Reignited

14 01 2013

It was an absolutely beautiful weekend here in Tampa. 83 and sunny on a mid-January afternoon? I’ll take it! Sorry my northern friends!

This unseasonably warm weather made Sunday a perfect day for the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim. The Frogman is a 5K open water swim which benefits the Navy SEAL Foundation. I didn’t swim; I was there to spectate!

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A few days ago, Beth invited me to join her in spectating the 5K. I happily obliged and was up bright and early on Sunday (though not as early as some people). We met up at Gandy Beach, just over the bridge in St. Pete. At 7am, I was one of the later cars to arrive, but I quickly found Beth and we headed to the starting line where we met up with some of her friends who were swimming and spectating. This is the 4th year for the race, which started out very small (40 swimmers) and with a purpose to fundraise for an injured SEAL officer. This year, there were 160 swimmers and all proceeds go to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Each swimmer has a kayaker/paddleboarder who travels with them the entire way, providing nutrition, words of encouragement, a life jacket or anything else the swimmer needs on the course. The swimmers and kayakers gathered for a pre-race meeting to go over the course and the rules for the event.

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Finally, around 8:15, the colors were presented, they remembered some fallen SEALs, and the national anthem was sung. Shortly after, the horn sounded, and the first wave was off!

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We hung around for the next few waves to see off Beth’s tri coach, and then headed to our cars to drive to the finish line at Picnic Island (but not without stopping at Mickey D’s for a quick breakfast). When we arrived at the finish line, the 5th overall swimmer was coming in.

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Check out that sweet finish chute!

Beth had told me that Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett was swimming the 5K, so when we got to the shore, I immediately starting looking for her since I knew she was probably one of the top 3 finishers, if not the overall winner. Soon enough, Beth spotted her and walked right up and said hello. I was Nervous Nelly and totally star struck, but I don’t think I stuttered too much when I saw her 🙂 I congratulated her, chatted briefly about the race, and Beth kindly took our photo.

IMG_5543Made. my. day!

We watched the swimmers come in for the next hour or so and as each one came in, I watched them beam with pride as they crossed the finish line. I was especially moved when a man who was missing a leg was carried across by two men I can only assume were his fellow camrades. “Never leave a man behind,” right?

I left the race jazzed- the excitement of the morning had reignited my passion for open water swimming. I got home and Courtney texted me a link to an open water swim in St. Pete, which immediately sent me on a Google frenzy for other local open water races. I stumbled across this:

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Courtney and I texted a little about the US Masters Swimming 5K Open Water National Championship, and I was thisclose to registering. But, I held back, at least for now. Gotta get my butt in gear…and convince Courtney to sign up with me!

I know today’s weather was not typical for the Frogman, but I am tempted to sign up for next year…all I know is that open water swimming is in my blood, and I need to quench my thirst for an open water race (non triathlon) soon!