I can hear that alarm go off at 4AM. I get up and out of bed before I can convince myself to go back to sleep, even though I can hear the cold rain smashing against my widow.
It’d be easier to tell myself that I can train tomorrow, but that’s not what I do.
I keep moving, get dressed quietly so as not to wake my wife and the thousands of other people who have the good sense to be in bed at this hour, rather than getting ready to swim in 50F water in the pitch black for the next hour or so.
I try not to listen to the voices in my head telling me I can take the day off and just do dry-land training, because this isn’t a city council meeting and I’m not asking their opinion.
Instead I’ll listen to that lone voice that says: “You wanna be the first Black man to do this swim? Then get your ass down to the club and get in the water, we’ve got work to do.”
Welcome to the Terrordome.
Each day there’s a new challenge between the right way and the easy way. A million different options await me as I approach the beach. I could always just swim a few coves, or go to Fort Mason and back, but something keeps calling out inside me: “Do more! Want it more, because no one’s gonna get you there but you!”
So when I make the choice to not go easy and push myself, that’s just the beginning. From there on it only gets harder. As a friend of mine once said: “Make sure this is something you really want, because it ain’t easy. If it was everyone would do it.”
It’d be easy to turn back, all I have to do is make up some excuse and boom it’s over. But that’s not what I do. I keep going.
When it’s going great I remind myself that I can do better, push harder, and when it’s bad I tell myself that thats when you dig deep and push on because I’m up against my greatest opponent…myself.
All those doubts and insecurities that I have constantly trying to jockey for room in my mind and convince me that there’s no way I can do this. But as tough as they are their not invincible.
Remember this is the Terrodome. That arena where my mind, my body, and those voices in my head keep telling me: “12.4 miles is a long way. There’ve been as many success as failures. What makes you think your so special?”
“Nothing” I reply, “I just want this more than anyone.”
So, I put my head back in the water and I push on. I drown out all those voices, the naysayers, that man on the boat long from long ago that told me: “Black folk don’t swim,” and I swim on. Realizing that every stroke I take is inching me closer to my goal.
I’m constantly aware that I can’t slack off. I know that better swimmers than me haven’t trained hard enough and failed just a mile or so from their goal.
But I won’t make that mistake. I’ll keep getting up at 4AM. I’ll deal with the things that go bump in the night when out in the water alone. I’ll curse under my breath that it’s too damn cold to swim at this hour but get in anyway. I’ll hold down my feeds that start to taste like nothing at all after four hours. I’ll deal with the “after drop” following a long swim. I’ll shiver in the shower and sauna alone with the voices asking me: “Why not just pack it in, you’ve done enough?”
And I’ll shake my head “no”. I won’t pack it in I’ll keep going. And when there’s nothing left. When I’ve done all I can to prepare, and those voices asks me: “Is that all you got?” I’ll answer: “No.”
I’ll keep pushing until there’s nothing left. I’ll take the jellyfish stings, the swells, the chop, the kelp forests, the drudgery, and I’ll keep moving forward. Why?
Because, I want it more than anyone else.