Monday, July 19, 2010

Thank you!

I know you have all been waiting for my thoughts on my swim, the last few days have been overwhelming, honestly. My hits on this blog were at 600 or so on friday and have doubled since then. I had over 100 facebook notifications, at least 50 text messages and a full voicemail box. Thank you for all the kind words. To hear that I have inspired others, that I have touched lives and that I have left my tiny mark on Montana history has been a wonderful feeling. This is going to be a long post (not 18 hours long, but pretty long : ) ).

I went to bed Friday night at 10:00 pm...most of my family had come into town on Friday. The last of the arrangements were being taken care of, my mom made me spaghetti and I settled into bed with my kitty Delia and my nerves. My first alarm went off at midnight, I awoke for my standard pre-race/event breakfast of a bagel and peanut butter 4 hours before start time. Then I went back to sleep until my second alarm went off at 3:00 am. This was the first time, since I set this goal to swim the Lake in January, that I thought to myself "this is completely crazy!" But, I had the attention of too many people to sleep in now, and I had a little girl to be a hero for. So I put on my swim suit, then my sweats and a t-shirt and my brother drove me to Somers.

Once at Somers my crew was already working to get the boat ready to go, and I prepared myself. I taped a small heart shape rock my sister had found at Somers two days earlier to the outside of my swimsuit with pink duct tape, then I carefully put my wetsuit on, patted the heart, knowing that at the end of my swim I would give this rock to Karmyn, and tell her it had gone the whole way with me. Then my crew assisted me in applying Aquaphor, sunscreen and bug spray. I put a neoprene shirt over my wetsuit, then two glow in the dark bracelets and a glow in the dark necklace. Then after a small "where is the key to the boat" problem, we were off, 24 minutes after 4 in the dark, with only the stars and a GPS as our guide. Those first 4 miles felt great; smooth and relaxed. I knew I had a long day ahead of me, I was taking in liquids every 30 minutes (alternating Cytomax, gatorade-diluted 50/50, and water) and food every hour (my solid food consisted of goldfish crackers, pretzels, gummi bears, sweedish fish and half peanut butter sandwiches).

My first struggle with my swim came in the form of a course dispute with my crew. I wanted to get to the center of the lake as soon as possible, but my crew (with a GPS) thought a new route would be less mileage--more on that later. I ended up just going with what the crew said. The trouble was I wasn't getting firm information on how many miles I had traveled, my sister and Jessica Kato developed a good way to estimate the mileage, that kept me focused, but even at this point, I have yet to learn the exact mileage I actually traveled (waiting on the GPS information to be uploaded).

Visitors during the swim were integral in keeping my spirits high. Carrie Mo and her boat were the first of many friendly faces along the way. Nearly my entire office showed up with a pontoon boat around 10:30 and stayed at my side, paralleling my crew's boat the entire way. Laurie Gregory made several trips out, once to bring my dad out, which I greatly appreciated.

I was taking advil every 4 hours for the early portions of the swim, but had to increase to nearly every 2 hours towards the end. My shoulders were aching so badly at certain points. I knew I had to keep going. It was just like life honestly, there were some dark spots, but with the support of family and friends I was able to get through those dark spots. At the halfway point I had to take my watch off, I was discouraged. At half way, nine hours had passed, I knew I would not be to shore anywhere near the targeted time I had anticipated (mostly because I ended up swimming WAY more miles than I had planned). The thoughts running through my head were worries about no one still being at the finish, and more importantly, it being way past Karmyn's bed time and my concern that she may not be there.

When I my focus got off, various people hopped in and swam with me for sections of the swim. This allowed me to take a break from spotting and have other swimmers help keep me in a straight line. Some of my swimming buddies included Simone, Jim, Roger, Kyle, Laurie, Jennifer and Carrie. This was so helpful at times. Another swimmer alongside me gave me a change in scenery from the dark blue I had been focused on for hours on end.

