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.