You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals. Edmund Hillary
Let me start out once more by thanking my family, my community and my TEAM. Without my team I could never have accomplished this. They are the inspiration to me. They never let me see their true concerns (well for the most part, some things you can’t hide), and they did a stellar job keeping me going, keeping my family informed and keeping me safe. Susan, Shelly, Ed, Ty, Jeff, Joey, Brady, Joie, W, Francis, Mandy, you all are the best. We ALL shared and were a part of a great thing Friday/Saturday. I will start at the beginning and may have to post in parts as it may be a long one.
The two weeks leading up to the swim were pretty much uneventful after Sunday March, 18th, the day of my last long “open water” swim. I learned that the only thing that this open swim had in common with my the Coast swim was that it occeurred in water. So does a bath. More on that later. After 7+ hours on the 18th my shoulders, which had so far remained pain free, were toast. I woke up on Monday the 19th and thought the whole swim was over. I was panicked and stressed completely. Shelly and I talked and she said not to worry, she would take care of me. She got me some Celebrex samples, got the dosage and gave me three days to rest. Then I would start tapering. My swims over the next two weeks sucked. I had no power, and though my shoulders did not hurt, it felt like the pain was just under the surface and would surface 1000 or 10000m into the actual swim. This was going to hurt and knowing that for 2 weeks was tough on my brain. I stuck to Shelly’s plan, did a few swims and tried to keep it out of my mind. I was going to swim, I was going to finish and it was going to hurt. Deal with it. I did my best.
On the week of the swim I spent zero time resting. I had one day where I got up at 4 a.m., swam, worked all day, drove to Mississippi for an interview and drove back. The next day I worked packed and drove back to Mississippi for the big swim. It felt like the world was flying by as logistics, emails, calls, and the like kept me going till late Thursday. I went to bed after some spaghetti. I slept well.
For anyone who has raced before, you know the feeling you get on race day. I guess if you played sports in high school many of you may know it to. I woke up on Friday March 30th feeling like I was jacked up on mini-thins. I felt good, my shoulders were so so and all seemed okay. I had 3 interviews before 8 a.m., I still needed to mix my nutrition for the swim as well as a host of logistical items. I am not a planner, and thanks to Susan, Shelly and Francis I didn’t need to be. T be more to the point, I had not talked to Francis in person in over a month. He said he would be there and Susan talked to him so I was cool. No worries. I drove to Bay St. Louis and made sure there was a beach to walk up onto. The wind was screaming due east, the direction I needed. I was freakin giddy. I prayed for the wind to stay out of this direction and I knew from the dependable weather forcasters, that it would change to the ENE at around 10 or 11 blowing me out and away from Gulfport harbor and would change to east again for a downwind finish. Perfect.
My former employee and fantastic runner, Brady came in early Friday around lunch. We headed to the hotel to set up a base camp of sorts and to mix up nutrition etc. I drove him through what is left of my old neighborhood. He couldn’t believe it. I was swimming for a lot more causes than I let you all know, but perhaps you could all glean that from my blog. I wrote a couple of notes, and rested for 13 minutes, then the phone started again. I got up and at 3:00 we left to go pick up Joey Lee at work. 3:30 and we’re on our way to Ocean Springs. We arrive right on time and the crew is there and arriving. Shelly, Susan, Ed, Ty and Mandy are there as well as Michelle Mayer and her son Stephen. We scout out a nearby harbor so they can get on the boat without having to trudge through the water and I go back for a live TV shot. My family shows up and then a number of people from the coast that I have known but not seen for a long time show up. A nice littler old lady in a rascal rides up and says she used to swim the Bay St. Louis races and that she had to come see me off. I am again taken aback. I get my wetsuit on and head to the beach for the TV interview. TV is funny. Here I am about to take on the physical and mental challenge of a lifetime, and I am talking to the TV girl about my exit into the water. Seems surreal kind of. I meet with the kayak team of Abe Kinney, a friend from home, Jeff Beck, from the backpacker, and Tom Atkinson, a local who saw a post from Abe on a kayakers message board and wanted to join in. I said the more the merrier, but also explained that he would be going slow and my nutrition and sighting had to be the priority. I briefly explained to them their role and got ready for my interview/entrance. I do my interview, put on my goggles and start walking….nothing says dramatic swim entrance like 8 inches of water. I wade out another 50 yards and finally can take a stroke. Did I mention the wind was still blowing out of the southeast, oh and 15-20 mph.
