What happens when things go wrong
I had a great swim this weekend with my kayaker guiding the way beautifully as she always does. It was a perfect morning on the lake and so we both enjoyed the moment. Later that evening we were discussing what a fun morning we had and my kayaker mentioned that she realizes every now and then that she isn't really paying attention to me. She knows the rhythm and sound of my swimming and so she doesn't really watch me all that closely.
She said that one thing she does is always stay aware of exactly where she is in case I slip below the surface. Then she would at least be able to guide rescuers. We talked about the recent news of the swimmer lost in the English Channel and we wondered how that could have happened. And then we talked about our own preparedness.
I think generally, as long distance swimmers, we have a hard time conceptualizing that you could ever have a problem in the water. Speaking for myself, my main concerns are getting hit by a motor craft or maybe getting too tired to finish. Both of these concerns are addressed by having my kayaker by my side. It's actually inconceivable to me to believe that I would have a situation in the water that I couldn't deal with. (Now there's a problem.)
Our kayak is rigged with a safety flag along with the usual kayak safety gear. Plus we have an extra life preserver for yours truly. Our safety plan is that if I feel anything wrong, we get that life preserver on immediately and ask questions later. So that's just fine and dandy for nice and easy planned failures.
But here's my question for discussion. What happens when things go south in an unexpected manner? Regarding the channel swimmer. He looked like he was in great shape and perfectly capable in the water. He had safety craft and observers. And he disappeared. Looking at myself, what happens if I have an aneurysm, for example. On land, I slump over at the dinner table face first into a pile of spaghetti. In the water, it gets a little more dire.
So for discussion sake. Have you had a bad moment during a swim? Was there any warning sign? What happened and what did you do? What kind of safety preparations do you normally take? What kind of practicing would be a good recommendation? Regarding practice, my kayaker took a kayak safety class that was very helpful, but it was kayak specific and not really geared toward swimmer support. Perhaps that would be a cool class to develop and set up. Maybe we can start developing recommendations based on this discussion.
I don't want to be morbid here, but we participate in a sport that is a little deceptive. It's fun and harmless, but a screw up can lead to death. I think we'd all prefer to avoid a premature exit if possible. So put your MSF thinking caps on and let's see what we've got.