Swimmer: Marcia Cleveland
Swim Date: March 29-30, 2022
Swim Time: 17 hours, 45 minutes
Start/Finish: Islands of Moloka’i and O’ahu, Hawai’i, United States
Boat: Stellina Mare
Crew: Julia Green, Terri Dietz
Pilots: Mike Twigg-Smith, Shelley Oates-Wilding
Kayakers: Kai Wilding, Erin, Kainoa Lopes
Water Temp: (77°F, 25°C)
Air Temp: (72° to 80°F, 22° to 26°C)
Air Conditions: Wind (5 to 16 MPH/8 to 26 KPH, shifting from Southwest to North to East during the swim),
Wave Height (5 to 8 Feet/ 1.5 to 2.5 Meters)
Family Members frequently mentioned in this log: Mark Green, Husband; Julia Green (24), Daughter; Sam Green (21), Son.
The Moloka’i Channel (also known as The Ka’iwi Channel)
Two Important Points
1. The body of water between Moloka’i is officially known as the Ka’iwi Channel (“Ca-E-ve”.) In this log, with sincere and humble deference to the Channel Gods, I refer to this Channel as the Moloka’i Channel since it is commonly called this outside of Hawai’i. When you are in Hawai’i, please respectfully refer to it as the Ka’iwi Channel
2. I use a GPS Tracker during my swim. The link is sent out once the swim begins. Little did I know that Hawai’i is on the edge of the fringe area which my Spot Tracker covered. I apologize to all who worried about my lack of satellite imagery at all points in this swim, and the potential consequences. I promise never to do a swim in Central Africa, Greenland, the Middle East, and other “out of area” locations as indicated by this link.
Now for thoughts on my Moloka’i Swim
The short version is on March 29-30, 2022, I swam from the island of Moloka’i to the island of O’ahu, Hawai’i, in 17 hours and 45 minutes. If your interest and curiosity about this swim has been satiated, thank you for your time!
The longer version is here.
On Tuesday March 29, 2022, I set off at 5:15pm from Kepuhi Beach at the Kaluakoi Villas on the Island of Moloka’i and swam 44 km/27.34 miles to the island of O’ahu, arriving at Alan Davis Beach (Kaho’ohaihai Inlet), at the Ka’iwi Shoreline Trail on Wednesday March 30, 2022, at 11am, in 17 hours and 45 minutes. This is the longest swim I have ever done in both distance and time.
Here’s how it transpired.
As I stood on Moloka’i looking out on the Moloka’i Channel waiting to start my swim on March 29, 2022, I wondered what the delay on the boat was. I was supposed to get a signal to begin, but none had come yet. I had waited two years, one week, and now 15 minutes, so I realized I could be patient just a little longer. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
A few minutes ago, I watched my crew Julia and Terri courageously swim out to the boat through six-foot breakers, each with 2 heavy backpacks containing all my gear strapped to them. Little did we know how foretelling this scene would be over the next 18 hours.
There is more to this swim than simply my usual strategy of: I decide to do it, I train hard, I get myself to the start, and I swim to the finish. The COVID-19 Pandemic got in the way.
I targeted this swim for the end of March 2020. With the growing concern over the encroaching Pandemic, I moved my swim date up 2 weeks and landed in Hawai’i on Sunday March 15, 2020. As that week progressed, the weather was looking good for a swim on Thursday March 19th, then on Friday March 20th, due to a better forecast for that day. However, the far-off footsteps of the COVID-19 Pandemic rapidly closed in on Hawai’i. As a result, my swim unraveled due to factors completely out of my control. I left Hawai’i on the night of Friday March 20th with a “Dry Suit,” some unfinished business, and an unimagined way of life as The World entered Lockdown.
I had arrived in sunny, warm Hawai’i in excellent shape, having trained better than I had in years, full of confidence and endurance, thinking I had a good chance of a successful crossing. I returned home to dreary, cold Chicago wondering if I could ever get back into that level of fitness but furthermore: What was happening to our world? Could any of us have foreseen what Lockdown would come to mean, both individually and collectively as a society?
Our family lives on the North Shore of Chicago, Illinois, USA, near lake Michigan. Our daughter, Julia, had just concluded her collegiate swimming career at Kenyon College and came home for Spring Break. She was looking forward to returning to campus for her “Senior Spring.” Unbeknownst to all, the entire graduating Class of 2020 would never return to any campus, and they all received their diploma from their USPS Postal Carriers. Big bummer. (However, Kenyon held a well-attended, in-person graduation in May 2022, offering closure to all.)
Chicago went into Lockdown on Monday March 16th, and our son, Sam, started Zoom School, (a.k.a. “Remote Learning” but our family always uses the term “Zoom School” since this term seems to match the level of educational sophistication provided.) Julia heroically covered this with him while I was in Hawai’i awaiting my swim. When I landed in Chicago on Saturday morning March 21st, Lockdown had abruptly slammed the door on life as we knew it, particularly swimming (for me), organized fitness opportunities, and all forms of in-person socialization beyond one’s household. Immediately I took over the five-hours a day of Zoom School with Sam and starting walking for exercise because that was my only fitness option at the time. But this Lockdown and COVID-19 virus would only last a couple of months, right? God laughs while we make plans. A few pivotal things happened that probably benefited my long-range fitness and helped stave off the mental funk that relentlessly attempted to crash land on me.
Dr. Brian Cunningham is the Physical Therapist for the USA Olympic Swimming Team. We have been working together since 2005, and he has been involved with my preparation for nearly every one of my major swims. My fitness needs have evolved as I have aged (I was 57 years, 11 months when I swam Moloka’i) and Brian has been instrumental in designing programs for me that address this issue. When the Pandemic began, Brian started running PT classes on Zoom 4-5 days a week for a small group of swimmers. These sessions greatly helped my core strength, balance, and mood. I could count on seeing the same community of faces many early mornings as we worked up a big sweat together.
Just before I left for Hawai’i this year (2022), Brian reminded me of the Dryland Program I had done over the past two years. (“Dryland” is what swimmers call any calisthenics/weightlifting/ stretching program done on dry land.) He felt my consistent program had made me stronger and more fit, and I have to agree with him. As a testament to all this Dryland work, when I finished my Moloka’i swim, my wrist-, elbow-, and shoulder joints all hurt from the exertion of swimming nearly 28 miles in the open ocean, but the next day no body part was in pain; I was merely very, very tired. (To set up your own program with Brian, either remotely or in-person, please feel free to get in touch at Brian@TheSwimDoc.com)
My daily solitary walking in March 2020 sparked memory of a goal I had set when I turned 50: to complete a Marathon in this decade of my life. When my friend Stephanie Henry heard of my idea, she got on this Marathon Train and on April 18, 2020, we walked a marathon in 7 hours flat. I’m now officially done with marathons on land.
