Hope to despair and back again- a marathon swimmers tale

So yesterday was a roller coaster of a day.

I got up at my usual 5.40am, as I was feeding the dogs at 5.50am, I started checking my mails both work and personal. The joys of the international controller is that I get mails all 24 hours of the day, as I get to my personal mail, I see something from New York Open water swimming. I am excited, I am eager, I realize I want this. I open the mail, I go to the link and start scanning it. Nope I am not there, I check again, nope did not change. I start looking for friend’s names, ok good Cindy is in but that’s it…No Sam, No Chris, No Tommy, even Charles only got wait listed. Sheesh there are going to be a lot of disappointed swimmers.

It turned out there were roughly 180 applicants for 60 spots to swim around Manhattan in 2019 and its tough calls for the organizers. There were many swimmers with what I would describe as less impressive swim resumes than the swimmers I know, with less marathon swims completed etc. but there are many other valid factors that are considered. These include is a person in the process of doing a “Triple Crown” and need this swim to be able to complete this (neither myself or the other close swimmers I mention above are currently attempting that) and it would be completely unfair to stop someone having ability to complete this for the sake of us other “general marathon swimmers”. The great part about a sport that you can define for yourself is that you don’t have a clear path to follow and can do the events and make up events that interest you even if it’s only you as an example I recently had some friends that liv near some Dams and they thought it would be fun to swim the 30 odd miles between them, this had never been done before to our knowledge, no one outside their peer group will know about it, there will be no medal, no cheer squad, just them knowing they swam it.  Anyway, I digressed, other factors included international swimmers (31 spots went to US based swimmers), gender balance, age balance (weirdly in marathon swimming, I am still in generally the younger age bracket by being in my 30’s), volunteer work with NYOW and taking part in NYOW other swims. Lots of factors they have to balance, and I am glad it’s not me having to do it.

Anyway “DESPAIR” …what am I going to do now. I have no exciting swims planned for 2019, I started thinking, I could go back and do End Wet which I really enjoyed. I know the concept of swimming 36 miles in brown water sounds odd to people as something to really enjoy but I did, I have often heard other swimmers say certain water is magical for them, well the red river felt magical for me for varying reasons. I looked up SCAR while I sat at traffic lights on the way to work (I know illegal, but I was in DESPAIR).  I posted that I could retire, I could eat my depression and I could find options and who has ideas. Multiple people responded with ideas and some of my own ideas started forming.

If the administrator for Marathon Swim Federation (MSF) does a search check on their site, they will find I started searching Lake Michigan swims, I started re reading articles that I have read before of the legendary Ted Erikson and the 1961 race from Chicago to Michigan City, Ind. And 1963 Chicago to St Joseph, Mich. Plus any other Lake Michigan swims I could find, there are more failures than successes when it comes to this special body of water. Another swim friend who is one of only 6 people to complete what is known as the Chicago Lakeshore Swim and is also a legend in the swim world, also jumped in suggesting I could try to arrange that and my mind was set, I am going to try to do an EPIC swim in my home water.

Chicago is my adopted home, it’s the first US city I ever visited, its where I met the love of my life, its where winter drives me to despair, its where spring fills me with hope and summer fills me with joy, its where I became a US citizen and its where I get to call home. 

I had also planned for 2019 to be the last year (at least for a little while) that I did any fundraising for the dog rescue I have been supporting, since 2013 we have raised over $17k, I wanted to add $3k with a big swim in 2019 and I thought that was going to be Manhattan but maybe it turns out doing an EPIC swim in Lake Michigan, in Chicago for a Chicago rescue makes a lot of sense and adds a certain poetry or eloquence to the whole thing. So, what can I do I can try to swim across or I can try to swim around the lakeshore. The lakeshore swim really appeals, I can start near where I do most of my open water swimming, I can control the weather variables a little better by being close to the city, I can control the water temperatures a little more by being closer to the city. When I say control, it needs to be clarified that obviously I have no control over these things, but I can monitor and prepare for them better than unknowns out in the middle of lake Michigan. Is this stacking the deck in my favor, sure, maybe but it’s going to be a 26 mile swim, there is no success guaranteed, there is no real control but yes I move some of the variables closer to a range I can prepare for. In addition in 2015 this swim was done as a tandem swim, so my plan is do it the same way again, I have invited 2 swimmers along with so if everything went well, we would be swimmers 7-9 to complete this, however I have been clear on some elements, this is not a democracy, I will ask opinions but I will be making decisions, I will make the choices for better or worse and if that is not liked they can leave now or hold there peace and gripe behind my back for the rest of my life.

So, what needs to be done…well a shit load actually. I need to figure out the logistics of how to do this swim and organize it. Luckily as I mentioned I know someone who has done this, and we were already swapping e-mails yesterday and she is going to share her knowledge and documentation. I need to figure out some support boats (preferably with 3 swimmers I am planning for 2 boats), though once I mentioned this idea to people, I have already had 3 people reach out with boat offers, we will need Kayaks (3) and I need to figure out who in the City and suburbs I need to contact to avoid us being pulled from the water and arrested. This will most probably involve coast guard, suburban police, city police and various other appropriate bodies. In 2015, this swim was done as a night swim to avoid water traffic, so I need to figure out the opportune time and what boats can support us in that, how to light up the kayaks and the swimmers and a million little things I have not thought of yet. However what cheers me up in this, is, it has been done before (6 people total, last in 2015), so it can be arranged again, I just need to be organized and then I get to do something EPIC.

So Yesterday in the space of 6 hours I went from DESPAIR to EXCITEMENT, I took lemons and made spiked lemonade and went from a big swim to Bigger and Stupider…as a swim friend said, he loved how I took the disappointment to come up with a swim that will take twice as long as the original planned big swim, I guess no one will ever be able to say I took the easy routes.

I will keep you all posted

The Somewhat adequate swimmer 

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