My sixth season of open water swimming began on 30 May with the reminder that it’s always just you and the river – there’s no history and no future, just that moment. And as I swam in the endless pool that was the Hudson ‘in that moment’ I couldn’t stop thinking about the journey that brought me here. I swam my first mile in this river in 38 minutes and a 10k in my second year of open water swimming – how could 700 yards take me 56 minutes to swim today? I’ve swum almost 20 miles from NY to NJ, 10,000 yards in a pool in one afternoon, and over 500 miles in one year… and a host of other rationalisations as to why this should not be happening.
But there’s no ‘should’ in open water swimming, there just is. And so I kept swimming, knowing I would DNF, because I love swimming outside and I love that it’s the combination of what I bring to the river and what the river brings to me on any given day that tells the whole story. On that Saturday what she gave me was a fierce current pushing me back. And what I brought was not enough strength to push through it but yet enough strength not to quit. And that’s the other balancing act I love about this – it’s physical and mental. This passion of mine calls upon all your resources; it’s not enough to have perfect form in your stroke or to have the fortitude to never give up – it’s the combination of both of those and also to have the strength to walk away when it’s not your day and to swim imperfectly because the pain in your (insert body part here) doesn’t allow you to swim your stroke, but the rest of you compensates enough to finish.
I rode my bike along the Hudson this past weekend, thinking about the upcoming Stage 6 of 8 Bridges. When I first started on the bike, the winds were blowing fierce and there were white caps on the river – she was in quite a tizzy, but by the time I reached the Little Red Lighthouse she was quiet and serene. Sea glass. And I love that about this river, she’s moody and fierce and you can see how she feels as it is written all over her face. Just like me, she’s a heart on her sleeves kind of girl. And it’s why I love swimming in her, with her, on her, against her, beneath her, within her… in all her moods and mine. She’s challenging and exciting and within the same five minutes I will fall in love with her and she can break my heart.
And as I swam between those two bridges I was once again humbled and awed by the magnificent Hudson. I am an extraordinarily lucky girl that I get to do this.