The Story of my Swimmingly Successful Summer

Dear Access Press, Did you ever set a goal and run into so many obstacles that you thought about quitting? […]

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Dear Access Press,

Did you ever set a goal and run into so many obstacles that you thought about quitting? I’ve got a story like that, too. It all started in 2001 when my health took a major dive. My colitis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis became very painful. I got so weak that I couldn’t take care of myself or my kids, which was pretty depressing. Although the doctors advised putting me in a nursing home, my parents refused to give up on me and cared for me at home. My mom, despite her own arthritis pain, drove me to physical therapy and cheered me on. Thanks to my parents, I gradually got better.

That summer we went to my parents’ lake home. Our family has a fun tradition of swimming across Red Cedar Lake. I joined in but only swam about ten yards. I have been trying to get across ever since. I made it a bit over halfway in 2005. This year I set a goal to swim all the way; I started training in May.

Murphy’s Law (whatever can go wrong, will) became my training theme. First I caught a nasty flu bug, which hung on for weeks. Unfortunately, the Abbott pool has some silly rule against swimming when you are contagious. A couple of weeks later I had a hair dying crisis. I was using a new kind of dye, and my hair wasn’t coming out the right color. At one point I looked like Bozo—my hair was bright orange. I finally called my hairdresser, who helped me to fix it. The bad news was that I injured my neck from all the effort, which slowed me down again. They should make hair dying an Olympic event.

In July I was well enough to start training again. The first day back at the pool I could swim one lap. I talked to my swim coach, who told me that swimming 33 laps is equal to ½ mile. Since I was planning the swim for August 19th, it wasn’t looking good. I decided to give it my best shot anyway. Knowing I was coming from behind, I went looking for help. My friends had some great tips. They suggested I float on my back sometimes to rest, vary my swim strokes and visualize myself at the finish line. The quote I used for inspiration was from Abe Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

My husband came up with the most helpful idea. He suggested that I wear swim fins. At first I wondered if using flippers would be cheating, but we decided not. I like to think of them as an assistive device. I tried the fins at the pool, but my ankles got really sore. The swim coach explained that I should use shorter fins, which would be easier on my ankles. I went searching for flippers, and finally found a pair that worked.

On July 29th, with three weeks to go, I went to the lake for the weekend. Our family was doing the annual swim that day. I figured I wasn’t strong enough to get across yet, but could I do a practice run. I jumped in the water first and got a head start with my aunt Lynne. In past years I was the last one to start and spent a lot of effort trying to catch up. I liked being in the front much better, because we got to rest sometimes while waiting for the stragglers. I was amazed how much I was enjoying the swim. My cousins and I kept running into each other, especially doing the back stroke. We were giggling and joshing so much that it didn’t feel like hard work.

When we got about halfway across the lake, I realized I wasn’t very tried or sore. It occurred to me that I had a shot at making it that day. I weighed my options. If I pushed myself, I would most probably get an injury. However, I really wanted to keep going with my family. I decided to go for it. Towards the end my ankles were hurting from using the flippers. At one point I thought about giving up; then I pictured myself swimming to the finish line. Much to my surprise, I made it all the way! I was not the first; that honor went to my cousin Annika, who is eleven. My 71-year-old dad came in last, so he caught some ribbing about being the old guy.

I like to celebrate when I reach a goal. I believe that celebrating our victories is the most important step. It’s my carrot on a stick for motivation. My family was wonderful about congratulating me after the swim. One of my favorite moments was when my mom kissed me on the cheek. My mother has been my lifelong cheerleader, especially through this last bout of difficulties.

I did end up with some aches and pains from doing the swim, but I didn’t mind. Much like when I was learning to ride a bike as a kid, I felt proud of my injuries. Doing the swim taught me that I am more than my physical struggles. I also discovered that I sometimes get in my own way. When I reached the finish line I was happy, but also surprised. I had a view of myself as not being strong enough to make it. I realized that my biggest obstacle to achieving the goal wasn’t my physical limitations. It was my beliefs. Reaching this goal has been empowering for me. If I can swim across that lake, what else can I do?

Thanks, Nancy

Do you have a dream that you want to pursue? I would love to hear from you: [email protected]

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