I SURVIVED A SUCCESFUL FAILURE

Jan/28/2015

Not sure if I slept well that night. Sunset in Punta Arenas is usually around 10:30pm and Sunrise is at around 4:00 am. That morning the air temperature in Punta Delgada was around 6C. We were debriefed about the jump time of 7:40 am as the Slack was at 8:13 am. I got out of my clothes at 7:25 am. I wanted to make sure my earplugs were set in properly. 

Alan had the honor of greasing me (armpits and chin). I had to change the settings in my watch to open water mode and tracking mode (I cannot see the time in this mode - as I have other data that I look for here). For some reason this was just the longest 15 mins - I was getting cold just from the air temperature (as I had greased up). I went inside the Navy office for a few minutes. I remember speaking to one of the Navy cadets who asked me if I was nervous and I told him, yes I was nervous. He asked me to think positive and you'll win the race. It was nice of the cadet to keep me engaged and break my intensity of that moment. 

I walked out to the beach and the wind was still howling (it was bloody cold, I was just in speedos at this point). Then arrived a grey navy ship, which dropped off the second zodiac. We took off after that. 

The water was calm, and I hung out with Alejandra, Marcelo and Sergio for about 10 mins and I fell behind after that. The swim was kind of smooth, I remembered Vivek's message about "YMCA's wading pool". The swim was going pretty at this point, then I noticed a change in water temperature but did not put too much thought into that. 

It started with one rogue wave that, in fact, hurt my left thigh. I was OK with that, and kept the focus on my strokes and was thinking about Mark's words - keep counting to 100. Well, I know it is so easy to say that – as I cannot count beyond 4, but I did not give up on that. I was still focused on trying to get into a rhythm when, BAM another rogue wave hit me. This reminded me of two swims from my own experience – a 10 hr swim in the bay, where I was stuck at Oyster point - a rogue wave almost made me stop that swim, but I hung on finished it. The second swim was my attempt to break the most number of Alcatraz crossings in a single day - my 3rd crossing took me 2.5 hours and Bobby and John Mayer had trouble keeping the zodiac steady in the water. We had to call of the swim that day, as it got too dangerous.

Well, here I was like a Spiderman trying to climb the walls of water. It is fun for the first few times, but these walls were not consistent. I almost made a 360-degree turn (I would be swimming East for a while, I would be swimming North, then West and then South) but had not made any progress. At this point, I checked my watch for the first time, it said 1:37 and I had quite a distance to cover. At this point I also noticed Tornio's swimming under me, they were fast - I was really tempted to touch one or at least ride one at this point. I wanted to share this with Vivek and I mentioned this to him, his first question was, did I get to touch it? 

I struggled in the water for the longest time. I peeked out of the waves to see if I was getting closer. I had covered a bit of distance, as I came across a patch of plankton, which I had noticed a while back (Not sure if I swam closer to them or if they made their way towards me). I was curious to check my watch and it said 1:43, this is when I realized there is something wrong with the swim. I peaked out of the waves one more time the Tierra Del Feugo had gotten further away. I knew that Randy had finished his swim in 1:43 and it was not OK for me to be in the middle of the channel, and the wind was not getting any kinder towards me. I put that out of my mind and focused on my left thigh and kicked for a while to get some momentum. 

It was also neat to have Cristina next to me (who had joined me from nowhere). I gagged a couple of times, Cristina stopped and I yelled Go Cristina, and put my head back in the water. The walls were only getting higher and unstable and I felt like I was stuck in a roaring machine. 

At this point I felt a strange feeling on the back of my neck, it was cold and I shivered once in the water and it scared me (this was a strange feeling, this had not happened to me before or I never noticed it before). I lost focus at this point. I was trying to decipher that cold neck and that one shiver that I got. I also tried to push my earplugs in at this point and I realized I couldn't use my fingers. I was not happy about this. I tried to push my earplugs again to make sure my fingers were OK. They were not OK. It was a scary feeling,  and I looked around for the zodiac, it wasn't close to me. They were behind me and I was swimming parallel to the land. Oh No, what's happening to me - I think I bumped into Cristina at this point and I yelled go Cristina again and we swam for another few mins, I had become weak and couldn't fight the waves anymore. 