A few weeks later, I was slated to be formally inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in New York City. Cancelled. Another Big Bummer. Instead, we had a spontaneous informal “sashing” ceremony on our local beach, attended by about 10 of us, after our initial dunk of the season, in 48°F/8°C water.
Since Lake Michigan was the only water available for a very long time, I started contacting many in the local swim community with various times to swim at Gillson Beach in Wilmette, Illinois, and this went viral. As it goes with so many aspects of any organized community, relationships began, renewed, developed, and expanded. Many of these will continue for life, and this is something I truly love about the swimming community!
I coach an adult swim team of 30+ members, North Shore Masters, which, like everything else, had abruptly been put on hiatus in March. In June, I got word that we could have immediate access to an outdoor 8-lane pool. Our team was one of the first to return to organized workouts during the Pandemic, and we used the recently compiled USA-Swimming COVID-19 protocols on social distancing. It felt so good to be back together and have something that resembled a “normal community.” When we weren’t in the pool, many NSM swimmers were at Gillson Beach and other Lake Michigan beaches.
Throughout this period, I calmly assured myself that my lake swimming and limited pool workouts would be sufficient to keep me in shape, so if it was meant to be, I could eventually regain my form to swim the Moloka’i Channel. On some days this was a very hard internal sell. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
In January 2021, our family moved locally. We had been trying to sell our house for a while and this was a good outcome for our family, but any way you slice it, moving is exhausting. I got our new house set up in a month by swimming only a few times a week, but it was worth it. Once we were settled in, I started to build up my dwindling fitness again.
HOW MANY LAPS IN A POOL?
For all my cherished NARPs reading this (Non-Athletic Regular People: This is the term we athletes use to refer to our non-athletic friends in an endearing, loving way), here is how to translate the language of “pool math” used going forward. If you are already conversant, please feel free to skip ahead to the next section.
In a 25-yard pool, the one you’d find at the YMCA, the Health Club, etc., one lap/length equals 25 yards. (To me “lap and length” are synonymous, but their definitions are a major source of debate for some.) Therefore, four laps equal 100 yards. Think “Four Quarters to the Dollar.” One-Thousand yards equals 40 laps; thus 40,000 yards equals 1600 laps, and 50,000 yards equals 2000 laps. In a 25-yard pool, one mile (1760 yards) equals 72 laps. It’s actually 70 laps + 10 yards but no self-respecting swimmer stops at mid-pool.
This pool length is called “Short Course Yard”, abbreviated SCY, and mostly found in the United States. The term “Short Course Meters”, abbreviated SCM, applies to a pool measuring 25 meters (equal to 27.25 yards) and is a common pool length all over the world, but less common within the United States. The same SCY-conversion math applies, i.e. “Four Quarters to the Dollar” to SCM pools.
The last common pool course “Long Course Meters”, abbreviated LCM, applies to pools measuring 50-meters long (54.68 yards). This pool course is used for the Olympics, World Championships, and lots of other swim competitions I won’t describe here. (Centennial Pool in Wilmette, Illinois is a 50-meter pool.) For the conversion measurements defined for SCY and SCM pools, divide those in half for the number of laps in a 50-meter pool. Here’s a quick example: Two laps in a 50-meter pool (“down and back”) equal 100 meters, so 1000 meters equals 20 laps.
Since I have a lot of international friends, I include metric measurements in my logs. To convert Yards to Meters, divide by 0.9144. To convert Meters to Yards, multiply by 1.0936, which is roughly 10%. Now that you are a clued-in expert, you can impress other NARPs with your knowledge of the terms SCY, SCM, and LCM and I’ll let you do the conversion math going forward. Let’s get back to the story.
THE TRAINING PLAN
For my Moloka’i swim, my training started in earnest in October 2021. I put together a calendar mapping out my daily yardage goals, increasing gradually on a weekly basis.
Starting from a base of 25,000 yards in September 2021, I ramped it up to 40,000 yards by early December. In January and February 2022, I had several weeks of 40-50,000 yards (36-45,000 meters), and even one of 62,000 yards (57,000 meters). On this calendar, I indicated when my long swims would be and I wrote down how far I actually swam every day, based on my plan. I also listed how many weeks until the start of my swim window. Using this system gives me a clear, organized view of how my design will come to fruition. With rare exceptions, I stick to it.
As my own coach, to create challenging workouts that enhance mental and physical skills, I draw on others who inhabit the same training universe as me, and I browse my log books (dating back to 1979) for ideas. I’m regularly able to put together practices that include endurance work, pace work, and the occasional sprint set. Sometimes, a lot of arguments transpire between coach and athlete, both before and during workouts. These squabbles always run along the lines of “I can’t do this set. It’s too hard for me,” “I’m really tired today,” and “I want to cut practice short because (fill in the blank….)”, etc. When the whining ceases, the athlete usually does what the coach has proposed, often surprising herself along the way. Once again, one more workout is in the bag. DONE, one stroke at a time. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
In early November I had planned to go to Texas for a few days of long swims. This trip didn’t pan out so I did my scheduled 6-hour swim in a local pool, covering 23,000 yards in 6 hours and 10 minutes, which included my one-minute poolside feeds every 30 minutes. I was never bored or wanted out; I just kept going and going and going until I was done. This was a good sign.
When I set up my training schedule in October 2021, I planned to do long swims at Northwestern University on Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays and shorter speed sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at another facility with my training group. Saturday would be a flexible day and Sunday is usually my day off.
Both facilities offered pool space and decent gym facilities since Brian had me doing a program three to four days a week that built core and hip strength, flexibility, and balance. This plan worked fine until the Omicron variant of COVID-19 reared its ugly head in December 2021. With spikes in new cases, Northwestern restricted pool usage to one-hour a day, and reservations were required. This arrangement was not going to work for me. Mark suggested I investigate using the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, 40 miles (65 km) away from our house.
The RecPlex, which is often referred to as “Pleasant Prairie” is a 10-lane, 50-meter pool. It is usually bisected by a bulkhead at mid-pool, creating two 25-yard courses, for a total of 20 lanes.
From late December to mid-March, at Pleasant Prairie alone I swam 153 miles (246 km) in the same Royal Blue Speedo that faded to Sky Blue by the time I stepped on the plane to Hawai’i.
At the RecPlex, I was able to do my dryland program on deck and then swim between 2 ½ and 4 hours three days a week by myself, building a firm foundation from which my Moloka’i swim launched. Leo Tolstoy remarked about the distracting opinions of others:
"If you care too much about being praised, in the end you will not accomplish anything serious. Let the judgments of others be the consequence of your deeds, not their purpose."