Once into Polson Bay, I was exhausted, the shore deceivingly looked way closer than it actually was. The beginning of that last stretch was marked by a pep talk from the always encouraging Carrie Mo. Carrie jumped into the lake, with no wetsuit, swam up to me and drew parallels between the marathon running that she is so skilled at and the last portion of my goal that I still had to finish. Carrie talked to me about that last mile, she said the crowd would pull me in, but I had a little more to go before I got there. I told Carrie I was worried no one would still be there because it had taken me SO much longer than I had anticipated. I told her I was concerned about the park closing and every one's cars being locked in the park. Carrie told me not to worry about those things. She said there were at least a dozen people there right then waiting for me. Carrie said the news was there and that the park wouldn't close (I didn't know this at the time, but Carrie jumped out of the boat and called George on shore and told him to get a hold of whoever needed to be contacted to keep the park open--Carrie gets things done!).

So I kept on trucking, through the shoulder pain and tightness, through the thoughts that no one would be waiting for me and through the creeping self doubt that sometimes arises when exhaustion hits. I hit another wall with about 3.5 miles to go. Simone was in the water with me and he said "what's wrong, talk to me," and I told him my shoulders hurt SO bad. Simone told me to cry scream or do whatever I needed to. It was like once I had permission to cry, the flood gates were open. I wasn't even crying for more than one minute, when Simone said, "okay, deep breath, now, you are done. You are stronger than that. Lets keep going, stretch out your strokes and try and kick a little."

The sun went down a short while later and I was still probably two miles from shore, I had trouble spotting until vehicles at the park began to turn on their headlights. I spotted off those headlights, with nothing else to guide me in. I wanted to cry again so badly, I was in pain and the lights didn't seem to be getting any closer. I was counting my strokes, I would get to 100 and then start over, it helped me focus on something other than the pain. Then I continued to focus on the car lights, and I started to sing "this little light of mine" over and over. It was all I could do to keep going. At one point my crew tried to coax me over to the boat to eat more and one of them said "only about an hour left"--they didn't know that I had been telling myself "only an hour left for the past two hours"--so I angrily snapped I DO NOT HAVE AN HOUR LEFT, I refused any more food from that point on, I put my head down and swam. I fought back tears and pain and my focus was on Karmyn, I imagined what she has had to go through in her life so far, I thought about what a tough cookie she must be, and for those last two miles, Karmyn was my hero.

As I got closer to the shore and the welcoming headlights, I heard the crowd, and it was way more than a dozen people, I could tell by the cheering. I almost hit the docks but the friendly voice of Carrie Mo told me exactly where to go. Those last strokes into the shore I was reaching towards the bottom to try and feel the ground, anxiously awaiting the point where I could stand up. When I got there, I tried to stand and I immediately fell, into a puddle of tears, on the shore where at least 50 people had been waiting for me. It was nearly 11pm and so many people wanted to see me finish. Several strong arms helped me to my feet, stripped my wetsuit off and led me over to the grass. Once on the grass, a crowd formed around me, but the first people to come and greet me were Karmyn and her mother Tiffany. I untaped the heart shaped rock from my swim suit and handed it to little Karmyn, and told her it had traveled the whole way with me. Karmyn was shy, but I would be too with the crowd surrounding us taking pictures and video. Karmyn gave me a collage she made of her and her family that said "thank you Emily" and was signed by members of her family. She gave me a bouquet of flowers and then some licorice. She gave me a hug and I had pictures taken with her family and then with other people in the crowd.

My mom later told me that she spoke with Tiffany earlier in the day and she had said that not only would her family be waiting for me to finish, but they would stay until I left the park. And they did, they helped me get to the car and waved goodbye.

This was such an incredible journey for me. I pushed my limits farther than I ever had before. I felt the support of friends and family as well as complete strangers. The advice I have for you reading is this: Dream big...follow those dreams, with all your heart. Doing so may leave you vulnerable and open up the possibility for failure, but I promise you, the dividends that come from big dreams are great. And if you don't have anyone who you think will believe in you, I will believe in you, just like all of you believed in me.

