Swimraiser in the Caribbean

In October I participated in a 5-mile inner-island swim in the Caribbean. Thanks to numerous donors I was able to raise $10,000!! This race was a challenge to say the least – Not only was I not a swimmer before this race – I had never done a race before, not so much as a 5K run. Race morning – I was so nervous I could barely get dressed… let alone put sunscreen on which I needed a lot of. Once we got to the ferry we went through body marking and I got #29 written on both arms. Once to the island, we had 15 minutes on the beach to “warm up” or get mentally read … I stood trying to calm down. I had my goggles on and my music headset ready.

The horn blew and I let everyone sprint into the water and I walked in behind. I swam a few strokes with my head above water and then took a deep breath and put my face in. Instantly my ear buds to my music came out, I rolled to my back to try and fix them but with the waves I was unsuccessful. I gave up and rolled back to my belly to keep swimming and saw a scuba diver below me – checking on me. It was nice knowing there were safety kayakers and divers, literally surrounding me from top to bottom 🙂

The first 2 miles crossing the channel from Buck Island to St. Croix were the most physically challenging; the swell was bigger than I had anticipated. The next 3 miles were along the coast of St. Croix – it was breathtakingly beautiful. I saw several sea turtles, 2 stingrays and really pretty fish. I missed the drink station boat but luckily had a kayaker offer me a bottle of water. He kindly opened it and handed it to me at which point his kayak capsized with his young son in it. I dropped my water and tried to help. Once they were safe I pressed on. I was parched. The hardest stretch for me was 3.5 to 4.5 miles. My shoulder was hurting, my tongue was like sand paper, I was starting to get seasick and I wanted to quit. I thought of all the generous donors and kept kicking. The final turn buoy felt as if someone was slowly pulling it further and further as I swam towards it. It reminded me of teaching a child to swim and backing up as they come towards you.

I finally could put my feet down and heard a ton of cheering; I had an overwhelming feeling of relief and accomplishment. I finished 4 minutes over time but was so proud I completed it. There were some serious competitors – even Gold Medalist Misty Hyman was there! 5 miles was definitely further than I had imagined (think of it as 88 lengths of a football field). And 4 hours in the water was longer than I had ever thought possible. Thank you to everyone who made this swim-raiser so successful!

~Michelle

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