Susan began training over a year ago for her first 10 km marathon swim. “Things went so well that I not only completed the event, but also came first among the women. I even managed to catch a peek at a grey whale as she swam passed me in the bay.”
For an individual with multiple sclerosis, the commitment that Susan showed and her achievement that she reached is beyond the norm. Susan could have easily rested on her laurels, but as if often seen, the open water has a profound sense on the scale of one’s achievement. That is, once a goal is accomplished, the athlete often reassesses what is possible and the bar of achievements is moved upwards. In Susan’s case, a 10 km marathon swim becomes something quite longer and more arduous. “I am ready to take on a new challenge and decided this year to swim a 34 km lake swim.”
But the road is never easy even with an elevated sense of self and a redefined awareness of what is physically possible.
“All was going well until I swam my first 14 km practice swim,” the 48-year-old Susan explains. “I swam it fine, but have been having some serious challenges with the recovery. I have been back in the pool only 3 times since, swimming half of the distance I was scheduled this week. I am trying to figure out how one recovers quickly enough from the marathon training swims to prepare for the ultra-marathon.
Everything in moderation. Excitement to quickly ramp up the training distance is natural, especially when other swimmers are reportedly training much further,” recommends Steven Munatones, a member of the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation. “Occasionally, our physical capabilities run ahead of our mental strengths and emotional underpinnings. These three need to be in sync for training to proceed smoothly.”
That is, a balance must be achieved and this usually takes trial and error. Some weeks, swimmers love to train and get in the water. Other days, it is difficult to wake up and push oneself in the open water or pool. This is where the fine balance between the physical, mental and emotional is critical to assess and move forward. It is better to enjoy the journey towards the goal rather than stress over the possibility that the goal may not be achieved.
The mind is the strongest and most important part of one’s success. You have to want your goal, but you also need to look forward to the daily grind and discipline of working towards your goal. If you have lost this drive, or it becomes reduced for various reasons, then it does not matter about your physical prowess. And vice versa, if you are mentally prepared to accept the demands of training, but the physical part is lacking, then success will be harder to come by.
Footnote: Read about Susan’s exploits here. She writes, “This year I decided to really push myself with swimming in the ocean. To test my endurance, I signed up for Vancouver Open Water Swim’s Bay Challenge, a 10 km ocean swim across English Bay in Vancouver, Canada.”
Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association