I do not know my fundraising totals yet--many people have asked me that, since I directed most of them to the PO box in Missoula, I won't know the totals there til I make a trip to Missoula (which I think will be this Saturday). Another question that keeps being posed to me is "what is the next big goal"--I don't know yet. I think it is important to rest and recover before setting a new goal. This goal has been my focus for so long, and to be dedicated to something for that long, there has to be a period of rest after. Another question I keep being asked is how many miles I actually swam. My estimates are between 32 and 34 miles, but I am still waiting to hear from the members of the crew that had the GPS for a final mile count after the information was uploaded. Multiple people have encouraged me to write a book, or start a foundation to continue raising money for kids, but again, right now, I want to ride this wave of satisfaction and really enjoy what I have accomplished.

I would like to thank my boat crew and onland supporters: My sister Amanda, who tracked my nutrition, answered my cell phone, and posted updates on Facebook until my phone died. My former YMCA swimmers Simone Musco, Roger Gerhart and Jessica Kato who were so supportive and encouraging along the way. My current athletes Jim Kuffel (training for an English Channel swim) and Cassie Cranston (training for her first triathlon). I would like to thank my parents, Fred and Sue, for always believing in me and supporting me. My brother Paul, for his excellent photography skills and for always being at my sport events. I would also like to thank Wild Wave Boat Rental in Lakeside for donating the use of the pontoon boat for the day.

Thank you so much for your support! I couldn't have done this without the support of you all! : )

Friday, July 16, 2010

What do you mean "try"

So my sister Krissy said to my niece this morning: "at this time tomorrow, Auntie will try to swim across Flathead lake," to which my niece replied "What do you mean try?!?!?!?!" I love that kid....thanks Hannah Banana! : )

The last of my dedications, and I apologize, they will just be a list, even though these people are just as important as the others I have listed, however, it is 9:12pm and I've got to get up at 3:15 tomorrow.

5-Simone--my good friend who has trained with me many times, even on my birthday set of 27-100s

6-The Gerharts-a very supportive family at the Y who I worked with in the pool

7-Joshua- my "little" brother

10- The Happs- Bea and guys rock, thank you for all your support.

11-Ellen Parchen- Ellen was very encouraging to me as a coach and even when I had big ideas, she always helped me make them happen.

12-Charles Woods- Editor at the Montana Lawyer magazine, did an GREAT article on the swim.

13-Amanda- my sister, supporter and friend....

14-Katie’s cousins- eased my fears of the water temperature by taking me out on their boat for a dip in the middle of the lake

16-YMCA swimmers- this group of people helped define me as a coach and helped prepare me to move forward to the next chapter of my life.

17- Katie Mazurek-Katie once counted for me as I swam a 10,000, she pretty much rocks!

19-Extended family- so many people have sent me emails and letters of support, I cannot even begin to express my thankfulness to call you all family.

22-Mrs. Stone-she was my first grade teacher who encouraged me to join swim team.

23-Katie Schulz-my publicist, puppy sitter and possibly my biggest supporter in Kalispell, I could NOT have done this without you.

24-Nicole Erickson-my best friend since 4th grade...I miss you.

27-Paul- My brother and superfan....he's held season tickets to the Emily show since as long as I can remember.

29-Dixie---my puppy, its about mile 29 that I hope to get a dose of that puppy energy of hers

30-Karmyn- mile 30 and every mile before as well as every training mile also goes to Karmyn, may you have a full recovery from this disease and then set out to achieve every dream you can imagine!

There is a possibility due to navigation that I may end up doing more than 30 miles, any extra miles go to anyone who said or thought I couldn't do this.

I will carry you all with me tomorrow! Thanks! : )

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Excited! Nervous! Ready to go!

Okay, so I got my last practice swim in today! Did a short swim and tried out my new neoprene shirt to wear over my wetsuit for the early morning part of my swim. It worked out pretty well, but its kind of tight around my neck, however I think in the morning before the sun comes up, my arms being covered will be a nice treat.

I also got to speak with Ron Stevens, the 2nd person to swim the lake. He was very encouraging and offered me some advice...and for that Ron gets mile 4!

