Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rough Water Swim 2010

After last year's bad experience at the Rough Water Swim I'd sworn not to participate this year, but I got roped into being a member of a Zamami-based relay.  I even tried unsuccessfully to recant on my commitment.  Alas, I was bound to a $30 entry fee to get nothing in return but the opportunity to swim between two islands that I could swim between for free any day I'd like.  

[the start of the 1.5km race]

A couple of my friends came out from Naha to swim the 1.5km course.  They both finished, which I guess was the goal.

[Laura, finishing]

[the island where I began the second leg from]

The relay was predictably a bit of a clusterf***.  Forty teams (at an entry fee cost of $120 each!! Why??!! (Because it's a rip-off, that's why)) and forty kayakers (each team had a (volunteer) kayaker for safety).  There wasn't any cover on the uninhabited island beaches, so we baked while waiting to swim and baked when we finished (and our sunblock had washed off).  Nor was there drinking water.  :(

The leader of our team reached my island in 29th place, then I took off on my first swim since last year's RWS.  I did the whole thing breaststroke because I suck at freestyle.  Twice I had to stop to deal with hacking and dry-heaving (I really dislike saltwater) while my kayaker wondered what to do.  It wasn't really fun at all, but it turned out that I passed TEN people on my leg.  I was the hero of the team, but it was an unfair honor since I haven't swam in a year.  I think I just took a better line than the other swimmers.

In the evening, as I was preparing for the eisa performance at the evening party, I got an email that the performance was canceled.  Followed immediately with another email that said "because a swimmer died."  I was in shock, as I had only just returned from the race and didn't recall seeing anything 'medical emergency-like'.

It was an older guy who apparently only swims in pools and was worried about this distance but urged on by his teammates.  His kayaker got him out of the water while he was still breathing, but apparently he stopped once he was transferred to the lifeguard jet ski.  Those are all the details I was able to glean.  I went to a kayak race meeting (I was scheduled to compete in that today) at night so they could cancel it.  While we were meeting a police boat from Naha came into the harbor, loaded the body (with clear 'dead body loading' protocol), then took off, leaving everybody even more somber.

The mayor was present for all of this and it was quite interesting to see his body language.  Not only was he crying, but he went around to each of us apologizing and repeatedly bowing.  I'd never seen this sort of "genuinely really sorry maybe even ashamed" bowing, and I felt bad when it was done to me.

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