There was no one there telling me what to do. It was completely up to me, and I cut no corners. My family was very supportive since they know how dedicated I was to my demanding program. There were some days it was so hard to get started but start I did, and eventually, I got through it, chalking off another step in my journey.
Between October 2021 and March 2022, I swam a total of 496 miles (800 km). I cannot overemphasize the intrinsic discipline, focus, drive, and desire necessary to achieve a big goal. This one was up to me all the way.
right up to the moment of the start, such as a Global Pandemic. Also, the training I do is so hard, I am careful to protect myself from those who want to trivialize the work involved. The preparation is challenging to explain even to my most-seasoned swim mates. To those I do share my intentions with, there is a well-respected cone of silence surrounding all conversations.
One of my friends, Mary Sheridan, once said about my drive and focus, “This is so so sooooo deep inside you. It is part of your core being and only you can access it. It takes outsiders a very long time to understand you and most never do.” I had to agree with her. It is this type of solitary drive and focus that allows me to keep going until the job is done. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
For Moloka’i, I knew I would be swimming through the night in the Pacific Ocean with just a kayaker next to me. Part of my reason for training at Pleasant Prairie was to work on coping with and learning mentally to thrive in this isolation. To the best of my ability, I try to envision what all the various scenarios are going to be and then practice, practice, practice.
My time at Pleasant Prairie allowed me to hone this focus. The RecPlex is a gorgeous 10-lane, 50-meter pool which never had more than a handful of swimmers in it when I was there. I find unwarranted attention and compliments during training to be a distraction, which, in turn, can affect the flow of my workout. Fortunately, in Pleasant Prairie, it was just me and the pool. Driving home from these sessions, sometimes I would call my sister Gail and tell her how tired I was from all the training. She understood both my quandary and my goal and didn’t ever suggest I waver from my plan.
At Pleasant Prairie, I made a point of starting from the end furthest away from the entrance to maximize my solitude. Most of my workouts started with an hour (or longer) straight swim simulating the first leg of Moloka’i. Then I would follow this up with half-hour sets (often at 1:30/100 yards), further mirroring my actual event. Because of this type of training, I learned how long 30 minutes felt like while I was swimming at “race pace.” In my actual swim, I never wondered “How long until the next feed?” Rather, the boat just appeared like clockwork. One set that trained my sense of time and my body was:
4000 straight (~1 hour), 10x100s 1:30 (holding 1:25-1:27s), 50 easy,
3000 straight (~45 mins), 10x100s 1:30 (holding 1:25-1:27s), 50 easy,
2000 straight (~30 mins), 10x100s 1:30 (holding 1:25-1:27s), 50 easy,
1000 straight (~15 mins), 10x100s 1:30 (holding 1:25-1:27s), 50 easy.
14,200 yards in ~3 Hours, 40 Minutes.
In mid-January, I went to Naples, Florida for a training trip with Kris Rutford, David Blanke, and Richard Clifford. Kathy Ottensmeyer and Chap Waters graciously hosted us. Over the course of 4 days, we swam 24 miles at Lowdermilk Park between Doctor’s Pass and the Naples Pier. This public beach is an ideal spot to train because we could rent a kayak right on the beach ($30/hour) and the public parking was only $3/hour. There were showers, locker rooms, and concessions in the main beach house. The 2.8 mile straight sandy stretch allows someone to walk the beach, and we had the option to swim as close to shore as we wanted. Besides all the swimming, I kept testing what worked with various equipment and feeds, and where chaffing occurred on my body. I even got Kris and David to try mint mouthwash at the end of their feeds, which greatly reduces one’s mouth from swelling in salt water. They loved it, or at least their mouths did!
A month later, I spent 4 days in Acapulco with Nora Toledaño, René Martinez Saenz, and Julia. Since René was also training for the Moloka’i Channel, René, Nora, and I had hatched this plan the previous October. Acapulco has several of the same elements found in Moloka’i: Waves, some of which I got in Florida; Marine Life, which Acapulco provided in spades; and Jelly Fish, which were present more abundantly than I could have ever imagined.
During our 3-hour swim, the sea lice and nettles got under my suit, creating a lot of itch. The next day during our 8-hour swim, from the start, the jelly fish were everywhere. We only got a reprieve from these “Aguamalas” for 2 hours when we were out in the open ocean swimming through 3 to 4-foot (1-1.5 meter) waves.
I got stung all over but the only one that made me scream did so at the 7 ½ hour mark by wrapping itself around my neck like a boa. When I ripped it off and threw it over my head, it landed on the back of my legs, delivering more sting. Double ouch. At one point early on, I asked Nora, “Can we delay this feeding until the jellies let up a little?” She replied regretfully, “They’re everywhere,” so we fed through the stings. Mentally and physically, I had to deal with this situation. This was what I was practicing for, right? Ugh. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
>I am happy to report that on June 19, 2022, Rene Martinez Saenz successfully swam the Moloka’i Channel in 14:48. His crew and coach was Nora Toledaño.
Just before I left for Hawai’i, I came across this quote by James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits.
"Most big, deeply satisfying accomplishments in life take at least five years to achieve. Five years is a long time. It is much slower than most of us would like. If you accept the reality of slow progress, you have every reason to take action today. If you resist the reality of slow progress, five years from now you'll simply be five years older and still looking for a shortcut."
These words encapsulated the essence of my training. The rest was now in the hands of the Channel Gods.
ARRIVING IN HAWAI’I
Julia and I arrived in Hawai’i on March 22, 2022. We were ready to go if the weather – mainly the wind - was right. “Not so fast,” said the Channel Gods, and put us into “Waiting Mode.” Julia has come to know the lack of glamour involved in her mom’s swim trips. Our daily schedule followed along the lines of: Wake up, Stretch, Eat, Swim, Hangout, Eat, Rest, Eat, Go to Sleep.
When Mark realized Sam’s school Spring Break coincided with my Moloka’i window, they weren’t missing out on a trip to Hawai’i and arrived mid-day on Thursday March 24th. We’d all hoped the swim would be completed early on so we could have a nice, long vacation together on O’ahu. The Channel Gods just kept laughing.
On Saturday, we all toured the beaches on the west side of the island since it was the first day of the Box Jellyfish’s predictable, yet unexplained, monthly arrival. (It has to do with the lunar cycle.)
(Box Jellyfish Calendar, https://www.waikikiaquarium.org/interact/box-jellyfish-calendar/).
Also, we all trekked out to Alan Davis Beach Monday morning, but Julia and I stayed in the car while Mark and Sam hiked down to my (hopeful!) landing point. They took plenty of pictures that became excellent reference points for the finish of my swim.
