It's been a few days now but my mind is clear enough that I feel I can write what happened.
The day was pretty uneventful. I got up and had a good breakfast with my dad then rested awhile. I went with Patricia to pick up Gords and Josh from the airport then right back to the hotel. I took a nap then went to the lobby and sat there with Marcia, Douglas, Josh, Gords, my wife, and my dad for about an hour. It was nice and relaxed. Marcia and I got to chat some. It was nice talking to her face to face.
We all loaded up around 1745 and were on the way at 1800. We all go on the boat around 1830 where Lynn (observer), Rob, and Allison (assistant observer) were waiting for us. While we waited for Neil to show up with his kayak, Lynn gave her safety speech and so did the boat captain John. I also gave my instructions and then Neil was on board. We took off around 1900 to Catalina. The ride out was really bumpy and I wasn't feeling that great. I was NOT alone on this. I won't name names because only ONE person did not throw up during the whole trip. Everyone barfed sooner or later.
We got to the island and I got in and started right after 2200. Water felt great. Kelp was REALLY thick but fun to swim through. Chop was tough and Neil was getting tossed around a bit. I just got into a comfortable stride then held it. Hours and hours passed by and I would ask for Ibuprofen at times or complain about jellyfish stings or fish biting my toes. I was asked to report every time I peed and I did.
I was counting my feeds that were 1/2 hour apart. I figured that after 11 or 12 feeds, I'd be at halfway point. I was nowhere close. I got pissy and started demanding to know where I was. Marcia put her foot down and told me to stfu and my only job here is to swim. SHUT UP.....SWIM...!!!!!!!!!!
I knew I wasn't close to halfway and this was a little upsetting to me. I started to get cold too. They had to warm my feeds for me which helped immensely. I kept getting zapped by jellyfish through the night. They weren't too bad and it only lasted 30 seconds but it just never seemed to end.
It was beautiful watching the sun rise over the ocean and being in the middle of it. It did lift my spirits some as I pressed on. Marcia told me that I was WAY off pace and that I'm going to finish at 18 - 20 hours if I keep going the way I'm going. I picked it up a bit. I could feel myself getting tossed around still. Gordon got in after 0600 to swim with me. It was nice having my friend with me.
Around 0800, Rob Dumouchel got in and swam with me for awhile. I was starting to get cramps and was throwing up in my mouth a lot at this point.
Neil kept asking me questions to see if my brain was still active. Who is the vice president? What is 27-13? What is your father's birthday?
At the 12 hour mark, the whole crew got up and cheered extremely loud. This was noticed by more things in the water besides me. A sea lion popped up RIGHT BEHIND me to look at me and the people on the boat then went back under. We JUST missed getting a pic of him.
Josh got in soon after and didn't stay in long. He said it was too cold and rough for him. He was vocal on wondering how the hell I was still swimming in such conditions. Neil kept telling me that we were in a head current for most of the swim. The boat does automatic compensation for the currents so I go in a straight line but there were many times when the boat was facing parallel to CA and a few times during the last couple of hours where the nose actually pointed AWAY from CA to compensate.
It was at this point where the crew started to seriously ask about pulling me out. They kept asking Patricia but she said there was no way she was going to make that decision. She knew I would never get out on my own free will or just quit. The captain John even asked a few times, "Is this sonofa bitch ever going to give up"?
Neil stopped me at one of my feedings and told me that I am just barely under 5 miles to go and they are considering pulling me. It's extremely doubtful I'll finish. He told me to pick it up and that if I could just get past this next tide, I'd be fine. I picked it up and gave it my best effort for the next 20 minutes. My arms were in so much pain I was tearing up inside my goggles. I could feel small tears opening in my pectoral muscles and shoulders. I pulled harder anyway. We got to the point where Neil said I should have been past the current but it was not so. Another tide came in just as strong and now I was getting pushed back.
I was in tears, my arms and shoulders were on fire but I kept pulling. Lynn told Neil to inform me that continuing is no longer worth it. She is going to pull me regardless so I shouldn't do more damage. It was very clear to everyone, that even though it would have taken me another 9 hours at that spot to finish, I would have continued anyway even if it meant swimming myself into the hospital. I was completely gassed and when Neil said that Lynn wants to pull me, I said fine. 15 hours of fighting against the elements and currents that even Neil said he was having some trouble with at times was all I could take. I never quit and it took me facing a real possibility of serious injury to force them to get me out. I got on the boat and balled my eyes out. Most on the boat were crying too. I gave it my all but couldn't get past mother nature. It's one of the things I love so much about OW swimming. You never know what you'll get from day to day. If I had gone the previous night, maybe I would have had an easy swim. That swim was not for me....my lot was for something else.