Before we headed out I told the team I was going to go nice and slow across Biloxi Bay as I knew it was going to be a challenge. Although the wind was coming out the right direction, the starting point was directly into the wind so as to not add more miles to the swim. It was going to be a 1-2 mile crossing and then into the Biloxi channel for a couple of miles. I started out nice and easy. I did not want to expend too much energy this early. I was happy to be swimming and felt relatively good, no pain in either shoulder and all was well. I had told the kayakers, to not worry about me sighting off of them at this point and for them to get comfortable first and we could hone the method in the channel where it would be calm. At about 30 minutes in I see Abe capsize. My immediate reaction is to stop and help him. Joey says “Don’t worry about him, keep going.” 15 min later I see he has met up with the group. I have my first food stop, take in some h2o and keep heading for Point Cadet.
Point Cadet is the eastern point of Biloxi and is where many shrimp boats and most of the casinos are located. As we approached the waves started coming in the opposite direction and I was getting sloshed around. This was going to be something I had to deal with at every harbor along the way. It was like the waves came in and hit against the concrete and came sloshing back against the incoming waves. There was no undertow associated, just the top of the water was a complete mess. I kept cool and remembered that once I got around the Point it would smooth out for a while. Finally we get around and it is super smooth. I now have a direct tailwind and am working on getting into a rhythm with the waves and my stroke. I stop somewhere right after and eat half a cliff bar and some accelerade. I immediately put my head down and start throwing up part of it. The salt water is already taking a toll on my stomach and I have only been in the water for an hour or so. I am not happy about this, but, what can you do. I start swimming again and we are making pretty good time.
I cannot relax and swim though. Nausea, and the waves are working against me and my mind is racing. I can’t concentrate on anything. I would kill to have a song stuck in my head right now. I am constantly having to sight, forward and sideways and the kayaks are all over the place. I realize this is not kayaking weather. Joey is staying close and Tom and Jeff are doing pretty well beside me. I make a couple of stops and think to myself, “We are flying, we have got to be going 3 mph with this tailwind. I may finish in 12 hours after all.” I have had a goal of swimming this in under 13 hours the whole time, but that is in calm water. I thought I had a reasonable chance to do it IF I could have the right conditions. The conditions in the channel were perfect, 2 hours in and I had covered 5.47 miles. I told Joey sarcastically that there was a small craft advisory. I think I told Joey it felt like I was cheating it was so easy. This would not last long.
Somewhere out of the Biloxi channel, Abe and Tom opted out. I can’t blame them. By this time Joey had flipped, and I think Abe had again. I worried for all of them and kept going. The perfect conditions left once we got around the end of Deer Island, they weren’t awful, but they weren’t great either. As we were a half mile or so from what used to be the Broadwater Harbor. The same sloshing affect started well before the harbor and I realized this would happen at every harbor. I told Joey this as I needed the team to know how much these were taking out of me. The next one was going to be Gulfport harbor, but it was still 3 hours or so away.
Somewhere after the Broadwater harbor, Joey and Jeff were done. The kayaks couldn’t handle the waves Joey had flipped for a second time and managed to save my body glide and some rope or something. Jeff flipped too and I was concerned. I could not sight off of them any more. This would mean I would have to get everything from the big boat, which was harder and more dangerous in these conditions.
Joey had told me on the way over that there would be a time when I would think that I would want to quit. He said it may feel like I couldn’t go on at all. He said when he it had happened to him, it lasted for 20 minutes or an hour and then he was good. I had a strange moment in Biloxi. Though I was making good time, I was wearing my mind out. I couldn’t get a good rhythm due to the waves, and I was completely nautious. I would take in a gel and throw up part of it. I did not dare tell Susan and the Team as I knew they would freak. I just tried to keep down as much as possible and keep rolling. It was around here I just thought, “This is too dangerous, it is not worth getting someone else hurt over. I keep throwing up, my mouth is torn up from the salt water, and I can’t relax.” This lasted about 5 minutes, but was a very strong feeling. My next thoughts were, “My shoulders feel fine, I feel strong. The nausea is here, forget about it, and the team will tell me if they want out.” It came and went and I was ever determined. Head down and swim.
