Phil emerges from the bow of the boat in a tiny motored-powered dinghy as Andy instructs me to swim towards him. Still at least 100 yards from land, Phil will escort me safely to shore.
I swim closer to the dinghy and immediately notice a critical piece of equipment is missing: a camera. Within seconds, any excitement and relief that my journey across the English Channel is finally almost complete, is unexpectedly engulfed by a wave of panic. "Do you have a camera, Phil?" I ask desperately. "No, I don't have a camera." replies Phil nonchalantly. "What? You don't have a camera?!" I can't believe it. Paralyzed with disbelief that I have traveled the entire distance of the English Channel (at the time I am sure I had been swimming for 14 hours) and somehow there will not be ANY photographic evidence of me on French soil. "But we need a camera!" I exclaim. Aware that time is of the essence and the clock is still ticking on my English Channel swim, Phil simply continues moving the dinghy slowly forward. Away from me, but towards land. "Come on girl, SWIM!" yells Phil.
Now, unprotected and vulnerable in the water some distance between the safety of the Louise Jane and the little dinghy, I have no choice but to swim. The completion of my swim is minutes away, yet all I can think about as I make these final strokes towards France is my poor planning. Despite my fastidious lists for myself as I prepared for the swim and my peculiar neurosis of packing and repacking dozens of items required for this adventure, I forgot something very important. Careful not to burden my crew with any of my insanity, I only have a few verbal "to-dos" for my crew during my swim. Though brief and low-maintenance, a key item was evidently missing: please capture my finish on camera. Perhaps subconsciously I didn't wish to jinx my swim by assuming I would finish. Whatever the reason, I scolded myself.
Here I am about to accomplish a massive personal goal - two years in the making - and there will not be even a single photographic trophy for myself. I cannot believe it. What if I forget this moment? What if twenty years from now, I want to remind myself that I was able to achieve a goal despite the odds? My mind swirled with regret.
Anticipating personal disbelief that my body was indeed able to keep with the goals and expectations of my mind, I wanted undeniable and tangible proof for myself that I could make my dreams a reality. I wanted this trophy as a reminder that if I wanted something badly enough and was as diligent and as prepared as possible, that I could achieve a dream so lofty, so extreme, that 6 years ago even my doctors and medical specialists would have told you it was unlikely: that I did, in fact, just SWIM THE ENGLISH CHANNEL.
Phil yells excitedly for my attention, pointing to a stretch of white sand set below rolling green hills covered in shrubs and bushes, and just to the left of a cluster of rocks. "Ok Kim. This is as far as I can take the dinghy. Off you go now. I'll be here to bring you back to the boat." Biting my lower lip, I pause. Taking a moment to appreciate this reality, I look towards shore. My eyes well up uncontrollably with tears in my goggles. I am less than 25 yards from France. And I just swam here. Earlier thoughts of regret give way to appreciation. Wishing I had a photographic memory, I scan the beach methodically, hoping that, in absence of a photograph, at least some of these details will be committed to my memory forever.
A gentle swell beckons me to shore and I swim into its embrace. Two standup paddle boarders appear together in front of me like guards at the gate of my dream. Without a word, they slowly paddle in opposite directions, clearing my path. My senses heightened, I relish the taste of the salt on my lips, and quiet whoosh of the small undulating waves hitting the sand. Despite the abundance of white sand, I am surprised to see hand-sized and smaller rocks scattered at the shallow edges of the water, and larger rocks set further back. Floating into shore on my belly, I pick myself up, careful not to twist an ankle on the rocks. Unsure of my ability to be vertical after having exerted myself horizontally for many hours, I walk towards dry sand, crouched low to the ground.
Turning to the water, dazed and overwhelmed with emotion, I cry. Hands cupped to my mouth, I stand – in utter amazement – that together with my crew my dream is indeed reality.
Little did I realize at the time, but my crew was busy capturing my finish on camera from the Louise Jane.