The Longhair and I were up at 4:00 am on Sunday morning in preparation to accompany Morven Maclean out to the start of the Specsavers Ironman swim (give his guest house, Barnacle Bed and Breakfast, a bash). Morven formed part of the large volunteer force providing support for the almost 1 800 swimmers for the first leg of the 2012 Specsavers Ironman.
We gathered at the harbour and waited for the rain to abate before motoring out at 6:30 am – two 140 horsepower motors ensured that we were at the start line in record time.
The professionals started their swim at 6:50 followed by the amateurs at 7:00 – what a sight it was as they churned the water like gannets diving – all trying to get a goodly distance in before the wind got up. On the second leg (swimmers complete two rounds of the course with a run up and down the beach in between) the wind decided to make it’s presence known and we watched as some swimmers agonisingly ploughed the water, making centimetres of progress for every few swim strokes.
In amongst the swimming masses was a yellow canoe, inside was young Nicholas Garwood, a cerebral palsy sufferer being pulled by his Father, Kevin Garwood in a show of love and solidarity that has few equals. Accompanying them was Richard van Wildemann on a Malibu board to protect and assist Nicholas should the need arise.
Nicholas and Kevin were there to take on the full distance Ironman for the first time.
A harness around Kevin, hooked to the nose of the canoe was their lifeline connection. Every now and then one could see young Nicholas’ arm raised as he encouraged his Father on with his swim of love.
The cut off time for the swim was 9:20 am and the countdown on the beach began with 20 minutes to go. At that stage Kevin and Nicholas were approaching the last large mark of the course prior to making the run to Hobie beach, through the surf to the finish point. Morven manoeuvred us as close to the beach as possible to watch the unfolding drama. With less than 10 minutes to go they were halfway to the surf line and one could see Nichols urging his Father on. Digging deep Kevin stepped up the pace to make it with minutes to spare. A quick moment of love and concern between the two and Kevin raced off to beat the cut off time whilst volunteers wrapped Nicholas in a space blanket to warm him up.
Due to the wind, Kevin elected not to have Nicholas accompany him on the cycle leg, though.
I still choke up when I think of that amazing moment – I have a photograph of the two looking at each other and one can see the understanding and love pass (it is a bit blurry though).
Team Garwood was born after Kevin received a video clip from his pastor’s wife that would change his life forever. It was a clip called ‘My Redeemer Lives’ and it showed an American father, Dick Hoyt, participating in an Ironman event with his disabled son, Rick, who has cerebral palsy caused by loss of oxygen to his brain at birth. “I burst into tears when I saw it. As a father one of my biggest dreams was to one day be there for my son and support him in sporting events. I could never do that. Over the years I almost took on my son’s disability and limited my own physical abilities. When I saw this video I realised there was a way to compete with my son.”