Sometimes we have to challenge ourselves athletically. For me, that gets harder and harder with my core sports (swimming biking and running). It's not that there aren't challenges out there; but, picking an event and fitting it in to an annual schedule can be difficult. This past Thursday, the stars must have been aligned. My friend, training partner and Endurance Traveler's In-house Counsel, Neil Bayer threw a new challenge at my feet.
Swim Miami is a race consisting of a 1 mile, 5 Kilometer and 10 Kilometer Open water swim at Miami's Marine Stadium. As of Thursday, the longest swim I had ever done was 3 miles (just under 5 Kilometers) and that was in a pool. On Friday, I went down to sign up with Neil and his law partner City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. They both planned to swim the Ocean mile. As we were driving there, Neil pointed out that the venue was the perfect environment to attempt swimming 10 Kilometers and I am never that far from shore if I wanted to make an early exit. i liked the logic and agreed to sign up for the 10K. Thanks Neil.
A funny thing happened on Friday afternoon....I got nervous!!! It was the first time in probably a decade that I found myself nervous the day before a race. Pre-race jitters are typical for everyone, but since I've been racing so long at ultra distances, I don't really worry accept at the start line itself. But, there I was worrying 24-hours before the race. I loved it!
The swim started promptly at 8:00 am, and I was promptly swimming by myself. Apparently, I was the only non-swimming specialist in the field and definitely the only one deciding to swim 10K on a whim.
The swim was four 2.5 Kilometer laps. It was a sunny and windy day that seemed to be picking up as the morning went on. It meant that the last kilometer of each lap was against the current, into the wind and waves in your face. It was tough to say the least.
I was on pretty good pace through the first two laps, averaging 52 minutes per lap. Then, the pain set in. The third lap was complete and total purgatory. I was at a point in the race, where the waves were making me seasick, my shoulders were killing me, my sides hurt, my feet were cramping and my neck was starting to chafe. I was a mess and totally wanted to quit!!
Remembering all your races isn't that easy, but the failures somehow stick out like pimple on your forehead. I started thinking about the 5 DNF's (did not finish) I have in my carer and refused to add another. So, I slogged my way through the third lap, practically in tears and made it back to the pier for the final lap. The 3rd lap took me over an hour.
Lap 4 came much easier than lap three. Not that it wasn't hard, but knowing that every stroke was another stroke closer to the finish somehow made it much more bearable than the previous lap. I even lifted my head to thank the lifeguards as I passed them.
Finally, after 3 hours 43 minutes and 52 seconds, I climbed out of the water and up the beach to claim 59th place out of 69 finishers. Honestly, I didn't care that the winner finished an hour and 41 minutes ahead of me.
I'm not a swimmer and I challenged myself to step outside the comfort zone. That's a big part of endurance sports, taking on challenges that force you to dig deep and show what your truly made of. Never stop challenging yourself and don't be afraid to succeed!