February 2, 2016

Last year was an amazing year. I managed to cross Gibraltar, became the first Mexican to cross the Strait of Tsugaru, entered the Hall of Fame, and was nominated, along with 11 other swimmers, for Man of the Year 2015 by the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA).

The difference between the swims that had a date for their completion and induction into the Hall of Fame nomination was the two months of hard work we had to put in to get the votes to win. They were weeks of uncertainty and meticulous operation, every single day, to get the message to the public and ask for everyone’s vote.

The effort paid off December 31 when `the fantastic news was announced. I’m now on my way to Windermere, England, to receive the award.

40 years ago I made the decision to leave Mexico in search of better opportunities for swimming. For me, simply going to train at the CDOM, the Morelos, the Israelita club or Chapultepec would never have given me the opportunity achieve my potential.

In the summer of ‘76 I did my best to go and swim with Steve Kenny at Dad’s Club of Dallas, Texas, but without success. I was frustrated at not having a clear path to achieve my goal, to compete in the Olympics.

But the generosity of Bill and Shirley Lee opened up a whole new world for me. Overnight I stopped driving 100 kilometers every day to get from my house in Mexico City to the training school, where I trained and sold goggles, caps and bathing suits. Instead, I flew up in Los Altos, California, to attend a well-equipped school where athletes were competing to be one of the 40 swimmers who would go on to the US nationals—and among the 10 selected for the Montreal Olympics. The competition in the water was fierce. There were trial races twice a day, 6 or 7 days a week.

We had to swim distances of 20 kilometers a day—series of 3 x 3000 meters, 6 meters x 1500, 25 x 400 meters, 50 meters x 200 or 100 x 100 meters. Distances that let me know, every day, I was doing everything possible to fulfill my dream.

Being a high performance athlete has its costs. In my case it was to forget everything a teenager usually does as I dedicated myself fully to my passion, swimming. I remember that each day consisted of only three things: swimming, eating and sleeping. I do not understand how I managed to get good grades and finish high school among the top students of my generation.

It was good training for the rest of my life—not only physically but mentally. Following my nomination as Man of the Year 2015, I made a promise not to lose focus of my training in light of the additional effort I would have to make to win the title. If my life was complicated enough already with my five main areas of responsibility, adding a new one would be a challenge.

In a survey conducted by Universidad del Valle de Mexico, Mexicans indicated that they could not engage in physical activity because they did not have time. But my situation demonstrated that simply by using a little creativity you could wouldn’t have that excuse.

However, as of late October, when I learned the news, I promised myself that this season I wouldn´t do 98% of my training, fulfill all the assignments Nora sent me and set difficult challenges for myself to measure if my physical and mental strength were up to the challenges of the year.

The first set of challenges were long swims on December 25 and 31, and January 2.

Two weeks ago I swam six hours in 14.4ºC water, and this week I did three days of 10,000 meters each. I wanted to bring 10-kilometer training reserve with me to a Europe, so it could happen.

I have identified swimming pools in the three cities where I will spend the next 10 days. In my suitcase there are 15 Accel Gel to power me through 3 10,000-meter sessions.

I was nominated for—and won—the Man of the Year 2015. I will truly enjoy receiving it on Friday.

However, the Molokai Channel looms before me. I cannot lose concentration.