Everyone said I did one of the most heroic and inspiring things they have ever seen. Not one of them could believe I had gone for 15 hours straight. Neil said he's never seen someone so determined and was in complete awe of what I had done. The boat captain said in all the crossings he has done, no one has ever been so tough. He said everyone else he's had that quit had quit a LONG time before I had. It was nice to have my friends on board to share this moment with me. I was COMPLETELY heartbroken, had small tears in many of my muscles, and was wiped out mentally and physically. That is the nature of OW swimming!
I am VERY grateful for all the emails and facebook messages of love and encouragement that I've gotten over the past few days. Gordon even made a poster for me...of me...swimming in the channel and posted it on my front window to my house.
I've had some time to talk to people and reflect on the good/bad things of the swim.
1. I started out on too slow of a pace. I should have been holding a faster pace. I was unaware how bad the currents and elements were that were against me but I would have improved my odds of finishing if I had started at a faster pace.
2. I kept throwing up a lot of my feeds into my mouth then swallowing them back down again so I wouldn't lose the hydration. This is actually a bad idea. If you need to barf then just barf. It's actually good information for the observers.
3. I was too concerned for where I was instead of focusing on what I was doing. My mind wandered a bit too much and I got obsessed at times with where I was in the channel instead of shutting up and keeping my head down to swim.
1. I had WITHOUT ANY DOUBT the best paddler I'll ever know helping me. Not one person watched what Neil Van der Byl did while paddling for me and wasn't without complete awe. He is truly world class and I'll never swim around California without asking if he can join me. He guided me, fed me, gave me meds, checked my stroke count, communicated, and more than I'll ever know. I can't thank you or praise you enough Neil for how good you were. You went from a complete stranger to a person I hold in the highest respect forever for what you did.
2. My wife was there! She was completely incapacitated from being sea sick but that was not her fault. Like I said earlier...all but ONE barfed! Just the support and liberty she has given me the past few months to train for this have been amazing. She has been my biggest fan and supporter and she never has told me that I can't do something or go somewhere in order to swim or train. Even when it was inconvenient for her. I love you Patricia and thank you for your undying support of me.
3. My crew was fantastic. From my coach (who refused to have me lift a finger to do ANYTHING) to all my friends that made it. My dad was there and helped out a bunch too. He helped signal when feeds were coming up and this was a big mental relief for me when I saw him signalling 5 minutes until next feed. Rob, Gords, and Josh swam with me. Douglas helped with feeds. My crew was amazing and they did more than anyone realizes until you are on a support crew for a swimmer. I had the hardest work to do but all the rest are not far behind at all for what is required while on support.
4. My observer Lynn Kubasek and assistant observer Allison DeFrancesco did a phenomenal job watching me and keeping track of me. I have no doubt that their biggest concern was my safety. Even though they knew it would hurt me mentally, they ABSOLUTELY made the right call to have me pulled. I thank them for it. It was obvious that I was never going to quit on my own unless I was dead so they did what they were trained to do...take care of me and make sure I'm safe. Thank you ladies so much!
5. The crew of Outrider. Your boat and abilities are amazing. Things got rough at times and you knew that it was going to be a long day but you stuck it out. I'm glad I made an impression on you with my determination and hopefully my next channel attempt will end successfully a lot sooner!
6. Even though I had to face the fact that finishing my swim was a lost cause, I NEVER QUIT. I truly showed people what real determination looks like and what I'm willing to do in order to accomplish what I want. Neil told me after that it was a lot tougher than normal for the water out there. He was having a rough time at times. To be completely honest, it had NEVER crossed my mind ONE TIME during training that I might not finish the crossing. It wasn't until Neil told me that they wanted to pull me out that the thought occurred to me that I might not accomplish my goal. Even then, I just put my head down and kept going.
There are many other things I've learned from this swim and the months leading up to it. I'll keep the rest to myself. I am sad that I didn't finish the crossing but I'm taking definite pride that I swam for 15 hours straight. That in itself is an amazing feat! I also know that when all the odds are against me, I'm still going to press on!
Thank you all for the love and well-wishes I've gotten the last few days. It has meant more to me than I'll ever be able to show.
This is not the end of the road for me. I have many more swim journeys ahead of me.
This chapter may be over but the book is still being written!