It was part of my training plan. I had to do it. I knew I had the physical endurance… that was the easy part. But what I wasn’t exactly sure of was the mental part. 4 hours… in a POOL?!! I’ll go mad.
I was nervous all day. I prep all my feeding drinks and try to focus. But doubts race in and out of my mind. What if I can’t do it??! THEN what?!
Thankfully it's pouring with rain and that makes me really happy. I love to swim in the rain. LOVE it.
But I'm nervous. On my way to the pool, and without really thinking, I chug a 5 Hour Energy Drink. OH MY LORD. I am WIRED. Arriving at the pool I run into a buddy of mine. “What the hell? 4 hours? Chambers, you really are a nut.” He says.
I take my time in the changing room. I’m nervous. How am I going to swim UP AND DOWN A POOL FOR 4 HOURS?!! OMG.
Joe is planning to accompany me for a few hours and finds a lane for us to share. I arrange my drink bottles on the pool deck. But Joe wastes no time. “Ok, its 4:25pm, let’s go.” He dives.
WHAT?! No stalling?!! No small talk?!! OMG. I set the timer on my watch. START. I push off the wall.
Okay, I tell myself... Buckle in, because you just bought yourself a ticket on a 4 hour merry-go-round. LET’S DO THIS...
The plan is to “feed” every 80 laps. That should put me on a nice 30 minute feeding schedule. So I decide to count the laps. A decision I later regret.
I feel really strong and gradually settle into a zone. 51….52….53…. I count each lap. 78...79... At the first feeding (80 laps down WOO!) Joe asks how I feel. “Amped up” I say. I’m in the zone. I look at my watch. 35 minutes. I push off the wall again… 80 more laps until my next feeding…. Wow, this is already monotonous.
Jordan jumps in and swims with me for a bit. Vito pays a visit and “torments” me by holding a beer underwater as I hit the wall for yet another flip turn.
For the next few hours I try to focus on counting – on the mind numbing NOTHINGNESS of counting. It’s hard. It's really hard. I feel as though this is some sort of cruel interrogation technique.
I think about my goal. I think about the reason I'm doing this. But my thoughts are quite contained as I focus intensely on counting. 26... 27... 28. Whenever I get to the 40s, I feel a sense of relief. Get to 80 laps, I tell myself, and you get a reward.
Finally, at the last feeding, and with only 30 minutes remaining, I stop briefly and check in with Joe. “You’re doing great… you’re doing so great,” he says. "I feel like crying," I tell him. My eyes start to well up in my goggles. But I have to close this thing out. I will never ever quit.
I push off the wall for my 7th set of 80 laps. I do a mental full-body check. Everything feels good. My right shoulder is a little achy, but overall I feel strong physically. Its just that mentally, I’m drained. I count off the 80 laps. I’m almost done.
On the last lap I spot Joe standing at the end of the pool. He knows this is my last lap. OMG. I can't believe I'm almost done. My right hand slaps the edge of the pool and I press STOP on my watch. 4:00:26. "OMG!!!!" I gasp. Its pitch black, the rain has briefly stopped and its 8:25pm. I started swimming 4 hours ago. And I swam all of those 4 hours. I did it. I DID IT!!!
I burst into tears. I cry. I just cry. That’s the only thing I can do. I just swam the equivalent of 10 miles in a box filled with chlorine and I just need to cry.
As I pull myself onto the pool deck I feel really strange. I feel as though I've just come out of general anesthesia post-surgery. I'm completely checked out. Completely not “with it” at all.
And so today as I prepare myself for yet another training swim, I've realized something. I've realized that I LOVE all of this - even the crying part – because I'm lucky. I'm lucky because everyday I get to quietly push the limits of what I think is possible just a little bit further and see just how far I can go.