Mark did make reservations at some great restaurants in Honolulu, and my stomach is eternally grateful. (Brick Fire Tavern Pizza and the Panya Bistro were especially notable.) For the most part, we ate breakfast, lunch, and probably half our dinners in our rented condo. I love having my family around and this trip was no different. I simply had a very focused reason for being in Hawai’i, and they respected this.
As we were driving to dinner on Saturday March 26th, I got a text from my boat pilot, Mike Twigg-Smith, saying I would begin my swim at 5pm on Tuesday March 29th. That’s it. There was now a solid starting time. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
Whenever I get word of my definitive start time on a major swim, I feel the bottom temporarily drop out of me, rendering me quiet and absorbed. Lots of deep breaths. It takes a little while for me to process the immediate task at hand. All those hours of training and preparation are now squarely on the line.
By Sunday morning, I had wrapped my head around the next 48 hours: Today I’d do a 45-minute pool swim, due to the continuation of the Box Jellies, working on turnover and tempo, at Manoa Valley District Park. https://www.honolulu.gov/parks/default/pool-locations.html.
On Monday, I would swim at Ala Moana Beach for about 30 minutes. I would also sleep and rest as much as possible. I’d avoid walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, and black cats. Can’t be too careful at this point!
On March 20th, I had begun my Hydration Plan: drinking at least one gallon (3.8 liters) of water daily. On Monday March 28th, I swapped out the water for Gatorade to load my muscles with Sodium, Carbs, and Potassium. On March 19th, I stopped drinking all caffeinated beverages so the cup of coffee I had on Tuesday afternoon just before the start had quite a jolting effect.
Devon Clifford Baldwin had been with me in Hawai’i in 2020 to crew for my swim. Due to some work responsibilities, she couldn’t make it to Hawai’i in 2022 as planned so she plugged me into the Hawai’i an Open Water Swim Community. Through Stefan Reinke, I quickly connected with Terri Dietz, who turned out to be a superb crew member. She and Don, her husband, promptly became dear friends. I consider Terri a gift from heaven, like Keith Carmen in Scotland, and a major component of my successful Moloka’i Channel crossing.
Noon on Tuesday March 29th came quickly. Bags were packed. Last meals were eaten. Pre-swim anxiety hovered just below the surface. It was time to go.
There are two ways to get to the start of a Moloka’i swim. One is by boat, which equates roughly to a 3-hour trip from O’ahu to Moloka’i on the escort boat. Option Two is to fly. We opted to fly.
Mark and Sam dropped off Julia, Terri, and me at Terminal 3 of the Honolulu Airport for our 1:15pm Mokulele Airlines/Southern Express flight to Moloka’i (MKK). The 25-minute flight cost about $100 per person. The whole set-up is pretty easygoing: this open-air terminal is separated from the main airport, it has no security check, and most of the 9 passengers on our full flight arrived a few minutes before departure. Like good “Haoles”, we were there 45 minutes early. (Haole is a derogatory word in Hawai’ian for “foreigners.”) I tried not to look down at the water during the flight but of course I did. At least my thoughts ran along the lines, “I’m going to be down there soon. I can do this.”
Above Left: Julia & I ready to fly to Moloka’i. Above Right: The west coast of Moloka’i.
Below: View of Diamondhead on O’ahu from the plane.
Once we arrived on Moloka’i, we had 3 hours until the start. Wisely, we remained at the airport since there were benches to rest on, adequate shelter, functioning public restrooms, and running water. We found the Moloka’i sign that is the backdrop for many aspiring Channel swimmers and took a few photos of our own.
Marcia Cleveland & Julia Green in Moloka’i, March 29, 2022
At 3:30pm, the taxi we had reserved picked us up. (Hele Mai Taxi, (808) 336-0967, (808) 553-5700, or (808) 646-0608, Closed on Sunday. Cost $50-80, cash or credit.) The 20-minute ride weaved across the scrubbed red-earth landscape, that was sprinkled with brush weed and deer. The west side of Moloka’i looks like it could be on another planet. I was really nervous and inwardly focused, so I didn’t listen to much of what the very friendly driver was pointing out, but he was trying hard to be hospitable. Before I knew it, we wound up at the Kaluakoi Villas for the start of my swim. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
I felt as ready as one could feel for a swim of this duration. My dear friends, Marcy Mac Donald, Liz Fry, and Nora Toledaño all had advised me ahead of time, “It’s a looooooong swim. Be patient and you’ll get there.” Their words would ring in my head all night long, and well into the morning. Dina Levačić told me afterwards, “Moloka’i is a BEAST!” Glad she kept her opinion to herself before I swam.
We found the pool at the Kaluakoi Villas and walked past it, to the east side of the dilapidated ballroom. Terri said the last time she had been here, a security guard appeared after detecting her on the pool camera but there were no cameras on the other side and subsequently no security guards. Stellina Mare, Mike Twigg-Smith’s boat was already in position – a good sign - but Mike said we were aiming for a 5pm start so we had time to chill. We relaxed, I stretched a bit, and we waited.
At 4:40pm, it was time to get ready. The well-orchestrated plan began. I pulled on my Speedo bathing suit, and then Terri and Julia applied yet a 3rd layer of sunscreen all over me; layers #1&2 had been applied at various times before we left O’ahu. Then Desitin went on my chafe spots: neck, biceps, suit lines. I put my cap over my barrettes, ponytail, hairnet, and wetted hair, fit my nose clip, and strapped on my goggles that had a red light attached. (Marine life doesn’t see red light well.) We walked back past the pool, down the stairs, and to the beach. My vision tunneled on the western horizon towards O’ahu and the magnitude of what lay before me. It was Go Time.
View from Moloka’i to O’ah
Mike had said that a kayak would come onto the beach to ferry our gear out to the boat. When it became apparent that this was not going to happen, Julia & Terri did a quick readjustment and placed all the gear that “should” stay dry into the few available drybags and proceeded to swim all the gear out to the boat which was anchored about 200 yards offshore. This was an amazing sight to witness as these two strong women powered through two sets of 6-foot (2 meters) breakers, each wearing two heavy backpacks. I was grateful that they were doing this for me. Once I saw that they were set up on board, I waited for Mike’s wave from the flybridge, and just like that, my swim began, as this video link captures:
Start of Swim at 5:15pm, from Moloka’i.
My first few strokes boldly got me through the initial set of 6-foot (2m.) breakers and the next few propelled me over the following set and out into the ocean. I was on my way, thinking forward thoughts.
Within a few minutes, the sandy bottom gave way to some large rocks below and I caught a glimpse of a few tropical fish and one barracuda. Shortly, all this vanished and soon all I could see below was an endless expanse of dark water. Based on my observations over the last week, sunset and dusk is brief in Hawai’i. I knew I had about 2 hours until it would be completely dark, and I wanted to cover as much distance in daylight as possible. I got going.
