September 19, 2016
The end of the open water season approaches.
Two weeks ago Kimberly Chambers tried to swim from Sacramento to San Francisco, but had to abort her swim at 24 hours; on the same date Carlos Acosta, an athlete under the tutelage of Nora Toledano, managed to cross the English Channel; and yesterday the ninth edition of the Marathon eDreams Cadaques was held.
The season must await Mariel Hawley and Zach Margolis to attempt crossings in Tsugaru and Catalina, respectively, to be officially closed. I’m sure both will succeed.
As for my own sporting life, I am enjoying a delightful vacation. I took toured Italy for ten days. I’ve run on a few occasions, swum on others—and rigorously slacked off when I’ve felt tired. The combination of training and visiting museums, churches and other sites of interest wreaks havoc on the body; there have been days when I feel like I’ve swum six hours.
Today was a lazy day. I woke up in Venice and, as it was the penultimate day of the vacation, I decided to take a break, to take advantage of the early morning hours and organize my return to Mexico.
The hotel where I’ve been staying has a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. I found an empty table, I ordered a cup of coffee and turned on the computer.
The first mail that appeared was from Philip Rush, the organizer of Cook Strait crossing. After months of chasing after a window, he finally informed me that my dates were confirmed. My swim would be between March 18 and 25, 2017. A rush of adrenaline ran through my body: I already had a date for my sixth ocean swim.
The emotion of the moment contrasted with the feelings I’d had had since mid-July. That led me to spend the whole day reflecting about what I’d felt in previous swims.
I remembered my first attempt at crossing Catalina in 1998. I had to cancel the swim after five hours; after getting sick during the first leg from Long Beach to Catalina, I could never recover.
When we finally reached land I realized how bad my condition was. It took more than 24 hours to stop feeling dizzy. Although the experience served as an important lesson, I could never erase that feeling of failure. Maybe that’s why Catalina is the swim I’ve done more frequently than others.
In successful crossings I have experienced different moods.
The first swim of the English Channel was a struggle against nature—and my mind itself—that left me in a state of tremendous emotional wear. I don’t remember it as something agreeable.
The second swim around Manhattan and the third crossing of the Catalina were largely a formality for my second Triple Crown. Although successful, those swims would not qualify if I failed to cross the English Channel, so in themselves they didn’t put me in a particularly good mood. At the end of the second Triple Crown, however, as I completed the second crossing of the Channel, I felt tremendous joy. At the time I thought that it was my last swim and that I was retiring, happy to have achieved the Triple Crown in a season.
Gibraltar, my return to the open water, was a swim of many emotions. Swimming with Lalo, Mariel and Nora was something special mostly because of what it meant to the first Lalo and Mariel—but I had a hard time concentrating. At the end of the day, I knew the swimming itself was just a formality, I hadn’t really considered it a challenge.
Tsugaru lifted my spirits. It was a difficult swim, one that frightened me so much that Ximena wrote me in the hours before the swim: “Dad, I want you to know that for me, you will always be the best, even if today you don’t finish.” When I finally managed to make my way across the currents and saw the coast nearing, I was thrilled. I could swim again.
Moloka’i was a beautiful experience, my best in the water. The nearly 24 hours of swimming nourished my spirit and at the end I was an extraordinary, elevated mood.
The last painting I saw today in Venice was “The Ascent to the Empyrean” by Hieronymus Bosch, the fifteenth century Dutch artist. I do not believe in heaven, but the composition of the work made me think that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, a better state than that which we usually live.
Today, after receiving the news from Philip, my mood has changed. Now I have my dates of my swims for next year. An important part of my life now has time and form, and that has given me peace and changed my mood.