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Monday, November 6, 2017

Adventures in SwimRunNC- Race Report (and more)

In April the 140.6 Patrick and I were set to race in October was cancelled. A few things came of this-- disappointment and opportunity. Sure we were no longer going to be racing across Delaware but little did we know what exploits were ahead of us. I went looking for something "fun" and "different". A friend had mentioned SwimRun events to us previously. A quick google search lead me to SwimRun NC. I don't recall which race we were driving home from as I sat in the passenger seat and inputted an application to the race.
We waited, we started to run more trails but not overly focused in this area, as we were not sure if we would be racing fall trails. We waited some more, learning to swim with each other in a line or side by side. We waited a little longer, to the point that I figured there would be no new adventure this fall. Then while I was showering one morning Patrick came in the bathroom asking if I knew. Knew what? That we were in if we wanted the spot. A team had dropped and we had a spot to race SwimRun NC. There are no other words to express my thoughts, while I stood there smiling with excitement all I could express was "Oh SHIT!!!!" With an ecstatic heart and worried mind I paid our entry fee and signed our names to the 2017 roster.  
Since at this point we had weeks to train we increased our trail running but since the 20 mile swim I had been slacking on swimming Plus every time I wanted to swim the wind was whipping up waves or the jellyfish were in attack mode, so bailing on swims became too easy. Race day was quickly approaching- I knew it had to be getting close based on the scrapes and bruises I had from falling during woods training runs.
Starting out
There were a few things we already knew- the terrain would not be Florida sand and hills, we knew we would be in NC foothills, going up a mountain on rocks; we knew the water would not be our warm salt assisted water, we knew it would be cold but fresh; we knew the weather would be a major factor, but this factor was just another day for us Floridians.
We packed up our short cut wetsuits, rope, pressure bandage, shoes, swim paddles and buoy, and courage and headed north to the mountains.
As we drove the leaves began to change and so did the weather report. The rains were setting up for after the race as a front brought colder temperatures. No worries, this was after the race. We made the final drive into the mountains and the day brought another change in weather, the rains would happen the night before and morning of the race and the dropping temperatures would happen as we raced. Well, this was suppose to be an adventure, right?
The prerace meeting was encouraging-- look for the yellow and pokadot ribbons and have fun. I do have to say we were a little worried with the conversations of Ironman achievements going on between most of the athletes that not everyone was there to have fun. But we have never been at a race for the benefit of others or to show off our accomplishment list; we were here for the love of the sport and to try something new. Better than the "let's have fun" message was the other bonus for racing- letters written by elementary school students wishing the athlete luck!! Our author even hoped we would bring home the trophy. Only in our hearts!!
Race morning alarms woke us to find it raining outside. We geared up in swimsuits and sweatpants and loaded the remaining gear. I ate my yogurt as Patrick drove up the winding mountain roads, covered in rain and leaves.  At the start site the air temp was in the mid 50's, not bad. The problem was more so that the winds were picking up and the front was pushing in. We chatted with other athletes as we wiggled into wetsuits and stuffed supplies in sleeves. We readied ourselves at the start line and after a few inaudible words (because we were int eh back of the pack) and a quick kiss, the horn sounded and the pack let loose.
 The first stage was four miles up the mountain (with a few downhills). During this trek we would encounter the waterfalls and some climbing opportunities. The one problem we ran into was with all the groups starting at the same time there was a bit of a logjam as people were single-file up the rocks. This was a beautiful start to the race and our first time getting our feet wet in the cold streams running down the mountainside.

