Disclaimer: I am NOT nor have I ever been pregnant. I figured this was an important clarification.
I’ve been asked many times what preparing, training, doing, and recovering from a marathon swim is like? As I began to think about it, my best analogy was a pregnancy…. or what I imagine a pregnancy to be like. I’ve verified my experiences with some of the mothers I babysit for…along with my own mama!
First off, after you begin training for a marathon swim you start to notice bodily changes. Your arms, shoulders, and neck get bigger. The clothing you once wore, doesn’t quite fit as well as it used to. You get pretty tired and generally feel rather uncomfortable from being constantly sore. You get much more hungry than you ever previously were, but when you get the food, you have a hard time finishing it. You start craving food you haven’t craved in a long time. In addition, if you eat at the wrong time (before a long swim) it may only be a meal you rented.
Then the questions begin: You start imagining what you think the swim will be like. What qualities or characteristics will it have? Will you be equipped to handle it? Will you be a “good” marathon swimmer? Did you do enough reading on it? Have you talked to others who have been through it successfully? …You start hearing horror stories of it being done unsuccessfully.
It’s not before long that you start having vivid dreams about experiencing the swim. You’re swimming in the wrong direction and realize it halfway… you’re swimming and your hands keep breaking through ice…. you wake up in mild panic, but relieved that it isn’t real. You use these dreams as ways to improve your training so these situations are not reality.
You start to buy some products that you never thought you’d need, or need quite so much of…. Vaseline, check, body glide anti-chaffing stick, check, ibuprofen, check, muscle therapy gel, check.
Then its time for the “labor.” You show up for your swim and are patted down by officials, asked questions for cognitive baseline data, and given final words of encouragement. You have a select group of people you trust with you to share in the moment. You wouldn’t want just anyone around for this…haha.
You start swimming. You don’t know how long this will take…. you’ve heard dream stories of great currents, which resulted fast swims, but you’ve also heard horror stories of near 24-hour bouts of extreme effort. You try to stay in your own zone being mentally prepared for whatever happens.
Some people get emotional due to exhaustion. Others stay in the consistent mental zone. Either way hallucinations typically happen.
Once you see the finish, your mind narrows and all you want to do is get to the damn end! You’ll do whatever you have to at this point.
On your final strokes you are incredibly happy. As you finish the endorphins are unreal. You can barely hobble, and can’t move your arms. You try to talk but your words don’t quite make sense.You’re still very swollen and have some battle scars.
Days go by and you reflect on the experience. People reach out to you full of joy, positivity and excitement. Over time the experience becomes a little more warped in your memory.
It’s almost as if you forgot the pains of the labor….
And before you know it, you’re on to your second one!