Monday, February 12, 2007


I trained for a year, reaching a level of fitness that I have probably never reached before.

This past weekend we drove down to Midmar dam in KwaZulu-Natal (about 600km's) to partake in this international open-water event. My first attempt at swimming the Midmar mile failed last year, but after swimming other races, I was determined to overcome this monster. Sunday morning was cold, about 15 degrees C. There was a light drizzle and a howling wind, which made it feel even colder. Our race was the last race of the day, the grand finale where 13-30 year olds compete.

Somehow the organizers did not manage to get around to organizing the shuttles, taking people to the start of the race, so only armed with our speedo's, about 2000 testosterone and adrenaline filled guys walked barefoot around the dam to the starting post. When we got there, we were quickly sorted into the different caps: red caps for the pro's, then blue caps, yellow caps, green caps (my group - which means we can swim a little) and then the white caps. We stood in the ice cold wind, once again, only in our costumes for about half an hour, watching the ladies (13-30 year olds) completing the event.

By now our hearts were racing, anticipating the launch of the different caps. There is something very special about hearing "Red caps - Go", then the launch of each group with only 2 minutes separating each. But this time was different.

As the last ladies left the water, a violent wind came up (wasn't me I promise!), creating waves in the dam of about half a meter high! Even the lifesavers in the paddleski's were floating way off course. Instead of letting these guys loose to attack the water, the announcement came: "Due to dangerous swimming conditions, this even has been canceled."

"What!? You've got to be kidding!"

No-one said a word. There was a group of schoolboys who came all the way from England for this event! Poor Pommies. After what felt like an eternity, one-by-one we started making our 2 km trek back to the finish-line. Some were angry, others swore and cursed the officials. Others, like me couldn't say a word and felt physically ill for the rest of the day. When we reached the end, the wind subsided and the dam was as smooth as glass - perfect conditions, but too late.

I can't remember much about my walk back to the finish line. I couldn't even feel the cold. This was the most disappointing experience of my life. Please laugh, that is the only way I can cope with it now. What makes it worse, is that this year is the last time that I could have competed in this age-group. At least, next year I don't have to prove a point to the laaities (young chaps in Afrikaans), but I can instead foster the onset of mid-life crisis.

At least I can swim the Makhulu km in Midrand on Sunday. Blessings to all while I go on Minister's retreat.

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