Let me begin by answering the question I asked on Friday: I had some hay left.
More importantly, I had a heckuva party in the barn—er, at the Daiquiri Deck—I mean, at the Daiquiri Deck Tropical Splash Open Water Swim on Saturday.
I first participated in this event in 2010, and immediately fell in love with the low-key vibe and beautiful setting on Siesta Key, Fla., located a couple hours south of my mom’s home in New Port Richey. I returned last year, making it into a vacation for Steve, my mom and my dad. This year, only my mom and I made the trip. My dad was present in every breath of breeze in the air, every glimmer of sunshine in the water, and every back-lit cotton-ball cloud in the sky.
The condo was right on a particularly peaceful stretch of beach, and we headed right outside for a picnic lunch on the beach when we arrived. As I lazed around in a lounge chair, a maintenance worked walked by with a dead bird under each arm. “Might want to stay out of the water,” he said. “Red tide’s killing birds.”
I wasted an hour Googling around in search of a recent report from the Sarasota County Department of Health, but found nothing useful or up-to-date. No news is good news, right?
“Any questions?” he asked, after explaining the course and the race regulations.
“Yeah,” said the woman standing next to me. “Why am I doing this?”
As is the case with any open-water swim, that question stuck with me the whole first quarter of the race. But as I turned around the first buoy on the rectangle-shaped course, I settled into a quiet, steady rhythm, focusing only on my own body gliding through the water, and thought: Oh, right. I do this because I LOVE it. Soon, I was passing the orange-cap-clad swimmers in the 5K, which started right before the 2.5 K.
My race plan was to swim the first half at a pace that felt comfortable and steady, and to swim the second half as hard as I could. I did just that, and it felt absolutely great. I figured I’d finish in about 45 minutes, and in the final 400 meters or so, I started wondering if I’d crushed that goal.
When I saw the time on my watch—50 minutes and change—I just about choked. 50 minutes? My 5Ks the past two years have taken me about an hour and a half—how could I take 50 minutes to swim half that distance?
As I crossed the finish line, I could hear Steve’s voice saying: “You were so sick you couldn’t eat for a week. I’m sure you’re still kind of weak.” And I heard my dad’s voice asking: “Did you have fun?”
The answer: Yeah, I did! And the swim itself was only the beginning. We still had the incredible frosty drinks and seafood nachos at the Daiquiri Deck, not to mention more beach time, ahead of us.
We stopped by the awards ceremony so I could check out my official time, and I got a pleasant surprise—on this particular day, 50 minutes was good enough for third in my age group! How many other people in my age group? I purposely didn’t find out (don’t look a gift medal in the mouth).
As was the case last year and the year before, the race was organized beautifully, and was a joy to participate in. One of my favorite things about it is the fact that it gathers people ranging from fancy, fast high-school and college swimmers to octogenarians—all of whom are bettering their lives through swimming. And seriously: How many races end with a daiquiri? I’ll be back next year for sure.