The top found us looking out over the lake. The push up the mountain had turned out wetsuits into personal saunas. One would think, "Oh this water is going to feel great." Well the answer is yes and no, both said immediately and at the same time. The water was in the lower 50's. Our warm bodies were instantly cooled, this quick temperature drop made it a challenge to catch my breath for the first few strokes.
So there are no buoys (except at the out) in SwimRun. We were navigating blind with matters made worse by fogging goggles. As the cold water rushed out suits we fell into a rhythm. Patrick stopped to clear his goggles a few times and then spotted off me as we moved through the lake. About 2/3rd of the way through we started to see trees in the lake. Let me tell you when you are swimming along seeing nothing and all of a sudden there is a freaking tree under you it is a little freaky!!! And for a Gulf swimmer every algae plumb or piece of grass was for sure a jellyfish!!!
We stood up in the muck and made our way to dry land. We ran for a short period and then back in the water for a quick swim. Then we went down the damn and back to the lake entry point, again we went around. This time the cold water was making my hands become pins and needles. There was no warming up between plunges. Patrick again watched me to his right and we fell into sync with each other. The lake trees didn't surprise me this second time around, but their eerie presents gives way to the realization that the cold is real in the lake, freezing items with their summer coverings.
This time down the hillside to the dam there were few around us, we were racing the clock to not get stopped short of the mountain climb. For this reason we zipped past the volunteers offering fluids and food, grabbing only what was right in front of us, and leaped over the race mat to start our climb. The hike up Moore's Wall to Moore's Knob (here after known as "the TOP") is a climb of just less than 2 miles. Seems reasonable, except it is comprised of 642 "trail" stairs. See trail stairs are different than normal stairs. If I tell you there are 642 steps, you think "Oh I love the stair master" or"I walk up the stairs each day to work". But trail steps are a different beast. They are uneven in height and length. They are spread out and then close together. They are covered is a light slime from the rain and slippery with mud and small gravel. They don't give at all when your hamstrings cramp from the cold and you miss a centimeter of height you needed to clear the step. As the trees were beginning to thin we could feel the winds increase, noticing now more than before that the temperature was dropping. Clapping, we started to hear clapping! A volunteer stood there cheering us to the top. He was a beautiful site. A little more of a climb and we were there at the top looking over the edge. Even though we were only halfway this was our trophy moment. We stood and watched the hawks fly below us over the tree tops painted with autumn colors. I pushed to the edge as far as Patrick would let me go, after all I was tied to him and there was no net!! The mist and clouds swirled around us and the wind blow the cold air against our faces. Int hat moment the burn faded and the beauty of all that surrounding us filled us with warmth. The TOP the glorious TOP. But as it has been said what goes up, must go down.
It was a fleeting moment of warmth. Now the downhill portion began, knowing that at the bottom of the hill we would be greeted again by the cold waters of the mountain lake. The terrain was rocky giving way to roots. Knowing we were halfway we spent much of the downhill laughing at the "trouble" I managed to get us into and telling stories of other times we went looking for waterfalls or exploring wooded trails.We spent much of our time just the two of us, we would pass a team here and there, offering "hellos" and "we got this" remarks. We were good alone in the woods.
The trees this time parted to a view of the lake. Swim gear on we dove in. The water rushing into our wetsuits, cooling us and then beginning the hypothermia process again. Somehow this time I had gotten onto the wrong side of Patrick. It was awkward on his left, but my brain could not figure out how to stop an get to the other side of him. Finally he popped up and told me to get over. FIXED!!! We quickly fell into our rhythm. Patrick began to push hard and was pulling away a little; I knew he was in the zone, trying to forget about the cold and push his body to not shiver in the water. My body cooled faster this time and I could feel my hypothermia symptoms of hip pain and my hands pushing against the swim paddles in an attempt to become claws. We popped up at the out again, gathering ourselves. We ran on feet so cold they felt as if we were walking on pebbles in our shoes. Again across the smaller swim and down the damn. This time Patrick informed me that the hypothermia was making him able to see better!!! Yep in that moment I realized between the swims he was not putting back on his glasses. Hew as going down the muddiest, slipperiest, most unsafe section of the course blind, and in front of me!!! I assured him that clarity was not a normal symptom of hypothermia; it was more so his brain shutting down and not caring about clarity! What could we do but laugh!!
We made it back for the last lake loop. Paddles on and buoys set between our legs we dove back in. By now the air temperature was starting to drop to where our cold arms could feel the cool or the air against the "warmth" of the water. This time Patrick was a little slower out of the water, trying to step carefully onto land. He wasn't use to being so skinny and cold (lol)!!! The little crossing was fast and soon we found ourselves back down the damn. We stopped at the clocking check point to be sure to be marked.
Here one of the race directors, Jan, asked us how we were feeling and rubbed Patrick's arms to help get blood flowing. All the while telling us to untether. Wait, untether? No our team made the choice to be sure we were close enough and to stay tethered through the event. Jan looked at us in a way that I am not sure if it was disbelief in us having survived making it down the mountain or in questioning again this "sacrificial lamb" race team even being on the race course! Jan helped us untether, because regardless of the looks intent it was clear he was going to "help us out". Now to be honest we came close to reconnecting on the other side of the road, since hell we made it this far!! Again we laughed down the mountain.
I say we laughed but the cold was taking a toll on me and the
downhill was not helping. My hip was tight and painful, making each step feel like a needle going into my bone. To add to the problem my diaphragm was cramped limiting my ability to stand up right or breathe. So there are two things you want to be able to do while racing- make forward motion and breathe! I was failing at both. I had thought a few times during this event that pulling off the course and calling it a day would be an option. This is not normally my mind set in a race but I was hurting, more than in most race. I was slowing our team from forward motion having to slow from the pain then try again and again. I knew I wasn't an easy teammate to be "tied" to in that moment but in the moment I was ready to cry, Patrick turned to me, "We got this" and smiled. I laughed. I was so far from "getting this"in that moment. My body felt like it was failing me; I was angry at myself for not being able to push harder; I was frustrated that I had the thought of giving up; I was scared of disappointing Patrick. I looked around and in the woods, as the leaves danced in the wind above us, I could not have felt more loved.
We found a few more volunteers and then saw what we had been waiting for, the entrance into the river. Yes, we had been begging to freeze again because it would be the last time. For me this meant little pressure on my hip and chest. It meant being in my element where I felt comfortable even in the cold. I was in a place I knew I could control.
We entered the river with smiles and foggy goggles (again). As we moved down the river we hit a deep spot where the current was flowing fast, we were on our way. Well, we were until I saw a ripple, hit a rock on the edge and then turned to yell "ROCK" at Patrick just as he pulled a Little Mermaid move, ramping up on the rock with a few choice words! He unbeached (unrocked?) himself and we headed down the shallow river again. Given that Patrick could not see the ripples indicating rocks, I kept yelling, "10 yards, 5 yards, ROCKS!" Oh the fun. We made the turn and saw the exit, moving towards the side and stepping over the last few large rocks, we made it back to land. Up about 20 steps and a 50 yards run to the finish line. Hand in hand we crossed. Patrick bent over after the finish, laughing with his hand on his knees. All I could do was to hug him, smiling, knowing what he just overcame because I had this idea one day. We were soon joined by Herbert with a smile asking, "Was it great?" Yes. Yes, it was great.
All smiles and love
Unpacking at Home :)
Once we had gathered ourselves (very quickly) we made our way to the Jeep to get out of the cold wet clothes. Frozen hands do not make it easy to get a wetsuit off. We heated up the Jeep just to blow warm air out on us. Yep that's right here is the visual- Two people, cold, shivering, laughing, trying to not get stickers in their feet, changing clothes at the back of a Jeep, at some point half stuck in a wetsuit, with the doors open to warm the outside air!!!
The air temperature dropped from mid 50's to mid 40's, the winds picked up, the water temperature around 54 degrees; there were 90 teams on the mountain that morning, 83 teams finishing; over 14 miles of running, almost 2 miles of swimming, and over 2000 feet of climb; but all I remember are the laughs.
Next year....

