off for a quiet life somewhere else until this race is over and you really don't give them any more thought knowing there would have to be an incident for that to happen you're lulled by the beat beat beat of your arms on the water and you're much more interested in getting to the next buoy you begin stretching out and increasing your tempo you're feeling good and you've noticed you've drawn alongside a group of swimmers and you're swimming in a line towards the next buoy an arm next to you flaps a little erratically and you realise it's fatigued you're not fatigued at all you realise and you almost growl as you increase your tempo it helps that you are swimming with the tide you're not fighting the sea and you know it won't be long and you'll soon be on the beach there'll be none of that exasperation you get sometimes when you swim and swim and swim and don't seem to get any closer the final buoy is approaching and you feel someone slapping at your feet and someone else at your hip as you make the turn it's as if you're in the middle of a mob of sheep and you're all trying to squeeze through a narrow gate at the same time you half expect someone to swim over the top of you but they don't and soon you're on your own stay calm you say to yourself don't rush you've started like a lamb now finish like a lion it may be old and a bit moth-eaten but summon as much strength as you can and when the tips of your fingers touch sand stand up and lope towards the line

peter mcfarlane


  1. Peter,that was an illumination of what it must be like living in an alien, sometimes frightening, marine world. I also guess there are no full stops or commas under the sea - they simply get washed away. Thanks for providing such an intimate portrait of the swimmer, at sea.
    Robert McFarlane

  2. Brilliant Peter, really captures the spirit of it all..Iain