Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Angel's Perspective

Last Sunday I had the enormous pleasure of being a swim angel in the SheRox woman's triathlon. I have never been a swim angel before, but my focus lately has been on encouraging and helping other triathletes with the swim leg. I also wanted to give something back to the sport that has given so much to me.

So what is a swim angel? My job was to swim along side other women who might not feel very confident in the water and in their ability to complete the .5 mile swim. While I was swimming with them I was to offer words of encouragement and, if necessary, a noodle. I swam the course three times with three different groups of women hoping to give something to them to spur them on to the swim finish line. It turned out to be so much more than that. I made connections with women and heard their stories.

I hope that I was able to give something to them, however in reality they gave more back to me than I could ever have imagined or hoped for.
I swam with women of all ages and all abilities. A few needed a noodle and a few did not. Regardless of their ability, their commitment to reaching the finish line and to completing the goal that they set out for themselves was inspiring. Each woman I met had a story - about why she tri-ed. One young woman (who happens to be one of my instructors from dance camp) set a powerful goal for herself and reached high and achieved it. One woman was swimming for her son who had been diagnosed with cancer, another swam for her very young son who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy and is not expected to live. Another woman had just recovered from having a brain tumor removed and, in an interesting coincidence, we were connected to each other through my son and her husband. Out of 2100 women in the race we were paired up to swim together. How amazing is that?

I have a very strong faith and I do not believe in coincidence. I do believe that God brings other people into our lives for a reason and that these women were brought into my life and into each others lives to see that we all share difficult stories and success stories and that we can come together as women to shore each other up and see each other through. I am going to be a swim angel again this weekend on Saturday and then swim with my relay team on Sunday. I will come to each with a whole new, humbled angel's perspective.


  1. Wendy, you truly were an angel for me on Sunday. I tried to enter the swim with a positive attitude, even though I was VERY nervous about it - but, all-in-all, I always try to be a relatively positive person. However, the second I climbed the small hill before approaching the beach, I instantaneously "freaked" - I couldn't believe how far out I would have to swim, and I immediately became extremely nervous. I had trained for the swim, but nonetheless, I knew it was my weakness and that I probably should have trained more than I did. The bike has always been my favorite and my training for the run had been more-than-decent, so I wasn't worried for anything aside from the swim. However, my anxiety about the swim on the actual day of the Tri made me too nervous for words. When I spoke with Lisa before the race in the transition area, she told me that you were a "swim angel" (I didn't realize this) and I immediately became excited and felt better (not only because YOU were a swim angel, but because there was a swim angel program). When I was able to speak to you before the 1st wave started, I started to feel more confident. And finally, when I was paired with you for the race, I became even MORE confident.

    I have to admit, even with you as a swim angel, as I swam out to that first buoy, I was VERY anxious/nervous. I tried to think about something that was inspiring and a strength for me, and I immediately thought about my Grandpa (my mother's step-father). In May, Butch (my Grandpa) died of esophageal cancer - he had suffered from lung cancer previously, as well. When I was very young, he had taught me to swim while we were on vacation in the White Mountains, NH. As I swam out to the first buoy, I said to myself: "Grandpa, please help me swim today - I am swimming for you and Mom (who couldn't be here to watch me do the Tri today)." Almost instantaneously, I felt a rush of adrenaline and a lifted spirit - I could feel him with me and helping me swim. I was able to complete the swim in a lesser time than I had anticipated (until I checked the official scores online, I thought it had taken me 30-35 miles, when in actuality, it took me 21 minutes!). SO, in short: thank you Grandpa and thank you Wendy, for helping to focus, meet my goal, and overcome my biggest fears! You're amazing! <3

  2. Great inspirational story Kristen. Thanks for posting about your Grandpa Butch and about how his memory helped you. I know the pain of losing someone who you admire and love. I am sorry for your loss.