I often stop to appreciate the joys of being in good physical shape, and long may it last. This came home to me about 10 years ago while I was visiting Hawaii to watch my son, Nigel, do the Hawaii Ironman again. About three days before the race the organizers put out the swim buoys for the 2.4 mile course that runs along the coast about a quarter mile from the shore.
During the race it looks like the Lake Placid Ironman, which I have completed a number of times with a couple of thousand swimmers churning up the water.
Under the water, however, it is not like a lake swim one little bit. You see a wonderland of colorful fish and other sea creatures. As I had ‘time to kill,’ and as I had already started to itch to do a full Ironman race, having only completed much shorter races at that time, I decided to swim the buoys and see how it felt. It felt great! I was out there, essentially on my own, enjoying the view both above and below the water, feeling the gentle swell of the ocean, when about a mile along the course I nearly jumped out of my skin. A huge silver tube leaped out of the water about one yard in front of my face. I didn’t see it coming. A large dolphin!
For the next five minutes or so I was surrounded by a pod of about 15 dolphins, males, females, and two young about three to four feet long. They just played around me in the most unthreatening manner and I had the experience of a lifetime watching dolphin family life. I was sure they were showing off to me! Sure felt like that! They looked just like this picture that I downloaded from the Internet.
One event has stayed with me ever since. Whilst swimming above the group as they cruised very slowly along (for my benefit?) and as I sprinted on the surface to keep up with them, I noticed that they spread out in a symmetrical V-shaped formation, as you see with geese in the sky.
I suspect that they are drafting as they do this to save energy, which works for human swimmers too! For ‘my’ dolphins the V shape was much more shallow than that seen with birds which I suspect, based on my previous studies of fluid mechanics in the nose, is due to the differing kinematic viscosities of water versus air! This dolphin ‘family’ was arranged with the large males in the center of the formation, smaller females on the edges, and the two young just behind and on either side of the central, very large males. The young were messing around – just like my kids did in the back of the car when they were ‘bored.’ This lasted about 20 seconds, when one of the largest males looked back at them, just a glance, and they immediately stopped fighting and straightened right up. I never did manage to do it that well with my kids. I suspect that they knew what would happen if they didn’t – big trouble!
Could I have experienced this without being in great shape? Absolutely not! This is but one example of things I enjoy whilst training, from running with friends over the Golden Gate Bridge to doing an early morning bike ride with my son, Duncan! In ten days my youngest son, Nigel, will be picking me up to go to the Eagleman race in Maryland where we are both competing. It is my first race since I had my aortic stent inserted, without which I’d be a goner. Life is for living, my friends. Don’t waste it!
Give athletics a try, you might like it, however many years you may have under your belt!