Except for the wind, swells, and jellyfish tormenting me through the lonely hours of the night, I have fragmentary recollection until sunrise. As Sheila and Steve guided me through the moonlit darkness, they urged me to focus on the lighthouse perched somewhere at the distant shores of Oahu. A tiny, minuscule speck would give off a diminutive sparkle of light that periodically cut through the darkness. It was my beacon of hope – fading hope. Many times the lighthouse was lost and a couple times, separated by the swells from my kayakers and boat, I swam in the wrong direction. It was completely and utterly disorienting.
Like a ragdoll in a washing machine, my body was tossed around and contorted by the massive waves. For those brief moments when I would literally bodysurf from atop a wave crest into a trough, I focused on my prize - the lighthouse. But swimming into the wind was exhausting. Waves would break on top of me smothering my body with whitewash lit in the moonlight. Mouthfuls of salt water became an integrated part of my stroke.
I lost track of how many times the tentacles of a jellyfish would wrap around my arms. Portuguese Man-O-War and Hawaiian Box jellies “greeted” me with such regularity, it became mundane. And each time a tentacle would attach to my arms and legs I just kept moving. Surprisingly, the pain and discomfort paled compared to my jellyfish experience during the San Francisco – Santa Barbara relay.
The appearance of the sunrise beaming over my stage was an enormous mental boost. My only request to my crew prior to my swim was not to be informed of the time. I didn’t want to risk the disappointment of knowing less time had passed than I had hoped. But with the sun rising in the east, I estimated it was approximately 6am. That meant I was 10 hours into my swim. I wish I hadn’t been so clever. Ask my school friends - math was never my forte. Let’s just say I had plenty of time to calculate and recalculate.
Still swimming into the wind to remain on course, I lifted my head up in search of my destination. My heart sank with despair and tears began to well up in my eyes. An outline of shore that seemed so elusive during the night was still barely visible.
All of a sudden, as if sensing my concern, Joe jumped in the water to swim beside me in an effort to boost my state of mind. I wish I could say I was thrilled to see him. But I wasn’t. He became my mental punching bag. I was tired, sore, frustrated and annoyed. Joe attentively offered me tinted goggles. I declined.
Swimming beside me, I noticed he wasn’t swimming very fast. Not fast at all. Sometimes a casual breaststroke. I knew I had slowed considerably and was painfully aware of my deteriorating stroke. I was so angry.
As I glared at Joe, I wish I swapped out my clear goggles for tinted goggles. I knew that he could see my evil goggle eyes. And I hated that.