The Rules of Marathon Swimming are simple:
The Swim begins from a natural shore where there is no water behind the swimmer.
The Swim finishes when the swimmer clears the water with no water in front of them.
2. Physical Contact
The swimmer may not make intentional physical supportive contact with any vessel, object, or support personnel at any time during the swim.
3. Standard Equipment
The swimmer may wear a single textile swimsuit with standard coverage, one latex or silicone cap, goggles, ear plugs, nose clips, and may grease the body. The swimmer may not use any additional equipment that benefits speed, buoyancy, endurance, or heat retention.
At the start of my swim, with Kai paddling alongside me and the Kaluakoi Villas behind us.
Three different kayakers took turns escorting my swim and they swapped out every 2 hours. This was a good way for me to keep track of time and all of them: Kai, Erin, & Kainoa had good ocean skills and kept me on track. The boat went ahead about 100 to 200 yards to track the currents and maintain the rhumb line. The kayaker would keep sight of the boat since they were able to see the boat in the swells, and I would sight off the kayak. I thought this arrangement would cause me a lot of anxiety, but it was completely fine.
During the first few hours, we were clipping along at 3+ kilometers/hour (~2 miles/hour), and my stroke rate was 68-70 strokes per minute. I felt great and just kept turning over at the same tempo I had practiced for months. One of my favorite quotes kept repeating in my mind:
Ask not for victory alone but ask for courage. For if you can endure you bring honor to yourself but more importantly, you bring honor to us all.
I really wanted to complete this swim for both myself and all the people who helped me get here. I waited a long time for this, constantly wondering for the past two years if I would ever get a shot. The here and now had arrived. Carpe Diem, and all that jazz. I fully knew the What/Why/How of this swim and swam with determination.
After the first hour, the boat showed up directly in front of the kayak and me, and I took my first feed in 35 seconds, then we were off again in what would be the pattern for the next 16+ hours: The boat zoomed ahead, the kayaker and I followed behind.
For those who are new to the process of an in-water “feed,” this is a way of transferring nutrition to the swimmer without the swimmer making contact with any support vessel, thus abiding by “Channel Rules.”
After the first hour, every 30 minutes the boat would come zooming back to us (i.e. the kayaker & me.) When I was about 6 feet (2 meters) from the side of the boat, my crew threw me 2 Contigo water bottles hooked together on the same long line via a carabiner. A Hammer Gel (an easily consumed complex carbohydrate gel) was attached to one of the bottles with a rubber wristband. I would ingest the gel first, toss the empty gel pouch back to my crew (no littering, please) then drink about 10-12 ounces (300 ml) from the bottle containing Endurox (a carbohydrate drink), then rinse out with a swig of mint mouthwash from the second bottle. (As stated before, mouthwash helps reduce swelling in the mouth caused by salt water.) When I was done, I would let the bottles drop and the crew would pull them in via the line.
At various feedings, Julia told me
And on and on and on it went.
I was grateful for these messages and acts of kindness. They boosted my mental state immensely.
During a feed, my crew would be telling me information I needed to know and, if necessary, I would respond. Throughout most of the night, my remarks centered on how grateful I was to be here, I felt great, and I was in a good rhythm. Once I dropped the bottles, I would head around the stern of the boat and start swimming again. If there was not a shift change (which happened every 2 hours,) the kayaker would be with me but in the case of a change, I would swim into the darkness, and the kayaker would catch up a minute or two later. All feeds on this swim lasted a speedy 45 and 60 seconds, with only two 90-second stops. My precise feeding procedure has been honed to a ‘T’ to ensure that I get the necessary nutrition in a matter of seconds. It’s a feed, not a rest. Any extra time taken during a feed creates a longer swim and heightens the possibility of missing an inbound tide or advantageous current.
During the dark hours, one of the kayakers was wearing a large brim hat topped with a dully glowing red light. (Similar to the red light I was wearing on my goggle strap, by wearing a red light, the kayakers would not attract the attention of marine life.) The light sticks that originally lined the starboard side of the kayak were long gone. So, my entire swim (and life, I guess) was momentarily predicated on my ability to track that single dull light on the kayaker’s hat as we moved through the swells. It couldn’t get any worse. But, of course, it did.
When the next kayaker’s shift began, it was this person’s first escort of the season and they had forgotten to put a new battery in their light. About 2 minutes into the shift, there was pitch darkness between us. I yelled to the kayaker, “Hey, the battery’s out in your light.” For the next 30 minutes, said kayaker fiddled with the light, making it go on and off as the old battery sputtered out its last gasps of energy. (New batteries were swapped out at the next feed.) I marked my position by the darkened silhouette of the kayak against the surface of the water. Another favorite quote emerged from the recesses of my mind:
Obstacles are what we see when we take our eyes off the goal.
Throughout the night, I had felt waves breaking over me at times. As the night wore on, often I could not see the kayak due to the swells. I didn’t even try to sight the boat. I asked for a sign from God. I didn’t get the bolt of sunlight breaking through the clouds or the dolphin leaping that I’ve received in the past. She wasn’t having any of it right now, being “unavoidably detained” at the moment. I had to continue to hustle.
Our merry little band proceeded like this throughout the night, as the wide-open Pacific Ocean did its thing around us. Swim for a half-hour, stop for a quick feed, swim for another half-hour, feed, swim, and onwards. I thought we were covering a fair amount of distance during the night and this assumption put me in a good mood. I thanked the Channel Gods for keeping me safe.
It’s always a joy to sense the coming of the dawn and those first rays of sunlight on the water, whether you’re the swimmer or crew, and this particular Wednesday morning did not disappoint. The darkness gave way to twilight, which then yielded to dawn and a glorious sunrise. Once the sun was up around 7am, I finally peeked at O’ahu to gauge the distance to shore. The one thing I could see is that we were closer to O’ahu than to Moloka’i. I had swum 18 miles (29 kilometers) already. That’s a good thing. When the crew told me that we still had about 10 miles to go, I was taken aback because I thought we were closer than that. OK, this Channel wasn’t going to swim itself so I re-doubled my efforts. At the next feed 30-minutes later, I was informed that we had covered one kilometer, that’s 1100 yards, half of my usual speed! That’s it? I wondered internally, “What amount of effort was this swim going to take?” Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
Dawn comes to the Moloka’i Channel.
I’m the splash in the middle, to the left of the kayak.
Next feed: Same distance reported. UGH. What I didn’t know is that the predicted “ideal” conditions had deteriorated overnight into pretty rough ones, and I was in the midst of 5 to 8 feet seas (2 to 2.5 meters.) Currents were swirling in unpredictable ways: sideways, against us, and, it seemed, never with us. Mother Nature was having a great time.
