The English Channel, after 2.5 years of training to prepare to do battle with the English Channel, it is done, for in time things and events pass by, the longer the wait the bigger the impact, the harder the work, the greater the satisfaction or the disappointment, this is one of those times, I am standing on the beach looking out over Dover Harbor with the vast English Channel looming in the background, for years this has been a dream and now I am here, very present in the here and now, after months of training, years of sacrifice from not only me, but also self sacrifice from many others, here I stand thoughtfully looking out onto this body of water that has not only motivated me but also defined me for close to 3 years.
The only task at hand now is rest and repair, physically I am doing remarkably well, no aches and pains, my physical body remains as strong as an ox, if anything my body is slightly annoyed at the current lack of activity, my mind is still an open wound, thoughts of the swim itself still whirl around my head, what to make of this, did I fail to finish or did I succeed just be realizing my dream of swimming in the English Channel.
I ponder the thought, ” well I geared to swim to France, however I aso trained to never give up and embrace all the Channel tossed at me”
I mull it over, not the sort of mull over that takes a few seconds, I am talking thoughtful, and I arrived at this…….
I had a wonderful day to swim, I swam my heart out, I loved the big freight tankers going by, they rocked the boat like a cork, I swam on, the sun went down, the air got cooler, I swam on, eventually I stopped following my crews instructions, I was swimming away from the boat, they tried to steer me to the boat, I kept drifting away, my swim was over, 9.5 Hours in the English Channel, not long enough for me to hit the French shores, but long enough for me to give the tire a good kick, so time to weigh it all up failure or success?
I admit it, off the bat, my thought was failure, definitely a failure to cross the English Channel, I have a bit of a pity party in my mind and then regroup and move on, ” your dream was to swim in the English Channel and embrace all the adventures”, I think to myself, I think back to what I have experienced over the last 2 plus years, ” you swam in the Channel 17 miles, there is Channel Magic out there, you felt it”, I think some more, and that’s when I start to recover, if the Channel had been a sure thing it would not have held close to the same appeal, now is the time to embrace one of two possible outcomes…….You cross the ditch or you don’t, it is the edge of your seat stuff that drives you on with passion, nothing great is easy and the English Channel is one of these grest things.
So what now, will I get back in the Channel and swim…… YOU BET!
So, in I go, 2 days after my Channel Swim I take a swim with Paula Yankauskas, Colm and his son, we swim for about 40 minutes in Dover Harbor, it is fun, and feels like we were on school vacation, no agenda, just swimming, I am proud of Paula by my side confidently navigating the English Channel.
The next day, my daughter Heidi and I swim together, just her and me in the Channel, she had been waiting for so long for some time alone with me and now we have it, we hit the beach at 8:00am, it is quiet and there are no other swimmers, no one for her mother to get distracted talking too, just her and me, Heidi is happy, she pulls on her wetsuit, I gingerly strip off, as I edge my big toe into the water I say to Heidi, ” who would swim in this for 9.5 hours?” , Heidi and I both giggle and we edge a little deeper.
Heidi, see those red hats, we have to stay close to those, if we drift out the tide will pull us out towards sea, ” OK”, Heidi replies with a grill filled smile, we swim out, stroke for stroke towards the ferry end of the harbor, we pull up half way, ” it gets a little jostley down by the wall Heidi, it will feel like you are in a washing machine”, I shout out over the wind, the wind has picked up since we started and I notice that the waves have increased in size, they roll angrily towards us. ” OK”, says Heidi, she puts her head down and swims defiantly on, ” hmmmm reminds me of someone I think as I watch her attack each wave with a strong stroke and a dive down of the head.
We make it to the wall and turn for home, we swim half way back and Heidi pulls up, “I swallowed water”, Heidi splutters out the words, ” It has got rougher Heidi, our only option is to swim it out”, I shout over the wind, “OK”, Heidi replies, ” I can do it”, she adds, while I tread water and look at her and my whole English Channel Adventure flashes before me, all the highs and lows, and now this moment looking at my 12 year old daughter navigating waves, wind and swell in Dover Harbor, I know now the only one word it is the word SUCCESS. ” Heidi, what sort of Mother brings her 12 year old daughter out here to swim in the waves, winds and tides of the English Channel?”, I shout to Heidi, ” My mother, and I LOVE it, most other mothers would be like, no Heidi, your’e too small, you’re too young to swim , you can’t swim in the Channel, but not you, you believe in me, and with that I know I can do it, I am so lucky you are my mother”, shouts Heidi, she gets the words out just before a big swell lifts her up like a feather. The swell passes, Heidi drops down to eye level again, I give her an underwater hug and say ” Let’s do it”, we swim on side by side and I feel grateful, thoughts of not reaching France are still camped out in my mind but they hold just a small amount of real estate , I now have thoughts of appreciation of being surrounded by amazing people, of learning so much about myself and seeing others grow around me, I am learning how to share and coach mental toughness, yes it can be learned!
- The ability to allow your mind and body to overcome obstacles
- Being able to make bad situations better when things don’t go your way
- The ability to push past negative thoughts to see the silver lining, it is always
there, be patient and search for it, it will be there.
So what is the silver lining?
The journey, the lessons learned, the growth, and dealing with disappointment, while finding value in ones experience is priceless. Is it easy? ” No, nothing great is easy”
What’s Next? More Swimming of course and prepartion for the next swimming adventure in 2013!