Yesterday I was talking about how scared I was to get in the water and do a swim.
There was a flip side to it that was really funny -- the reaction I got when I got out of the water.
There was some sort of family gathering at Prouty Beach, not sure what, but they'd rented the shelter for the day. It was still windy and chilly. Most of them wore slacks and jackets.
I was the first person back, what with me only swimming a couple of miles and all. The family was passing the time watching boats on the lake, knuckleheads swimming in water and weather no truly sane person is going to get in... you know, what you do when you're enjoying a weekend summer outing in what passes for summer in Vermont within spitting distance of the Canadian border.
I spotted the people as I was rounding the last buoy and was gathering my strength for the last push to finish my swim. I was unsurprised to see them and that they were watching. Seeing anyone swim in that chill and gray weather must be a bit of a novelty. They applauded when I got out. It was very kind of them and honestly, it felt nice.
I'm used to the reaction from training swims I've done closer to home. I start from a little community beach on Lake Mascoma. The "I could never do thats" are familiar. They're also not really true. You can't now because you haven't trained. You could train for it if you felt like that was the way you wanted to spend your time.
I'm never entirely sure how to react, even so, and tend to fall back into being a Virginian, thanking them for being so kind and flattering. I feel awkward, but being kind about something kindly-meant is never a wrong reaction, right?
One woman who was quite bundled up seemed deeply concerned about the cold and the wind. She had something of the air of the experienced camper about her, and I suspect she knew that hypothermia was no joke. She offered to let me come up to the shelter behind a wind barrier, which was very sweet. But honestly?
My skin was chilled and I didn't fully warm up until five in the afternoon when I finally got into a hot bath. However, inside I was plenty warm. When I took off my cap, my head felt hot. While being a hothead isn't always desirable, it's my marker for whether or not I'm trying hard enough in a swim. I was swimming in 67F water, and yes my head was hot. I told the woman she could put her hand on my head to see if I was okay, and she did, exclaiming with surprise to realize this.
"See, I'm perfectly safe," I said. I even felt a little surprised I was able to say it.
When I do things, I'm always looking at the masters of whatever art or activity I'm doing. I certainly haven't been doing open water swimming long enough to master anything, and that's cool. I have a lifetime to work on it. But I do often forget what it looks like to someone who doesn't do it at all. Remember, I was freaking out before this swim and had to be talked down to get in the water at all. I wasn't feeling like I'd done anything at all impressive. I felt like I'd just barely squeaked by. That's not what that little two mile swim looked like to the people on the beach.
I'm sure there's some Dunning-Kruger Effect going on there. And that's cool, too.