This is part 2 of 3 in our attempt to convey in some fashion this crazy experience from each of our individual points of views. Last week we heard from Alan - this week from me (Mike) - next week from Madhu. So relax and try to enjoy as I try to unscramble the words in my brain in some way to convey my perspective of this days adventure.
After the crazy ups and downs of the first days aborted attempt, we were informed that the next swim window was 7:30 the next morning - quick math in my tired brain concluded with the 2 hour drive, prep time and organization time meant - not much sleep! It felt like the minute I fell asleep we were waking up again. As we awoke at 4am it was crazy to already see the sky starting to light up for sunrise, tough to get used to full sunlight by 5AM!
5:00 and we are on the bus again. There seemed to be a more pensive mood on our way this time - not as light and jovial - much more business like. That could have been a result of the napping as well tho...
As we arrived to Punta Delgada everyone strained for a view of the water - were there whitecaps? Are the ferry's running? Are we a go? As we are milling around the bus the word comes down - we are on! Commence with the butterflies!
Again in a very businesslike manner, everyone went about getting ready - it is starting to sink in - this is happening - I am getting on the pilot boat - getting on the zodiac, motoring away from the pilot boat! I can see Madhu and the Argentineans on shore - are they going to jump? Oh yes picture. Wait - where is the second zodiac? We are motoring in circles, circles on circles - lots of discussion in Chilean - no clue what is going on except - they are still not in the water. Time is ticking on an on, come on guys - it is time to go!
Finally someone seems to have signalled the second pilot boat, and it seems to be making it's way agonizingly slow towards us - unloading the zodiac, and it rushes to shore to pick up Claudia and Santiago - next thing I know - the swimmers are IN!
Our zodiac seems to be having trouble keeping close to the swimmers - they are not sure where to go... we are waving them to follow the pilot boat - but quickly the groups split into 2 - Maurio, Sergio and Alejandra in one group that heads southwards, and Madhu and Christina that are heading more eastward towards the centre channel. We quickly lose sight of the second group - but we are moving at a good clip at this point!
I am getting a bit nervous in the zodiac, as we are taking on a lot of water, and are having a lot of trouble staying anywhere near the swimmers. The bailing bucket floats by - that is not good! So we head to the pilot boat to get another bucket. Having a really hard time keeping track of Madhu here the seas are getting big - and the water seems to be flowing fast - and are we supposed to be NORTH of the starting point? Maybe I am just having a perspective problem...
Wait - WTF - BACK to the pilot boat? What is going on? Get off? What do you mean? Seriously? You have 5 people on here and you want to boot the only english speaker who has any experience in supporting a swimmer? Arguing is not going anywhere - change tactics - do your best to explain to the paramedic how to support Madhu - how he wants to be fed, if he wants to be fed - where the warm up clothes are... success? Not confident - but I am being rushed up a ladder and on to the pilot boat where I can quickly move past the feeling of helplessness and move to cheerleader - from very far away!
The next hour or so was extremely frustrating! I have no ability to assist, assess or help Madhu work through the pain and frustration HE must be feeling! Thank goodness that Christina is sticking with him - GO MADHU GO! Comfort there. As we approach 1h50min - I can see stopping. Attempted conversation, and then - my heart sinks - Madhu waves his hand - it is over. Anger, frustration - could I have worked him through this? Could I have directed him to shore? It seems so close! Sadness - this is the first swim Madhu has not completed - how will he feel? How IS he? Is he ok? Here they come - where is he? Wrapped up in the bottom of the zodiac. Oh **** - he does not look good - I have not seem him look like this - OK - we have to get him warming up. Up the ladder. Get the bag of clothes - WTF - they are soaked - drop them - get in the forward second deck with Madhu. Arms around - touque on, share body heat - what else can we do? Uncontrollable shaking - never seen it this bad. The paramedic cannot seem to get the heart monitor on his finger to get a pulse, the thermometer will not stay in his armpit - does not matter - one job - warm him up.
A navy crewman heads down one more deck and starts the shower - I better go check on that - they want to get him in the water but hot water can kill him! Feel the water - perfect - comfort - these guys know what they are doing. Madhu is in the shower - 2 crew members and the paramedic are tending to Madhu - rubbing him down - I can only stand and watch - wait - the Go Pro - get it - watch - he is responding! Incrementally warm the water - the shaking slows, he can respond verbally now - he can stay upright completely unsupported - he is thinking, he is out of the water - up the ladder - this is NOT the same person that came out of a zodiac completely out of it 25 minutes ago - this is Madhu - remarkable recovery! Coffee, joking, the Argentineans are here - Madhu is talking, laughing - sharing in their success.
There is so much more to the day, but it is overshadowed in my mind by one question - could we have made it? I am continuing to watch Madhu - what is HE thinking, how is he dealing with it? I know he wants to see his family - but we have 5 more days to go here in Chile. What can we do to support him now? Support does not stop on the water - support starts with the idea and frankly never ends - but we have not trained to deal with failure - we train for success - and the lightbulb goes off - we ARE successful! We are here, we are experiencing a new culture to us as a team, we have grown the team - Claudia I and II, Roberto, Martina, all the Argentinians, Claudia and Roberto's family, so many people have become a part of this journey - this is how we define success - experiencing life and events as a team and a family - I am calling this a success, and maybe in the future - we will repeat this success again but with a different on-water conclusion...
No pictures in this post - there is nothing that I can find that begins to convey the range, depth or breadth of emotions that I personally experienced in this days journey - and now - 3 weeks later I can still feel the rush of emotions as I try to communicate and re-live it. Blurry eyes - finish it up here softie.
Thank you all for allowing me to experience and share in this - especially you Madhu - for me personally, I take my inspiration from you not in the form of swimming, or running, or achieving just athletic things, but instead to drive away the fear of new experiences and embrace the strangeness, attacking it wholeheartedly and without hesitation - thank you my friend.