Somewhere around here, I relaxed for about an hour. I don’t know when, but I had somehow just let my mind go a little. It was nice, I tried to enjoy how I had gotten here. The early mornings, swimming by myself, 90% of the time. All of this helped, and I tried to revel in the moment. Biloxi passed as did most of Gulfport. I looked up to see familiar “sights” and streets. This part of the coast was a little recognizable because I knew where the stoplights should be. I would tell I was still making okay time. I thought of my family and friends and hoped everyone on the boat was okay, especially Shelly as she is 20 weeks pregnant. I had finished about 12 miles or so I guess and told myself I had this. I was also at this time getting ready for Gulfport harbor because I knew it was going to be a huge challenge. Little did I know.
I knew I was swimming all over the place as I had to sight off the big boat. The waves would at times knock me 90 degrees in the wrong direction, and I would see the light flashing at me meaning one of two things, I either needed to eat or I needed to get back on track. In hindsight we did not do enough planning on signaling. It wolud have made it easier to know that one flash was for “wrong way” and another for “come eat”, but what you gonna do. Eating from the big boat was difficult because I would have to swim to chase it down, and then eat. While I was eating the boat would drift away and I would have to swim back to throw my bottle back on board. I started putting the bottle up under the back of my wetsuit and swimming with it until I got closer to the boat again. I would have a small dorsal fin for these periods and I wondered if it helped at all. Not really.
I keep looking at the stuff I am typing and I am leaving out a lot (unbelievably). I would like to take a second to talk about swimming this at night. I read up on long swims leading up to my swim and found that many of them were planned for the night as the sun just drains you, burns you, and usually the weather calms at night. This was a tactical decision that I do not regret. The actual swimming in the dark was not as big deal for me. Flourescent phytoplankton (or something like that) would stream over my goggles every stroke, so much so that I grew oblivious to it. It was cool to watch the moon move from a 7 o’clock to 2 o’clock. It was a little cloudy so there weren’t many stars. I would feel a small jelly fish (non stinging type) go through my fingers from time to time, and once a big fish hit my legs, making me speed up a bit and raised my heart rate, but other than that no real contact with sea creatures. I half wanted a porpoise to swim with me, but probably would have soiled my wetsuit had this happened, but thought it would have been cool to have flipper along. All in all the dark didn’t bother me. It did make it harder on the boat and seeing where we were with regards to the land.
Somewhere around hour 5 Francis asked me if I was in the mood for sex. I thought “Huh,” but didn’t really know what to say so I said “Sure, I guess, but not from you.” He then chimed in 5 hours and 13. something miles. I figured out he was asking me if I wanted stats. I really didn’t. I did not want to know anything until after Gulfport harbor, but so be it. Now I knew how far long I was in with every feed stop. It was kind of nerve wracking. We were still a couple of miles from the harbor. I knew I was in for a huge challenge.
At least a mile from Gulfport harbor, I began to feel the affect of the wind and waves. I knew that Gulfport harbor was actually 3 harbors in one. It had the small craft then a freighter harbor where Dole has a large banana boat complex, and then one more commercial harbor, I don’t think the team knew this. The winds were out of the southeast still and as they hit the east side of the first harbor they began heading back out to sea and me. I had one more feed stop around here and knew that was it for the next hour or so because the harbor was at least a mile wide, possibly more. Combine this with the seas and I knew I was in for it. Again I just put my head down and kept going.
