The craziness of the running world is something that I discovered over time as I met and read about crazy runners. Half marathoners, marathoners, ultra marathoners, back to back to back marathoners, runners who race across deserts or across the tundra. Runners who race up mountains. Runners who run gruelling relays and ridiculous obstacle courses. Heck, you can even run races where you get chased by real live zombies or have brightly coloured powder thrown at you. If you can dream it up, there is probably a run out there for it.
Now that I’m swimming, I’m discovering that the aquatic world is just as varied in terms of the crazy activities people challenge themselves with. I have not yet discovered swimming challenges that involve zombies or paint and swimmers don’t swim up mountains (that I know of anyway) or across deserts (again, I could be wrong). Instead, with swimming, you challenge yourself with the distance, the water temperature, the currents, the waves and the sharks.
Last weekend, I learned that two people were going to attempt to swim across Lake Ontario. Christine, my swim coach, was going to be accompanying one of them on their 54km journey. She posted on her Facebook page about the swim and mentioned that the swimmer was raising money for JDRF because his son has Type 1.
Swimming and diabetes in one FB post? I had to respond. So I wrote a comment telling her to wish him luck and to thank him on behalf of myself and other T1s out there.
Minutes later, I received a private message from someone I have never met who, as it turns out, is a marathon swimmer with, you guessed it, Type 1 diabetes. She mentioned that she was trying to organize an event for next year where athletes with Type 1 diabetes swim across the Northumberland Straight. For the Canadians out there, that’s the body of water that links Nova Scotia to PEI – it’s 12.5 kilometers long, is quite cold and, because of the shallow waters there, doesn’t have too many sharks...
Yep, seriously. In fact, here’s the link if anyone is interested.
Apparently Jen, the swimmer who contacted me, has swum the Northumberland Straight several times. One time she actually swam across and back without stopping, the only person ever to do that. It took her 19 hours and change. Did I mention she has T1?
I read about her adventures online and I also read about her diabetes management strategies. If you folks think that daily diabetes management is tricky – try testing your blood sugar every thirty minutes while treading water in the ocean – when your fingers are so cold you have to cut them to get blood. Guess the fact that there aren’t many sharks there was part of the appeal...
I then read about the swimmers who swam Lake Ontario. And thought about what swimming for 24 hours straight might be like. Not being able to touch the boat, not being able to put your feet down, not being able to stop moving until you reach the other side. Swimming in the dark, unable to see bottom, unable to see shore, just trusting your crew to lead you safely home.
I thought about how easy it would be to panic, to lose hope, to hallucinate in the middle of the night, to give anything to just climb into the boat, wrap yourself in a warm towel and sleep.
And I thought about how amazing it must feel to hear the first cheers from shore as they spot you coming in. To know that you’re almost there and that you’re about to join the ranks of the brave, strong, incredible few who have gone before.
And I wondered if anyone with T1 has ever swum across Lake Ontario before...