My first dips in Walden were interludes on hot Saturday morning runs with the Concord Runners. Making our way through the woods we would throw off our shoes and wade in, shorts and all, to swim a few strokes. We never ventured far. We were always out and off again. But the water felt so refreshing and it seemed special in some indescribable way. We dipped into what I now know as Thoreau’s Cove, below where Thoreau built his cabin.
Growing up in Australia I learnt to swim, though my early memories of it being something I wanted to do for fun were marred by fear of the deep end of 50 meter swimming pools, and shark attacks on Sydney’s beaches.
I really started swimming when I came to the States in my mid thirties. Initially I swam with various masters swim groups. I guess someone must have convinced me to try another triathlon. (I had done a few in Australia and California prior to having kids.) And I must have said ‘yes’. So I ended up at Walden, well known as a triathlon training ground. And I joined the triathlon community.
We would meet on the beach anywhere from 5 am to 7 am, the regular meeting hours for triathletes then and today, and discuss training, races, injuries, how we felt that day and what we might or might not do.
We would swim in small groups. The right ‘corridor’ past Red Cross beach down to Sandy Point was the favorite short swim if you were training for a ‘mini tri’. At some point, someone suggested venturing further.
We used to cling pretty close to the shoreline. Perhaps we thought we could swim further that way, no cutting corners. Week by week as the summer progressed, we would swim another arc of the pond. At least one summer I remember swimming the circumference by the end of the season. Always in counterclockwise direction.
I never thought of swimming across the pond then, though I did see some who would. I was never particularly fast, or strong. Just average, but I could get around.
After a few years (and a couple of marathons thrown in), it became clear that my body was not cut out for all the pounding, or even for all the spinal contortions of a racing bike.
Athletic injury and I gave up running, cycling and triathlons.
But my ties with Walden only deepened.