I had thought in the hours leading up to this point that we were out far enough to get around the harbor. I was very wrong. As I swam in he tumultuous waters, I noticed that I was drifting closer and closer in. I was half way through the first section of harbor and fighting hard. The waves in here were at least 5-7 feet high and the boat would completely disappear with each wave crest. I kept going and at some point heard the boat yelling that I was getting to close. I looked up and saw the light at the end of the small craft harbor. It was on top of a jetty made of broken concrete and rocks. I thought I was okay and took a couple of strokes of breaststroke to get my bearings. I wasn’t far enough at all, I slammed my left foot into a pile of debris putting what would turn out to be a 2 inch cut that probably could have used stitches. I had to head straight out at this point and fight to get south enough to not get my whole body slammed into this jetty. It was brutal for a short while as I headed directly into the wind an waves. I got around the first jetty and headed west again. The boat was telling me to head towards a set of lights and I did. What we failed to realize was that there was a concrete pier in between us and these lights. This was in the freighter part of the harbor and the waves and backsplash (wrong word) was at its height here. At one point my whole body was lifted completely out of the water. I was getting slammed from all directions. The team realized I had to go straight out again so I headed back straight out. It was crazy. I made it around this one and had a little ways to go before I was to be clear of the harbor. This was taking it out of me. I knew I would get a break in a while so I just kept going. There were two huge silo looking things and I knew if I got passed them I was almost done. The third harbor was set back a bit so I didn’t think I would have to go straight out again. The team I don’t think knew about this third harbor and as we finally got a little clearance they said come eat. I would have liked to, but I was now feeling the effects of getting slammed and drinking gallons of salt water. I stopped for a second and began violently throwing up, and I mean the body wrenching can’t stop to I have thrown it all up kind of barfing. I just lost all of the nutrition I had diligently been putting in my body. I had an extremely brief moment when I thought, “Well, that’s it I am done. I can’t believe I just threw up everything and cut the shit of my foot and I am done at 6 or 7 hours.” It lasted only for a second, because I all of a sudden felt great. My stomach was settled and I was calm. The boat called me to come eat, and I said after the last point. They thought I had lost my mind cause they couldn’t see another point as the last harbor was indeed farther inshore and not going to be an issue. I came in and ate and swam around the north side of the boat. I noticed that one of the kayaks we were towing was gone. I thoutght, “That is gonna cost me.” Jeff Beck from the Backpacker, who was ultimately responsible for them said to forget about it, that the boat had to stay with me. Unbeleiveable.
I am going to get a tetnus shot. Hopefully i will complete this afternoon.
In the next few moments, the most stressful moment (from the boat’s standpoint) occurred. Shortly after I ate at the end of Gulfport harbor, I tucked the bottle under my wetsuit and started swimming again. At this same moment, the boat got one of the ropes to the kayaks stuck in the prop. I, of course, could not have known this. They were drifting in towards shore and I put down my head and kept going. I looked up a minute later and saw the Q-beam light scanning the horizon for me. They had completely lost me. Susan has shared with me that the boat was in complete panic. They did not know I could see them and they thought I could have been washed back towards the piers or worse they would run me over. For 90 seconds or so they searched and panicked. Shelly said to call the Coast Guard, Joey said don’t bother because he said they probably would have jumped in to find me, and the Coast Guard would find an empty boat. I could see they were looking and swam their way and stopped to wave. They finally saw me and we got moving again, but not before Joey tied a light stick to the zipper of my wetsuit. The next couple of hours weren’t too bad. I knew the trip around Gulfport harbor had taken its toll, but I was pretty confident that I could make it. I showed the boat that I had cut my foot. Joey said it looked fine. I ate dutifully and kept going. I passed the Long Beach harbor far enough out that it did not kill me. I told myself, that once I got to Pass Christian harbor I was home free. I could kick the last 5 or 6 miles if I had to.
One thing that was killing me was that the Team had told me how far we had gone and how long I had been going. I was wearing a heart rate monitor and had not looked at the running time at all. Somewhere around 10 hours the team told me I had been in for that long and for every stop from then on they told me the time. I of course had not told them not to do this or to stop doing it, but it was tough to hear it. I could tell we had a while to go, and knowing I had swum 20 miles or that I was hitting the 12 hour mark was not making it any easier. I knew that 20 miles might only mean 18 miles in the right direction and 2 zigzagging so it was not helping me. It was also around this time that Francis said, “You see those lights down there? Those are the lights on the railroad bridge on the Bay, you are getting there.” I looked up and could see them a long ways in the distance. I kept looking at them from time to time to keep focused.
