Matt and I have arrived in Annapolis for my tenth Great Chesapeake Bay Swim tomorrow. This crazy open water season has officially begun! I had a great time last weekend in Poughkeepsie with my friends Suzanne, Eileen, Mo and Sil doing the 2 Bridges Swim. Then, Eileen and I swam for many, many hours off of Brighton Beach on Sunday as we are both preparing for our English Channel swims this summer. It was a perfect training day filled with 64 degree water, wind, chop, a brief pelting rain, sand storm and most importantly – good friends!
Nine years ago when I completed by first Bay Swim I never imagined how much it would change my life. Open water swimming – and now, open water marathon swimming, has come to define who I am. The water temperature in that first Bay Swim was in the low 60s – I wore a wetsuit and there were times when I thought (very seriously) about quitting. I found myself during that swim in some very “dark” places. But, when I hit the sand on Kent Island that day and looked back across the Bay – I was elated. I had never experienced such a range of emotions in such a short period of time – or such a sense of accomplishment.
Over the years people have asked me why I do these crazy swims and certainly why I now choose to swim in colder water over longer, and longer distances. And, while I always know in my head and in my heart why – I find it hard to explain to people who have never done anything like this. So – I thought I would give it a try . . .
I start every swim optimistically…as I am a “half-full” person. However, inevitably, despite such optimism, somewhere along the way I begin to doubt and question and find myself in those “dark” places…sometimes physical, sometimes mental, sometimes emotional. But, at least to date, I’ve always been able to work my way through the dark places and come out on the other side. And, when I pull myself up out of the water, I have learned something about myself and, I believe, become a better person. Matt tells me before every swim to “enjoy the journey”…and that is really what open water swimming is about to me. It is about the journey and what I discover along the way. I suppose there are short journeys and long journeys in life…and the last 10 years have been one big open water journey filled with lots of swims along the way. Thankfully, this summer’s journey is just beginning and, as always, I head into this season with complete optimism but will surely find myself in many dark places along the way. And, hopefully, when I hit the sand in France, I will have learned a lot more about myself, become a better person and will have enjoyed the journey!