In the days following the SF – SB relay I felt uneasy, restless. I craved closure. It was an awe-inspiring effort on behalf of our entire team. We swam around the clock for 6 days, enduring night after night of sleep deprivation, sub-55 degree water and traumatizing jellyfish stings. As I struggled to breathe after my last shift from the excruciating pain from relentless jellyfish stings, the relay was aborted. I felt defeated and extremely disappointed. Covered with hundreds of jellyfish stings, I felt as though my body had failed me.
Among other things, that experience left me absolutely and utterly terrified to swim in the dark - something that normally didn’t bother me. Swimming through vast nothingness during the relay, miles and miles from shore in water exceeding depths of 4000 feet, I felt so alive, yet so terribly vulnerable. Sharks were also a tremendous concern – on two occasions during the relay swimming through the Red Triangle, I felt the presence of some THING bearing down on me. I’m not sure if there was actually something there, or perhaps my sleep deprived and weary mind was playing tricks on me. Still, it scared me beyond my wildest imagination.
Back in San Francisco, a previously routine and fun swim in the cove at Aquatic Park in the pre-dawn darkness transformed into an extremely tough mental experience. I was terrified. I knew I needed to find a way to overcome these fears. With the English Channel swim booked for next year and a few other swimming goals planned, I knew I had to complete another swim before the end of the year that allowed me to face down my demons. For me there was no alternative. And I knew whatever swim I chose, it had to encompass ALL of those fears. I wanted to get it over and done with. I knew that I had to dream bigger. And so I did. I dreamed bigger until it terrified me. I decided that I would swim Molokai Channel. Known also as the Kaiwi Channel, this is a treacherous, shark infested, jellyfish populated 26 mile stretch of water in Hawaii.
It was my very own high stakes poker game, and I just went for broke.
And I wanted to keep it a secret. For me, facing all these fears was a very intense and very private battle within my head. It wasn’t for anyone else. But while my fitness was in peak condition, I wasn’t confident as to how it would all play out. Jumping in the ocean is essentially rolling the dice. Anything is possible. Good and bad. Not only would I have to battle an uncontrolled environment filled with all my fears, I’d also have to battle my Self; my doubts and anxieties. What if I got in the inky black water in the middle of the night to begin my swim and was so terrified that I had to quit? What if I got stung by jellyfish and ended up medevaced to Oahu and admitted to the ER? What if this, what if that? I didn’t want to make it a public spectacle. I imagined a million scenarios in my head and yet still what I actually got was far different that anything I could have thought up…