Movement

12 June 2019

It has been a very long while, but here I am…

Have you ever done something for 16 hours straight? I mean, really done one thing continuously. Have you slept that long? What about driving without naps or sitting down to a meal. Heck… have you ever moved your body for 16 hours without even stopping to use the bathroom? I have. I know what it is like to be continuously in motion for longer than I can drive, or run, or sleep, or really do anything else imaginable because I swam that long. I can be categorized amongst a small group of elite people in this world – many of whom I know in person – who have pushed their body beyond its limits, more and less than 16 hours but all equally prosperous. This is an honor I can’t begin to explain. When you go this long, distance almost becomes irrelevant. To go and have gone is the accomplishment. 

I’ve been exposed to endurance athleticism for longer than I can remember. I never thought of marathon swimming to the extent of it being at the same caliber as say an endurance run event, maybe because for me swimming comes more easily. I began toying with the thought of running a 50-mile race recently and found myself stumped questioning if I’d be able to complete this. Ultimately, I’m relatively confident I can if for nothing else, I know I have the mental capacity to overcome the struggles I may endure. Or so I’d like to believe. 

So, from where did this derive? This drive or passion or energy outlet – the latter I think most fitting for most of my life. I’d like to blame my father, and I mean that in the most endearing way, as he is the reason I was exposed to the incredible sport of open water swimming and from such a young age when youth (by number, not by character) was seldom found at each event. For this, I am grateful and I appreciate the value of exposure. Though as rewarding as that was, I think I applied this as my outlet because I believe in it. I believe in the power of this sport. 

To me, open water swimming is not showing up to a race start smothered in butt paste with goggles in hand and laughing with your fellow water logged friends. No, that is the fun part – like the cherry on top. It is the reward for overcoming all the seconds and minutes and hours of internal struggle that you fought through to get to the fun. Rather, this sport is therapy. This sport offers an outlet, an escape, a sense of freedom. I have cried in my goggles because of physical pain due to my environment (i.e. swimming my first ice mile in 35F water temperature or vomiting for eight hours across Lake Tahoe wishing harder than ever to feel dry land). I have laughed alongside kayakers whom I respect more than many close people in my life. There are so many in-betweens of these two scenarios, but I know I have run, run so very far away from people and situations and problems and emotions too extreme to face head on all while pushing stroke after stroke after stroke in the water.

We all experience highs and lows; successes and failures. It hurts to feel and some part of me is gluttonous for the numbing that comes from physically pushing when my mind is too weak in other areas of life. This might sound harsh or extreme, but I know I am not alone in this. How could anyone endure hours upon hours of discomfort if not with more grandiose intent. I believe in athleticism, I believe in endurance, and if nothing else, I know my truth… my greatest and most authentic truth is swimming and being in the water, be it to splash around or push beyond my preconceived capabilities. I slipped off the bandwagon lately and lost sight of my work-life balance, but I’m working to improve this. The power we each hold in making the decision to move and live each day experiencing life through movement is as beautiful as life itself. 

I’m back

20 March 2018

It is lunchtime on a Tuesday and as I sit here at Starbucks sipping a coffee with almond milk (because I took up coffee – particularly espresso – last year and haven’t been able to turn back), I can’t help but laugh a little. I thought it’d be wise to reflect a bit and put down some of my thoughts onto paper. Why? Well, my birthday is Thursday. Thursday, I will be 28 years old. It’s kind of a weird age I think because there is such a dichotomy in where people are in their lives at 28 years old. I’ve got friends from high school who are married, who have a child… or multiples, who have jobs they call their career. All of these things are great, but I also have friends who are still finding themselves, following their passions, and figuring out where they want to be. I think I somewhat fall into the gray area of this whole realm.

I have lived so many lives already; seen so many sunrises and sunsets from so many points on the globe. I’ve climbed mountains, swam oceans and rivers, done volunteer work in slums at the equator line in Africa, and splashed with penguin and dolphin near the Antarctic. Life has given me love – with family, with friends, and in the very few relationships I’ve opened myself to fully, it has given me love as well as heartbreak. It has taught me strength, perseverance, and acceptance. I am grateful, very grateful. Though I did not imagine I’d be sitting at Starbucks two days before my 28th birthday thinking about what to do next.

Let me preface, I finally started a job in November that I thought was THE job. I love the industry, I love the connections I was making, I love every aspect of what the job entailed. Despite the enormous good, it was not the right situation… I’ll leave it at that. Anywho, I follow a good amount of social media accounts that got me thinking. For years as I traveled (you’ll see old posts from when I initially started this blog site) people suggested I become a blogger – my passion for writing, for travel, and for adventure would be able to share middle ground. I never thought possible but now I think why not. Granted, I’m going to have to learn how to focus in more on specific topics or themes because I can have a tendency to cover too many bases.

