I'm sure the first words out of the Dr.'s mouth when I was born weren't "It's a swimmer!", nevertheless that was life's ultimate plan for the years ahead. All growing up we spent summers in our grandma's pool and for a lot of us Gram would be our first coach. With my brother and sister along with cousins we would learn basic technique and the water became our second home. 'Reunions' were weekly if not daily. Swimming was my first love but sometimes life forces us to give up the things we love. At the age of 3 I was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure, more specifically Prune Belly; A kidney disease effecting 1 in 40,000. Attacking the immune system, reducing energy, and holding kidney function at 12-14% getting out of bed in the morning is nothing short of a miracle and everyday truely a blessing. When I was a Jr. in high school my swimming times began to slip and at first I didn't pay it much attention but I soon realized I was headed down a difficult road, a road that only went in one direction. Physically I didn't feel any different and for the next several weeks I wrestled with myself as I practiced. "Should I stay? Is it worth it anymore? What about the team?" Failure was knocking at my door and threatening what I loved. Without my hand on the knob the door opened and passion died. There was a moment standing waist deep in the water inbetween sets, everything slowed down and reality settled in my heart and sank to the bottom of the pool. Failure was not a choice but something I had to accept...or so I thought. For years after quiting the team I was bitter and angry, I didn't want to swim or even hear about swimming. I dont think my family understood where I was and quite frankly neither did I. Part of me died when I left and for those who have had a broken heart for whatever reason understand what I mean. Somewhere along the way my brother started to dabble in triathlons and other athletic events, soon my sister joined and before I knew it I had been sucked in as well. Emersed in a new journey, high school was in the past and another chapter in life was starting. Bitterness melted away and anger faded. "If you love something, set it free..." I don't recall who originally said this but for me this came true. I had a renewed love and a refined understanding and acceptance of the past. I moved on and gained a burning desire to rise above circumstance. Before I layed down and didn't fight, life will always find ways to knock us down but we only lose when we give up or give in. I'll push through the pain, I'll kick a little longer, I'll reach a little farther...I'll swim towards redemption

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Beginning Of The End?

     For the past 20 plus years despite health issues I have been able to do what I have wanted.  In high school I wasn't the fasted on the team which was fine but I was always reliable for points at every meet to help my team.  I worked hard and I wasn't great but I'm comfortable with saying I was good.

     The past few months however have been dramatically different.  I am starting to feel how all the years of check ups said I was supposed to be feeling.  My health I believe is finally at the beginning of the end.  I feel like Sampson getting his hair cut off and suddenly losing all his strength.

     I keep telling myself "Oh you're just out of shape." (Which is true) But it's more than that.  I go out to swim or bike and there's just nothing there.  The quality of my work has significantly dropped during this time and am now cutting back hours.  I've got a pounding headache most of the time, I've lost over 30 pounds...But the hardest thing of all is when I have one of my nephews tugging on my shorts wanting me to chase them or go play, and looking at their sweet innocent smiling faces and tell them no.  Immediately turning there smiles into heartbreaking faces that say "Why? Don't you love me?"

     For now the story is not finished but I'm not sure what the future will write...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who Am I?


       Since i'm not going to be taking part in the weekly swim tomorrow i'm gonna write about whats been on my mind recently.

       "Who am I?"  It's a common question for any athlete to ask him/herself.  I cant even begin to count the times I have asked myself this question whether before a workout, after a race, and so on.  When pondering about this and looking at myself I always come back with the same response: "Who do you want to be?"  A question that I can more easily come to a conclusion.  I want to be awesome!  I want to become one of those people that I have looked up to and gotten my strength and confidence from.  My brother Josh, our buddies Gordon, and Goody, and who could forget Lynn Cox whose behind my inspiration for this blog in the first place.  I want to be those people.

       There is one thing that has been a hinderence to me and made it very difficult to reach goals.  When I was seven I had an accident which left me with titanium plates and screws in my head.  As dumb as it may seem after about a mile and a half to two miles I get painful headaches from the swim cap squeezing my head.  I could easily just not wear a swim cap training but any race they are required.  And if Idon't wear my cap I lose my ability to have my gps, and in cold water forget about keeping my head in the water.  So, the big question: Do I have surgery to take them out?

       Again it's another difficult question.  In the past my parents have asked if I wanted them out and with no thought i'd say no.  It didn't matter in the past, but now that I see the potential to acheive something by doing it it's not a no thought answer.  It's not even about the money, after 20 years of having them, well.......Its who I am.  It's part of what makes me me, and I'm not sure that I want to get rid of that.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Long Road Ahead


       Thursday I was excited to be getting back into the water, all day I watched the clocked waiting impatiently until it was time to leave.  As is always the case I spent the day day dreaming about how far I would go thinking that a mile would be too easy, after all I'd done it many times in my "career", and that I'd possibly go for two.  I knew I was out of shape before even getting in the car not doing anything for at least seven months, and not "in shape" when I stopped, but nevertheless was unswayed and confident that I'd reach my goal.  I was sorely mistaken.

       I like to think that I don't give up easily or quit very often, and I suppose every situation is different on how you'd define either result.  I don't take falling short very well and unfortunately at least from my perspective when I don't accomplish a goal it's typically a result of several obstacles, whether mere annoyances or major concerns.  When do you push it, and when do you surrender and come back?