Why does this happen? Consider the size of the Pacific Ocean. It covers a massive 60 million square miles (155 million square kilometers) and has an average depth of 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). It flows uninterrupted for thousands of miles. Then think about all the tiny islands dotting the surface of the Pacific. In the case of the Hawai’i an Islands, each one is a seamount created by a volcano rising up from the deep bottom.
O’ahu and Moloka’i sit atop a coastal “shelf,” where the water varies in depth between 10,000 to 15,000 feet (6200 to 9300 meters) on either side of the two islands and then rises up to about 2,500 feet (1550 meters) between them on this shelf.
The measurement markings in the map found in this link are in feet:
Ka’iwi means “Rough Water” in Hawai’ian and she was living up to her name right now. Aptly, this waterway is also known as “The Channel of Bones.” I just kept swimming. Internally, I was getting dark and frustrated, since I felt I was expending so much effort that only yielded seemingly meager results. I hear you Marcy, Liz, and Nora: I will have to be patient and just keep swimming. But this is so incredibly hard right now!!
When someone on the boat said to me “You Got This” I knew the speaker was genuinely trying to help, so I added “In You.” By adding those two little words to create “You Got This In You”, this phrase takes on an entirely new meaning for me, and made me contemplate, “Yes, I think I do have this in me.” And I was working big time for this swim!
Sure, I could stop at any time and say, “I’d had enough” but it never crossed my mind to do so. This swim was about me and my abilities to endure and persevere. No one was asking me to finish nor was there a big pay out on the beach besides, of course, my family and some new friends. It was up to me right now to determine the outcome which meant I had to dig down deep over and over. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
Julia got in three times to pace me. Her support, as allowed by the rules, definitely moved the needle: we covered 1.2 km during her in-water shifts. The first time she got in, just after dawn, she was on my right. (We had practiced pacing on both sides.) At this point in my swim, I was trying to stay close to the kayak to get the benefit of the shark shield so in case a shark decided to check us out, he/she didn’t take a chomp out of me. (As we closed in on the finish, I was much less cautious since any approaching shark at this point would have to deal with my wrath.) But as I naturally do, I was pulling a bit to the right, with Julia right there. I know she was trying really hard and even got stung by jellyfish during her pacing stints, but I kept bumping into her and that annoyed an already very annoyed Marcia. I tried to keep all this to myself, but Julia detected my frustration. When Julia got back in later to pace me, I asked her to swim on the other side of the kayak and this worked out magnificently. I could see her arms churning and this proved to be a successful pacing method.
The Usual Big Seas during this Swim.
When we were very close to the end and I had been mentally dark for several hours, Terri told me in a stern voice, “This is your last feed. You have a little over a mile to go. The current is slightly against you. You have to give it your all and you’ll get there.” What she said was what I needed to hear. As far as I’d come and as near as the finished loomed, I could not let up at all. Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
I was surprised when Mike got in the water just outside the inlet entrance to Alan Davis Beach. Could we actually be this near the finish? I never could have found the Beach without Mike’s guidance, nor could I have landed safely without direction between the sharp rocks and the strong currents.
Kaho'ohaihai Inlet at Alan Davis Beach. Access the State Park via Kalaniana’ole Highway on the East side of O’ah
Julia also got in and had the honor of swimming with me to the finish. A solo swim is anything but a singular effort. Obviously, the swimmer has to swim, but the crew, kayakers, and boat pilots are integral parts of any swim. They all played a huge part in my success. Most importantly, I’m so glad Julia got to be part of this entire swim, especially the finish.
Mark had shown me the pictures of Alan Davis Beach from his hike with Sam. I anticipated that the distance from the inlet entrance to the beach finish was much further than it turned out to be. In reality, it was probably not further than 100 yards/meters but I wasn’t done until I was done. At the entrance, I knew I was close.
Below: View from the Land alongside the inlet as we are trying to land. The seas were pretty rough.
There is a point in every swim when I’m finally confident I am going to make it. For Moloka’i, seeing Sam waving to me as he stood on the rocks near the entrance to the inlet wearing his #6 NYC Subway Line shirt was that point. I knew I was going to make it then.
Inside this inlet, the water is shallow, but the current was still ferocious, and I had to time my forward movement with the ebb and flow of the unruly water. As we entered the inlet, my right hip grazed a rough rock, leaving a nice little gash. There would be plenty more scratchy rocks that I had to claw over to get to dry land. It was in these few short minutes that I got the most scraped up of the entire swim. Rough lava rocks on the bottom created an uneven surface. When I tried to stand up the first time, I couldn’t maintain my balance without risking a face plant so I lowered myself back into the water again and continued to claw my way along towards the beach. I wasn’t sure if I should go straight ahead since the bottom was a forest of rough, bumpy rocks. I saw a small clearing of sand to the right and I took it.
As I stood up and took a step onto “dry land”, where there was no more water in front of me, Mike Twigg-Smith said, “That’s it. You’re done!”
I had just completed my swim of the Moloka’i Channel in 17 hours and 45 minutes!
In this video clip of my Moloka’i finish, https://youtu.be/CMbLxMV-xPk, I look very unstable standing up due to the fact that there were lots of basketball-sized lava rocks I had to step around or risk doing a serious face plant. Since no one can touch me until I am on land with no water in front of me, I was very careful with my footing. But when I finally set foot on Terra Firma, I bent over (nice shot of my rear end), not in heaving exhaustion but because I had the presence of mind to say a prayer, thanking God for giving me the strength and opportunity to do what I just did.
Before I started, my crew and I had linked hands and prayed for a safe swim and asked God for strength, courage, and joy in this crossing. Bill and Barbara Haljin also sent this timely prayer:
We asked God for gifts of The Holy Spirit during your swim to O’ahu. Be safe and stay the course. Protect her Lord. Amen.
I was, I did, and thank you!
My successful swim of the Moloka’i Channel is proof that God shows love in amazing, often unexpected ways, and I am grateful to have received this devotion throughout my journey.
Above Left: With Barbara Held who greeted us with beautiful Leis.
Above Right: With Kainoa and Mike, my escorts to the Finish.
Below: Family Group Hug!
On the beach, several of our new friends materialized. Barbara Held and Don Dietz were there with leis and photography skills. THANK YOU!!! A few regular - yet unsuspecting - beachgoers joined into the merriment of the moment. Most of all, our family was together at the finish, a first for us. Their support was vital to my swim; a lot of joyful group hugging ensued.
I had the choice to walk about a half-mile (800 meters) on a rocky path in the hot sun for a car ride back to the marina, or I could swim back to the boat. The thought of that walk wasn’t particularly appealing (right then), so I swam back to the boat. Plus, I wanted to be with the crew. All of them had made this swim a success and I had a lot of thanks to give.