To save you from my rambles any longer (for now), here it is. This is where I’m going get back to me; where I am going to share my travels in hopes they offer you insights, my adventures and swimming endeavors in hopes they offer you inspiration, and maybe some healthful posts including food or exercise as therein lies one of my other biggest passions. I hope you can appreciate that in revamping and recreating this site, I’m rediscovering myself. I know that each experience leads us to the next and there will always be more good to come. So I continue to take on the world, know that your follow is appreciated and welcomed. Also while you’re at it, follow me on IG: @dseacliff for more of the adventures.

Now don’t mind me, I’ll just be sitting here day dreaming of my next trip back to Hawaii…

Maui • March 2018

Two for One Bahamamamas

17 March 2016 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Alright, so funny start to this trip. I’ll preface this with a little background, though. I arrived to Nassau just after noon today, a day earlier than my friends are due to arrive (cheaper today than tomorrow, from NY). Tonight I will be couch surfing with a man I’m sure will be a great host (let’s hope) named Eddie, then will be meeting my friends at Atlantis tomorrow for the remainder of the weekend.

I arrive to JFK in good time and with no issues, I clear security quickly, and I prepare for departure. My zone is called last – which I’m perfectly happy with, since it’s usually just a dash to hurry up and wait. When I get on the plane I find that I’m conveniently situated in a middle seat surrounded by two people who like to take advantage of both their arm rests, leaving me sans. The woman in the isle seat falls asleep instantly…elbows out, and all. And my television doesn’t work. Right after the seat belt sign was turned off, I head to the back to stretch my legs and hat with the flight attendants (one of my favorite ways to pass time on flights). In conversation I mentioned (not complaining…more jokingly than anything) my seat situation and they immediately were beyond kind and said there was another open seat they’d move me to. When I told them I was headed to the Bahamas for a bachelorette party weekend, they handed me a bottle of wine on the house, led me to the open seat, – a window with extra leg room and no one in the middle – and said have fun! Okay, okay. I can’t say this is the first time this has happened… And okay, maybe it does happen a fairly often. But still, super nice of them!


The flight was smooth. I smiled as we landed seeing that familiar blue water; my favorite shade of sea. Then it got a little funny. I did just a little reading before I came down for this trip – mind you, I generally prefer not to read up on the place I’m going so that I leave myself open to a complete local experience, upon making local friends. I’ve been to the Bahamas on multiple occasions and I know how the taxi system works here. They charge you nearly $40 to get from the airport to downtown. I have wondered about a bus but haven’t tried it yet – again, not a common thing from the airport, as they generally don’t make a stop at the airport. I figured out that if you take a little walk to the nearest Shell gas station, you can in fact grab a bus from there. So, as I was going through customs I mentioned this to the man checking my passport. Ready for this? Bet you’ve never had small talk with a customs agent that has led to him standing up, exiting his both, saying while signaling with his hands, “come over here,” to you. Well, it happened, and it was great. He smiled and asked how do you know about that (in reference to what I mentioned to him about the local means). He laughed and explained a little. He told me exactly where to go and what to do and wished me luck before heading back into his booth.

As I walked out of the customs terminal are, I purchased a bottle of water so that I’d have change to properly pay my bus fare. This is when I got my second laugh. The woman behind the counter chuckled when I asked for quarters so I could pay for the bus. She said wished me luck as she told me it was a long walk. I walked out of the airport and headed down the road taxis use to exit the airport grounds (thank goodness I’m a light packer). As I’m walking down the side of the road in the bit of grass along the side, a man honks. He yells, “taxi?” And I proceed to tell him I don’t more than eight dollars on me (I didn’t want to break a bigger bill and had just broken the ten for water and cab fare). We spoke across the road to one another for a few moments then after a millisecond of debate in his head, he then told me to hop in and that he would take me to the bus stop because it was on his way anyway. Relax, he was legit. I know the routine…he really was a cab driver, I wasn’t being naive.

Joe was his name. What a sweet man, he was. He drove me a good 15 minutes from the airport to a bus stop that was just about half way to where I was going and didn’t ask for anything. I gave him the remaining change I had – keeping just enough to pay the bus fare, and took his card so I could call him if my friends and I decide to stray from Atlantis over the weekend. Anyway, Joe told me about his upbringing and different cultural aspects of growing up in the Bahamas. I love taxi talk.


I hopped out of Joe’s taxi and into a passing bus, and instantly felt like I was back riding in a Matatu in Kenya (Google it – even Google won’t do that experience justice, though). Me and the locals and few in between. I love that. I got off in downtown and found a neat little bar where I met some great people, some traveling by cruise others who had flown down for a little stay. Side note: I got pooped on by a bird on my way to the bar. This happens to me far too often, but they say it’s good luck so j guess I can’t complain?! Anywho, Gary and Donna from Philly, Lauren from Atlanta, Justin & co. from CT, and all the others (did you know I like making friends?) were great company.

