A week ago I completed my last big training session ahead of my upcoming English Channel swim. Efforts to secure a boat and traverse the Bay – Alcatraz, Angel Island, Golden Gate Bridge – for my last 6 hour swim in the San Francisco Bay fell through last minute. But it wasn't a problem; if this sport has taught me nothing else, it has taught me to be flexible with plans. Undeterred, I completed twelve 1 mile loops of Aquatic Park cove instead. Slipping into the brackish water of the Bay shortly before dawn, marveling at the sunrise as the fog rolled in and out, I enjoyed watching the activity of the cove intensify with triathletes, rowers, stand up paddlers and tourists. Around and around I swam, and given the last few weeks of intense training, my body felt great.
As I walked unceremoniously out of the water, hands wrinkled from being waterlogged for so many hours and my eyes swollen from an annoying leak in my goggles, I emerged dazed from the intensity, yet triumphant. Because this moment signals the beginning of the taper, when the volume of my training reduces and I focus on rest and keeping my body healthy.
It is a surreal moment on the realization that all the hard training work for this particular swim is done. My training schedule this year has been all-consuming. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Removing the microscopic lenses that enabled me to bring into focus my training plan, I am now left with more time on my hands to step back and take a broader view of the entire landscape of my life. Frankly, I am amazed with the focus and intensity with which I trained.
As a newcomer to this sport, without the advantage of swimming in high school or college, I’ve only been swimming for 3.5 years. Since the first year and a half was the continued rehabilitation of my right leg saved from amputation 6 years ago, I have always felt that I have needed to work twice as much. And I’m okay with that.
A 12 hour swim across 20 odd miles of oceans seems like a tremendous amount of effort and dedication, however, the reality is that it’s merely a scratch on the surface compared with all the time and preparation it takes to back up that effort.
Waking up before 5am day in day out, to swim two and a half hours (in a pool and the San Francisco Bay) before arriving at work at 9am. Then, at the end of the day, leaving work to swim in the Bay for another one and a half hours. Only to wake the next day, rinse and repeat. No late nights out on the town, no sleeping in because “I’m just not feeling it,” no excuses. And again, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Weekends consumed with 2, 4, and 6 hour swims. Sometimes more. And, last but not least, going to bed earlier than most Grandmothers. 8:30pm in case you’re wondering.
In the end, no matter how much I train, one of the many exciting aspects of this sport is that a large portion of the outcome is dependent on factors out of my control. Mother nature is always the boss, but at least I can say for the limited variables that are within my control, I’ve given it my best attempt at being as prepared as possible.
“The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.” -- Bobby Knight