As we set out from the beach, Julia graciously offered sensible advice as how best to get through the strong current, avoid the sharp rocks, and deal with rough waves back to the boat. I heard none of it and came up with a much better idea. Kainoa let a rope out from the back of the kayak and gave me a tow! Beautiful! Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Relax FINALLY!
Once I got back to the boat, High Fives prevailed all around. We had time to recap the past 18 hours while we motored back to the Marina. Yes, it was a tough swim but the combined efforts of all of us made it a success. I felt truly happy at this point and the relief enfolded me as I lay on the back deck. All the issues I had dealt with throughout the pandemic, causing internal exasperation, turmoil, and doubt were laid to rest - FINALLY.
The Beauty of Hard Work and a Job Successfully Completed.
Mark, Sam, and Don greeted us upon our return to the Marina. They helped us unload the boat (which turned out to be quite easy and remarkably tidy, thanks to the garbage bags Julia & Terri used so well!), and then we took several group shots. I was fatigued and puffy from the salt, my left eye was swollen, my throat was sore, and I was scraped up in a few spots. More importantly, the prevailing emotion of the group shines through: united and victorious joy.
Our Team: Erin, Kainoa Lopes, Shelley Oates-Wilding, Mike Twigg-Smith, Marcia Cleveland, Julia Green, Terri Dietz, Kai Wilding. http://www.Molokaiswim.com/
Mark, Julia, Sam, and I drove back to our condo via Waikiki Beach on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. Once we unpacked the car, I took a long, well-deserved shower. Then, I lay down for a bit while Mark and Sam drove out of their way to get what was reviewed as “The Best Milkshake in Honolulu.” They got me two; this was a perfect after-swim dinner!
This next paragraph is gross so stop reading now and skip over the next paragraph if unpleasant bodily functions aren’t your thing.
When your body is immersed in salt water for a long time, the sodium builds up in your GI System. Eventually, this sodium needs to be purged. I have seen others experience this situation, but Moloka’i was a first for me. It was during this shower that my system began to let loose, and did so for about 4 hours, with liquid poop. It wasn’t diarrhea but rather just streams of salt water mixed with minimal edibles and there was no pain involved. I was always able to get to the bathroom but once I realized what was happening, I stayed close until I thought I was pretty well purged of the Pacific Ocean. It took me about 24 hours to get back to “regular,” a small token to pay for such a massive swim.
The gross part is over so start reading again here.
That evening, Julia and I cleaned up the gear. Despite our fatigue, we rinsed the salt off everything, tossed the items that had given their all during my swim, and hung up what needed to dry. When we woke up in the morning, the gear was clean, and we could enjoy the day.
That night, I put Desitin and Neosporin on my neck to help ease the chafing that developed during my swim. I slept with the hood of my sweatshirt up to act as a bandage, creating a fast track to healing. (When we returned home, I slept in a turtleneck with the same salve blend to continue the healing.) Sleep came easily after I took 2 Extra-strength Tylenol which helped me to sleep through the night for the first time ever after a major swim.
The next morning, I awoke around 5:30 AM and took some pictures of post-Moloka’i me. I love these photos because they express the hard-won, honest emotions of overcoming a tough challenge.
It took me a few days to be able to swallow easily. The next night it took me over an hour to eat a bowl of pasta for dinner. This feat did not go unnoticed by the several observant Channel Swimmers with whom we were dining. Of course, they all had their amusing sore throat stories to tell. For the next few days, those milkshakes were so good!
Now I will address the Elephant in the Room:
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT?
A frequent question I receive is: “What do you think about?”
A lot of things on a lot of levels continuously. There is often a running interior monologue that comes in rapid, random, unpunctuated chunks, sort of like the end of Ulysses. This stream-of-consciousness is easily interrupted when songs from my playlist stream through my mind. There is often an underlying U2, Elvis Costello, or Alanis Morrisette track playing, but the rest is unpredictable. Surprisingly, The Beatles 1966 song “And Your Bird Can Sing,” flowed throughout the night. I have no idea where this came from.
You tell me that you’ve got everything you want. And your bird can sing. But you don’t get me, you don’t get meeeeeeeeee.
You say you’ve seen Seven Wonders and your bird is green. But you can’t see me, you can’t see meeeeeeeeee.
When your prized possessions start to weigh you down. Look in my direction, I’ll be round, I’ll be roooound.
When your bird is broken, will it bring you down? You make be awaken, I’ll be round, I’ll be roooound.
You tell me you’ve heard every sound there is and your bird can swing. But you can’t hear me, you can’t hear meeeeeeeeee.
I also think about people in my life and my relationship with them. All this time affords me the opportunity to examine various perspectives from many dimensions. At other times, I get into a “zone”, like driving at night when those white lines beneath you are passing by so quickly, and you just continue to keep going and going and going.
I think about my stroke a lot. Even though most swimmers appear to be on autopilot, at least 60 to 70 times a minute, I consider various aspects about my stroke:
Hand entry in front of my shoulder with both arms?
High elbow on underwater pull?
Good underwater pull through?
Am I a mirror image with both arms? (“You know you tend to drop your left elbow when you breathe to the right.”)
Arm Tempo? (Ok or pick it up?)
Kicking? (or “Lazy Legs”?)
And on and on.
WERE YOU SCARED?
Another common question is “Were you scared, especially of the sharks?”
No and yes.
The former answer is based on experience and comfort in the water. It has taken me decades to reach this level, and there are no short-cuts. (Sorry, all of you YouTube aficionados who want to parachute in well above your skill level.) Most sharks seen in swims are curious juveniles who have never encountered one of “those humans” and come in close for a look. Swimming with a kayak escort that has two shark shields hanging off it gave me peace of mind. This shark shield is a thick, long, electrified wire hanging below the kayak. It emits an electrical impulse similar to an “Electric Fence” for a dog. When sharks get near the wire, it’s very grating on their senses so they stay away. Or at least that’s the idea. Luckily, as far as we know, no shark came close enough on this swim to test it out. The rough water conditions may have been a deterrent as well.
My latter answer centers on reality: I’m aware that various sea life in the Ocean that can bite, eat, sting, and overpower me in one fell swoop, most notably the Ocean Herself. I do all I can to minimize these risks. In Acapulco, I faced the “sting” aspect and was ready in Moloka’i for a searing pain that never came. Mike said that stinging creatures don’t see red well, if at all, so I wore a suit with lots of red in it and a red light on my goggle strap. I was always ready to be jolted into hyper-alertness by the sighting of a shark below. My dramatic preconceptions of what would occur during this swim didn’t materialize, but the length and rough conditions exceeded my expectations and made it plenty hard enough.
