After the immediate finish there was a sense of elation on the beach that I can’t describe. The best way I can is to imagine the greatest accomplishment of your life, and then imagine that 50 people or so feel the exact same way as you do and are with you to enjoy it. I hugged my team; my family again, shook hands, cried and sat down on the ice chest. Joey and Brother Ronald from St. Stanislaus helped me take off my wetsuit top. Ed and Brady slapped a bag of ice on either shoulder. Besides being a little tired, I felt fine. This was an aerobic effort for me as my heart rate rarely got over 100. I looked at my HRM after and it said my avg for the swim was 74. At one point I stopped and rested on my back and the team asked me where my HR was and it was 34. I am unsure if it tweaked a little bit, but it made sense. I was rolling with the waves trying not to fight it all night. The only thing that makes me think it went a little haywire is that it said I peaked at 232. This is impossible for me as the maximum HR I have ever reached is 178. We took time, reveling in the beautiful day, and the sense of togetherness and relief was awesome. A group from Baton Rouge came over, Ann, Marie, and maybe someone I didn’t see. If so sorry. Friends from my childhood, Martha and Tommy Letard, Missy Alllen and others were there. W, Joie and SJ, I will not list them all, but you get the point. Tom Atkinson, one of the original kayakers was there to shake my hand. I had worried about he and Abe through the night. Brother Ronald and a group of students from St. Stanislaus who had walked down to the beach were there too. Various residents who stopped as they drove by and wondered what was going on this early on a Saturday morning also stopped. We got our stuff together and headed up the street to the home of the Letards, who so graciously offered it for our team to clean up and grab a bite to eat. I ate two bites of a muffin and had a cup of coffee. I wasn’t hungry. Must have been too much salt water. After the rush of adrenaline we all felt after the swim, everyone was starting to decompress and the underlying exhaustion was coming out. I got some first aid on my foot, could have had stitches, but after soaking in the water for 8 hours it was fine…I guess. I got a tetanus shot yesterday to be sure. We rode home and I took a 3-hour nap. Woke up ate some pizza and went to bed early. Shoulders were sore, but nothing permanent. I will be fine sometime this week.
I keep reading and re-reading this to see what I am leaving out. I am leaving out a ton. When I read it the swim sounds surreal. When I add in that I did it in the dark it sounds even more surreal, and when I add in the fact that the only thing that could have made it worse weather-wise was rain, or another hurricane, I laugh. You are making this up. While I was out there, I didn’t think it was any big deal. I know now that it was to others, but to me, it was what I had set out to do. I was completely surprised and unprepared due to the conditions, but I somehow didn’t think that much about it. I was too busy swimming to worry about it. I was more concerned about the Team and how miserable they must be. I was talking to my wife last night and told her that besides the points around Gulfport harbor, I never felt like it was dangerous. I had a great Team and I felt physically I could complete the swim. The reality is that it was probably two parts dangerous, one part stupid and one part what we planned to do. I never discussed the opportunity for bad weather, or what we would do if we thought it was too bad to start. We did not have a second swim date set up. I thought five or six hours in that we might need to stop for the safety of the crew, and then thought to myself, “What are you going to do? Swim to the beach, wait for better weather and start over tomorrow?” Screw it, go until they say they can’t go or you can’t go. The Team never once said they wanted to stop or that the weather was bad enough to stop the swim. They simply flashed lights and said, “Go left. Go right. How you feel?” We never had an exit strategy, which is probably good. The only exit was Bay St. Louis. This was not the safest plan, but a plan that worked. I am leaving out a ton I know, but it feels like I could write forever and never get it all in. Some have said I need to write a book. I might.
I want to add a few more things from the night. They are more like things I thought and things I saw. They are going to be in a kind of free form as they come to mind. They may bore you, but I feel like I need to get them out. My Team may say otherwise but these are some things I remember.
Every time I was to eat Joey would point a light at me and yell, “Dinnertime!” I always thought, “Its too late for dinner.”
Shelly would ask me “How you doing?” I think I said, “Fine,” every single time or “I’m alright.” Even though I probably looked like crap.
Francis always had an ear-to-ear grin and would say “Awesome,” from time to time. This was encouraging.
When I cut my foot, Joey said, “It looks fine.” Francis said, “Oh yeah you did cut your foot.”
In the days before the swim I asked Shelly about how my hands turn out with every stroke, she said, “Do they?” She had told Susan multiple times that she would have changed my stroke earlier in the training but didn’t. Shelly I believed you didn’t notice. Good poker face. I realize now you didn’t want me to change my stroke a week before the swim.
I thought about seeing Styx at the coliseum as we passed it. I also thought about ¾ length concert t-shirts and rednecks.
I had wanted to stop at my old street as I passed by but passed it before I realized where we were. Oh well.
I felt like I was slugging through the water and had no idea about my pace. I went slow as I could as I figured just keep the arms coming over.
In the Biloxi Channel, I actually thought that it might be easy if the waves stayed right behind me. They only remained behind me for 2 hours or so.
I thought we were out much further than the Gulfport harbor. We were not.
I stopped being able to taste the difference between flavors of gels, but egels were the only ones I could keep down. I could tell when they gave me an accel gel instead.
I threw up every single time I ate, but would not tell the team, as I knew they would freak. I just tried to keep as much down as possible.
I started drinking mostly water around the halfway point.
I never lost my mind as some people do when they go that long. I knew what was happening the whole time.
I had confidence the whole time that I would finish. I even started celebrating in my mind multiple times before the finish. This was funny, as I would have 3-4 more periods of “I am done,” after this.
I prayed often and tried to think of prayers etc. I said the serenity prayer and sang the U2 song “40” which is Psalm 40. The funniest thing that kept coming to my mind was a line from the Exorcist, when the priest is splashing the demon girl with holy water and yelling, “The power of Christ compels you.” I thought to myself, is that an okay prayer, and decided, yes, it was.
I tried to think of things that my kids had done or things that reminded me of them, but all I could do was think, “Yeah, you have two kids, Paige and Ian.”
Towards the end I would say the names of my family and every team member with every stroke I took. If I got through all of them it was like 20 strokes.
I tried a couple of times to count strokes. I lost track at 156 or so every time.
It was interesting to me that I had all this time to think, but couldn’t concentrate on anything but swimming and adjusting. I could only concentrate on everything you read above for snippets of time and then back to swimming. I really would have liked to have been able to relax more. Ha!
I wrote the initials of my kids and family on my cap as well as the name of my friend from high school who recently lost both of his parents. I also wrote 32 on each side of the cap.
I remember singing the following songs.
“40” by U2
“Best Thing That You Never Had”
“Don’t Move” both by Butch Walker
“Magnolia Mountain” both by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
That’s about it thankfully no bad songs got in my head.
The taper that Shelly laid out for me worked. I felt relatively good till about the 12-hour mark. About all you can ask for.
Thank you all, I will post the Team members accounts as I receive them.