By Verónica Morano | view profile
The call to start the open water season is a ritual for the enthusiastic swimmers willing to enjoy the natural waters of the Argentine territory. The expectations for this year were higher, since the classic Baradero 9km. Open Waters was celebrating its twentieth anniversary; Baradero is a town surrounded by a river which takes on the same name, a branch of the Paraná Delta and has a forty-six-kilometer distance and between eighty-five and ninety-meter wide.
The sun had cheered up since early in the morning and the weather grew hot with the passing of the hours on a clear day. This time, we were 773 participants, bravely crazy for most of the people unaware of swimming and yet, surprisingly admiring our effort to make way downstream. There was a two-kilometer race, one for children, following this great challenge.
During the pep talk, the organizers suggested that the swimmers should jump in the river and splash some water on them before starting. Once the swimmers from the two-kilometer race returned to confirm that the water temperature resembled that of the ever-lasting snowy peaks, some of us began gulping bananas, cereals, dried fruits and cold pasta to get energetically ready to face the challenge.
Improvement in full view
There were more bus services for those who refused to scale two meters to get on a rusted hopper of a garbage truck. I can’t help getting astonished every year at the nearness of the half-naked bodies, vaseline-smeared to the core, chatting relaxed on a public means of transport. The vehicles took us closer to the starting line which was two kilometres upstream. We crossed the camping site where the starting line was and we placed ourselves in the sealed area according to categories.
The elite received the first cheering clapping on the start signal followed by the above-twenty-five-year-old women category.
We wore for the first time an uncomfortable disposable chip to monitor our route. The plastic gadget wrapped around to the wrist looked like a wristwatch which could well go for a children’s birthday party souvenir.
Women dived into the freezing cold water barely catching our breath. Luckily, we were so many that the traffic got heavy to swim comfortably, which enabled us to do some meters with our heads popping out of the river until we could place ourselves more comfortably, with less feet battering over our heads.
Having no other choice but to accept one’s inmense lonesomeness stroke after stroke for about an hour, my thoughts changed as the landscape did.
The cows lined up on the edge of the river had their eyes set on such a bustle, the sky was crystal clear and I thought about the song I had prepared to accompany me along, but its rythm had vanished with such cold water… I then remembered Café Tacuba’s concert the previous night and found some songs to get entertained as I tried to lie to myself that the river wasn’t that cold. That was what it was about? ¿Had I learnt the lesson?
In spite of the temperature, the race ran smoothly and I felt energetically and mentally strong. When I started to feel the vibration resulting from so many simultaneous strokes, I realized that the men were close. A woman wearing a yellow cap stroked ahead with her head popping out of the water for a while and I got to ask her if the crowd I could see in the near distance was the finish line. She nodded ecstatically, so I hurried up and activated my “final sprint”mode.
When we arrived, there were many assistants ready to help us stand upright and I remembered the organizer’s warning who had previously told us about paying attention to the “rustic” land on arrival. The rain on the previous days had prevented the organizers from downloading sand to ease our way out of the river without getting injured. I felt as if I was at a restaurant in the neighborhood of Palermo, where breaded veal cutlet with french fries can become “tender filet mignon wrapped in fine herbs accompanied by rustic potatoes”, simply because no one had wanted to peel off the potatoes… claps for the witty metaphor in spite of having a cut on my knee as a result of having stumbled when getting out of the water.
Most of the swimmers suffered from the cold water and this time I wasn’t the only one who suffered from her “lean meat”. The buses and the trucks came for us to consider it done, and we were satisfied having faced the challenge another year, one which motivates us to keep on swimming each time better.