About the 50th hour, I was going to start thinking about the edge of the universe. Is there an edge? Is this an envelope we’re living inside of, or no, does it go onto infinity in both time and space? And there’s nothing like swimming for 50 hours in the ocean that gets you thinking about things like this.
All of us suffer difficulties in our lives. And if you say to yourself ‘find a way,’ you’ll make it through.
But for each of us, isn’t life about determining your own finish line?
Endurance is not a young person’s game. I thought I might even be better at 60 than I was at 30. You have a body that’s almost as strong, but you have a much better mind.
For previous generations, swimming the English Channel was the feat to accomplish. And that’s been done.
I do write all the time about – you tell me what your dreams are. What are you chasing? It’s not impossible. Name it.
I don’t want to be the crazy woman who does it for years and years and years, and tries and fails and tries and fails and tries and fails, but I can swim from Cuba to Florida, and I will swim from Cuba to Florida.
I grew up in Florida, so you start swimming at the age of 1, really. By 10, I was competitive swimming, and by 12, I had aspirations to be the best in the world.
I swam. We made it, our team, from the rocks of Cuba to the beach of Florida, in squeaky-clean, ethical fashion.
I think 60 is when many people hit their prime. We elect many of our presidents in their 60s. At that age, people are full of ideas and their best self. I wanted to dig into my potential and bring out my best self.
I think I’m going to my grave without swimming from Cuba to Florida.
I’ve never been in any pain, ever, like that in my whole life. Now it’s set me so far back, I just don’t’ have the lung capacity to swim the way I can.
In swimming, especially training out in the ocean and open water, you got fogged-over goggles, you’re stuck with your own thoughts – there’s great benefits to that, deep thinking like that after many hours, but there’s also tremendous loneliness. You burn out. You want to run, jump, ski, do anything. So at age 30, I was finished.
It’s been a grand, elevating, life-confirming experience these last two years.
It’s not too late, I can still live my dreams.
Swimming is probably the ultimate of burnout sports. It’s ironic because millions of people who swim as their regular exercise love the meditation aspect of it; you don’t wind up with any orthopedic injuries. But when you swim at a world class level for hours and hours – the loneness of the long distance runner.
The box jellyfish takes you into an area of what I’d call science fiction. You feel like you’ve been dipped in hot burning oil. You burst into flames.
The highs were high, the awe, I’m not a religious person, but I’ll tell you, to be in the azure blue of the Gulf Stream as if, as you’re breathing, you’re looking down miles and miles and miles, to feel the majesty of this blue planet we live on, it’s awe-inspiring.
The most venomous animal that lives in the ocean is the box jellyfish. And every one of those barbs is sending that venom into this central nervous system. So first I feel like boiling hot oil I’ve been dipped in. And I’m yelling out, ‘Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Help me! Somebody help me!’ And the next thing is paralysis.
There are some days where I’ll eat 8,000 calories per day, on a day before a 12, 14, 18 hour swim. For a 61-year-old woman, that’s a lot! And I try not to eat too much refined sugar – cookies, desserts, those sorts of things.
There’s so much boldness in living life this way, and we did it all, and no one can take it away from us.
This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter what it is, and that dream continues.
When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, ‘I’m going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I’m going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I’m going to adopt a child. It’s not too late, I can still live my dreams.’
Write that novel. Start that business you’ve always wanted to. The ultimate high of life is the commitment to pursuing something.
You don’t simply tell someone to get out there and win the tennis match. You say ‘move your feet’ or ‘watch the fuzz on the ball’ to really get into the Zen of it. You pull all that together, and then you just might hold up the Wimbledon Plate… It’s not about winning first place but bringing every element of effort to whatever you do.
You have a dream 35 years ago – doesn’t come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it’s somewhere back there. Then you turn 60, and your mom just dies, and you’re looking for something. And the dream comes waking out of your imagination.