Bonus awesomeness with entry fees the group purchased a fire suppression vehicle to help control forest fires.  

Photos (the clearly professional and amamzing ones) thanks to Brian Fancher, Richard Hill, and Brian Lefevre. Thank you gentlemen for the beautiful representation of the day.

If you can, please help us support the Navy SEAL Foundation.
Teresa's Donation Page for Tampa Bay Frogman Swim 2018

Teresa is actively raising money for the Navy Seal Foundation.  For more information please read this: Supporting the Navy Seal Foundation- Frogman Swim 

We've been blogging for a while now. If you enjoyed this one, you may enjoy others. Look though the Blog Archive on the right, for more of our experiences and random thoughts. 
Thank you for your ongoing support of our adventures.  

Please feel free to share our blog.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

There Will Be Sadness

A few weeks ago I had an emotional breakdown. Yep, full on loneliness and despair type breakdown. It was the first time I can remember feeling nothing but pain course through every inch of my body. I have been sad before; I have been angry before; but never have I felt like this. I couldn't stop the world from spinning. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't make my mind make sense. I couldn't will myself to feel better. I couldn't, I just couldn't.  

I was mad at the world and mad at myself for feeling this way. I am suppose to be strong. I am suppose to know how to prevent these feelings from overpowering me. I am suppose to utilize my supports. I am suppose to be okay. I am not suppose to be curled up in a ball in a parking lot, crying. I am not suppose to be begging for understanding. I am not suppose to be hopeless. But that's where I was, in a parking lot, crying, begging, and hopeless. 

The things that lead me to this place are of little significance but what is very significant it what lead me out of this place. 

I believe when we fall down an emotional staircase we have to walk back up one step at a time. This was the first time I didn't even know where the staircase was or if there was one. That's where I was, in a dark room I had never been in before. I didn't know where I was, I didn't know if there was going to be a staircase here, and I didn't know how to find it. Needless to say I was a unprepared for this stumble in life. But I was one thing- aware of the darkness. 

When I realized how far I had fallen I tried to focus on one thing, something outside of me in the moment. It was then in this darkness I saw a dim glow. It was coming from where I had fallen from. I knew I wanted to be back there to the light. I knew I could not stay here. I knew I had to try, even though my body felt pain, my mind felt dizzy, and my soul felt crushed. I knew there was no easy way back to the light. I couldn't just push this all away and pretend nothing happened. I had to face those stairs and that journey. I also knew I could not do it alone. 

I was standing in the middle of a store walking the buggy back and forth when I decided I needed a brighter light to shine. I made a difficult decision for me, I decided to reach out for help. I sent a text to a friend asking for her to confirm there were positive people in the world. I told her I was having a hard time and just needed to know this was still true. I didn't want to tell anyone I was in this dark room. I didn't want to talk about "it". I didn't want to have to explain that I didn't know where the staircase was. 

I figured she would text back asking questions or telling me to buck up. But instead when that little light blinked the message was different. She text back, "I love you. Today is one day in our world. Each day brings us challenges and hurdles. All which make us stronger." She told me to "use this day as a lesson." 

She didn't tell me to suck it up or to push it all away. She told me to embrace it. I had to own my feelings and my actions. This day was only one day in this world and it did not have to define me. With just a few words (and checking in on me for a few days), my friend lead me to a staircase that was right before my eyes but hidden from me. She helped me to take that first deep breath and to feel hope were despair had filled my heart.

It seems so simple but when you feel the weight of life crushing you, simple no longer exist.  
The world isn't easy. You can have all the flashlights in the world and still be unprepared for falling down into the darkness. I still think about the events that lead me to that dark place. I still replay my emotional reactions. I still wonder how I fell. But I look back to process those moments while holding on to the hand of a friend.  A friend who I know will shed a little light.
I tell you this to say, it happens, we all end up in our own darkness at some point. Life isn't about standing close to the edge. It is about leaping and falling and crashing and finding the first step again. Life is an emotional roller coaster leading us to highs so wonderful the stars are within reach and lows so deep our feet settle in the sand at the ocean floor.    

To all who read this, know you have a friend. Have trust in a helping hand, even when the world seems to deceive you. Have faith in the greater good, even when your actions might not be a part of that good. Have hope in the knowledge that the world will slow down just long enough you can catch your breath and in that moment step out onto that first step up.

**Yes, I am good now. I am sure.**

If you can, please help us support the Navy SEAL Foundation.
Teresa's Donation Page for Tampa Bay Frogman Swim 2018

Teresa is actively raising money for the Navy Seal Foundation.  For more information please read this: Supporting the Navy Seal Foundation- Frogman Swim 

We've been blogging for a while now. If you enjoyed this one, you may enjoy others. Look though the Blog Archive on the right, for more of our experiences and random thoughts. 
Thank you for your ongoing support of our adventures.  
Please feel free to share our blog.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Loggerhead- 20 Mile Swim

Every adventure has a starting point. This adventure starts with more of the absence of a starting point. In our local area we had the Pensacola 3 Mile Bridge Swim for a number of years. I miss this event and hope to see it again in the future. I participated in the Aquathlon, 5K swim, 10K swim, and 25K swim distances. The event has been on-hold for the past few years due to plans for and now actual construction of a new Pensacola Bay Bridge. In the time the swim has been on hold there have been a number of “fun” swims with a few friends gathering together to swim around points or across boat channels. Then there was talk of an EPIC swim. This talk was quickly here and then gone but it stuck in my mind. The plan was to swim from Navarre Beach to Pensacola Beach. The seed was
The actual route taken.
planted for me. I waited to see if it was going to happen but the chatter went silent. Then in May of this year the “big” race Patrick and I were signed up for got canceled and options for other events we wanted to do were limited. The wheels started turning in my head and one day I just told Patrick, "I would like to try to swim from Navarre to Pensacola this summer." I should not be amazed anymore when he agrees, but I am amazed every time he simply says, "OK."

