For the longest time I have dreamt of swimming marathons. At a very young age, every summer my family and I would head up north to Val-David, Quebec, where we would swim in Golden Lake (Lac Doré).
The lake is about 8 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. I would sit by the cottage window looking out over the lake wondering what it would be like to swim to the other side.
I don’t recall asking if I could – or telling anyone I wanted to – I just remember wondering and wanting and maybe being a little afraid to ask.
For the past few years I have been tinkering with open water swimming – my first year swimming 1.5k in a lake, next 3k, and then 5k; each year setting a new goal and increasing my distance.
Last summer I swam my first ocean marathon, 10 kilometers across English Bay from West Vancouver to Kitsilano Beach. It was an incredible experience but quite frankly I am left wondering “is that it?” I find myself asking “have I merely achieved a simple goal and forsake a life-long dream?”
So here I am, as I was at the age of five looking across the lake, wondering and wanting. And here I am as I was at the age of five, maybe afraid to ask – can I swim to the other side?
This year I lost two friends; both were young – in their 40s.
The first loss was Steve G., a friend for more than 25 years. He passed away in August. Early on in our friendship I found out that Steve was HIV positive. He woke up every day more aware than most of us that each day may be our last.
Steve battled many AIDS related illnesses often leaving his doctors wondering “how is it that you are still alive?” His solution was simple: early on he took control of his life with AIDS and learned to live with the disease. He learned as much as he could about his body and how it responded to the world around him. He was strong, brave and I will always admire him for living with AIDS, rather than dying from it.
The second loss was Catherine Clarke (Cat to me). Cat, a triathlete, died in a car accident in New Zealand in November. We first met at the YMCA pool and would often see each other at the lake training for upcoming events. When time permitted we spent time together sharing our hopes and fears as well as our joys and pains.
Before Cat died she competed in the World Triathlon Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand; a goal she had whole-heartedly devoted herself to. Every time I saw her I was quite taken by her enthusiasm and her ability to be the best possible athlete she could be. She worked harder than hard and didn’t let any of her fears get in her way.
Thinking about my two friends I know that I must stop wondering and wanting. I must not let any fears that I have about “swimming across the lake” get in my way of reaching the other side. Through their incredible lives I have been inspired to live my life in their footsteps, and that is by living through trying. In their honor, this summer I will attempt a 35 kilometer ultra-marathon swim across Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
My challenge to each of you is to find that something in your life you have been wondering about – wanting to try – but are just a little bit afraid to – doesn’t matter how big our small. And then find that person in your life who inspires you to live through trying – and then get out there and do it!