I checked my watch, it said 1:53 (I knew, right then this is not going to happen today) I raised my hand and I struggled to stop the watch. I used my palm to press it (1:53.49), and the zodiac came to me from nowhere. They asked me something and I cannot remember what my response was. I struggled to hold the rope that they had thrown at me. They pulled me onto the zodiac and the paramedic covered me in something and kept my head on her lap - I remember a couple of bumps. Mike says I climbed the ladder of the Navy boat, I sat in the cabin, I was taken down the stairs to a shower. I do not remember any of this. What I remember is seeing Alejandra shivering and I asked her how her swim was. I vividly remember her response "I finished MY swim" I congratulated her - I looked at the navy cadet who was taking care of me; I realized right away that he knew what he was doing

The paramedic came in checked my temperature and I walked out of the shower, got dressed and gave a big hug to Alejandra and got dressed and went up. There I started sipping hot chocolate, it was lukewarm and I loved it. I saw Sergio and Marcelo come in. These guys were all happy. I was happy. Claudia came down and gave me a big hug and she said something like I was crazy that I was in the water so long. At that point, I checked my watch it said 9188mts 1:53.49. The paramedic checked my temperature again and decided not to send me to the ambulance. I saw Alan walk down and asked me if I was OK and I said, I was fine. He took a picture of Sergio and me (that made it to the papers in India, Punta Arenas and Facebook). He showed a message from Suman and my mom and a flurry of messages on his post. We were very cautious in using the cell phones as we did not have proper services, and I also did not have any kind of smartphones. Mike and Alan controlled all the communications going out of Punta Arenas. Thanks to them. I apologize, if I missed getting back to anybody.

Claudia and Captain Firnis decided to give me a certificate of crossing - just because of my time in the water and the fact that I did not die (there is a nice video that Alan has captured on this - hopefully, you'll get to see it someday). 

Another neat experience was the little girl at Punta Delgada restaurant. Flags have always been very powerful. I got this idea of buying Canadian flag lapel pins, the week before we were flying to Chile. I asked a few people in core team - Wow, I got some solid ideas. Our MPP Kevin Flynn and our MP Terence Young's office, Pam Damoff our local councillor, lambrina and Marty got me some pins. The best of the pins was from Marty, who picked up a bunch of Chilean and Canadian Flag pins. These were just amazing. Everybody just loved these pins. Marty, Lamb, Pam, Kevin and Terence  - thank you

The little girl was the owner's daughter who was with her mom at the restaurant (it's summer vacation for the kids in that part of the world). She loved those pins and immediately took it to her grandparents who were the chefs in the kitchen there. We did some nice photo ops with them. They wanted to take a picture of us for the walls of their restaurant, so if any of you make it to that part of the world - you may see some famous people. Most important, I wanted to thank everybody who gave us those pins. If any of you are travelling abroad, exchanging flags is a great way to bond with the local people. It's just a powerful message, and I got a free sandwich in the restaurant in a remote part of the world!!! Thank You  :)

On our way back to Canada, the Canadian embassy in Santiago hosted us for coffee and maple cream biscuits. They were very kind to accommodate us for 45 mins from their busy schedule

They have offered to help us out for our 2017 trip. Thank you Ambassador, Military attaché and Counselors.

I know there have been several interpretations of this swim. I acknowledge all of them. I know some were disappointed, for those who are disappointed I can totally understand your disappointment. But, the nice thing is we are all still alive and we can go back stronger and work with Mother Nature, follow the rules set by her to get across. It is simple. We can only control things that we have control of. So when we train, we need to work towards that (Not be a freak about controlling, but we need to work towards understanding the arena, the variables that participate in the arena, how the variables can get transformed and get influenced, rules that we need to apply, acknowledge and respect people who support in that arena and work with them). We do not have the authority to rule anybody, impose anything on anybody. Yes, it is ok to fail. Yes, I survived to tell you all that we failed to swim across the Straits of Magellan. But, we had a lot of fun doing this. Yes, we'll go back to swim across the straits of Magellan. I'm sure it'll be a blast and yes, I'll need all your help again.

