It's Tuesday. I have a cold. I am a little PMS - ish and moody and "head achy". I have spent some time today following my stats on my blog and noticed the high number of hits my site got after posting my experience from the Ironman on Saturday. Over 1,000 in a day. that's pretty big numbers for a small time blog like mine. So I looked to see where they all were coming from and I found that some sweet person posted my article on another site where a bunch of people began criticizing me for my actions in the water. I took it hard and have had a hard time today. like I said - I am moodier than usual. But anyway, I feel like the best way for me to deal with it is to write it out and explain a few things and maybe answer a few questions. I think I may have overplayed some things and underplayed others.
Concern #1 - why would you do swim support if you can't swim?
Answer - Actually I can swim. I have done 2 sprint triathlons in open water in a lake in FREEZING Wyoming and came in last place in the water But I can do it. I remember doing that swim and thinking - I am strong I can conquer this. I just choose not to go swimming often. I do have a weird phobia of open deep water I am conquering. I am not a fabulous swimmer - but I can survive a swim if I have to. I can swim, I just need to do it in open water more often even though it scares the hell out of me. sometimes I don't tell people what I am really capable of. that was my bad.
Concern #2 - Panic. Someone said I had no right being out there if I panicked even just a little bit.
Answer - LOL! That's funny. I panicked briefly. I think people need to know that these conditions we were in were not just rare - but NEVER occur in the Lake this event took place in. I panicked for a few SECONDS and calmed right down when I remembered the rule to survival was to be calm. I calmed down quickly and found my rhythm. I played that down and should have let people know that were so concerned about me that I was fine. I knew as long as I could tread water and keep my head up, I was good. and really, I was. Did I panic? briefly. In fact part of my panicking was thinking I couldn't swim. yes I can. I came to that quickly. If you read my blog entry it says I had thoughts go through my head fast in a manner of just a few seconds. Did I calm down and get in control of myself quickly- yes and part of that was remembering that I was perfectly capable. I neglected to write about that. I wish people could have been in my head. It was actually pretty good in there. :)
Concern #3 - I put everyone's lives in danger by being on that water ill prepared.
Answer - Hardly anyone that volunteered for this Ironman swim support was prepared for what happened. We live in a desert. There are only Lakes here. - no oceans and no waves. and we do not go boating and paddling in rough waters around here. No one was prepared. only 3 paddlers of the 80 were able to stay on that water. The only way we can prepare for something like this is to experience something like this. So now I am ready for something like this. Get me out on that water again!
I have assisted in numerous triathlons on that same lake. NEVER have we EVER had that kind of wind. It was crazy and only those in the water can really know what we went through. I am now prepared for the next one. And any captain of any swim support team out here would be pleased to have me on their team.
Concern #4 - what idiot goes out to do swim support without a life vest?
answer - yeah... I don't have an good answer for that. no wait, I do... :) LOL! as I think back I remember that the buoyancy in my wetsuit (which is super thick and bouyant by the way - Not a triathlete wetsuit) gave me an extra boost of confidence and helped me find my calm in the water. it was actually working pretty good. But yes, a life vest would have been even better. Lesson learned. But in reality... I was going to survive ok. chill out. and yes - I will never do swim support without wearing a life vest ever again even though my wetsuit I had would have helped me to survive.
Concern #4 - Noone who isn't a skilled rescue worker that has done multiple open water rescues in waves should be doing swim support.
answer - LOL! We live in a freaking desert! We don't get waves! This was not common! I think the swim support did a great job for what we knew around here. There were PLENTY of skilled swimmers on paddleboards as lifeguards. My job was to help get people in need to a lifeguard or jetski. My job description never asked if I could swim to them. We kayak support do not swim to the people in need we paddle to them. and I have assisted MANY people in need from my paddleboard without falling into the water. If I have fallen into the water - the wind never has never whipped my board away from me til then. (and the answer to that is to wear my leash that I have never needed to wear since I am not an ocean surfer and never needed a leash til then).