We set the first attempt date in July. Yes it was a quick turnaround, mostly so I could not chicken out, but is was also the best day for tides and amount of daylight. On that day the weather was such that the swim was not going to happen. We faced winds that were causing white caps on the sound. Kayaks were sinking and swimmers, including myself, were making only slow forward progress. To slow to make the distance before dark. With these rough conditions we called the event. You can read more about this attempt on the prior blog entry, Adventures in Failure.

After the first attempt failed, I rethought the possibility of me doing this swim. Patrick asked me when I was going to try again only minutes after leaving the water defeated. I am pretty sure I rolled my eyes and looked at him with a look of, “did you not just see me almost drown out there, bugger off.” But my reply was, “Soon. We will try again soon.” I set two future dates, in case of weather again or other issues. I knew given the daylight limitations that I could only try two more times before waiting until longer days in the spring.

The 19th of August seem to come sooner than naturally possible. Again we packed up fluids, food, and safety supplies. That morning the number of swimmers were far less than the prior attempt.I don’t blame them! Patrick was the only kayaker, Jim would enter the water to swim with me, and Danika would give us hugs, cheer, and push us off with much needed emotional support, encouragement, and confidence in our ability. I was honestly glad for the small numbers (just in case I failed again). It seemed to make it easier to manage in my mind. Patrick pushed out towards the first set of docks. I stood there in thigh deep water, took a glance at the rising sun behind me, waved to our friend (who was all smiles), and took a deep breath before diving into the water.

The water was already warm and it was 0630 in the morning. As we swam out past the first dock, seagrass and squishy jelly fish began to be a part of every stroke forward. The good thing about squishy jellies is that they don’t sting. The bad thing about squishy jellies is that I have trust issues with any jellies, causing me to jump each time my hand brushed one. The seagrass was more of a five mile nuisance, at times being so thick I could have given Patrick a bouquet of grass in one stroke. I wasn't sure this would have been a good way to show my love or appreciation so I kept the seagrass to myself.

I wanted to start at a nice, smooth pace, sort of a start slow and ease off mentality. The water, while warm, was smooth. We hit moments where I just watched the water droplets from my arms break the surface of the settled waters. It was beautiful and peaceful. The water danced as I moved through it, breaking and bending with me this time, not against me like the previous attempt.  I watched ahead eyeing a familiar boathouse that I knew would be close to the moment of defeat a month ago. I watched as it got closer, as houses and condos slowly faded from view. Then the boathouse was next to me and I could see the first outcropping in the distance. This was where I was last time when tough decisions had to be made. The other side of this cove would be the start to the furthest I had traveled on this path. While this point was within only mile three, it was a mental blocking point and I had to remind myself to “be the storm” even against my own mind which was yammering on about failure and defeat. The outcropping seemed to come up faster then expected and with it shallow waters. The shallows now meant that seagrass brushed my stomach at the same time as brushing over my arms and back.

Finally after four miles, the buildings of Navarre Beach were gone and the visual scene to my left became one of flowing sand dunes spotted with low trees and grasses.  Jim and I pushed on, going over a shallow area where I saw my first stingray. He stirred as I came over him. He jetted out towards the deeper waters. I don’t blame him; the water was hot in the shallows. As we got into the National Seashore I found a “stream” of cooler water. With a little zig-zagging I was able to stay in the four foot wide stream. The stream didn’t last long but was refreshing and welcomed.

Well into the seashore Jim began to swap between swimming and walking the shore. It was nice having another swimmer out there with me. While we weren’t always at the same place (sometimes one of us was towards the shore and the other out deeper and then we would swap, crossing paths with little notice until we would look around for each other), there was comfort in Jim being there. Jim is the kind of guy who literally goes the extra mile with you. He and I have swum together often in a  “Monday night swim group.” Our normal swim route as still 12 miles away. Jim is a smiling face when things were starting to feel tough. Jim has strength in ways I could only ponder. I knew why I was there in that water, but for Jim I only knew he was there to because, “why not” (and I am sure a self-challenge of sorts too). Jim would stay out there for nine miles - incredible.   

The next handful of miles would cause us to have to push out beyond a few more outcroppings and trying to stay out of the currents that were twisting the water through the coves and back out to the channel. While I had already swum through the tide rising and slacking, I was not getting as much benefit as I had hoped with the outgoing current. The chop created by the churning current and slight wind was building, causing me to have some trouble sighting the next landmark. Patrick kept me on track; well as much on track as he could, as I tend to get distracted at times. In these miles I encountered a few more rays and small fish, and a few fishermen wondering what I was doing and if I was scarring away their potential catches.

We came upon Big Sabine Point, which earlier had been discussed as to what it was out in the middle of the water. We thought ship, bridge, or bird... yeah we may have all been a little over exposed to the sun even early on. What we saw from miles back was trees. Trees I would have to swim out and around hitting higher chop, but then seeing the buildings of Pensacola much clearer. We were close enough to see individual windows!

From here Range Point and Portofino were well insight. Even the Pensacola Beach hotels were coming into view.  In the beginning the buildings had given way to the beach. The beach now gave way to the buildings. Those buildings felt like road blocks in my mind. I should have been happy; I was close (well closer). But instead my mind raced with doubt. What I knew in that moment was what I thought was going to be a 17 mile swim was now going to be much longer, meaning it wasn’t over and I wasn’t close. My mind tried to negotiate with my heart, saying, “stop,” trying to say, “you are technically at Pensacola beach, you can be done now.” I was thankful when my heart won out, saying, “keep pushing, its right there.”

