Personal Limits

Written by larry on August 21st, 2012

Menauhant Beach at 6:15 AM again. There’s a fisherman about two jetties to the west, but other than that and a few empty cars in the parking lot I have the place to myself. I wade into the water thigh-deep and then do my signature move for getting wet quickly: face the beach and fall backward. No time to change your mind. In a moment I’m floating on my back enjoying the temperate water and barely noticeable breeze.

A few hundred feet offshore there is a float marking the limit of the swimming area. Ostensibly it’s there to discourage boaters from mowing down swimmers. At this time of morning there are no boaters nearby and I’m the only swimmer.

I’m not a strong swimmer. I can keep my head above water and move around a bit, but its unlikely I’d ever win any sort of competition, at least in part because I’d never enter in the first place. But swimming out to the float has been on my mind since we moved here two springs ago.

Trying it when the lifeguard is on duty would seem the prudent course. I looked at a marine chart for the area last summer – once you’re away from the beach, the depth falls off rapidly to about twenty-five feet. Though once it’s a foot or two deeper than your height, does it really matter?

The water is calm, and I swim a bit further away from the shore. The float is now bigger, more tempting, and actually easier to reach – I’m already a third of the way there.

It’d be a shame to drown out here. If it went that way, the fisherman would probably hear my screams, but would he try to do anything about it? I can’t imagine the 911 responders getting there in less than the four minutes it takes for irreversible brain damage to occur due to asphyxiation.

Morbid thoughts. I continue swimming, telling myself that I’m just going to go a little closer. I can come back when a lifeguard is on duty to actually go out all the way, and maybe even ask beforehand if we’re allowed to swim that far. The float is even bigger now. Even more tempting. I can see some of the fissures in the red ‘Boats Keep Out’ diamond.

Seventy degrees, some high clouds, wind no more than a few knots. Not a bad day to die. Not a bad place to do so either. And everyone does, eventually.

The float is looming above me. I reach it, touch it, and shove off back to the shore. Mostly, it drifts away from my push and I get little additional momentum.

I sense that my respiration rate is up a bit as I swim back to shore, but nowhere near what I’d consider cause for concern. A moment later, I’m trudging through the muddy sand where water meets shore, and in another I’m sipping from the thermos of coffee that was in my bike’s saddle bag.

An achievement. Probably one that every teenager on the Cape has already realized, but an achievement still. There is a school of thoughts that suggests pushing past limits in one portion of your life empowers you to do the same in other portions. Which of course begs the question:

What boundary needs pushing on next?



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