On August 18, 2007, Clara and I took a momentous leap into chilly 60-degree water for an 8 mile swim, thereby cementing the pact we had made years earlier. I'm not really sure how it got started: I'm sure the initial seeds were planted by family and friends, who upon hearing about my open water swimming adventures, countered with "So when are you going to swim the English Channel?" For me, that was it. The notion had been implanted. Now I understand that they were teasing me, a fact that has become glaringly apparent by their reactions as they learn of my plans for an August 2008 crossing. Before, when I boasted of my future plans, these same people would smile and nod, and maybe offer a small word of encouragement. Now they look on with disbelief as my childhood dream becomes a reality. I am, in fact, a freak. Very few people in the world enjoy a challenge as much as I do. I enjoy the daily grind of training, of pushing myself past imagined boundaries and achieving more than thought possible. I have found my niche with open water swimming.
The sport of open water swimming is a lonely one. Over the course of my pool swimming career, I have trained with hundreds of comrades by my side. I can count on one hand the number of people who have trained beside me in a body of water not chlorinated. There are so many more uncontrollables. The water can be any temperature, any color, and can have ANYTHING floating in it. It is usually impossible to see the bottom, and even if you could see the bottom, you probably wouldn't want to. Boats fumes can choke you and make you nauseous. Worse yet, boat propellers could strike you and severely injure you. Jellyfish can sting you, fish can nibble on you, and yes, a shark could theoretically bite you.
In spite of all this, I have found someone who shares my passion and who is living this dream beside me. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Clara that she is doing this. As she came out of the water on August 18th, having been fighting the waves and chilly temperatures for almost four hours, she was completely unfazed. As I shivered in my sweats, winter hat, tennis shoes, and gloves, she declined so much as a towel, and was content to sit right there, looking out on the beach.