Hello all! I am starting this blog to track and share my open water training experience for the P2P. I thought for my first post I would just answer the basic questions that everyone has been asking me. So here is the: what, when, how, and why of my P2P attempt. 🙂
I am attempting a 20 mile, open water, marathon swim across the Cape Cod Bay from Plymouth, MA to Provincetown. I will begin my swim from White Horse beach near Plymouth. My swim will (hopefully) conclude in Provincetown, 19-20 miles away. The water temperature in the bay is reportedly 60-70 degrees, depending on where you are in the bay, the time of year, and climate variables.
My attempt will take place August 6th (pending MOWSA final approval) and begin in the early morning hours between 3:30-5:00AM and will conclude approximately 10 to 14 hours later.
There are two parts of “how” I am doing this. The first part is logistically how will the swim happen on August 6th. The second part of “how” is how I am preparing and training which will be the subject of many subsequent blog posts. For now I’ll just answer the first part.
I will be accompanied by a boat with a boat captain along with a support crew that is in charge of keeping me safe and healthy the whole time I’m in the water! This support crew will include a crew captain, a kayaker, a support swimmer, and an “Eliza-nutritional-intake-expert.” I’ll talk more about each of these special people and roles in later posts.
During the swim, I will stop every 30 minutes to consume a high-calorie, nutritional beverage. I will be accompanied the entire swim by my boat and by a kayak. Additionally, for three hours of the swim I will have my support swimmer join me in the water, likely in 30 minute bursts.
The P2P is a sanctioned solo-swim by the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association (MOWSA) and follows Channel rules (regulations set for English Channel crossings).
These rules include the prohibition of any “artificial aids” meaning I cannot wear a wet suit, fins, etc. I am only permitted “to grease the body before a swim, use goggles, wear one cap, nose clip, ear plugs and one costume.”
So there you have it! Those are the basic what, when, and how of my P2P attempt.
The last question is the one I have been asked by far the most: why? Why am I trying to swim 20 miles in open water that is roughly 15-20 degrees colder than your typical pool? Why am I putting myself through the necessary grueling training for a swim like this? So here is my answer:
Anyone who knows me well knows that I like a good challenge. This is a little more intense than your average “good challenge” like taking 21 credits in a semester or learning a new skill, in fact a lot of people would call this swim straight up crazy. It is a little crazy…at first glance, and also probably at second or third. BUT when you get to the core of it, it is not crazy at all, it’s actually par for the course, at least for me.
During my senior year in high school when I was tasked with creating a senior presentation, meant to be a culmination of my experience as a Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS) student, I was trying to put to words what I had come to know about myself, about who I am. I asked my mom for help and we began writing a word web writing down phrases and words that described me. In the end we developed a four word phrase that not only describes who I was as a senior in high school but who I have always been. I have an Intrepid Sense of Self Determination or as people in my family call it “Eliza’s ISSD”.
I have consistently sought out and taken on “crazy” challenges. As a fourteen year old I was a sighted guide to blind and visually impaired Mexican and American climbers to the summit of Mexico’s third highest volcano, Iztaccihuatl. As a sixteen year old I flew around the world and studied abroad in the Philippines for a year. As a seventeen year old I flew to Uganda to volunteer and work for a NGO in Northern Uganda alone. I fully embrace and try to live the phrase, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” With each of these challenges I felt a combination of terror and exhilaration (T&E). It has been too long since I felt that supreme combination of emotions and I am ready for something new.
The last time I truly felt T&E was my first two weeks of swim practice at Smith College. I have been an athlete my whole life—as a kid I played at least one sport per season if not more between softball, volleyball, basketball, and soccer. But I didn’t start competitively swimming until high school. I only swam for my public high school’s team and even though I was one of the faster members of our team, my technique was poor (to put it nicely) and I could barely do flip turns. When I came to Smith, my fastest 100 free time was a 1:16 and my best 500 time was well over 7 minutes. I never dreamed that I would swim in college but when I came to visit Smith in the spring of my senior year I met with Coach Kim and he told me that I should come and try out. During the first two weeks of practice I came home everyday exhausted both physically and emotionally. I called my step-dad after one particularly hard day and was relaying my exhaustion and anxieties about not being able to survive the workouts that were roughly triple the yardage that I had swum in any practice in high school. The advice he gave me on that phone call has stuck with me ever since. He asked me if being a college swimmer was something I wanted, I said yes that it was something I absolutely wanted to do. Then he said, “it sounds like it’s kind of kicking your ass, huh?” I chuckled a bit through my tears and smiled and replied, “Yeah, it’s kicking my ass.” Then he said, “Well let it kick your ass and fight through it.” And that is exactly what I did. Before Smith my fastest 50 free time was 33 seconds, now it’s a 26 low. My fastest 100 was a 1:16, now it’s a 57 low. My fastest 500 was well over 7 minutes and now it’s a 5:37. These aren’t national qualifying cuts or even close to conference or team records but I can confidently say that I am a completely different swimmer and athlete than I was those first two weeks of practice. I let college swimming kick my ass and I fought back, I let my intrepid sense of self determination drive me to keep fighting and keep getting faster, working harder every day.
The P2P is terrifying but I am ready to let it kick my ass and to fight through it. I know that I can physically and mentally train to finish it. I know that it is something that I want to do with every cell in my body even though it is semi-terrifying. I feel exhilarated and determined.
I’ll leave you with three quotes that I often think about and repeat to myself while training which help epitomize why I’m doing this swim:
“Do that which you think you cannot.”
“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
“I shall either find a way or make one.”