I’m learning that the journey of training for each of these swims is just as transformative as the swims themselves. Without question the swims are personal odysseys where I push the boundaries of my physical and mental self, yet those hours spent swimming in the wild ocean are merely just a fragment of the entire journey. A swim across the sea from one shore to another – that very public stage – my progress across which friends and family are able to track remotely using a link to a GPS device attached to the boat alongside me as I swim, is only part of the story. The rest of the journey is largely hidden - tucked in the wings behind the rigors and demands of daily life.
One of the many things I love about this sport is the intensity and focus that it demands. A certain level of training and consistency is necessary to gain the required fitness and stamina for a marathon swim. Balancing the demands of this sport with everything else in life can be challenging. Hours upon hours are dutifully carved out of an already packed schedule that includes an equally rewarding full-time job, friendships and other commitments. Though at times isolating, and exhausting, this dedication leaves my heart full and purposeful. I am filled with immense personal satisfaction for having discovered a physical outlet where I can learn more about my own individual limits.
Still a relative newcomer to the sport (I began swimming 4.5 years ago), I am very much a work in progress. Continually tweaking my stroke during hours of training, I am trying to become a faster and more efficient swimmer. Without the benefit of high school, club or collegiate swimming experience (I was on a very different stage as a classically trained ballerina), I am playing catchup. And there is so much work to be done and more to be learned. Not only about swimming itself, but how my body responds to the rigors of training, and especially how it recovers. With each milestone achieved – no matter how small - I am continually fascinated by the ability of my body to keep up with the expectations and goals of my mind.
And everyday I know what I need to do. A straight-forward training schedule is carefully mapped out and inserted into the slithers of time afforded to me around other commitments. Even the most mundane activity such as grocery shopping becomes taxing, and has to be carefully accounted for in this tight schedule. For the time and consistent obligation that marathon swimming requires, training could easily be classified as a second job. And that’s just the physical aspect of training.
The mental component of training is far more complex; a roller coaster of highs and lows: joy, defeat, self-doubt, exhaustion, optimism, bliss, defeatism, and triumph. It’s a hairy ride. But I simply love this. The rewards are plentiful. Not the least of which is learning that my body and mind are capable of so much.