I planned to write this post earlier but every time I sit in front of the computer I have no idea what to say. The past year and a half of my life went into SwimMS. It all started with a dream, then I began making important contacts, trained like crazy, and planned two separate events. On Saturday morning I woke up and the end of my dream was staring me in the face.
I didn't know how to feel, happy, sad, scared? I was scared. This swim had been built up so much - at work, with friends, in the media, and here it was. I was terrified that I may let people down. The cold and the ocean conditions were haunting me. On the other end of the spectrum I was very excited. All of the events that lead to the 16th were amazing. I had had so much fun organizing the events, meeting amazing people, and getting the word out about a very important topic. The swim was the last step. This was exciting and sad to see it end.
When we got to the beach there were three TV crews waiting for me. I had given myself about 35 minutes to get myself ready. It felt like 15 minutes. After finding a spot for the tent and throwing on my wetsuit I found myself in front of three cameras doing a pre swim interview. By the time that was done I only had moments to get the rest of my gear on and head down to the water. There was a crowd of about 16 people sending me off into the water. Mostly family and friends, as well as the first round of volunteers. I remember rushing to the water, giving hugs to my boyfriend and step-son, and walking out into the cold grey water. I started my music as I was stepping into the water. Montell Williams - This is how we do it. Can anyone else think of a better song?
I remember walking out about 15/20 meters before diving in. It's almost as if I was afraid to start. I still don't know which emotion was causing that. I dove in and took a few long strokes. It was really important to me that I get into a steady pace from the start. I imagined myself 10 hours into the swim and tried to match that pace in order to stay comfortable. It felt really good! Within a few minutes I was feeling much more comfortable. The water was smooth and I had set myself up nicely.
Three friends joined me during the swim. One stayed for over three hours! It felt really good to swim next to someone. We didn't talk much. We simply swam next to one another and a silent morale boost was formed. I swam on my own as well, and no matter what I loved every minute of the swim. By the end of every three hour portion, I started to feel quite chilly. The last two hours in particular were really cold. My stroke shortened up causing me to move more slowly through the water. My teeth were chattering (leaving me with sores along my tongue from accidental bites).
When the kayaks told me that there were only 10 minutes left until 7pm, we planned to loop around a near by bouy and head into shore. Again, I was shivering more than I was moving forward. As I neared the beach I began to cry into my goggles. I could hear the sound of bells and claps coming from the beach. Every stroke brought me closer and eventually I could see the sand below me. A few more strokes and I was able to touch the land beneath the water. I stood up, slightly dizzy, to the cheers of my friends, family, and interested spectators. In that very moment SwimMS had come to an end. The beach was filled with hugs, laughter, and hope.
I am very proud of the event. Not only have we raised close to $15,000 now but the media coverage and awareness also exceeded my expectations. I am so thankful for the support and guidance of the MS Society and those involved in SwimMS. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, both professionally and personally. I know that I will continue to work with the society in some capacity and continue the journey that I started a year a a half ago. Let's Find a cure!