I remember the first time I swam in the San Francisco Bay. After almost 2 years of full-time physical therapy and unable to walk without a limp, I was literally gimpy. I felt as if I were stuck in thick mud. It made my urge to move and be free overpowering. I desperately wanted to run carefree across a meadow with my hair billowing at the sides, arms stretched out – like a scene from the Sound of Music. Instead I was hobbling though sterile corridors of medical buildings from specialist to specialist, wondering if I would ever feel normal again.
Everything changed on November 22nd 2009. After a few months of rehab in a pool and wearing just a swimsuit, cap and goggles, I dove head first in chilly 54 degree water. As I came up to the surface for air I struggled to catch my breath. The shock of the cold water on my body felt as though someone was standing on my chest, constricting my breathing.
But I didn’t panic. I wasn’t scared. I had recently been through far worse. As I began to move my arms and legs and swim away from shore I felt incredibly revitalized. I smiled - ear to ear. It was exhilarating. And so, like a ship on its maiden voyage into the ocean after years of land-locked construction, I left my berth, sans broken Champagne bottle.
Since that day, multiple open water adventures later, I have re-ignited my soul – an adventurous and carefree spirit – that had been snuffed out in the aftermath of my injury.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is what each of these swims reveals. None of these are simple endurance athletic events. They are far more than swimming from point A to point B. They are personal journeys into the unknowable. The satellite map tracking identifies the area covered but does not begin to scratch the surface of the experience.
To be able to look at a map of the globe and point to a stretch of water and say, “I swam that” is an accomplishment. What is between those points is far more poignant.
(Molokai Channel: Molokai - Oahu, 26 miles. Completed: November 9th 2012).