There are only two traffic lights in Long Beach and only one in Pass Christian. I saw the two go by in Long Beach and realized we had passed the harbor without event. The next few miles were basically black but for some streetlights. There was a big cluster of lights that we passed and I thought we must be out further than I thought and that I passed the Pass Christian harbor without event. Now I just was closing in on the red and green lights, the railroad bridge across Bay St. Louis and the finish. I begin to relax a little with the feeling like I am going to finish this thing. I cannot believe it. Something in the back of my mind said, “It ain’t over yet boss. Keep your mind about you.” Another hour passes and all of sudden from the boat I hear, “Watch out for that pier!” I look up and expect to see the Pass Christian harbor, which is no biggie, as I know it is only six miles or so after that. I look up and instead see what I know is the remains of the Penthouse Apartments pier. It was approximately one half mile from my old neighborhood on the Pass Christian, Long Beach border. Four or so miles from this pier to the harbor which as I know is five or six miles from the finish. I am deflated. I am now about 10 miles away instead of less than 6. I realize now that the lights that the Team thought was the railroad bridge was in fact the stoplight at the Pass Christian harbor. I put my head down and try to get over it. I do a couple of strokes of breaststroke and SLAM! I look up and I have just hit a floating section of tree maybe 12 inches around and 4 ft long. I yell to the boat to watch out, and take another couple of easy strokes breast and deduce that I am fine. Ten miles to go. Four hours, maybe.
As I said in the beginning, I tweaked both of my shoulders doing my seven-hour training swim. My left one was far worse than the right, and I was concerned all week leading up that I was not going to physically be able to complete the swim. I felt okay about the mental side of this, but if you can no longer bring your shoulder over the top, you are out of luck. I tried to rest doing breaststroke, kicking or backstroke. Breaststroke and kick can take a brother a lifetime to go anywhere. Couple that with the fact that I was wearing a wetsuit, making breaststroke almost impossible to do fast. This was due to the fact that the suit raises your hips. This is great for freestyle but awful for breast. I would try to do it from time to time to take a break, but it was incredibly inefficient. Backstroke was a no go as well. This was for two reasons. First, I did not have anything to look at to keep going straight, and second the waves were coming from behind me and to the left. This meant they washed right into my face every few seconds. I was going to have to complete this doing some sort of freestyle, no matter how badly it hurt. Up until the ten-hour mark I had little pain in my shoulders. After the Gulfport harbor fight, they both felt like they were going to go at any minute, but nothing happened immediately. I did know that the Gulfport harbor crossing had taken its toll and that I would pay for it eventually. At the ten-hour mark I felt a twinge in my right shoulder. I say I was pain free the whole swim up until this point, and that is factually a little bit of an exaggeration. What happens is that pain comes and goes, but you kind get in tune with your body throughout your training. From doing some long swims, I knew that I would get a certain feeling, call it a pain, in a part of my shoulder and it would go away in 5-15 minutes or so. I am not a doctor, but I assume these are just muscle related. I had had those off and on all night, but I wasn’t concerned about them. The ones I was concerned with were join related. When those come on they don’t go away, they just intensify until it feels like you cannot even move your arm. Your arm stops responding. I began to feel my shoulder joint going. I was somewhat surprised that it was this arm and not the other. I was a little concerned with this because I now thought the left arm would go any minute and the right arm was going. Oh well. I knew I it was going to happen. Suck it up and keep going.
