"Only 1.5 km to go!!!" yelled our crew through the wind. "You need to swim hard as you can. Now!" Concerned the wind was picking up and an increasing current was pushing us away from shore, I needed to hurry up. Joe was comfortably ahead. But the shoreline seemed to take forever to come closer into view. Seemingly elusive, it appeared much further away than 1.5 km. But I wasn't supposed to know this.
That's because I broke an earlier promise to myself: do not look at the shore. In past swims, I have developed a less than favorable habit of stopping and looking ahead. I zero in and meticulously attempt to calculate the distance to the finish. Except I'm always wrong with my calculations; the view from the waterline is far less accurate than from a boat above the water.
Still, I watch with great intent as the veil of fuzzy blue gradually lifts, revealing colorful and more precise details of life on land. Office buildings and houses come into view as do the cars on roads. A major problem with such rapt “land gazing” is that swimming progress is hampered by this mindless stopping and starting. Often times, a current is pushing me further away. And in some swims, depleted and desperate to finally reach land, this experience has been exasperating. And so, my new open water swimming mantra for 2013 is: SWIM UNTIL YOU RUN OUT OF WATER.
However, after the excitement of our dolphin spectacular, I was left tremendously cheerful and even more thrilled that I was indeed swimming from Europe to Africa. I couldn't wait to finally touch land. And, so, like a little kid craftily lifting up the corners of the wrap of a Christmas gift in an effort to determine the contents, I took a quick glance at the shore. I tried my best to count to 100 strokes before looking at the shore, but failed. Instead, I fixated on the land. Without realizing at the time, I sneaked enough glances that I ended up with severe chaffing on the back of my neck. Every time I lifted my head out of the water, my exposed hair that was collecting salt under my swim cap at the nape of my neck rubbed against the skin on my neck. The extreme salinity of the water meant major chaffing.
A couple of waves break over me engulfing me with familiar white wash. I steady my stroke, but my body isn't entirely cooperating; tired from lack of sleep and jet lag, coupled with my sprained ankle, are slowing me down. I felt like a fish caught in a massive net dragging me in the opposite direction. Sensing that perhaps I was having issues, my crew began clapping to encourage me through this last section. I could see the container ship cranes and…
Within minutes it seemed, massive rocks were within reach. Joe was politely waiting for me so that we could touch land together. As I finally close in on the rocky shore next to Joe, a swell pushes us in and we synchronously touch land to complete our swim.
4 hours 39 minutes earlier my hands had left the rocky shore of Spain. Now my hands were touching the slippery and jagged shore of Morocco.
A lone fisherman waves with excitement. Elated and in amazement, I wave back, grinning ear to ear. Nice to meet you Africa, we just swam to you.