After Portofino the crossing became deep again. The seagrass faded away and I was left watching the dark below me. As the sun peaked and hid behind the clouds the water danced beneath me in shades of greens and blues and browns, but my eyes were focusing elsewhere in the distance on a row of hotels that really looked more like Lego pieces from my vantage point.

A few miles out from shore we were met by our friend Chris, who came out on his paddle board. I was thankful to have another safety there as the boat traffic was picking up; Patrick was thankful to have another person there to actually have a conversation with, since he had been pretty much alone for the day. I could hear Patrick and Chris talk as I swam. I stopped and grabbed fluids again and asked what building I was headed towards. Both Patrick and Chris told me to go to the tallest building and that Quietwater Beach/Mommy Beach was right there. I was honestly feeling very defeated still seeming so far away, I actually asked, “Are you sure?” Both of them laughed at me and confirmed they were sure.  It was also shortly after this moment that I was in my swim rhythm and even though I had been breathing to both sides I slammed my left shoulder into Patrick’s kayak after making a strange and sudden turn towards him. I swear I never saw him there and I have no idea why I turned. Over the moments of pain, all I thought was, “Put your head back in the water and swim.” I did.

Soon we were joined by another kayaker, I knew this only because Patrick was chatting again. Tom had joined us and again I was thankful, because the boat traffic was building as people went home or to dinner spots along the beach.  Suddenly I saw Patrick begin the paddle ahead a little and Tom move swiftly to my right side, the fog horn went off and I stopped (as planned), luckily the speed boat stopped too, well quickly turned from us. For the remainder of the swim I would stay with Tom to my right, Chris behind me, and Patrick to my left; I was safe here.

The docks along Quitewater Beach got closer and closer. Soon I was swimming in waters I had swam through many times before. I was home (almost). I stopped one more time to tell Patrick “I was done and going to call it,” but he only laughed at my smiling face and sternly told me to swim. I heard Tom asked if I was serious. Yep it was a joke 15 miles in the making and I was cracking myself up.  Shortly after, the guys broke from me and pushed to shore. I no longer knew if my goggles were leaking or if tears were filling them; it didn’t matter. For the last time my hands brushed the sand. I pulled my legs up under me and stood up, taking a moment to balance. I was there on the shore, greeted by the guys and friends, Mindi and Evan. It was over. 12 hours, 21 minutes, and 1 second from when I started, I was on shore 20 miles away from where I started.

I stood on the shore in disbelief. I looked to the east to see nothing of    
Navarre beach in the distances; it was gone too far away to see now. I know that there are better swimmers than me, faster, farther swimmers than me. But today I swam 20 miles and I am proud of that feat. It still hasn’t sunk in that I swam that, even after picking up the car at the start point it didn’t seem to be a real distance. Even after the congratulations and wows it didn’t seem real. The distance and physical feat has not hit yet- because to me it was a journey in my mind far different from the physical journey. I solved the world’s problems, created world peace, thought of friends and family, mended hearts their hearts and lost relationships, created plans for my work team, and then in the weight of the land so much of it was lost again. My mind is putting together the pieces, maybe not to solve world peace or to mend all hearts, but enough of the pieces to reach out and help make things better. The physical accomplishment will come to my mind in time.

To be on shore was amazing, but even more amazing has been the support. I can’t say thank you enough to those who have been a constant support through this adventure. Thank you to those who have jumped in the water to swim or kayak, to those who have followed the little red dot on live tracking, to those who have offered food along the way, to those who have cheered and laughed with us, and to those who have lifted my spirit when I felt like I was free falling. 

Lastly, to my love a thank you for always being there (even when you drifted back to update social media). Without Patrick 20 miles would not even be a dream dreamt in the darkness; he is the one who breaths in light to my dreams and crazy ideas. It was comforting to look over and see him there beside me, to hear him whisper words of affirmation, and to feel him hold me when the adventure was over. He is my life line. He is my rock. He is the part of my soul that holds me firmly between the course of reality and the freedom of destiny. I can never say thank you to him to express my gratitude for him being there (always) for those words cannot hold my appreciation and love for him.
So here is the general data break down:
On 19 August 2017 I swam from Navarre Beach to Pensacola Beach, covering a distance of 20 miles. 20 miles, 12:21:01 time in the water, 11:22:49 total moving time (meaning my treading or standing to eat did not count as moving time but was in the overall time), average moving speed of 1.8mph.  The water temp was about 88 degrees but there were areas of colder water about a foot down, leaving the hot water to sit at the top.  The air temp was mid 90’s; however, felt hotter with the heat index. We encountered a few clouds but no storms.

With this my Tampa Bay Frogman Swim 2018 training has begun, now for speed work and cold waters!!!

If you can, please help us support the Navy SEAL Foundation.
Teresa's Donation Page for Tampa Bay Frogman Swim 2018

Teresa is actively raising money for the Navy Seal Foundation.  For more information please read this: Supporting the Navy Seal Foundation- Frogman Swim 

We've been blogging for a while now. If you enjoyed this one, you may enjoy others. Look though the Blog Archive on the right, for more of our experiences and random thoughts. 
Thank you for your ongoing support of our adventures.  
Please feel free to share our blog.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Teresa and Her Swimming.

It can sometimes take a person a long time to find that one "thing" that is inwardly calming and outwardly relaxing. For Teresa, that thing is swimming. When she is stressed, she swims. When she is sad, she swims. When she is happy, she swims. When she is angry, she swims faster. When she is motivated, she swims farther. You get the point. For her, as I interpret it, getting in the water allows for those external factors to melt away. She has time to herself to think and reflect. She enjoys being in the water.

Since she found out about the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim a few years ago she has been involved. Each year she wakes up early with hopes that she makes registration that sells out in minutes. Each year she works hard to raise money and trains hard to proudly represent the fallen Navy Seals to which this event it dedicated.

