Sadly, my kayaking plans for this evening were canceled due to potentially stormy weather on Flathead Lake. It’s a bit of a letdown because I was very much looking forward to my first group paddle under the full moon.
However, I now get to tell about my experience on the lake last Friday. So let’s back up a week.
A new acquaintance had asked me to kayak for an open swim race. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but of course, I said yes. It would be an opportunity to meet some new people and get out on the lake for the first time. And who wouldn’t want to be out on the water on a hot and sunny July afternoon? I was a bit nervous though, about both finding the location and my potentially precariously-loaded kayak. Was it tied down well enough to stay put at highway speeds?
Just when I was sure I had passed the park without seeing it, (Yikes—No data!) I rounded a corner, and there it was. The kayak was still attached, and I had arrived on time. Relief.
After we kayakers received our instructions, I volunteered to be the sweeper. That meant I would follow the swimmer in last place to ensure his/her safety. Honestly, I took the sweeper position because I had no idea how fast the swimmers would be. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to keep up with those in the lead.
It took me a few minutes to realize why my swimmer was in last place. She was paraplegic. Think about it. She was swimming an entire mile in unpredictable open water, solely with her arms! A determined optimist, she occasionally paused, checking in with me and smiling every time. I did what I could to encourage her and guide her without overdoing it. At times, it seemed like she wasn’t making progress due to the winds and the currents, but that apparently didn’t matter to her. I soon concluded that she would finish at her own pace. Giving up was not an option.
Grateful and inspired are not strong enough words to describe how I felt about this experience. My swimmer thanked me at the end of the race and said she couldn’t have done it without me. I can’t adequately convey the gift she gave to me. My maiden kayak voyage on Flathead Lake was certainly memorable. Lucky me.