“You’re a Navy SEAL!”

Posted: May 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

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On Memorial Day, I have committed to match my power with my purpose:  This August, I will be swimming the English Channel on a 5-person relay team from England to France.  Afterward, I will be touring the beaches of Normandy to show my respect.  It is my wish today, Memorial Day, to honor those who braved these same waters before me on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

It is with much thought and consideration that I have chosen the Navy SEAL Foundation as my charity for my English Channel swim.

The History: Elite Special Forces (Underwater Naval Combat Demolition Teams and ultimately those who became known as the U.S. Navy SEAL’s) were the first men to be sent into enemy territory on a stealth nighttime mission.  It was their job to prep the beaches of Normandy to ensure the success of the landing forces.  With a casualty rate of over 50%, it was the single deadliest day in Naval Special Warfare history, but their bravery and fortitude contributed to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi control.

My Story: Many have asked me why I have identified with the Navy SEAL’s and chosen the Foundation for my charity.  It’s really about fortitude for me.

Long-distance open water swimming is a unique mix of hard work and meditation, wrapped in an odd cocoon of sensory deprivation.  To be alone with your thoughts can send your mind to strange places.  Add to that ocean swells, currents, and the various aquatic life one might encounter along the way, mental fortitude is essential.  Even harmless seaweed can shock a swimmer into a panic attack if the conditions are right.

When my mind starts to wander off into dangerous territory, my tactic has always been to visualize myself as a stealth Navy SEAL.  It works every time.

I don’t really remember when I started imagining myself as a Navy SEAL, but I just know that it works for me.  I know my strokes get more powerful as I begin to visualize.  I can feel my mind take on the imagery and my body begins to respond with strength, fortitude and perseverance.  Just the other week when I was swimming in Puget Sound, I was going for a personal record with no wetsuit.  The water temperature was 51F/10C, and the air wasn’t much warmer.  It was gray and cloudy that morning and I needed to get 45 minutes in the water.   At about 30 minutes in, I started to slow down from the intense cold.  I had lost feeling in my fingers and my feet, and my mind was going to that panicky place.  Just then I heard what I thought was my friend shouting: “You’re a Navy SEAL!!”  My brain took that in, I smiled inside and calmly said to myself: “Yes I am.”

I persevered for the whole 45 minutes, achieving my PR.  As we were drying off I thanked her for saying that.  She laughed and said “Oh, I didn’t say that!  I saw you slowing down and I shouted “How do you FEEL???”

All I can say is, the mind plays tricks on you in the water.  I heard what I needed to hear. And it worked!

I have a tremendous amount of respect for what it takes to become a Navy SEAL.  From my little part of the world, as I train in Lake Washington and Puget Sound to prepare for the English Channel, this is my salute to you on Memorial Day.

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By the way, if you’re still reading, and you’re interested in supporting the Navy SEAL Foundation, I’ve started a Crowdrise page here:

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