If you haven't heard, Teresa got into the 2018 swim. We are working on the fundraising plan for the next 150 days. Like last year, we have an IM Athlete Fundraising Page to start. We will also organize fundraising nights at local eateries, host local training swims, and work tirelessly to create a keepsake for our donors. Be on the lookout for Teresa's blogs.

If you can, please help us support the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Teresa's Donation Page for Tampa Bay Frogman Swim 2018

Teresa is actively raising money for the Navy Seal Foundation.  For more information please read this: Supporting the Navy Seal Foundation- Frogman Swim 

We've been blogging for a while now. If you enjoyed this one, you may enjoy others. Look though the Blog Archive on the right, for more of our experiences and random thoughts. 
Thank you for your ongoing support of our adventures.  
Please feel free to share our blog.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Adventures in Failure

One of my favorite sayings: 
"Fate whispers to the warrior, 'You can not withstand the storm'. 
The warrior whispers back, 'I am the storm.'"
Today I thought the storm was greater, it was with the help of friends that I realized being the storm happens on many different levels

Understand that by definition I still failed at achieving my goal. I was unsuccessful in what I set out to do this morning. I set out to swim 17 miles, from Navarre Beach to Pensacola Beach along the shore in the sound. Patrick, my husband kayaking beside me. The plan was in place, the tides were in our favor, drinks were frozen, food was packed, all was good to go... but in the night while we rested the winds dipped down and began to stir the sky and the seas. We started our day seeing first light peek through the clouds with the breeze unfortunately kicking the flags straight out, in the wrong direction. 

He puts up with a lot!!! :)
We continued to gear up, packing the kayak and dousing in sunscreen. The original plan was to head out at 6am; we were slightly behind waiting on the sun to get up a little more since the clouds were blocking. We also had to gather everyone since Juana's was a bigger area and we didn't nail down a specific meeting spot. Just looking a the water both Patrick and I knew this was a long shot in today's conditions. As I hit the water a few friends went out first. Patrick stayed back near shore to help a friend with his kayak that had flipped and filled with water. As he gave me the okay signal and told me he would catch up I headed out. I passed a few of the other swimmers and a kayaker, then pushed to a friend leading. As we rounded the first dock we were out of the protection of the cove. The waves started to crash over the top of us as we swam. 

As we headed past the docks the wind and waves picked up. We were being pushed toward shore, backwards. I hit the first mile over 40 minutes, not being on track with time. Patrick was back with me shortly after this point and knew what we were facing. Just after the mile mark we passed another outcropped dock. After this dock the waves now slammed us, lifting and dropping with no pattern. Patrick and I paused for a moment after the second mile we were again approaching a small jutting sand bar, as we paused we drifted backwards faster than we had been moving forward. The waves were white capping all around us. We turned around seeing only one kayak/swimmer team and like us they were struggling in the conditions. My timing for the mile was far off at this point, not only making the efforts of distances a challenge but time would not be in our favor.  The decision had to be made, we would turn around. 

My heart sunk. It was the right choice, my brain knew that. I suppose my heart had two miles of swimming back to accept it. 

We turned grabbing the next group and letting them know we would be turning back. Patrick sent notice to those waiting at other check points that we wouldn't be making it to them today. Each notification he announced to me made my heart sunk further.  I was disappointed and feared having disappointed others.  And this was just for fun. 

As we headed back to our starting point we noticed there was no one else in the water. But Patrick noticed the vehicle of one fellow swimmer heading down the road. I figured they were headed home, but noticed quickly they kicked the van in to reverse and headed toward where we were. We swam in toward the shore and in a moment my day changed again. 

A friend of ours stood there on the shore waving a palm frond to signal us. This made me laugh, but it was when she ran out in to the water to hug all of us. She knew I was frustrated, pretty sure everyone knew, but she smiled and cheered and told of their teams adventure. They had been taking on water as the waves crashed over their sit-in kayak. The waves continued to crash into them till the kayak was just short of sunk. Upon reaching shore they stashed the kayak, rinsed off (after asking a homeowner) and headed on foot, running back to the start point. They encountered the other group, who picked them and the kayak up. Then here they stood waving palm fronds at us- oh what an adventure they had, but even more humorous is if you think about the events from the perspective of the homeowner who was just out the watch the storms roll in. Still makes me laugh. My heart lifted a little. 

As we headed back in I intended that my day swimming was done. Time had passed and I reminded myself this was all for fun (some people we're proving it was fun). When we got back not only were we greeted by those who had first accompanied us in to the water (who left their breakfast to run out) but also those from further check points meet us at the shoreline. They traveled down to be a support which was lifting and much needed. But then I noticed goggles and caps in their hands, "We are going swimming, right." I had to laugh. Here I was done swimming, it was over, I was out of the washing machine, but the storm within them said it wasn't over.  

For the second time I dawned my cap and pushed out from shore (the same shore) to swim into the once again building waves. The group was going to the first dock about 300 yards out... at first. Then there was mention of a full mile, so we swam out a half mile to a sail boat,  then four of us decided, well I don't think I decided but I "had" to go, on a mile out and a mile back. We fought the wind and waves for the remaining portion of the mile out then fought the current and the push of the wind for the mile returning. 

As the storm of wind and waves surrounded us I realized that the storm inside all of us is greater that the storm of fate around us.  Today there was only 6.5 miles of open water swimming put in the books next to the scratched out 17. It was an adventure in failure filled with laughs, struggles, supports, and friendships.  

Thank you to everyone who swam, kayaked, laughed, and believed. You are each amazing and I am thankful to have you as a part of this little adventure. The storm rages on. We will conquer another day. 


