Yesterday, I volunteered at the Mass State Triathlon. I know I said no more, but I was signed up for this one and one in Sept. I just didn’t have it in me to do 2 races this month, so I volunteered to be a swim buddy. Half of the group I’ve been assisting this year was competing in this race, so I really thought I should go.
I convinced a group of folks into being swim buddies with me. Some had done it before, some were new and a little apprehensive of doing it. The night before was a little weird, I was like “ugh, I’m not racing.” But then I remembered the joy of being a swim buddy. I kid you not, it really is a great experience!
A swim buddy is a pretty cool and the most rewarding job @ a race. We hang out in the water typically between the start and 100 yards in. Most people that freak out are going to do so in this small space. We have flotation devices and have them to offer to racers who are tired or panicked. We give them the option to take a quick break and keep going. When we are in the water, they don’t have to get ‘pulled out” and get the dreaded “DNF.” We let them hang on, talk them out of the panic, have them breathe, and offer to swim next to them if the want. Just having someone next to them, is often all the encouragement people need to finish!
Yesterday was typical of my experiences as a swim buddy! Since there were only 5 swim buddies, they didn’t “announce” that we were there. Tim, the Race director did let a few people know and within a few minutes, two women asked to have assistance for the swim. The first few waves, each of us swam back and forth from the first buoy looking for signs of distress, with only a few people who needed to ‘catch their breath.’
I saw the yellow caps and went to pick up my buddy. She was visibly shaking. I just grabbed her by the shoulders and said “you do know how to swim right?” she said yes –I said “you’ve swam this distance before right? “ – she said yes…
So I said “take a deep breath” – (then another).. – then I said, well I’m here, and I have a float, so you can stop whenever you want, and guess what: you have as long as you want to finish this! You’ve done this before, and it’s no different!
Off we went! She did great! She only hung on 2x during the entire course, and that was when 2 waves of splashy men came by! A few times she looked at me and said “there is no way I would have got this far without you”! My response was “well when you get more comfortable, you will be a swim buddy, and will swim with someone and talk them though and tell this story” – she just laughed- yup she was relaxed enough to laugh.
We got closer and closer to the finish line and she was on her back. I told her to turn over and swim looking at that lovely finish line! To enjoy it, she was ALMOST there! I touched bottom first, and I told her “hey the bottom is there if you want it.” – she just looked at me, gave me a huge hug, and this wave of just pure emotion covered her face. Exhaustion, excitement, and the best..... triumph..
She did it!
and Oh yea, that's why I volunteer!