       I didn't reach my goal by at least 1.5 miles, but I didn't give up I surrendered to my weakened body.  On my way back to shore I was already drawing up plans in my mind on how to get back in shape to where I can do what I want.  The steps will be small and the road long, but the reward for perseverance sweet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cold Record


     This week the Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club headed out for a Thanksgiving swim at the Great Salt Lake.  I met Josh, Gordon, and Goody around 4:15 at the Marina, a little earlier so we had some daylight left for our swim.

     Gordon went in first and did two laps to the mouth of the Marina and back, about 700 yards.  Goody got in next and did one lap of the same for about 350 yards.  The third swimmer was Josh who did the same as Gordon, 700 yards.  Then it was my turn.

     We took turns swimming as an extra safety precaution so going last I was already cold before getting in.  I wanted to have a good swim but I was having doubts about how much I'd be able to do, and watching the first 3 members walk down the ramp and non-chalantly wade into was intimidating.

     When I made my way into the water I was surprised at how 'easy' it was.  It was cold but bearable and I didn't have any problems with hyperventilating which I think is a first for me.  When I started to swim it was a different sensation than I've had in the past.  I didn't have that strange sort of comfort in the cold that I've experienced last year and so far this year in cold water.  This time my body stung and was uncomfortable, but somehow I managed to stay in and set a new personal record for distance in 49 degrees with .16 miles(300 yards).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Like the sweatshirt says: "Grin and bear it"


     It's easy to talk a big game when the water temp is still in the 60's, but when it dips below and the outside temp is 50...well the tune has a different chorus.

     Luckily I have an awesome brother that made time to come out a couple days early so I didn't miss out on a swim this week.  We met at Bountiful Lake around 5:30 and stepping out of our cars we instantly knew it was gonna be a cold swim.

     After setting up our gear on the east pier we were already getting kinda chilly just standing there so we did a few laps around the area to generate some heat and warm up.  We headed back to look at the thermometer that Josh had put in the water a few minutes before to see what we'd be up against this week.  Josh looked up at me and all he said was: "We are dead."  Encouraging right?

     This is what we've been waiting for, the temp to drop below 60 and bring on the cold, and with a reading of 57 we got our wish tonight.  After having done this at the end of this past winter we knew how that would feel and contemplated the course to take.  We decided on just a short swim out to the South pier and back to the East.  Josh dove in and after a few strokes I jumped in after him.  Like always there was the initial shock to the body and some tingling on the skin but really didn't feel too bad.

     When I caught up with Josh we both quickly said we felt good and wanted to keep going.  From the South pier we headed toward the island and then made our way back to the East pier where we started. I thought that for sure today I wouldn't be able to keep my head in the water but to my great surprise I was able to.  The only thing that bothered me was after awhile my muscles got tight and I felt like I really had to use a lot of effort to make any distance.

     In Lynne Cox's new book Josh told me about how she talks about going for a little jog after one of her freezing swims and said that it really helped in warming her up.  So when we pulled ourselves out of the water and got dressed we did a quick jog and I gotta admit even with the short distance today of 1/4 mile I could tell a difference with adding the jog and think I will continue that.

     It was another great swim and I am so excited that it's getting colder and look forward to seeing what I can do this year!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You're Getting In There...On purpose?


     Tonight was our second meeting for WFPBC.  Walking along the path to the East Pier there were a pair of couples walking toward the parking lot and asked me: "You're getting in there?" with the second couple following up with: "On purpose?"  Well...Heck yes I'm getting in there!

     For me week 2 was filled with more anticipation after a somewhat disappointing temp from week 1.  Although it wasn't a significant drop, just 2 degrees (63 to 61), it was a good sign that it's getting colder.  Gords dove in off the East Pier while Josh and I jumped in after.  The initial plan was to swim to the West Pier and back but when we got there the three of us felt pretty good and made a course change around the island and back to the East Pier.

     My headaches were a problem until I reached the back of the island then my head warmed up and I was able to put my head in the water and stretch out my stroke.  At about the same time I noticed the muscles in my arms were getting tight and was taking more effort to swim.  I wondered the rest of the way if the cause was me being out of shape or if it was the cool sinking into them.  Since it was just a half mile I figured it was both but more of the water. 

     Getting out of the water I felt great and I don't think anyone was shaking.  It was another great week and continue to look forward to new challenges.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club


     Today was the first swim for the new Wasatch Polar Bear Club.  With the cooler weather the last couple weeks I've been getting excited for cold water season.

     Josh, Gordon and I met at Saltair and headed out to Black Rock in Josh's car.  It was a nice clear day and close to 70 degrees.  When we were walking in the water it was cool but not cold.  I think the temp we ended up with was 63.  So although it's not 'Polar' yet it was still a great chance for a swim.

     The water was the clearest I've ever seen it at the Great Salt Lake and was awesome.  I also pulled out my SSD to try out tonight for the first time...I forgot to get it out at La Jolla.  I'd heard Josh and others talk about not noticing it behind you when swimming but I still wondered if it would be an annoyance.  Thankfully like the others I didn't notice it in fact I forgot that I even had it with me.  Before we turned back to head for shore we layed back and relaxed in the water for a few minutes and I learned just by chance that you can lay your head on the SSD like a pillow and the strap will support your back so it's like a bed, it was really comfy and fun.

     Although the water was in the 60's the plates in my head got cold and gave me a headache for the first few minutes but was able to warm up and felt great.  The only bad thing is that the salt let me know that my lips were a little dry because they were stinging the whole swim but still had fun.  I was also worried about my shoulder because it had been hurting for a few days but after being home from the swim it feels like its back to normal.  Guess my new medicine is swimming therapy :)