Itís been a summer of swimming. In part because of the gloriously hot weather that lasted for an unusually long time by Wellington standards. In part because I injured my back in December. I have a prolapsed disk that is taking a long long time to un-prolapse or whatever it is meant to do.
At itís worst, just before Christmas, I was taking the maximum daily dose of tramadol, plus panadol, plus synflex for inflamation, and valium as a muscle relaxant... and I was still in agony. Mornings were the worst time. Every movement was incredibly painful. Coughing, sneezing or even yawning was excruciating. My girlfriend would pass me my pills and water, which I would try and drink lying sideways without lifting my head, dribbling water onto the pillow, and then lie there groaning until the pain eased enough to move a little. Then I would have to be helped out of bed and held up until I could straighten my legs and start walking with tiny steps, sobbing and moaning.
Once things started to settle down a little I was able to get to the pool, and swimming helped immensely, so I started swimming every day.
I keep telling people that Iíve hurt my back, but actually my back doesnít hurt. Because of the nerve that is pinched I have pain from my hip, down my leg, to my ankle. My back feels fine.
I couldnít sit at all for a while (or at least I couldnít bear the pain of sitting for more than a few moments). I started a new job (here) in February, and at that stage I could only sit for about 5 Ė 10 minutes at a time. The occupational therapist balanced my keyboard and monitor on a pile of filing boxes until a standing height desk could be arranged. And I stood at the back in all the meetings. At the end of my first week we had a planning day with the whole agency, and I really really wish I had gone up the front and explained to everyone at once why I was standing Ė because I think now I have explained it to the entire agency, one person at a time.
I can now manage to sit for about half an hour, 3 or 4 times a day. Not quite long enough to get through a movie yet!
Anyway, since I still canít ride a bike or go to the gym, I have taken to swimming in the ocean Ė and in lakes when Iím further north. It sure beats staring at the bottom of a swimming pool several times a week.
I have quite a phobia about deep water though Ė Iím not sure what Iím scared of exactly, but if I canít see the bottom I start to panic Ė sometimes I make it halfway to where Iím going and suddenly feel absolutely terrified and have to turn around and get back to shore as fast as I can. But, somehow, sometimes, I manage to keep going forwards.
Iíve swum through schools of fish at Oriental Bay, glided past jellyfish at Scorching Bay, negotiated tangles of weeds in lake Tarawera, dodged jet skis on Rotoma. Back in January I took part in the 750m Ocean Swim around the fountain in Oriental BayÖ and this Sunday I am heading up to Auckland for the King of the Bays 2.8km swim on the North Shore. Iíve swum about 2.5km in the harbour (round the lighthouse past Oriental Parade) and further in the pool, so I should manage ok.
I donít know how much of a passion this will remain after my back heals though. When Iím struggling back from the lighthouse and the waves are washing into my mouth every time I try to take a breath, sometimes I wish I was whizzing past the harbour on my bike, not bobbing around in it. On a calm day though, itís pretty magical. One night I went swimming in Oriental Bay at about 10pm, and it was so warm and so still, the water was like a mirror, and only my strokes sent ripples through the reflected lights of the city. I was too scared to swim out deeper in the dark though, so I stayed so close to shore that my fingers brushed the sandy bottom.
So if you were one of the people out enjoying the balmy evening, and wondered who that strange person was splashing backwards and forwards in the shallow water at night, well, that was me.