We had finally finished our swim and I crawled onto the floor of Arend’s boat with towels wrapped around me and began sobbing uncontrollably. I was overwhelmed by the shock of the last 1.5 hours of swimming through blue-bottle-infested waters and being stung all over my body. The burning sensation of all the stings was worse out of the water and the pain in my swollen right hand, which had been stung multiple times, was unbearable. Ann and Felicity were next to me stoically grimacing in pain. I repeated the phrase “I don’t know what to do” because I couldn’t escape the pain and Ann kept on telling me to just breath.
Four hours earlier we were swimming hard and fast to get through the huge breakers at Diaz Beach at the start of our Cape Point swim. The swim is an 8km open water swim around Cape Point from Diaz Beach to Buffel’s Bay. I said a silent prayer as each swell came towards me, “please don’t break on me” and none of them did. My chest was pounding and I was out of breath by the time we were through but I was relieved because in my mind the worst was over. I soon found a solid pace next to Felicity’s comforting yellow cap and Arend’s face peering down on me from the boat. We made our way around the choppy waters to Cape Point. The scenery of Cape Point from the sea was spectacular and it surprisingly looked much smaller from our perspective.
I had heard from other swimmers who had done the swim that the point would be very choppy and that once we were around it, the waters would become as “smooth as glass”. Unfortunately the sea kept on bashing me around from side-to-side and occasionally crashing over my right arm so that I couldn’t finish my stroke. I pushed myself to keep swimming because I was convinced that around the next corner the water would flatten out. But it continued to be choppy the entire way. Our support crew kept up our energy with regular feeds and then we started swimming against the current. Swimming and swimming while barely moving. The heart pounding start, the continuous chop and the strong current had exhausted me and I was ready for the swim to be finished.
And that was when I felt the first sting on my right hand. A bit of a surprise to me and I commented to the crew that “I had just been stung”. The long tentacles of one soon wrapped around my tummy and hung over my legs continuously stinging the back of my legs as I swum. Eventually I was able to free that one from me with my right hand before another one wrapped itself under my arms singing the sensitive underarm skin. There would be a few moments of reprieve before the next sting. Sting-after- sting-after-sting accompanied by searing pain.
I started to have tears in my eyes and my boat crew shouted to me “we are not taking you out” and “you are finishing this swim”. They didn’t allow the thoughts of giving up to even enter my head let alone pass through my lips. I had swum so far already and knew that if I didn’t finish the swim now, I never would be prepared to do it again. And so it became a swim of sheer determination to finish. Felicity kept on battling slightly ahead of me dealing with a very scary sting on her tongue and one wrapped around her throat. Our second, Ann, could see that I was struggling and got into the water to swim with me, slowly and painfully, toward Buffel’s Bay. I am still blown away by her selfless act of putting herself in knowing pain to help me and Felicity achieve our goal.
And then, we had finally finished our swim and I crawled onto the floor of Arend’s boat with towels wrapped around me and began sobbing uncontrollably.
Arend, our seasoned skipper, posted our swim on Facebook concluding that “open water swimming is not for sissies” and I couldn’t agree with him more.