Concern #5 - I put other people's lives in danger...
Answer - I saved 4 people's lives by helping them get to assistance and maybe more that held onto my board in a time of need as they calmed down and caught their breath or stretch out a cramp. I am a strong paddler and did really well in those waves and crazy wind for quite some time. When I was finally tossed My rescue was actually quick and the paddler that came to my rescue quickly went to work on other swimmers. The truth is that many kayakers needed rescued - not just me. I was able to assist another exhausted Kayaker to stay afloat as we held onto each other after my rescue. we helped each other and let the swim support do their job rescuing swimmers. I did not endanger anyone's life. in fact I may have helped another Kayaker stay alive. and I did not take a swimmer's place on any rescue vessel we stayed in the water holding onto each other and allowed the other swim support to concentrate on the job at hand.
Concern #6 - was this criminal negligence?
Answer - I don't even know what that is. I am just a caveman and a PE major that gets confused by big words. :) LOL. No seriously. As part of a swim support team that has worked our asses off - no. this was not negligence. I can swim. I calmed down. and I was prepared for this event in normal conditions. I had a buoyant wetsuit. I had the legally required PFD on my board. I was ready for this in normal circumstances and even a breeze that was expected. I am someone that handles myself well in stressful situations. I have rescued swimmers before. I have worked many events as swim support before. I am good at my job and will now be even better at it. If my husband could paddle away knowing I was fine - so can the rest of those thinking they need to criticize me. You can all just figuratively paddle away right now.
The weather was a circumstance that could not have been planned on, If they saw this coming the event would have been canceled. No one that was not in that water that day has any right to judge anyone of us that were there. I helped loads of panicked swimmers calm down in that crazy water.
I was calm after 5 seconds of panic. I can swim. I did float in my wetsuit. I rescued 4 people and assisted multiple others. I have done many triathlons as swim support. I even swam a triathlon in a freezing lake. I am strong. And I am good on my board as a rescue worker.
Now here's the most important part and probably the only thing that ever needed to be said:
Swim support consists of several layers
1 - Kayakers and paddlers - there are about 60 of us. our main job is to get in the thick of things and assist swimmers to get to better equipped life support if they need it. mostly we are used as floating buoys to help them catch their breath. and in most races that is all we really do out here. we also get swimmers to someone in the other layers in swim support or signal for someone to come over and rescue a swimmer holding onto our vessel. That is our job - that was my job.
2 - Life guards - there were at least 20 or more of these guys are on their bellies on paddleboards with no life vest or paddle. They are experienced swimmers and CPR and Lifeguard certified. they paddle alongside the swimmers and paddlers and are ready to give life saving skills they have been trained in. that is their job. That wasn't my job.
3 - Jet skis - There were a bunch of these (not sure exactly how many). they have a sled on the back to tow in a swimmer in danger. most had 2 people working on them (I think all of them did). one to drive and one that is lifeguard certified to assist a swimmer in danger . these were incredibly effective in the rough water but dangerous among the swimmers with the fumes and such. so typically kayakers and paddlers work together with the jet skiers to get a swimmer out of the thick of things before loading onto a jet ski and either be taken to a motor boat or to land. (usually to a bigger boat).
4 - Motor boats - we had a couple dozen of these on the water. these are the serious guys. equipped with Lifeguards, Divers and EMT's as needed. They were ready to take on the serious stuff. They had their eyes on the kayakers and paddlers and swimmers and watched and listened for the signal for swimmers in serious jeopardy. again - you can't have these big boats among the swimmers. They need to be out to the sides for the safety of the swimmers.
we were well equipped as a team.
the fact of the matter is 400 people were rescued - there was no loss of life in really horrid conditions and this team did a damn good job and so did I.
There now I feel good enough, smart enough and a whole hell of a lot better about it all. Phew...
I need a nap.