It’s hard to carry good luck charms when you’re swimming. Other athletes can have lucky socks or underwear; maybe they carry lucky coins or key rings in their pockets. But swimmers don’t have socks or underwear or pockets. I will be wearing an official race cap, not some lucky one, during the 10 mile swim, and while I thought about getting a special swimsuit for the race, I decided to go with the one I wear most often: I know where it will chafe.
What swimmers do have is their bodies, and so body adornment often takes the place of the lucky charm. Female swimmers do their nails: see this BuzzFeed collection of photos from the 2012 Olympics and this SwimSwam piece on fingernails at the 2014 NCAA championships. During summer swim league season, little kids (and big ones too) write on their skin with Sharpies, decorating themselves with team mascots or trash talk: there are many children with “EAT MY BUBBLES” written on their backs.
I have plans for self-decoration for the 10 mile swim. First, my toenails:
Teal is the color of ovarian cancer awareness, and my friend C, who is flying out to Minnesota to be on my support team for the swim, has started an organization called Teal Toes to educate people about the disease and promote early detection. Ovarian cancer can be overlooked because people do not recognize the symptoms, but early diagnosis saves lives. I will have a fresh coat of teal polish for the race.
And for good luck? I am a medievalist, and one of my favorite texts is Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert, written in the eighth century. Bede tells us that St Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, would stand in the cold waters of the Northumbrian coast, praying all night, and in the morning otters would come and warm his feet.
Cuthbert didn’t swim, but he spent a lot of time in water, and he was cold. I’ve stuck my feet in the water at Lindisfarne; it’s a mite nippy. The temperature in Lake Minnetonka will be much warmer, but there’s no way around it — it will almost certainly be colder than I’m used to. And I love the story of the otters: when you are cold and wet and exhausted, they come to comfort you.
However, I am unlikely to attract real otters — I’m not very saintly — so I ordered these temporary tattoos from SwimOutlet, and they came in the mail. They are a good size; one will cover the top of my foot. The swim is just 12 days away, but I’m feeling good about it, and I’ll have otters on my feet.
What do you do for good luck in a swim?