The Day of Fierce Determination
Nerves. I was a bundle of nerves. Hell, I was full on terrified for this one. I calculated that I would have about 12 feedings until the end. This would be important. Andrew and I spoke about the cold. For him, he says he knows he has about 3 more hours after the shivers set in before his body really starts to react. I had no time to test this for myself so I just took his calculation. I figured if I got to my 6th half hour feeding with no shivers, I would have 3 hours to make it to the finish with shivers.
The beauty of this stage was that the original 6 of us 7 stagers and the kiwi team, Katrina Price, & heather Osborne, were the only ones doing this stage. We started together and we were all going to finish together – just us. One piece of terrible news was that Anna DeLozier was much worse, throwing up and very sick. She would not be joining us for the last stage. This was extremely upsetting to me. We had made it down the river together, she was a strong swimmer and these stages did not phase her beyond the normal aches and pains one would expect to experience. She would have done stage 7 and finished strong. We all knew that. It was not the river that took her down but illness. My heart sank for her and my spirits were low for myself.
(Me, Bridgette, Jim, Karen, Mo, Heather & Katrina, Anna)
The other swimmers started a half hour ahead of me. Rondi and I sat quietly at the stern of the boat. She would look at me and smile every once in awhile and tell me it was going to be fine. She warned about the temperature drop to 65 degrees in the Battery. I asked her how long I had to swim once in the Battery. She told me about 2 hours, maybe less. I thought, “ok, if the cold crept in and settled then I would have 2 hours of shivers and an hour extra if conditions were bad.” Conditions were beautiful though. The water was calm, the sun was out. Rondi told me she was going to get in if it was ok with me. I told her, “absolutely,” and that I would love for her to swim under the bridge with me if I made it that far. With one more push in of my goggles to my face by Rondi and a hearty hug, she told me it was time to jump in. This was the most scared I had been all week. It was the moment of truth.
I jumped in and Margrethe was there and ready for me. We went down the river together. It was nice and calm and if you could pet her and say, “nice river. Be good for me today.” I was tense in the beginning. My first feed took for-ev-er. I made peace with myself that this was how the day was going to go. It was going to crawl. I flew yesterday…today the river wanted to make me work. Maybe she wasn’t ready to see us all go after all.
Around an hour and a half into my swim I didn’t think I would finish. I was using the mental exercises that Karen Throsby, a fellow 7-stager had taught me. Warm, warm, I am warm. If I’m not warm then I say, “I’m not as warm as I’d like to be,” but never put the word “cold” in the mind. Remove it completely. Karen is a seasoned open water swimmer…I was going to listen to her. By two hours Rondi jumped in. Ahhh…I got a boost and I didn’t feel cold. The top of the water was warm but the underneath was cold. I reminded myself that the sun was shining, Rondi and I were swimming and Manhattan was next to us.
Probably my proudest moment: Margrethe Kayaking as Rondi Paces me (Rondi in Green cap, me in yellow) – Feeling loved, & supported
At some point Rondi drifted back onto the boat and boat traffic seemed to really pick up. Things were getting sloppy. I saw the statue of liberty and she look beautiful. I knew I had about 5 miles to go. We passes ferry boats, we passes big tankers, we passes tug boats pushing the big boats. Every boat seemed to be out in the harbor today and we were little fish in a very big river. As I worked through the wave trying to find my rhythm, a green cap appeared. It was Andrew Malinak! I stopped for a feed, looked at the bridge and asked if he was going to swim under the bridge with me. He told me he would stay until I told him to leave. I wanted him to stay. I wanted him to bring me under the bridge. We swam sloppy and crazy the rest of the way to the bridge. Feeling the shadow of the bridge on my back felt good. I hugged Margrethe and thanked her for everything–for getting me down the river safely, for keeping me calm and taking control. We did it together. Without her, I would not have made it. I hugged Andrew–a hearty hug that was supposed to say, “thank you, I now know that feeling.” We got on the boat and there was Rondi with a big smile on her face. She hugged me and it was at that moment that I felt the journey was over. It had been another beautiful day on the river. We all made it. Mo Siegel swam 120 miles in 8 days, Bridgette Hobart, Karen Throsby -swam 120 miles in 7 days – James Braddock, Katrina Price and Heather Osborne – we all did it. We boarded the boat together 7 days prior and unloaded our stuff for the last time today. Anna was missed. I think we all felt it-not quite complete. She would have finished and finished strong.
Left: Andrew and I swimming crazy to bridge (another proud moment);
Right: Andrew Brought me to the finish where it all started one year ago (we hugged in the water and I cried – I couldn’t help it)
Bottom: My better half – Margrethe at the finish of Stage 7
As Andrew and I sat on the bow of the boat, he told me I had the look. The look I saw on his face at the end of his completion of 7 stages almost one year ago. I had mixed emotions. I was happy to have completed all the stages but sad the journey was over. As we pulled up to the dock my family was waiting. There were hugs, good-byes, and congratulations all around. As I walked off the dock I looked back one last time at the new family I had gained over the past week. I knew I would see each of them again at some point. With a lump in my throat, we headed home.