Sunday, 26 June 2011

Three Down and One to Go

three- quarters into today's stint: struggling yet determined 
An update on KFM's fund-raising 'cross-channel' swim. This evening, she completed her third leg; another 5.5 miles (352 lengths in 2 hours 34 minutes and 15 secs, beating her time for the previous two lengths). We were even more proud of her this evening, for by the third and hardest quarter, when she knew she still had so far to swim, she was alone in the pool, swimming up and down, up and down, up and down. She had set herself the challenge of beating her previous times but had set out at too fast a pace, and she was flagging. The only allowable 'pit stop' was to drink water, and off again. We were amazed at her self-discipline to proceed - the loneliness of the long-distance swimmer; close to tears at times, but determination conquered aching limbs. We were also initiated by her mother (our daughter) into the science and maths involved in self-pacing, counting strokes, knowing when to push the speed; and still - with no-one to watch but us and her parents (and swimming tutor who taught her to swim age six) - she broke into butterfly again for the last length. She admitted she had the strategy wrong and will work on it for the final stretch on Tuesday 5th July. 

her smile says it all - final 5.5 miles is on Tuesday 5th July
And from Grandma (me) thankyou to everyone who has sent K. a message of support: I printed them out and they are pinned to her 'Go for it K' display board. She is so grateful.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Guts & Stamina

"The morning began with silence, sitting in the studio; 
only the quiet sound of pupils breathing; emptying our minds of thought, 
reflecting on why we were there - 
for what we might give thanks since we last sat quite still, in silent peace."

perfect action - even when you are swimming 5.5 miles
This was but the start of our day: we were here to support our 12-year old granddaughter (one of our  nine grandchildren) in her attempt to raise - on her own - £5,000 for starting blocks for the school swimming pool, and a defibrillator for the local community. The challenge that she set herself was impressive - to swim the equivalent of crossing the English Channel (approx 22 miles), in four sessions. She made it more difficult for herself by wearing a training swimsuit, one that is double-skinned, thus creating drag - more effort required than when she is swimming races.

How many more miles?
KFM planned the publicity, wrote letters to all our extended family, and others who had been at the school, many of whom had raised the funds for the pool to be built. She wanted to give something back, for as a small child - years before she became a pupil here - she had been so terrified of water, screaming even in the bath, that her parents enrolled her for swimming lessons in this very pool. (I have to say here, that KFM is fifth generation of the family to attend this particular school.) She sent flyers to everyone who lives in the village, for it is they who will benefit from the defibrillator.

Phew! She did it - swam the equivalent of one quarter the width of the English Channel
Into the pool at 10.00am to swim within a cordoned off lane; others in and around the pool counted her down: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and with an underwater glide, she began the first quarter of her challenge: 5.5 miles (352 lengths). Whilst watching her swim, I was amazed at not only her grace and agility, but the careful planning, pacing, the hours of training, knowing how to pass through her low point half way through which lasted until about 50 laps to go when her headmaster arrived to check her progress. 

Happiness - and red-rimmed eyes from over-tight goggles
Looking white and tired, and having said she felt sick, she perked up, upped the pace; swimming as if she was in her element, a beautiful fish, or a little lithe mermaid. Had she been swimming in training or competition - she trains almost every day, races most weekends - it would have been easier; here she had to pace herself - a solitary young swimmer doing what she loves most to help others.

So far, £1,000 raised
And so as her mother logged the lengths swum, K. approached her first goal - 5.5 miles, in 2hrs 51mins 12secs. I had to admit to holding back tears as she started her last length, for she broke with a flourish into butterfly. Later, I asked her what she had been thinking as she swam. "Nothing really," she said, but the cheques and cash donations proved just how much her effort is - and will be - valued. 

Yet that is not all. An hour later, she took part in the school sport's day - 1500 metres, four laps of the track. Lagging behind after all the morning's effort, she gradually picked off the competition, finishing second. You would never know what she had achieved from her quiet and modest demeanour. And on Thursday, she is back in the pool to swim the next 5.5 miles, and again this coming Saturday to swim the third leg; the fourth quarter in two weeks; she'll have been swimming for a total of almost 12 hours.

One hour later - out on the track in the 4-lap 1500 metres (KFM is in the middle)
The fact KFM is our grand-daughter and I am singing her praises is immaterial: I admire anyone who puts themself out for the benefit of others; and all the more remarkable when that person is a child. And is it not sad in this day and age that you cannot identify a child on the internet? Cannot sing praise where praise is due. Indeed, we had to jump through hoops to be allowed to photograph her. Our daughter has provided a pinboard for those who care to send encouraging messages - so I'll be printing any kind comments, and adding them to those she has already.

Final lap - she's overtaken the opposition and races for the line, a worthy second