Saturday, Sept 10, 2022 – Swim to Alligator Lighthouse
I knew it was vital to be rested before an athletic event but I was awake at 5:00AM and checked the clock every five minutes (ugh, adrenaline) with the uneasy, and mistaken, impression that we were late. Our phone alarms woke everyone else at 6:00AM as planned.
All I could stomach for breakfast was a blueberry muffin and caffeine. We all took our time getting suited up, double checked our gear and coolers, and piled into Vanessa’s car to depart for Amara Cay Resort.
On our way! Water looked calm. Didn’t see any whitecaps.
We drove 10 minutes on US-1, passed the giant lobster statue which we swore we’d get a picture with before thing thing was over, and pulled into the parking area across the road from the venue among dozens of vehicles already present.
Grabbing our stuff, we scurried across the street. We took a shortcut through the hotel’s lobby which connected to the staging areas where we quickly secured our coolers and such into our kayaks, and were glad to have plenty of time to wait before the event to start.
From pictures and previous races, we knew the water was very clear and blue closer to the light house which made it easy to see wildlife, which both Anton and Maddie were excited about; Vanessa, on the other hand, would rather not see anything swimming with her.
We came up with this order for our relay:
- Me (so I can swim with the pack which would spread out over time because I’m an anxious open-water swimmer—probably because I’ve seen SharkWeek way too many times)
- Maddie (wants to see some fish)
- Anton (ready for anything)
- Vanessa (won’t have to worry about climbing back into the kayak after her swim, which was a concern for her)
The solo swimmers jumped in first. It was only once this group entered the roped off in-water starting area that we realized how choppy the water really was from the previous days’ storms. Event organizers had advised us that the wind and seas would be rough, but also anticipated that they would gradually smooth out by midday (wouldn’t we be done by then?).
After the solo swimmers started, the first swimmers for the 2-person-teams and 3-person-teams were sent off in 10-person-groups to avoid chaos.
When the time came, I grabbed my fins with a stomach full of butterflies and parted ways with my team which took their kayaks to a separate starting point, and joined the other swimmers with neon orange caps.
When prompted, I descended a metal ladder into the water. The tide was high, which made it deep, dark, and seemed way choppier up close.
Since there were so few 4-person-teams, organizers let us start in one group of maybe 15 swimmers. We should’ve been warming up in the roped off starting area but I think we were all too nervous because, instead, most of us chatted and joked as the waves continually bumped us into each other and we repeatedly apologized to each other for it. I discovered that most of the others, like me, had never done this swim before.
Once all of our companion kayaks were in the water and ready, the announcer called for our attention like a radio sportscaster and signaled the start of the final wave of swimmers.