“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with“Jim Rohn
The experience of swimming 10 kilometers was a testament to the influence of my circle. Four years ago, I decided to get off the couch and began training for my first Olympic distance triathlon – which at the time seemed like a ludicrous goal. During that time, I have grown from struggling to run more than two miles to racing Ironman triathlons, cycling 525 miles, and swimming from Alcatraz Island miles without a second thought. This growth is fueled by an insatiable desire to become stronger and more capable.
At the same time, I have been training and supporting people who are doing the same for themselves, and it has changed my perception of what’s possible. Spending time with people who, without hesitation, set their sights on the extraordinary – racing the Boston Marathon and then, two weeks later, racing Ironman Texas. Or running from Los Angeles to Las Vegas or running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim without sleep.
Not only am I inspired by these incredible people, but I also get to train and connect with them. As a result, I’ve been invited into social circles that have exposed me to even more remarkable people and ideas. Pursuing something “beyond” is encouraged, rallied around, and selflessly supported to the point that pursuing the extraordinary feels normal.
Just before Halloween, my friend Thomas Tsan suggested that we should participate in an event to raise funds for children’s cancer and a Vietnamese charity cause by swimming. The idea was to do it as a club, and the discussion went back and forth on Messenger for a couple of days. I watched the conversation without joining, curious to see who would participate. Eventually, someone called me out to join, and I felt a twinge in my gut as I have a hard time declining a challenge. I checked my calendar and saw that I would be available, so I agreed to participate and registered for the event. I set a goal for myself, as I tend to be ambitious.
On December 23, our club agreed to meet up at Twin Lakes SCUBA Park, which is where we usually do our open-water swimming. I was pleased with the chosen date, as the water would be comfortably cool enough to wear a wetsuit. By the end of the week, the club had a total of twelve athletes registered for the event. Additionally, a few members volunteered to bring drinks and snacks and even grill some food. Safety is always a top priority, so I offered to bring my kayak, and Lea offered to bring her standup paddleboard. As I could not participate in many club activities this year, I was eagerly looking forward to this gathering.
We had planned to meet at a time between 7:30 and 8 am in order to finish up before the rainstorm that was predicted. Everyone was feeling happy and excited, although some were a little nervous about the water temperature, which was expected to be between the low to mid-60s Fahrenheit. The grills were being set up, and someone even brought a ceramic space heater! After about 15 minutes of chit-chat, it was time to change and get ready to swim.
A complete circle of the lake is between 1,100 and 1,200 yards, depending on how close you hug the edges. The seagrass was extra tall, so I didn’t hug the perimeter very tightly. Swimming through the grass is unsettling, so I avoided as much of it as possible. Ten kilometers is roughly 10900 yards, so eleven laps was the goal.
I planned to swim an easy 2:00-2:15min/100yd pace and finish between 3h30 – 4hrs. Even with an easy effort, long exercise requires nutrition and hydration. To avoid bonking, I approached this like a low-intensity Ironman and shot for 60-70g of carbs/ hr.
- I had a specific nutrition plan for my swim. Two hours before starting, I ate a large bowl of oatmeal (140g). Then, 20 minutes before getting in the water, I had a Maurten gel (25g CHO) and consumed 2oz of ketones. During every hour of swimming, I stopped after completing three laps to drink a bottle of Infinite Nutrition and take a gel. When I reached 2 hours, I ate a banana, drank a bottle of Infinit, and had an additional ketone shot. In the third hour, I drank most of the last bottle of Infinit and had one more Maurten gel.
The first three laps of my swim were a breeze, and I was feeling great. However, as I reached lap six (around 6000 yards), I began to notice fatigue in my shoulders. When I took a break to have my nutrition, I saw that a few swimmers had stopped. Some of them had become too cold and decided to switch to a heated pool nearby instead of continuing in the lake. Another swimmer had also gotten too cold and decided to call it a day, but she stayed behind to cheer for the rest of us.
While I was swimming, I used FORM goggles which displayed real-time metrics such as pace and distance. I was surprised at how consistent my pace was. I also used Shokz headphones to zone out and maintain good form. Throughout the first 5000 yards of my swim, I had good hip rotation and a flat hand entry, while staying high in the water. I usually experience cramping in my calves and feet during long swim sessions, but I was lucky that my feet didn’t have any problems. However, I had to be alert and attentive to my calves because they would have cramped many times if I hadn’t been. Whenever I sensed an oncoming cramp, I stopped kicking and pulled my feet into dorsoflexion for about 30 seconds. These two simple adjustments helped me avoid cramping and did not affect my pace.
Laps seven and eight were tough. My right shoulder was hurting with every stroke, and my lower back was also aching badly. I tried to engage my core to alleviate the pain, but it wasn’t sustainable. However, instead of wanting to quit, I felt grateful which helped eliminate negative thoughts. Although I didn’t like the pain, I accepted it and kept going since I knew I was capable. I thought, “Why not enjoy the experience of swimming further than ever before?” I also felt lucky to have a good fitness level, which allowed me to attempt a marathon swim without any specific training.
After finishing what I believed to be the last lap, I felt a surge of energy and enthusiasm. Although I was tired, I was not completely drained. As I got out, I checked my watch and realized that I had swum only 800 yards short of 6.2 miles.
“I jumped back into the water and swam out 500 yards so that when I returned to the dock, I would have swum a total of 11,000 yards. By this point, I was fed up and just wanted to get out of the water. As soon as I reached the stairs, I stopped my watch and waited for the total distance to be displayed.”
6.25 Miles – DONE!!
After getting out, I changed into dry clothes as quickly as possible and then sat down to eat some chicken tacos and drink a beer with everyone else. It was time to celebrate 🥳🎉🍾. We were now marathon swimmers.