I have a routine when I swim alone. Before I go further it might be wise to point out that I swim year-round, in the dark, usual about 5AM. Often I’ll swim with my close friend Kelley – whom I affectionately call my “swim girlfriend,” – but when Kelley has to go into work early, or is out of town, I usually swim by myself.
“At 5AM in the dark are you nuts?!”, people ask me.
“Yes”, I reply, “but that’s not the point.
The reason why I swim alone when Kelley isn’t there is because I usually don’t like swimming with others. Is not that I don’t like folks at my beloved South End Rowing Club, but rather I always feel like I’m lagging and holding them up.
Usually folks who offer to swim with me are faster, even if they say their slow.
“Naji, I’m slow too we can swim together,” they say.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” is my normal refrain.
“Why not?” because you’re definition of slow and mine are very different.
Still, they persist and, on a rare occasion, I agree to swim with them. That’s when they realize that our versions of slowness are truly different. It’s not uncommon for us to start out swimming together, and then, invariably, they begin to inch further and further in front while I’m struggling to keep up. If they circle back to swim again I tend to feel guilty because I think I’m wasting their time. (NOTE: I know I’m not, but it is how I feel when I’m in the moment.)
I also worry about them getting too cold while swimming with me. I’m not worried about myself. I know what this ole’ bod can take at given moments based on years of swimming this way, but I do have a fear that someone could develop hypothermia due to my snail’s pace in the water.
So at this point you might wonder: “Well then Kelley must be your speed right? Is that the reason y’all swim together” Ha, not even close! When she and I swim together, she gives me about a 25 yard lead and, as always, she’ll catch up and pass me.
But for some reason, we’ve always clicked as swim buddies. We go all over the place together, usually in pitch blackness, stopping now and again to catch up on this or that, and then resume swimming.
She knows my stroke rate, knows how to motivate me and when to pull back. She’s always encouraging and never negative. She’s an accomplished marathoner in her own right, Anacapa Island, The Catalina Channel, among others, but never brags about her own exploits, but rather praises others on the things they’ve done, whether it be crossing The English Channel or just swimming a mile for the first time. She always has a kind word to say to someone.
She’d call herself slow, but like I said before, her version of slow and mine are vastly different, but that’s not the reason for this post. I really believe if I am going to take on this task of swimming 12.4 miles, I know I’m gonna need someone in my corner that believes in me 100%.
These swims aren’t for the faint of heart. I can’t half-ass my way through this. I’ve gotta train hard. I have to realize it’s going to take every ounce of mental, physical and psychological strength I can muster to do this.
Although I’ll be doing all the swimming myself, people don’t realize how much marathon swimming is a team sport. There’s no way I can do this on my own, and I’ve surrounded myself with folks who are experienced and believe in what I’m doing. Kelley is one of them, in the coming weeks I’ll introduce the others to y’all.
Keep Swimming, you’ll get there when you get there!