I have been trying to figure out what I would write to summarize all that I have felt over the last week and how to describe the experience. I have come to the conclusion that I do not think I could ever find the exact words to convey just what I am feeling. The journey itself, moving down the river with a fun, supportive, responsible, driven crew of people, far exceeded my expectations. Karen Throsby did an excellent job in trying to describe the 8 bridges operation in all its logistical complexity, in her blog: Metaphors. So much goes into each and every day that it is a wonder we were able to ship-off each day on time…but we did. How? Well, first, I think we need to go back to the beginning. This swim started as a thought by David Barra and was carried to fruition with the help of Rondi Davies. After testing the waters themselves, the event evolved into a well-oiled machine.
I believe these two, alone, and what they created, is what makes this event special to it’s core. They have felt the water, they have swam through each stage, they understand – mentally and physically – what is involved and what each swimmer goes through. They are there, each day, on the water, going through each stage with the swimmers and their crew. They have given all of us in the open water swimming community, an opportunity to chase our dreams. For some, it is tackling one stage, for others it is getting through multiple stages, and most have far deeper reasons for attempting any of the stages.
For me, I cannot fully explain the “why” but I will say that this journey has changed me. It has taught me that my mind is stronger than I thought and while my emotions still remained soft, physically, I fought harder than I believed I could have and won those fights. You learn a lot about yourself as you spend hours upon hours swimming. You also learn a lot about others. I learned that not everyone is out for themselves, and on this river, in this event, no one is. I learned that there were people that genuinely wanted to see me thrive, grow and achieve – and when I though I was not strong enough, I learned that I had those that knew I was and reminded me during my most difficult moments.
I can close my eyes and remember the moments down the river. All of it. The nervous times, the cold times, the relaxed times. I can see smiles, hear voices of those that cheered me on and feel the embraces of those who hugged me when I finished or before I Started. I can hear Margrethe asking me if I was warm during my feeds–being sure to keep the word cold out of the question. I can see John Humenik and Janet Harris after I finished stage 4 standing on the boat with big smiles on their faces…as happy for me as anyone could be.
I also learned that strong bonds can be fortified in a very short amount of time and last forever. Swimming is NOT an individual sport. The kayakers, the boat crew, the other swimmers, we are all a team and any weak link of that team can damage a swim no matter how hard the other parts are working. For this swim, I remember all of the crew that came and went, all of the kayakers – not just my own because everyone was helping everyone. We cheered for one another, we sat silent with one another, we cried if needed.