I am officially in Arizona! I can’t wait to get started tomorrow with Saguaro Lake. The weather is beautiful and I just can’t wait to get in and swim. I am feeling rested and ready to go.
On the plane rides from Smith I reflected a lot about the last year—how much I have learned about myself and how much I have grown as a swimmer and athlete. But most importantly I reflected on how lucky I am. I kept having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and appreciation come over me. This blog post is a thank you to all of those people.
Last year this time, I was just a couple months into my P2P training. I was a novice to open water swimming—when I decided to do the P2P I had never actually trained or raced a mile in open water let alone a marathon. Training for the P2P was a humbling experience. I learned lots of things the hard way (chaffing, nutrition, training) often through trial and error, but with every passing day I gained skills, confidence and ability. I whole-heartedly believe that the training that goes into a marathon swim is 10x harder than the marathon swim itself. Training day in and day out, pushing your body and your mind beyond all previously conceived limits changes you permanently. The mental dexterity, the physical endurance, and the tenacious spirit that open water marathon training requires and produces has made me a stronger person and athlete. Beyond these very tangible benefits, by far the most meaningful outcome from training for and completing the P2P were all of the relationships that were forged as well as those that were strengthened. I met amazing open water swimmers and race organizers who were pivotal in my success—Tracy & Steve (my Colorado training rocks and favorite people), the rest of the JCC crew (who always made me feel like I was at home while training long hours), David & Clare Barra and Rondi Davies (pioneers in marathon swim organizing and all around incredible individuals), and Kellie (cold-water swimmer extraordinaire and my MOWSA observer), were all people that came into my life and in big and small ways propelled me through training and the swim itself. Other relationships were strengthened—my family members, my partner, my best friends, my teammates, my coaches and my fellow marathon swimming fempire mamas were all indispensable. I am so grateful to them all. I feel undeserving of the extreme love and support that I have been gifted.
Thinking forward to SCAR I want to dedicate the four swims to all of the people mentioned above. Without them I would not be the athlete and person I am today. Since there are four lakes—here are four specific groups of people that I will be swimming for.
1. My family
I am incredibly grateful to have a family who has always been supportive of my wild plans and adventures: from climbing a volcano in Mexico to studying abroad in the Philippines to working for an NGO in Northern Uganda to swimming across the Cape Cod Bay—my family has come along for the ride, been an incredible support system, and helped me be successful. For SCAR I am very lucky to have both my brother and mother on my team/crew. They both took the entire week off of work/training and drove from Denver to Arizona to be with me. My brother who kayaked for my P2P swim is kayaking all 40+ miles alongside me. I know he will help get me through and keep me well-fed and taken care of. There isn’t another person I trust more in the world to go on this swim adventure with. My amazing, tenacious mother is our team leader—she has been instrumental in logistical planning and gear prep. She has made it so all I need to worry about is showing up and swimming which has taken so much stress out of this process! I am incredibly grateful to have them both with me! I plan on making them proud and carrying my weight for the team. 😉
2. My teammates
I am also so grateful for my Wild Bunch Family that is the Smith College Swimming & Diving Team. I doubt I would have ever gotten into the sport of open-water swimming without them. Joining the Smith swim team really changed my life. When I came to college, I had a background in competitive club soccer but was not a strong swimmer. When I joined the team I was one of the slowest members and could barely do flip turns. Fast forward four years and I have four school records and had the honor of serving as one of the team captains this year. I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today without the role-modeling and support from the incredible, talented, hardworking, and amazing teammates/athletes that I have been surrounded by. I’ll never forget my time at Smith spent with my team. I especially want to thank my distance-swimming mamas: Emily Lane and Paige Christie, as well as Jill Anderson (my lane six-mama), and Olivia Bannon, one of the senior captains when I was a first year who really showed me what it looked like to be a kickass swimmer and dedicated athlete. I also want to thank the 2016-2017 Wild Bunch for making my senior swim season the most fun and best of my entire collegiate career. Any success I have in the pool or in open-water is because of you all and the support you have given me.
3. My swim wives
This brings me to my swim-wives—of which I have four (Abby, Cheyenne&Marie, and Charlye). You would be hard-pressed to find a group of people who know me better.
Starting with Abby—my ultimate swim-wife-for-life. Abby and I have swum together for the last four years at Smith. She has seen me through the highs and lows of collegiate swimming and has been my rock on the team. She and I have spent each year getting stronger in the weight room and faster in the pool. We have cried together, cheered together, reveled in each others successes and comforted each other through ear infections, injuries, and disappointing times. I am so proud of her and I am so grateful for everything she has given me. We are always competing with each other, pushing the other to achieve their highest potential. The greatest gift in my collegiate swim life has been her friendship. This year at NEWMACs, being able to break three school relay records (including the oldest record on our books set in 1980) was incredible. If you had told us as first years that our names would end up on our team record board we both would have laughed. Four years later though, Abby has five school records and I have four. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.
Then there is Cheyenne, Marie, and Charlye. None of them are competitive swimmers but they are my greatest supporters, cheerleaders, coaches, and friends. Cheyenne and Marie have seen me through four years of Smith swimming—they’ve shown up to meets with banana posters in hand and for SCAR, Cheyenne sent me off with amazing notes and free-hand drawings of the SCAR lakes. Then of course there’s Charlye who is my partner in addition to being an excellent swim coach. She always reminds me before races: “scoop hands” and “don’t forget to kick!” —very useful advice. I feel beyond lucky to have them all in my life. They have loved and supported me more in the past four years than I could ever repay and I am beyond grateful.
4. My coaches & Smith Athletics
Last, but certainly not least, I have had the most incredible coaches during my time at Smith and have received amazing support from the Smith Athletics community. I hope I make them proud and can repay all the energy, passion, and time they have dedicated to me through my swims. First to the assistant coaches I have had—Amanda, Milana, Zach, and Morgan. Amanda—I wouldn’t have made it through the first month of practices at Smith without you. Milana—I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with you for your sports psych class, I utilize and rely on so many of the skills and exercises you introduced me to. Morgan and Zach—thank you for coaching me through the most stressful but also most rewarding portion of my Smith career! You are both phenomenal and helped make my senior year unforgettable.
And then there is head coach, Kim Bierwert. There are no words that adequately express how important Kim has been in my life for the last four years. The only thing I can really say is that it has been one of the greatest honors and privileges to be one of his athletes for four years. His unparalleled work ethic, passion, heart, and dedication that he gives to the sport of swimming has inspired hundreds if not thousands of people over his forty year career at Smith. “Behind every fearless athlete is a fearless coach who refused to let them be anything but the best they could be.” Kim is that coach. And I want to dedicate the SCAR swims to him.