River Swimming 

12 October 2015

Who knew that rivers other than the Hudon could be so much fun?! Okay, that is sort of a joke. I am totally bias to the sweet Hudson but I can’t deny the good times I’ve had in other rivers, especially this month. 

A few weeks ago Kathleen Wilson put on a wonderful Swim Around Charleston event! It is a relatively new swim event but one that I’m excited to watch grow. What could be better than a 12-mile swim, surrounded by dolphin, set around a beautiful city, and run so well that the start is almost early it is so on time. I wasn’t a swimmer for this event this year, I had the pleasure of hanging with Kathleen on the official boat all day, but I fully intend to jump in to complete this swim in the very near future! I’d recommend it to anyone. https://m.facebook.com/pages/Swim-Around-Charleston/180662841996941

This weekend I went back to Chattanooga to participate in the Swim the Suck 10-mile swim down the Tennessee River Gorge. Now this is a little hidden gem I’ve known about! I participated in this swim two years ago and loved every aspect of the event! From Friday night’s dinner cooked by Hank Hill, race director Karah Nazor’s father, to the local brew kegs at the end, and every second in between. This is another event I have to give huge kudos to the race director for because through all the chaos, she smoothly runs an event that makes everyone feel as though they are family and keeps them coming back. http://www.swimthesuck10mile.com

Enough preaching about how great the events are in general, which goes unsaid if you have been to either of them but a little more about this weekend in Chattanooga.

I arrived Friday afternoon a few hours before the pre-race meeting/dinner so I headed to the Brewhaus to meet my CouchSurfing host for the weekend, Caleb. Don’t worry, it isn’t as sketchy as it sounds – and I have survived each of my CS experiences with a smiling face. I met Caleb and chatted for a bit, then headed down to the river to jump in for a splash with Victoria (always love seeing her – and she was the reason I came to Swim the Suck my first year!), Randy (I’m working on getting this guy into the cold), and Caroline! After a quick stretch out swim we headed up to Outdoor Chattanooga to check-in. The incredible Karah presented a PowerPoint highlighting the key bits. I won one of the raffle drawings which was entry in to 2016 Kingdom Swim in Vermont! Stoked for that. 

    
  

Victoria and I! 

The Vermontster Ice Swimmers meet again!   
 My assigned kayaker never showed to the event so a dedicated floater kayaker stepped up and offered his service. Now, I won’t deny my unease and he totally knows this because we joked about it after, but in talking with Erich at the dinner he informed me he had never piloted a swimmer before. I was a little hesitant because I’m used to putting my trust in my kayaker (thanks for spoiling me, dad and Lizzy and Alex and Terry and Pat and Margareth and all you other kayak swim support pros!), but all reservations went out the window quickly as we made our way down the river side by side. Erich could not have done a better job and I am so grateful for his incredible support and talent. 

   

 Our finisher awards were hand crafted cutting boards stamped with SUCK and bottle opener key chains, appropriately since swimming is all about the eating and drinking. Karah also designed awesome Suck hoodies! Another important aspect of the sport – the swag. 

 
Erich is in the white kayak and I’m the bobbing head next to him, just after my finish.   
 
It was a rainy but wonderful start. 

   
Met some more of the amazing Palmetto Masters swimmers. 


Thanks again for everything, Karah! And this is Alex Meyer, Olympian beast who competed in the London OW event. 

   
I am really happy with how my swim went thanks to carbopro, jolyn, earth’s best (because broccoli should always be a part of marathon swimming), and speedo. I felt no pain and I remained steady and strong the entire swim!

I have so much gratitude for the open water swimming community and am glad to have the feeling of home in each of the people I’ve met along the way, and in so many beautiful bodies of water. 

Swim happy, everyone! 

A Reoccurring Theme

30 September 2015

Okay, so admittedly it is actually kind of funny that the general topic of this post is very much related to my previous most recent post. Funny to me anyway, because though it was not intentional, it is a topic where I frequently find myself head-to-head. I wrote a little poem today that came from a place of disappoint, of gratitude, and of pleasure. Bizarre mix, I know. Here’s the quick synopsis: after finishing an amazing swim this morning with people of whom I genuinely admire as people in all aspects of personhood, I ran in to someone I have know/who has known me for probably about 12-14 years. During the albeit brief exchange I had with this person, they instantly crashed the morning high I had just earned. How did they do this? A face of judgement. We may have exchanged no more than 30 words in total between the two of us, yet they said and reacted so perfectly as to bring me down because of their negativity and lack of acceptance for a perspective that differed from their own. I don’t dig that. As I got in my car and sat for a moment instantly doubting myself in reaction to her disapproval, I quickly snapped back and realized the importance of positivity and perspective. I feel sorry that this person, amongst others, believe it’s okay to judge one on THEIR actions simply because the actions are not of their own personal norm. Remembering how much I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had because of the choices I’ve made, the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met that I wouldn’t change for anything, this is what instantly snapped me out of that ever so quick moment out self doubt. I hope you all are able to remember to totally own your choices and be proud of the path you’ve created for yourself. Sometimes I forget this in the midst of constant disapproval but when taking that deep breath and allowing myself to feel joy in the life I’ve created, it is really wonderful. If you forget, I hope you let yourself remember. 

