Swim Across America: OWS 5K

The last time I swam this distance was right before my first Ironman in September 2013. My swim coach thought it would be a really morale booster for me, I  was not am not a great swimmer so I thought “why not?”, I figured it would be a good mental check. Once I was done, I said never again.

Ryan, my swim coach, right behind me at registration.

Fast forward 5 years later, I found myself on a dilemma. It is a really hard event but it is also a fundraiser for Cancer Research. My mom lost her battle to Cancer 4 years ago and that was really hard for her and our family. It still is very hard to me, I wish no one ever has to deal with Cancer. So regardless of any distance or event, I always feel obligated to do something about it. So here I am again, and as you can imagine, I am in trouble. After all, 3.1 miles (or 5 kilometers) is a long time to swim for a non swimmer.

I am going to try to picture the kind of trouble I am into. There are teenagers, adults and seniors for this event. All of them look like they are or were real swimmers. No one has tri shorts tan lines from riding their bikes over the weekend. All of them are skinny, strong with broad shoulders. I start walking towards the start and I see tents from colleges, so all these NCAA athletes are also part of it. Suddenly I realize, I really don’t belong here. Well, I should have remembered from the first time I did this. 

I lined up and I have a couple of goals in my head:

  1. Faster than my first 5k (2 hours and 13 minutes ). I should see some improvement after swimming 5 years, 3 times a week.
  2. Finish time before 1 hour and 35 minutes. It is aggressive but I think I could pull it off.
  3. Not be the last person out of the water. Well, that is the most difficult one.

It is a self seeded start, as the line moves, I realize that I am one of the last people in line. Oh boy!

As I start to move, I feel good and despite people literally flying by me, I feel that my race is a different race than theirs. I am not a swimmer, I am a land animal. What an accomplishment to swim this distance. This is my pep talk. So I don’t get discourage half way through. The first loop is pretty good. I got into a groove and lots of people passed me. The second loop, I am faster than the 1st and the same people passed me again. They pass me to finish. I expected the 3rd loop to be lonely as the majority of people started earlier and were much faster; however, there were so many kayaks and boats to guarantee everyone’s safety that it kind of got on my way.

I loved that they were concerned, asking multiple times if I needed a break or if I was okay but please don’t stand on my way. Literally, ON MY WAY. I got a bit frustrated. I tried to ignored them and got tapped by a paddle: “Do you need a break?” I smiled and said, I am okay. But I was so annoyed, I just wanted to keep moving forward. As I swam away, I tried to focus on the bigger picture: Nadia, this is a fundraiser so we can cure cancer. My mom’s voice and image came into my thoughts: “wear your heart on your sleeve. it will take you far”

My last 600 meters were the fastest split of the whole race. Emotions took over my body and I just went. Anger, happiness, whatever that was, it fueled me to move faster. As I finished, I looked down my watch and it was 1:39. I stood up, took a big breath in and out. It was a relief to get it done. I just stood there for a couple seconds and this official from the race looks at me and asks:

– “doing it again next yea?”

– “too soon, my friend.” – I replied.

My mom was a warrior. I miss her everyday and yes, I might do this again next year. For my mom. Thank you for all my friends that supported the cause. I am really thankful to be surrounded by caring, loving people.

PS. I was not the last one. I was second to last, I swam faster than before. I just didn’t break the time goal. Maybe next time.





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