75km Round Lantau Swim: Into the Wild
Yesterday afternoon was all about recovery, and we ate and napped all that we could, to be able to clock another 15k today. Thanks to my wife Anne, we have been having amazing food: 100% vegan (barring a bit of cheese), 100% natural, 100% homemade, nothing pre-packed. Even my ‘racing’ food is natural. I’m back to the good old time when bananas, dry fruits, dry nuts and homemade granola were the fuel of trekkers and probably long distance cyclists. The theory behind this is that meat, dairies, packed and refined foods create inflammation in the body, which delays recovery. A lot of cycling teams now have special cooks who provide this kind of foods on the main Tours. The success of this expedition rely a lot on our capacity to fully recover, so the Baillet couple has taken this topic very seriously, as food has been proven to be one of the key elements for this. We are also catering Bruce, who happily enjoys our homemade hummus and quinoa salad. I have been feeling surprising strong in all respect since Day 1, and I credit food quality to be a big part of it.
5:15am wake-up for an early start. The strategists have analyzed the tides, and have noted that after 10:30am, we will not be able to make progress anymore. So today we really have a tight deadline. In spite of this, it took us a bit too much time to get our acts together, and we only were in the water at 6:30am, later than our target. Today we will have to make do without kayakers, as only the support boat will accompany us, but no traffic is anticipated and we don’t need to be boxed like yesterday.
The beginning felt a bit chilly. I guess our mind and muscles were still a bit asleep and reluctant to get going. However, within 5’, I was back into the groove and so seemed to be Bruce, looking at his powerful stroke. As usual, I did a bit of backstroke to enjoy the out-of-this World scenery: the airport in background, the drilling machines all stopped for the night, dark water; it looked like a post apocalypse scenery in a cheesy sci-fi movie. This was for real, though, and the first indicators of my Garmin watch showed that we were moving very fast: current, yeahh!
We soon left the messy machinery behind us and went in the Wild. Lantau Island is in fact very untouched, and apart from the first hour, we spent the rest of the trip today in natural landscape. It is hard to believe that this is part of Hong Kong. We are truly living in an amazing place.
The weather was gorgeous again. I saw two sunrises, kind of. Indeed, I first saw one sunrise behind a mountain, but soon another mountain hid the sun from us. Then suddenly the sun overcame the second mountain, and here came a second sunrise. Watching this, I realized that the support crew was agitated, and so was the people of the boat. ‘Pink dolphins’, I heard. ‘Where? where?’, was I shouting, in a desperate –and pathetic- attempt to raise myself above the water. Not seeing anything, we kept going. But then again agitation made me stop. And there, 50m on the right, two top pinkish fins, and suddenly, the full body of a dolphin raising above the water (much more skillfully than my past attempt I reckon). What an emotion! I looked behind and on the left to ask the boat crew if they saw that, and then… I saw the big Buddha, enlightened (pun intended) by the radiant sun in his back. Here it is, here is my PERFECT MOMENT. The sun, the Big Buddha, Bruce and me and the pink dolphins, all perfectly aligned. That’s it, I am in ecstasy, frozen by the emotion of this unbelievable feat. I can pack up and go home now, thanks for organising this.
Well, not quite, as we still have 11k to go. Ouch, that thought will keep me grounded for a while… We still had some current in favour, as we flew past Tai O from far, in fact, I didn’t even see it. Just like the Tung Chung corridor yesterday, this is a very familiar place for me, as cyclists usually stop there before making their way to the Big Buddha, with sometimes a loop on the infamous Sham Wat hill. I must have been deeply in the zone for over two hours as my souvenirs are all blurry then. I know that during this period, my shoulder that had been bothering me a bit since day 1 stopped being a concern and I had some great moments of swimming. As the tide was low, we had to put our feet on the Earth for the first time in 3 days, walking through the beach opposite Peaked Hill. That was the only diversion for a while. Soon enough, we had done 13k, and as soon as Bruce started to say (once again!) that we should aim at swimming more than 15k, the tide changed direction, and we started to slow down. It worsened and worsened, and we got to an extremely exposed place at 14k. The last kilometer was pure hell, the hardest of all. After 14.5k we stopped for a second, saying: ‘let’s aim at that blue boat close by and stop there’. 10’ after, we were still at the same place, and had to call it a day, at 14.8k.
The morale is high as we know we are on target. Tomorrow is another 5am wake-up call as we will race once again against the current change. None of us want to get smashed at the end of our swim tomorrow, like we did today, so this time we’ll get ready on time.
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