Here's a few more mile dedications:

Mile 21: Lynne Cox. She was a pretty phenomenal distance swimmer (I should say "is"--she still swims). She wrote the book Swimming to Antarctica. A lot of her record breaking swims took place in the 70s, and she swam in REALLY cold water with no wetsuit. She's pretty inspirational.

Mile 18: Laurie Gregory. Laurie was one of my YMCA swimmers and I also worked with her one on one. Laurie let me swim out at her place on Big Arm to train and followed along spotting me in her boat. She is also providing some shuttling services on the big swim day!

Mile 2: Tha coaches of swimming past. My athletic career was shaped by so many coaches, and they all made me the athlete I am today. My first coach was Kim Olson, and without her none of this would have happened, and I honestly cannot imagine what my life would have been like without swimming. Other notable coaches include: Christie Taylor, Mark Olson, Todd Thurnau, Candi Eslinger, Jackie LeGore, and I am sure I am missing a few....

Mile 8: My office. My co-workers have been SOOOOO supportive of me in this endeavor, its unreal. They are renting a boat and will be out supporting me. They constantly are asking how my training is going and how they can help.

Mile 25: My sister Krissy. Krissy gets 25, becuase whenever anyone asks how old she is, my reply is 25! : ) Krissy was a great role model to me growing up and was always really excited about my various events/races, etc. One particular thing I will always remember was one scholarship that I had procrastinated mailing in and on the day that it was due, Krissy drove it all the way to Seattle from Marysville so it would get in on time. And I got that scholarship. Krissy also sent letters to Ellen and Brian Williams about bragging about my swim. : )

Mile 28: Erika Thompson. Erika gets mile 28 because I know at mile 28 I am going to be tired and hurting and if there is any person I know that can get through the tough spots that life throws your way, it is Erika. I hope I can be as tough as Erika on mile 28.

The rest will have to come tomorrow! : )

Two more days!

I can't believe its almost time! I'm very excited! Its been a busy week trying to get all the last minute arrangements in order. Tonight I have my last practice and then I am going to start getting my nutrition in order.

Some more mile dedications:

Mile 3: The three muskateers (Jessica, Haley and Cassie). These girls came to me as a group last fall for semi-private swimming lessons. I always looked forward to those lessons becuase they were happy and laughed the entire time, no matter what I asked them to do. They each made so much improvement in such a short period of time and it was really inspirational. Then to top that off, they are super supportive of everyone! These ladies sent me a beautiful vase of daisy's at work yesterday for good luck!

Mile 9: Mom gets mile 9. I started swimming at age nine and my mom was there for every stroke for the majority of my swimming career. She not only was the one doing most of the driving to and from practices and swim meets, but she also used to sit in the pool area and watch every practice so that after practice when the cute little 9 year old version of me asked "did you see it when...." she would be able to say yes. My mom has always been my biggest fan and best supporter. Thanks mom.

More later! : )

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I love a good taper!

Yesterday was a rest day, tonight I will get a short swim in. My sister gets into town around lunchtime today!!!! She thinks its a vacation....I think she will be my assistant for the week...any bets on how this will play out? : )

Today I am going to start talking about my mile dedications. I won't do this in order, just as they come to me:

Mile 26: the Moe Family. This is the most athletic family I have ever met. I taught the Moe kids, Jackson and Bridger, swim lessons and worked with Shawn and Carrie in the pool as well. Carrie Moe is one of the most encouraging and positive people I know. When I was struggling this past year, the Moes really helped me get through it and when I succeeded they celebrated my accomplishments as if they were there own. And I stole the mile dedication idea from Carrie....thanks guys!

Mile 1: Jim Kuffel. Jim started all this, seriously. The lake swim idea emerged at the end of a training session I had with him (Jim and some friends are training to swim the English Channel this summer). Jim NEVER expressed any doubt, never tried to talk me out of it and was always encouraging and supportive. I could NOT have done this without him.

Mile 15: Dad. Dad gets happy halfway. My dad is the hardest working person I know. As a child, I can remember my father helping just about anyone who needed help. He was the guy people came to for favors, and I can't remember him ever saying no to anyone. We were not a rich family by any means, but the five of us kids never did without anything really. My dad instilled in me my work ethic and taught me hard work pays off.