After I came back from Chile, there was an unusual activity and comments posted by Andy Field in Facebook. I was happy that he was posting some cool stuff about his family, Very humble guy who had never spoken anything about his super smart son Dylan Field (http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/26/21-years-4-million-dollars). Watch out for this kid.

I later came across an email in the Southend syndication about Andy Field's last swim. Andy has cancer. I got this email from him, which is public knowledge now, and I want share it with you all.

"My Dear Friend Madhu, I imagine you've noticed a rather abrupt and unusual interest in me on the Southend Forum and Facebook. Much is due to Dylan's spectacular rise, of which you ain't heard nothin' yet. Most everything is still in stealth mode but barring remarkable circumstances he's poised for a magnificent launching. The other news is I've swam my last swim. It is one of the firsts of a progression of lasts. A stubbornly painful hip was diagnosed four months ago as peripheral neuro pain from a long and heavily abused low back. 3 weeks ago it was re-diagnosed as Stage IV terminal cancer. Prognosis: 6 to 9 months unless I beat unbelievably long odds. I was swimming and biking hard up to the day of diagnosis. At that time I was immediately placed on crutches for fear my femur would drive through my cancer ridden pelvis. I am allowed no weight bearing whatsoever on my left leg. Treatment is only palliative although I question just how palliative chemo would actually be. I may skip that route and opt for the 6 month term. The Southend, of which you are of course a part, has been more supportive than I can express. I'm loving the e-mails but I'm still skittish of phone calls and visits. The immediacy of friends can make this all seem too real. It is easy to deny still as except for a supremely tender hip, I feel and look fine and can drop and knock out 100 pushups with, not ease, but not all that much effort. I am assured by my physicians that will not last. But as long as I keep my hip absolutely still, I'm virtually pain free. I'm told that will not last, either. Madhu, please e-mail me again and often. I love hearing from all my Southend friends near and far. Salud! Andy."

I have an interesting connection with Andy. Andy took care of me on my very second (& third) Alcatraz swim in Oct/2003. It was a beautiful swim to watch sun rays on the Bay bridge swimming to Alctaraz and watching the Golden Gate bridge light up from the sun on my way back to the club. It was one of my first cold swims, I was really scared and was swimming fast to get across, Andy took care me brought me to the cove and went back to get others. I still have a vivid photographic memory of Andy's face looking at me while paddling. Andy, you'll be with us forever. I'll be watching your son blossom (might work for him one day). I'll be dedicating my training and 2017 swim across the Straits of Magellan to you pal!!

Photo Credit: Lu al

Photo Credit: Lu al

I want to close this blog with a wonderful message from Marilyn Bell Di lasco (This applies to everybody and in all walks of life) 

"Hello my friend, 

Tracey kept me informed, I was glued to the spot tracker and FB. Because of the time difference and delays, I kept my laptop, iPad and smart phone on alert for messages, etc. 

I was heartbroken at the outcome, but so very thankful that you were safe. Your courage and perseverance is remarkable, but not surprising...as I wrote in one of my messages, you truly have a marathoner's heart!

Immediately after I learned that you and your team were safe, I found myself thinking about your "It's Not About Swimming". And because I too have travelled a similar journey, I would add, "it's not Just about the swimming! I think we both believe that it is much more...marathon swimming may appear to be a solo venture… but we know it is about teamwork, building community, trust and loyalty. It's about having a dream and sharing that dream with believers. 

I'm not surprised to learn that you are planning a return attack and, of course, with a little luck from Mothers Nature I have no doubt that you will be successful. Defeat is always disappointing, but it is only an obstacle on the journey. You and the Strait of Magellan are no longer strangers. This experience will be invaluable giving you and your team more information and assets for your toolbox.

You have the power to rewrite this chapter or, better still, swim a new one, one stroke at a time to fulfill your dream.

I wish you hearty congratulations on your accomplishment and always blessings and peace to you, your family and your team.
One day we will meet, I'm sure of it, my friend.

Keep in touch.
Marilyn

Dream it! Do it! One stroke at a time!