The air and the water are the same temperature: 82 degrees. The water is crystal clear with only the slightest ripple of a current. Per usual I put my goggles on and my head down to get the job done. I beat everyone to the finish of our 2.3 mile swim. While I wait for the rest of the group on the beach (not for very long as they are all very effective swimmers), I am thinking about what I have to do that day, completely oblivious to the glorious view surrounding me.
Then my friends and fellow Finfolk arrive at the beach playfully and cheerfully coasting in on lazy waves. They are excitedly recalling to each other all of the aquatic life that they encountered along the way: a spotted eagle ray, a green turtle, a hawksbill turtle, and even a seahorse. I had seen nothing.
This was my first experience with a group of amphibious humans known as the Finfolk. Since the 1980s they have been meeting every Saturday at various beaches around St. Croix to swim in the Caribbean Sea. It is a ragtag group of various ages, professions, and walks of life brought together each week by a shared love for swimming (and breakfast!).
I had the pleasure of living in St. Croix for nearly three years. I credit the Finfolk with teaching me one of the most important lessons I have learned in my life, a lesson that gave me the gift of continuing to love participating in my sport well beyond the time when many of my peers have burned out.
In swimming and in life, it is important to take the time to see and maybe even follow the sea turtles!
When I realized that I had completely missed the best and most important part of the swim, I learned that sometimes the goal is not to win the race, because sometimes it is not a race. Sometimes swimming easy is better than swimming hard and sometimes going with the flow is better than trying to force something. The real challenge is being able to recognize which “sometimes” is now.
My work ethic and discipline have served me very well in my life. I am glad that there were times when I was more focused on the end goal and simply pushed through a challenging chapter. However, I do feel that my competitive swimming career would have been enhanced and perhaps even prolonged had I been better able to recognize the moments and experiences when it would have been best to take my time, enjoy the scenery, and let things happen.
I believe it is possible and important to be able to do both. Many of my fellow Finfolk compete in triathlons. They definitely train and race hard when it is time to train and race hard. All are very successful and hard working professionals. They can also lime* with the best of them! They are some of the happiest people I know.
I apply this awareness and perspective to my professional and personal life now, too. It has changed my life in so many positive ways. Thank you St. Croix Finfolk Family!
If you would like to swim with me in St. Croix in November check out The St. Croix Coral Reef Swim at www.swimrace.com! This year will be my 11th year participating in the race.
It is obviously my favorite open water swim!
*According to the urban dictionary Lime is a Trinidadian word which means to socialize and hang out.