06 July 2009
Channel Swim Becomes A Dover Marathon
When life hands you lemons but you really need oranges, just make lemonade. That sort-of sums up what happened vis-a-vis my Channel swim. The bags were packed, the crew was on time, but then the darn wind hit 40mph and I was beached.
My pilot wasn't comfortable going Sunday with the wind, and was certain it would carry into Monday and Tuesday as well, which meant my assigned swim window was closed. He had some additional dates at the end of July but unfortunately, I don't have the money to stay and wait for the next month and my Mom and support crew could only be here through the 14th of this month.
I wanted to do something big while they were here for them, for me and for the 4-year old boy who lost both his legs to meningitis who I was swimming for. We had all the Maxim mixed, all the snacks prepped and I was in the mental zone, so I decided to prove something to myself in the Harbour, which has been my worst enemy these past 10 weeks. That way, no matter what happens, I’d have that accomplishment and no one could take it away from me. So swim I did. 25 miles, in fact, and an average crossing of the Channel is usually roughly 22 miles. The water was still freezing (60 degrees, which I braved for nearly 9 hours), the wind was still blowing at 40 mile-an-hour gusts and the water was still rough. The difference - I started and finished on a beach in England. The final feeling - Incredible!
It was so amazing to do it surrounded by family and friends. As many Channel swim regulars have said: this whole experience can be life-changing, and it has been for me as well. I've learned so much about myself and about my motivations. Somewhere along the way it stopped being about getting to France for me and started being about sharing this journey with everyone in my life, beating the cold water and doing all I could to help Harvey run.
I started to realize, in many ways, how selfish this whole thing had become - everyone waiting around for me to swim, spending nearly $3,000 on a pilot boat, sucking the time and energy of everyone around me just so I could say "I swam the Channel." This was supposed to be about challenging myself to do something physically incredible and re-ignite what swimming means to me while raising money for Harvey; a young boy who is in need of so much compared to my - in perspective - rather selfish desire to "say I did it." My decision became clearer and clearer. So, seeing no real opportunity to swim to France for countless reasons (at which point I could have just walked away) I decided to face my personal challenge and donate the $3000 I would have spent to cross the Channel directly to Harvey.
These past 10 weeks have been brutal on me mentally, emotionally and physically. The thought of waiting for something that I felt I no longer needed to do to prove something to myself was just too much. Instead, it had become about the fear of what people would think or say if it became impossible to do it. The politics, the stress and the lack of ability to do anything else had been wearing on me for months. Knowing there was a “third way” to prove to myself what I needed to prove while doing even more for Harvey seemed so “me,” if that makes sense.
That's the story. I hope I haven't disappointed anyone or let any of you down. I am on cloud nine at the moment and totally satisfied with how it went, and that's all I wanted - to beat my fears and help Harvey. I hope I did that, and inspired a few folks along the way. Life is unpredictable but as friends have taught me:
You must adjust to circumstances beyond your control.
You can’t live every day in fear of what others might think.
There is more than one way to do something.
Putting service above self can be an even greater accomplishment than any one feat, larger or small.
Suit, goggle and cap tans can be wildly uneven and rather hilarious.
Additionally, I think we may have invented a new swimming challenge - the Dover Open-Water Marathon: Further than the Channel, 3000 times cheaper, just as cold.