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Frogman 2017- An Advernture of a Different Kind

Coming into my second year having the opportunity to participate in the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim my excitement level was off the chart, flowed by my nerves in a close second. I guess that's why it took me these past 42 days to write this blog report.
To me Frogman is bigger than those of us who venture into the water. It is bigger than those who kayak beside us. It is bigger than the event. Frogman is about a community supporting a cause greater than us as individuals. It is a moment in time to say thank you for a sacrifice which is greater than many of us will ever know.
It year was unlike last year, starting with training. I spent a lot of time this year swimming open water in not so great conditions- cold, waves, wind, and currents. I was thankful for "warm" pool swims during the week. During my morning commutes, which took me over the bridges the waters were flat, but come the weekend training days the waters would get angry and thrash about. I could have been mad but I just crossed my fingers and hoped that rough days training would equal a smooth event day. This year in training Patrick swam with me often. He braved the cold and being slammed in the face by waves to be there next to me. When the day came when the water dropped below 60 degrees, hovering around 57 degrees, Patrick began to be my swim safety and support form the shore. He would walk back a forth, pacing the beach at my swim stroke, chatting with tourist who would ask why anyone was swimming, and warning kite surfers to not run me over.
With the summer and fall focus on swimming due to the Alligator Lighthouse swim, I was feeling strong in my swimming abilities. I knew this distance would not kill me and I figured it could not be much worse than being sick for seven miles of swimming.
Christmas Day Swim
As the days got closer the weather predictions came into view and they painted a different story than the year before. This year we were looking at clear skies, warmer waters, slight winds. Could this be true? After the 2016 Year of the Twister, I was skeptical of any weather report. I think the event safety manager as as well, since the weather reports emails started earlier, each one reading like it should have ended with multiple smiling faces.
Matthew Kantor
A week out from the race brought the swimmers closer to their purpose for going
in the water, we received the names of those we were swimming for on that day. I would be swimming for Matthew Kantor. Petty Officer 2nd Class SEAL, Matthew Kantor was killed during a gun fight in Zabul Province in November 2012. Petty Officer Kantor moved without hesitation to protect his teammates and mission, this action saved the lives of his team members. This deployment was Petty Officer Kantor's first as a SEAL. All reports noted "without hesitation". Petty Officer Kantor's actions effectively saved the lives of those he was serving along side and he did so without question or hesitation. Like I said earlier this is bigger than we are as individuals.
Race weekend came quickly after the holiday season. A few days before the swim we took the day to go biking, it was sunny, a light breeze, and warm- perfect. The day before was spent checking on the kayak rental and meeting up for a practice swim. This year's practice swim had more people out than we had seen the prior year. We listened to the safety and swim briefings. Then we headed to the water, wetsuits on (well, not Patrick- he is tough). My dad would have his first experience kayaking with swimmers. During the practice he learned what I could see and hear. He learned to yell louder. I learned to spot my stroke. And he learned to avoid the other swimmers. We swam around for a bit, just having fun. After loading up we headed for Korean food, best preevent meal!
On Frogman morning, it was beautiful. In the dark, spotlights lit our way. On the big screen images of SEALs in combat, children giving the pledge of allegiance, SEALs coming home, and the message of why we were all there in the sand watching the sun rise. In front of the big screen sat the photos and stories of SEALs who we represented with bibs and lanyards and heart. Each person you past said good morning and smiled. The volunteers checked in swimmers and kayakers, they lined us up, they helped haul equipment, and then they raised the flags at the shoreline. This moment took my breath away, to see the American and service flags there in the breeze at the shoreline. This moment would be the first of many on this morning when my heart would stand still.
Brian Bill
Patrick aligned his kayak in the Honor Wave. This wave was filled with service men and women and family members of the fallen. Patrick was assigned to Molly. Molly and other of her family members were swimming in memory of Molly's cousin, Brian Bill. Master Chief Petty Officer Bill was killed in August 2011, along with 37 other service members, when the helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan. This event would become the largest loss of life in the military campaign in Afghanistan.
As the morning continued on the sun broke above the water, lighting the sky. The swimmers and kayakers made final preparations. Then they gathered together for one last message. Here we listened to the final swim report, telling us of water temperatures (mid 60's), winds, and the crossing we are about to make. We lined up along the shoreline for one final group photo. There amongst the other swimmers, we smiled, laughed, and patted each other on the back as a statement confirming we would see each other on the other side. I walked back to where Patrick was standing, seeing my parents gathered near my dad's kayak. In that moment again my heart leaped with love. They were here to support not only me but these men whose names we heard, whose faces we saw in photos around us.
Then the day really began. The reading of the fallen SEALs began. Each name, each ranking. Families around us hugged or laid a hand on a shoulder as the heard the name of a loved one. In silence we listened, the winds brushing past us and the sun light breaking through the clouds.
After the names were read the colors were marched out to the start line. Some buzzing and delay occurred, including a false release of the colors, before an announcement was made that there was going to be a change to the process for the National Anthem. Instead of one voice singing there was a request for every voice to sing. The colors again were presenting, then low the words began to take to the air, louder and louder then grew. Not all in key, not all in tempo, not all on the same word- but in that moment we were all together. Hearing the National Anthem sung this way, as a group, is one of my favorite things to hear at race start, I often prefer it to a single singer. Upon the end the Anthem, clapping and hoots broke out. Then the sounds of zipping wetsuits and the snapping of swim caps.
The waves started out one after the next. I kissed Patrick goodbye, as he took out after his swimmer. I stood there with my parents, hugging them both for a minute, before heading the start line (the kayaks would start behind us). As I lined up to start out I spotted my dad among the kayakers gave him a wave to note where I was and to motion that I was changing our plan, I would now be to the inside not the outside of my grouping.