Alright, so quick vent sesh over. Sorry… Didn’t mean to go hippy-preach mode on you, but you get the guist. No judgement, just big smiles, please and thank you. 

Bottom line, I was inspired by this off kilter encounter and so I wrote a little something that went like this (and similar to some of my  previous poems, the format seems to always get funky…just accept it):

Life’s Trip

4000 meticulous miles

98 day old car

5000 

6000

just three months old

where have we been? 

where will we go?

The road is wide, the road is curvaceously long

the wheels turn, but the mind travels

constantly yearning for new dirt beneath my feet 

that’s what sets my pace

the going

a destination is a place you end

so, I have no destination

because I keep going 

my wandering eyes don’t want to stay 

they crave the unseen

my feet move faster than the wheels

their hunger grows in each step

my soul feeds on the structure of daily ambiguity

yet, I have a plan 

that plan is a rest stop

on my road of continued motion

but they see instability

they dare not accept their unknown

and they cannot accept mine

I live for the next adventure

they turn off at the rest stop

my wheels move forward 

the next fantastical place beckons

the next succinct, yet paradoxically momentous, interaction between strangers awaits the alignment of the stars

me and whomever I encounter

life is a journey

it is beautiful unrehearsed experience

a ride on this road is left untaken 

when the unknown hinders your soul

my soul is free

  

From A Real Poet

20 August 2015

I came across a quote today that instantly shivered me from head to toe. The goose bumps came from a place of relatability and reflection. This quote by Muriel Rukeyser, a great American poet, touched me for its most simple and basic explanation of truth. 

“The journey is my home.”

Why is this so powerful? Well, I already explained the emotion it evoked within me. But that is just it. Rukeyser essentially summed up in five words the pure essence of my existence. 

Having recently moved my home base, I can’t help but to yearn for the road. I love it here – the people, the climate, the culture. It is great, don’t get me wrong. Though my true self can’t help but to feel as though I’m in a cage. Maybe a shark cage…like those cages people go in to watch sharks, I mean. I feel like I’m in that cage now, watching the sharks swim around when all I want to do is be in the open with them. 

It is that open sea that is the journey, and that too is my home. 

  

Cold Sweet Cold

I keep saying how I want to be better at posting more. I never finished writing about Honduras, nor did I finish my Iceland posts. Maybe I will get back to them at some point, but for now as I find myself sitting in my new apartment in Charleston, I was inspired going through pictures of Argentina. I wrote a poem today influenced greatly by my experience at the glacier. I can’t reiterate enough how wonderful it is to find yourself with a group of people who not only make you feel endless love but who offer you a sense of belonging. I’m grateful for my marathon swim family but my cold water swim family has taken me somewhere completely different, somewhere I love so deeply for its uniqueness. Here is my poem (please excuse the language, I don’t often curse but the water sometimes does that to a person), inspired by my time spent in the waters of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. It didn’t transfer quite right so imagine a break between each third line (ugh).

  

 

A Glacial Love Affair


The cold burns as you dip that first toe

A little bit further you slide the other toes in, then the foot

“What the fu*k am I doing?” you whisper to yourself

Slowly the water separates and invites you in

It clings to your epidermis as you accept its invitation

Into the frigid water

The temperature plays on the line of freezing

Your breath quickens; your body tightens

“Fu*k!” you quietly scream

No mercy is shown for he who tempts nature’s chilly pool

As the pain grows, so does the smile creeping on your face

How could you not love this pain?

When Mother Nature offers herself

Raw, cold, and unyielding

You must embrace her, for her beauty is innocent

Your entire body is submerged in the icy water

Your heart beats faster

Oh, to know you are alive!

Further in you slither

She drinks you as if nothing were more planned

Then to be here in this place, now

Your chest, your neck, your head

They sink below the door of the surface

The numbness sets in as the smile grows

It’s time to breathe

Your head breaks her wall

As your hands stab through

All you need to do is move forward

Just touch the other side

And then you can end this pain

But why would you want to?

Your muscles swim by memory

As your body is too cold to be meticulous

When you reach the other side

The smile is the only thing everyone around you sees

The real pain has only just begun

Getting out of that glacial water is necessary

But you know within

That water is where you are at home

🙂