July 4, 2016

Two weeks ago I swam 8 hours in San Francisco Bay. The water was a steady 15º C. It was a long day.

In the last year I’ve resumed my open water journey. Yesterday marked one year since crossing Gibraltar.

My relationship with water has been one of intermittency. Some years have been very intense, some quite sporadic. After retiring from competition left swimming for almost 20 years, except for a few meters a week to be fit for triathlons. I left swimming for years again after my Triple Crown swims.

Fortunately, my body does not forget the years during which I logged thousands of meters. Over time, however, there are signs that I’m getting old.

In late April I read an article by Gerald Marzorati in the New York Timesentitled “Better Aging

through Practice, Practice, Practice.” According to Marzorati, aging is inevitable. Once we reach 50, muscles, lungs and the functioning of the heart are weakened. In addition, senses start to lose their sharpness and our ability to retain information deteriorates. To make old age less difficult, Marzorati suggests looking for an activity that provides the sense of personal satisfaction we found during youth: “Find something — something new, something difficult — to immerse yourself in and improve at.”

In my case it is not something new that interests me: going to Everest was a dream deferred, and completing marathons and triathlons have already been checked off my bucket list.

However, when I read the article I realized that I was alreadydoing, in some way, what Marzorati recommended. And that motivates me to swim with a great feeling all the time.

On returning from Tsugaru I made a promise that I would never hurt my muscles after training (for bad mechanics). I would do everything possible to find the right way to swim and do all the exercises necessary to strengthen my muscle structure.

Every week two sessions have been devoted to strengthening and another two to MAT (Muscular Activation Technique) and correction of my swimming style.

Rafa Alvarez and Ricardo Duron have been amazing. Both have contributed so much critical knowledge to our team and I feel today, as never before, that my body and mind are ready for the challenge of the North Channel.

We went from making camp in La Jolla and swimming in The Cove to a base further north: our temporary home in San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. Here the temperature has been closer to what I’ll experience in the North Channel.

In the last year I accomplished a swim of 23 hours and one of 12 hours, three swims of 8 hours and several more of 6 or less.

Before swimming those eight hours in San Francisco, I repeatedly asked myself if I was ready. But I’m always ready—how else would I be able to enter the sea? After that, of course—once I’m in the water—there’s simply no way of knowing what is going to happen.

On the morning of the swim I went through the routine I hope to do before getting to the North Channel, with Chi Kung and warm-up exercises. I’ve found that if I enter the water when my body is warmed up, the transition impacts me less.

After two hours the cold began to penetrate my arms, so I quickly used my visualization exercises and the problem went away. About 6 hours into the swim I my left shoulder began to hurt; noting it, I was able to reset the stroke to relieve the pain.

At the end of the day I was tired and happy. I arrived with the confidence that I there would be just one more training session, and left knowing that water as cold as that is another world.

I am happy to realize that even though I’m getting old and cannot help but swim slower, that I forget things or that I’m finding more and more gray hair, I ended the training without pain—the next day I could swim another hour without problems.

As the article said, Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, Practice.