Mile 20: The niece and nephews. Mile 20 goes to Hannah, Garret and Lucas. Growing up I always had incredible role models in my older siblings. I hope to be as much of a role model for my niece and nephews. I think in a world of Lindsay Lohans' and Brittney Spears' getting so much attention for bad behavior, it is really important for kids to have positive role models (especially teen girls). I love those kids.

Gotta get to work....more dedications later...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I believe in myself and that makes me stronger... behind on posts again! Sorry! Here's what you missed:

Wednesday: SHORT swim, about 30 was a bad swim due to boats and jet skis, that's all I want to say about that one!

Thursday: Got to leave the office a little early and swam about an hour at Somers. It was pretty crowded since it was such a hot day. An icecream truck driver recognized me from the paper and asked if I was swimming the whole thing that afternoon, I told him I had a little over a week before the big day. He wished me good luck and with that encouragement I had a wonderful practice! Before the swim I was interviewed by KAJ, here is a link to the interview:

Friday: I was exhausted after this week! I was trying to get some comp time so I might be able to take the Monday after my swim off, so I was going to work early and staying up a little late, on top of getting as much swimming in as I could. So I took friday off!

Saturday: Saturday I drove down to Polson to train. I swam for about an hour and it felt wonderful. Then I drove back up to Kalispell and my co-worker Katie took me to her cousin's and they were kind enough to take me out to the middle of the lake so I could check the temperature and swim a little. The temp was 68 degrees! It felt wonderful and knowing that the temp was so high really alleviated a little anxiety I was having about the temperature. After the swim I was also able to go out on the pontoon that will be my support boat. I am getting super excited about next weekend!!!!!

And today, a rest day! This is the start of my taper week, I am only swimming Tuesday and Thursday of this week and the goal this week is to rest up for Saturday. I am re-reading one of my favorite books, Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox--it's a fantastic story of a long distance swimmer who did some amazing swims in the 70s in VERY cold water without a wetsuit. Its pretty inspirational.

I will have my mile dedications posted this week! : )

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Catch up!

Sorry....I've been bad about updating recently. Here's the summary of what you all missed....

Thursday and Friday---I took off....needed the sleep.

Saturday I did a solo swim in Foys. Before the swim, some other swimmers recognized me, and we "talked shop" for a bit before I got in. One of the men knew both the guys who have swam Flathead and offered up some advice. All in all the group I ran into that day was very encouraging and supportive! My practice that day felt nice and stretched out, I swam the fulll length of Foys (which I would guess is about a mile and a half each way) and back-I negative split the swim. I felt great until I got out and realized some jerk stole my towel...I had to go home wet and cold! : (

Sunday I swam at the Happ's cabin on Lake Bitterroot. Weather conditions were not that great, it was cold and for a portion of the practice there were whitecap waves! Craig kayaked beside me the whole 2 hours and 7 minutes, although made a point to remind me several times that as a responsible adult he probably should have told me the weather was too bad to swim....but he didn't! : ) After my swim the Happ's showered me with hospitality by covering me with towels and blankets and seating me right in front of the fire with a delicious dinner!

Today I drove up to Big Arm, off to the West of Flathead and swam from my friend Laurie's place. Laurie was kind enough to boat along beside me. I got in an hour swim. The water temp at this spot in Flathead feels to be at least 5-7 degress colder than the temp. up at Somers. Lauries husband, an avid sailor, set some of my worries at ease regarding my course choice (North to South) when he described the higher than normal flow feeding into the Lake from the Flathead River as well as a typical wind flow that goes North to South every morning on the Lake. Water current and windflow in the direction of my swim course will def. be a great help!

Tomorrow's post I will begin dedicating my miles. I am borrowing the idea from my good friend Carrie Mo, who has a ritual of dedicating various miles of her marathon to different important people in her life. So stay tuned, tomorrow begins the listing of what I will be thinking about for those thirty miles!