Flowers Sea Swim 2012

The Flowers Sea Swim was this past weekend, and in a total switch up from last year, I swam while NS walked! I actually think he had a harder time than I did, due to the blazing heat and the amount of baggage I gave him to carry. That'll teach him to participate!

Like always, the race began at the Ritz. Every year, swimmers either head south from the Ritz to Royal Palms or north from the Ritz to Tiki Beach. In any event, the course is one mile long - a challenging distance for those of us who don't swim regularly!

I think I respect nearly every function held at the Ritz, as they did a really great job of containing and controlling an extra 1,000 people on the beach. 

That's right - at least 1,000! (My estimate. There were 831 swimmers who finished the race, plus plenty of walkers like my personal photographer, and loads of volunteers.)

Hectic! As you can see, Saturday was an ultra-sunny day, so my pre-race routine consisted primarily of sunscreen application.

The pre-race period  also gave me the chance to find my fellow swimming pals. Everyone was all smiles before the race began.

CRH and AH share a moment on dry land.

I had dreams of being able to pose in a photo like the one above with NS and then swim the race with him, but someone had a basketball championship to win the next day and needed to "save his legs." So I had to recruit other sources of moral support.

SM: Freshly landed back in Cayman, but wouldn't miss the race for anything.
Because I needed her.
 In reality, there were plenty of friends and coworkers involved in the race. I found DB, trying to stay in the shade for as long as possible.

I love the arrow - don't try to hide, DB!

Here's another swimmer/photographer couple. Delegating the camera duties is actually is a smart way to go.

Spotted! RA and BB

Most of the photos above were taken by myself, but eventually it was time to put on the cap and goggles and hand the lens over.

SM and me: Looking more ready than we feel.

And then we were herded into the water.

I actually really hate being herded.

SM and I stayed near the back of the pack. I didn't see the need to put myself into a position to get run over by all those in the Under-20 Minute group.

The course's entry points were neatly divided into sections so that you could place yourself according to expected completion time. I did a very fast self-assessment and headed to the back.

SM and me: Looking more excited than we feel.

Right after the shot above was taken, I decided to reposition myself slightly away from the shore, and before I knew it...

...we were off! The whole lot of us. (Sidenote: Shouldn't there be a violation for the wearing of swim suits that look like underwear? Front and center? Anybody?)

I wasn't prepared for how crowded the course would be. Despite the fact that we had the entire sea to occupy, it seemed like no matter where I went, two other people came with me.

The beach had a few extra occupants as well, with normal spectators checking out the event in addition to the official "Walk and Watch" participants. (Basically, you can elect to pay to walk the beach and watch the swimmers. It sounds silly, but the money goes to a great cause.)

NS wasn't my only "watcher." I had a mini fan club on the beach!

BK and KK: Looking cooler than they feel.
 With over 800 people in the water, you may wonder how my entourage finally spotted me. It was easy: I made sure my ill-fitting red cap formed a nice cone shape on my head, which no camera lens could miss.

Plus, no matter what the activity, I tend to be all elbows.

I figured since NS was snapping away on the Canon, why not try out a few different strokes? Just for the sake of variety, mind you.

Ahhh breaststroke: Where I get to breathe on every stroke.

Backstroke: Breathing at its best.
You'll notice quite a variety in the shades of the photos above. That's because NS figured, if I got to try out different strokes, why shouldn't he try out several camera settings? And by "several" I mean every.

I did manage to wave once or twice during the course of the race. To be perfectly honest, by the middle of the race, I was pretty miserable. Apparently, drinking lots of fresh water and having at least one complete meal makes sense before an athletic event. Lesson learned.

Muscling through, despite a stomach ache from ingesting too much sea water.

My mini fan club stuck with me the whole way, faithfully cheering me on, despite my predictions of "losing my cookies" mid-race. They even enlisted the cheering efforts of willing volunteers, like the ever-smiling, ever-helpful AJ.

With their help, I made progress.

When swimming south from the Ritz to Royal Palms, the finish line is slightly after a bend in the coastline. Rounding the bend and seeing the finish within a manageable distance was such a relief.

Even crossing the finish line was hectic! With four or five people crossing the line at the same time, the race officials were challenged to keep us in order. Basically, I finished #427, and my friends that finished near #150 were ten minutes faster than me. That means in the space of ten minutes, nearly 300 people crossed the line.

Can you see my little cone head? I'm finally there! (Final time: 43:48)
Fortunately, no matter where we placed, we all received medals.

After getting out of the water, I got my sorry self to the food & water tent and followed up all that salty fluid with some fresh Flowers bottled water. Relief!

Me and DB: Looking as relieved as we feel.
The race officials cut off the course at 75 minutes, and then it was time for dignitaries, sponsors, awards, and prize drawings. For the remainder of the afternoon.

Governor Duncan Taylor addressing the crowd
as a Flowers Sea Swim participant
Fortunately, we found a space in the shade where we could recover without continuing to get scorched.

The faces of the Flowers Sea Swim: SM, BK, SM, TW, DB, and JG (clockwise from top left)

I think I speak for most people in the crowd when I say that the speeches went on too long. But one interesting speech came from Paolo Eros Cerrizi, an Italian swimmer who managed to finish the race with handcuffs on both his hands and feet - a feat that has been submitted as a new Guinness World Record! (Check out this link to see what other swimming notables were in the crowd.)

New record holder

When things got a little boring, I ran around and snapped a few shots.

RA and BB enjoying/enduring the post-race.

NS found a soft place to lay his head and literally took a nap to recover from all that photography.
Back under the tent, a couple listens
for their names to be called in the prize drawings.

In all seriousness, the Flowers Sea Swim is a wonderful event that attracts swimmers from all over the island and around the world. Local businesses donate over $100,000 in prizes (including many airline tickets), and nearly one in every four swimmers wins! Besides, I can't really imagine a more beautiful setting than Seven Mile Beach for swimming a race of any distance.

I'd like to commend the Flowers family for all they do in organizing, running, and contributing to this event. All registration proceeds are donated to the Feed Our Future charity, which helps to provide meals to school-aged children in the Cayman Islands.

Dara Flowers and Frank Flowers, Sr. on the podium after the race.

I did it! I swam a mile!

For all a full set of photos we took during the 2012 Flowers Sea Swim, click here.

See you next year in the water!


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