As for swimming at night, yes, it’s dark. In fact, it’s very very dark out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As the sun was setting, I was adapting to the diminishing light. Since my actual swimming stroke doesn’t change regardless of the time of day, I just kept going. I also had a kayaker next to me the whole time. To simulate the view I had from 7:30pm to 6am, go into a windowless closet at night, close the door, shut your eyes and that’s the view. But I always had the wonderful, comforting illumination provided by the phosphorescence going on underneath me. HUH?
In salt water at night, when the plankton-infused water is disturbed by something such as a hand rapidly slicing through it, the plankton responds to this mechanical stimulation by emitting a brief bright light, known as “Phosphorescence.” With every single stroke, it looked as if I was dragging a Roman Candle through the water with my hands. This is Mother Nature’s very cool reward for swimming at night.
I AM NOT HERE ALONE
My spiritual side is alive and healthy, thriving just under the surface. I’m not going to shake your hand and try to convert you because I respect everyone’s journey, whatever that may be. During swims, I often think about how grateful I am to be doing what I am doing. I give A LOT of thanks because over time, I’ve come to sense that I am not doing this alone on a lot of levels.
There have been several times during long swims that I ask for a sign of God’s presence. All of a sudden, the clouds momentarily part and a ray of sunshine bolts down just before the clouds close up again. As I was being tossed and turned in the 8-foot seas of the Moloka’i Channel, several times I inquired, “Hey, it’s me down here again and I could use a little help right now, please. Are you around?” No answer. “Hello again. Anyone there?” Complete silence. “Yoo Hoo. Remember me? I’m still here and would love a sign from you that everything is going to be ok.” I started to envision a sterned-face someone with sealed lips and crossed arms. There was no getting through this barricade. Since I had plenty of time to think, I realized there actually was a reply but not the one I expected. It came as, “We are both doing huge jobs today. You do yours and I’ll do mine. Stop whining and look within yourself because you still have a ways to go. We’ll talk when you’re done.” I redoubled my efforts and soldiered on.
After my finish, it dawned on me that I had no shark sightings and not one jellyfish sting. Of the 80 people in history who have completed this swim, and hundreds more who have made attempts, I’m now in a tiny, legendary subcategory. Most swimmers of this Channel get an abundance of one and usually plenty of both. The reality that I passed without incident indicates 1. I got very lucky, and 2. I somehow wove my way through the sharks and the jellies – perhaps I was guided? - which was a BIG job during this swim, hence the lack of response. I just didn’t realize it in the moment.
Throughout the night, these lyrics from Put it Together repeated over and over. I was being sent a message but was a little slow on the uptake.
All that you needed was there all the time. It’s magic.
Mirror, mirror on the wall. Can you picture me at all?
I could be whatever I want to be.
I can make my story change, just like in a picture frame.
Magic spells and fairy tales. Pennies in a Wishing Well
Pick up the pieces. You just look inside.
When you put it together, it's magic.
All you need is inside of you. So put it together.
MY FAVORITE CONGRATS
After my swim, lots of people sent congratulatory messages. I truly appreciate these laudatory compliments but only afterwards. Completion is always my first intention, but if I bring joy and influence to a few souls along the way, that’s a bonus to us all.
Some of the favorite notes I received include:
I’ve never seen you look more beautiful! You heard our discussion yesterday towards the end of class, about aging, the truth in the mirror, etc. Your face shows the beauty of incredible hard work, incredible bravery…you kicked the waters’ butt. And it’s all reflected in your hard-won smile.
Congratulations on another incredible accomplishment. You are amazing. I also want to thank you for not only being a very good friend but being an incredible role model and example. More and more as I get older, I realize the importance of resiliency, tenacity, passion, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances that are out of one’s control. You give us challenges in the pool that develop those muscles and you certainly embody it and provide a phenomenal example in your own life, including swimming.
More and more I think about focusing on things that are within my control and getting less stressed about things outside of my control. I see you practice that each and every day and appreciate and admire it very much.
It was very Marcia-esque of you to persevere through tough conditions at the end.
The Moloka’i Channel (also known as the Ka’iwi Channel) a great swim, and also a tough swim. You will need courage, patience, honorable intent, and a whole lot of grit during your passage.
Thank you to all our many great friends in Hawai’i for your hospitality and generosity towards us while we were on your beautiful island. We hope to return soon!
The last four hours of this swim were emotionally tough. I thought I’d be making faster progress and was impatient with myself. There was also the continual monotony of onwards in rough seas, and the frustration of not knowing when or where the end was. In what turned out to be the final half-hour of my swim, I could start to discern the sand and the rocks on the bottom and some small reef fish came into view. At this point, I could gauge that I was making microscopic progress forward. Silently I told myself, “Ok, you’re getting close. Keep going and you’ll get there.” I just didn’t know when it would end, and that was hard.
At one of the last feedings, I recall saying, “I just want to be done,” and that was not like me to be so down. But with each of these swims, I learn. On this swim, I learned that I could trust my Moloka’i crew implicitly. Without the attentive care and encouragement I received from both Julia and Terri, this difficult swim would have been exponentially harder. Thank you both from deep within my heart and soul!
I learned that I was emotionally stronger at the end than when I began. This strength developed as I swam through the dark night and in increasingly more challenging seas. I also learned that I could keep on going even when I was mad and frustrated at things both in and out of my control. During my Moloka’i swim, I learned that it often takes a bit more patience and perseverance before I land on the shore once more. If I was giving myself a report card, I would flag this area as an “Opportunity for Growth.”
Like a marathon swim, Life is unpredictable in what it throws at you. Being able to work towards your own desired outcome with the current circumstances indicates proficiency and aptitude. The lessons learned from such situations lay keystones of experience for future use.
In closing, my friend, Victoria Rian, told me long ago, “When I was doing that swim (in 2014), I felt like I was just a speck in the universe.” As I swam through the night, I thought about how right Victoria was, and I felt her presence in the darkness. This passage, from The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom, ©2021, beautifully captures this essence of the Moloka’i Channel.
I sensed my insignificance more than at any other moment in my life.
It takes so much to make you feel big in this world.
It only takes an ocean to make you feel tiny.
Big Breath In, Big Breath Out. Repeat.
Receiving my Certificate of Completion from Mike Twigg-Smith.
Fun Celebration Dinner with Front, L-R: Don Dietz, Marcia Cleveland, Jill Utsumi.
Back: Terri Dietz, Julia Green, Mark Green, Barbara Held, Sam Green, Stefan Reinke, Ryan Utsumi.
Below: Five Channel Swimmers/Crew reminiscing at Ala Moana Beach on April 1, 2022. L to R: Ryan Leong, Stefan Reinke, Julia Green, Marcia Cleveland, & Bill Goding.