The light at the Pass Christian harbor was now trying to slowly drive me insane. Every time I looked at it, all I could do was run through the course in my mind. Was it four miles to Stanislaus or six? It could have been three. I don’t know. Forget it. Keep pulling. During this time I am also knowing that the Pass harbor could be bad due to the cross chop. I am stopping and slowing. It is taking me forever to get to this light that is not the Bay railroad bridge. Joey and Shelly are asking me if I am okay. My shoulders are throbbing. I am sometimes taking 5 strokes and stopping. I stand up once and my feet hit ground. This is kind of reassuring, kind of not. I take 10 more strokes. I want to stop, but not really, I just want to be able to swim freestyle strong and finish it. I want to get to Henderson Point because then all I have to do is cross the Bay. I can do that Bay in 40 minutes or 30. I can’t remember if the Bay is one or two miles. I get to the harbor and it is not too bad, thought it seems to take forever to get across it. Right passed the harbor Mandy suits up and jumps in. She is swimming beside me or in front and I get a little boost. I am not going too fast as I look up and she watches me with her arm half way through a stroke to make sure I am there. I am struggling but moving. I am swimming towards the end, but it is not getting here very quickly. Mandy gets out and gets in the kayak. I stand and walk 20 yards or so. This does my brain well, and I get back at it. I can hardly bring my arms over and I realize that stopping is not helping. I am passing the beach at Henderson Point.
I look up and Francis is walking over towards me. He tells me, “Pat, you have gone at least thirty miles, the point is a mile or so and then you have a couple of miles over the Bay. Why don’t you get in the boat and ride to the point and swim the last two miles.” I tell him no way. I appreciate it, but I am swimming beach to beach. He smiles and knows it was a futile attempt, but everyone in the boat was concerned about the last Bay crossing. I thought I would have a boost of adrenaline or something and that it would be okay. This was wrong.
As we entered the Bay it was like the crossing of Biloxi Bay I had done some fourteen hours earlier. Unfortunately I wasn’t strong at this point, in fact, quite the opposite. I see Joey get in and start swimming with me. Mandy is in a kayak to my right. I am constantly drifting to my right. I see Our Lady of the Gulf church sticking out as my beacon, a castle-like structure. It is a beautiful church. Right now I just want to be closer to it. I can barely get my arms over the top and the waves now seem to be coming out of the bay a bit as well. Someone on the boat is yelling, “Get him out of the way of the ferry.” There is a ferry that runs from the Pass to the Bay and we are in its path. I hold on to the back as Mandy takes me due north out of the way. I don’t want to but figure she is not taking me towards the finish so I forget about it. I keep on plugging away. I am getting close to the halfway point of the bay. I am going to finish. I knew that I would but it has been a long night. Now the boat is yelling at me to get on the left of some crab traps because of dangerous debris. I have to swim directly into the wind. I am going nowhere but still fighting. Francis is swimming too. I do breaststroke and am still barely moving. I am a mile away and not getting closer. I tell myself, thirty minutes. I can handle anything for thirty minutes. I keep at it. Still not moving much, but at least approaching the crab trap things. I don’t care about debris. I am still three quarters of a mile, and it doesn’t look like it is getting any closer. Head down keep going. I think of everyone on the shore, I think of my Team, I think of God, whom I had asked to make this easier on me. HA! I think about my family and how they must be feeling. I look up two thirds of a mile. I am going SLOW. I don’t feel like I am ever going to finish. At some point, maybe a half a mile, maybe less than half, Shelly tells me to take ten strokes breaststroke, then ten freestyle. I push it and do 12-20 freestyle. The Team counts off my breaststroke when my head is up. Still feel like I am not moving. ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE, TEN, FREESTYLE. I keep going. I am pushing hard enough now that my shoulder is not killing me. There is a tipping point in my brain where cardio exertion blocks out physical pain. It is happening now and it is welcome. I couldn’t do this all night because I would have bonked two hours in. Now it is all or nothing. I look up and see people. The boat says they want you on the other side where they are waiting. I am thinking, tell their asses to walk 50 feet, I am coming up where I am coming up. I see someone walking out towards me. I put my feet down and I am hip deep. I dive back in for thirty or forty more strokes and stand again. I am done swimming I will walk the last 100 yards. My friend SJ has walked out to greet me. He is ecstatic. I am too; I am wondering why he walked out to get me. I can walk fine. I guess everyone on the beach was concerned I would not be able to walk. I keep trudging in. Everyone is running towards where I am coming in. Forty or fifty friends and strangers, I see my mom and dad are walking out into the water crying, my wife Jeanne is waiting at the shore. I hug my mom and dad, I hug my wife, and I am on dry land. I drop to my knees and let it all out. I did it. I stop my watch and it is 15:50:00. Again, Unbeleivable.
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.