I waved to my mom on shore, gave a thumbs up to my dad, pulled down my goggles, and high fived a guy standing next me. We waited for the horn to go off- then boom, into the cold water we dove. Yes 66 degrees is cold even if you have been swimming in mid-50 degree water.
The first stretch was a little bit of chaos (as expected). I had a kayaker come up to my side who I knew was not my dad. This "wrong" kayaker stayed at my side for a few minutes, until realizing I was not the swimmer he was looking for, he broke from me and quickly seemed on the heels of another swimmer. I flipped to a single back stroke to spot my dad. I again threw a thumbs up as my hand floated through the air. My dad had already spotted me (as he would tell me later) but it was good to have confirmation. From there he stayed by my side as we passed, were passed, and found our place in the line of swimmers taking on the bay that day.
The year before we had not touched the water, now the water surrounded us. There was not a stroke that I didn't think about why I was there and who I represented, SO2 SEAL Matthew Kantor. Also with me, I could feel under my wetsuit taped to me the coins I had received from Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz's mother the year before. I had worn them when I swam my makeshift Frogman upon returning home after the year's swim was canceled due to weather but it only felt right that morning to have them with me, to carry his memory, as well, across the bay that day.
The water was not flat but it was flatters than the waters back home had been. It would the current which would challenge us the most. Even the kayakers were being pushed south. After heading Northeast for just over a half mile, we turned to go Southeast. You might think- if the current is going south and we needed to go south then this would be perfect. You are sort of incorrect. The problem is the swimmer has to go southward but while staying north and in the buoy line, otherwise you will be way south of the exit at the time of needing to exit. For me the benefit was I had swam similar crossing issues during Escape from Alcatraz years before.
Just after mile one I hit the sand bar, with shallow areas where my finger grazed the grasses. At this time my hands and arms were going numb. The numbness was only on the outside of my arms and my hips were not hurting, which was a good sign. The only sea life I saw during this time was a ray who skated by on the bar, probably trying to figure out what these weird migrating animals were floating over his sandbar. At mile two the sandbar began to drop off, then at about two and half it was gone; we were in the channel, in the darkness. Here the water pulled us, leaving my dad to yell "LEFT" louder and louder, in order to keep me on track. In this segment we passed a group of five swimming together, a band of brothers. It was an amazing sight, each time I turned my head they were there swimming stroke for stroke surrounded by a half a dozen kayaks with the American and SEAL flags attached and waving strongly.
After we passed them, there was silence. It wasn't real silence, it was just that in that moment I knew we were getting close. My dad yelled left, pushing me up toward an even buoy, but all I saw was a channel marker so that's where I headed. Again, there with my body starting to feel the full effects of the cold was my dad. He was guiding me, knowing what was behind and how much further I had to go. It was a role he had played several times in my life, he again was there to push my limits, to offer support, and to ensure if I needed a life line I had one.
All of a sudden my dad's word changed, RIGHT. I looked right and there was the turn buoy. Not only was I nearing the sounds of the finish line, I was making the final turn to land. Now headed true south with the current fully in my favor, my strokes picked up. I was pushing all I had left. My arms tingled each time they hit the water, my kick deepened. I glanced up at my dad once more and I saw him look at the distance ahead and then look at me beside him, he knew the final push was kicking in and that now I knew my path. Pushing to the finish my dad pushed out form me slightly, knowing I was coming up along side other swimmers.
I could spot ahead the final turn buoy. The sand below got closer and closer. I made the final turn. I spotted forward to the beach, that's where I wanted to be. My dad peeled off to the "kayak area". As I was nearing shore other swimmers started to pop up, I continued my swim stroke. I swam till even my short stroke stirred up the sand. I stood with the water mid-shin. The volunteers cheered and high fived as the swimmers crossed the finish line, there names being called in victory along with the nae of those they swam for that day.
Now Patrick will joke at my elbows out finish,a s this is my "norm", but for me in that moment it was so much more it was pushing till the end, pushing till the task was over. I ran past a few other swimmers and across the finish line after 1:45:12 in the water, putting in the middle of the ladies pack.
At the finish were families of the fallen, handing out finisher coins to the swimmers. These family members did not care that we were soaking wet, they didn't mind that when they hugged us or we hugged them that we leaned on them maybe a little more than normal, instead their faces were filled with light and hope and grace.
Also at the finish was my family, Patrick, my mom, and my dad. Patrick hugged me and laughed with me. My dad patted me on the back. My mom went in to full mother mode trying to make sure I had a warm towel or drink or anything I needed- I am pretty sure I could have asked for a cheeseburger right then and she would have found one in her bag! All I wanted was to stand there in that moment surround by those I love most for a cause I deeply believe in- and that's what I got!
As my body warmed we walked to the car loaded the kayak, changed clothes, and headed off to a great party!! During the after party I had to the opportunity to speak with Danny Dietz's mother once again. I introduced myself as a swimmer but more so as a swimmer who was assigned to swim in her son's memory the year before. I told her of my swim upon coming back home the previous year and of wearing her son's mission and memory coins as I traveled across the bay on this day. She smiled as we talked, said thank you, and then hugged me. My heart again stood still. Once again I was in awe of what her and her family and those alike, must go through each day, and I only hope that with each day and each effort by all of us these families are lifted and healed just a bit more.
While I am sure there are tears, this event is also about the smiles we shared together because of the sacrifice of others and those smiles we cherish.      
The Frogman is a dear event to me. This year with the help of MANY friends and local support I raised $1400 for the Navy SEAL Foundation. I am thankful to all those who helped, from working water stops, to eating out for a cause, to making custom bracelets, to donating, and supporting me each time I went in the water. A special thank you to my mother who will always be waiting patiently with a cow bell to bring me home safely; to my father who offers guidance to my path, even into the blinding sun; and to my love (Patrick) who stands by me, kayaks by me, swims by me, bikes by me, runs by me, and loves me each day more than I could have even imagined a person could love.
Here's to making plans to get in to the event for 2018!!