Celebrating the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim 2009

Text related to the swim, written a few days after June 6th, 2009… Today I am celebrating!

“June 6th, 2009! I have kept this date in mind since last November, when the enrollment process for the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim was officially open. The marathon consists on swimming 46 kilometers around the Island, starting on the east river, continuing by the Harlem, reaching the Hudson and finishing at the starting point, Battery Park. The swim around Manhattan is one of the most important open water events, worldwide.

The distance of the swim is 46 kilometers; the water temperature is similar to the English Channel, between 16-19°C, you have to swim without Neoprene, with a conventional swimsuit a single swimming cap and goggles. The swim has to be uninterrupted and the swimmers cannot, at any time, stop to hold on to any floating object or boat. Openwater swimming rules.

Finally the time has come, its 7:20 a.m. I am number 10 and I hear my name in the speaker, it’s my turn to get in the water, I jump from the Battery Park dock to the water and I immediately lose my breath, its freezing! Mi watch marks 16°C, I swim a little so that I do not lose heat while the start sign is given and I keep thinking I wasn’t expecting the water to be so cold!

I had trained for over 6 months to get to this moment. I swam several sessions up to 40 kilometers in a week, there were days in which I swam 8 hours continuously, I used to have cold water showers between 16-18°C so that my body could get used to it, and finally the time has come to put it all into a test!

I cannot believe it, I have being swimming for 15 minutes and my hands and feet hurt, I am cold. I see my hand under water and its turning purple, I feel shortness of breath and I have tachycardia, I do not like it, I am swimming and I do not feel comfortable. I try to swim opening and closing my hands and moving my feet to take away the pain. I concentrate on my breathing and think: stay calm, it is not the first time and I keep on swimming. Gela is rowing on the kayak beside me and smiles at me when I turn to breath and I smile back and think I cannot let the cold and pain waste so many hours of training. So much enthusiasm, so much support of those who have being with me in this project since day one, and above all so much desire for swimming this marathon around Manhattan Island. No, this does not work that way ….. my body is defending  from the cold and sending alarm signs to the brain so that I stop and get out of the water , but no, I am staying here and keep on swimming.

When I look forward I see I am about to swim under the first of 34 bridges in the journey, The Brooklyn Bridge and I turn around and swim backstroke to enjoy the view… So smashing! I am passing underneath this majestic structure and I am swimming! In a moment I realize I am not cold anymore, nothing hurts and now I am enjoying the journey. When I reach The United Nations building I feel so happy to be there. I turn to breath and see Gela on the kayak enjoying such spectacular view and while breathing on the other side I see my dad on the boat smiling at me and I give him back the biggest smile.

Reaching the Hudson took me almost 5 hours; let’s say I am half way through the trial, this makes me happy, my enthusiasm is at its limit. Looking forward I see the George Washington Bridge and I am very excited to see that in a few minutes I shall be swimming underneath it. I think of my children, Andrea and Eduardo; if they could see me they would be so happy. They have become my engine during so many hours of training and have become a part of this project each in their very own special way, I also think about that plane that last February, had to land on the river and everything went well. I remember it is June 6th, D-Day a date that brings incredible things to my memory; and in the end, now I see lots of little kids faces that shall get surgery to get their cleft lip and palate fixed, all of these goes through my head  while swimming underneath the last bridge, it is almost over! I turn to the boat and see my dad he is smiling and cheering me, and he makes a joking face and this is enough for me to laugh inside and to keep going!

I am so close to the finish, Battery Park and now I can see the end of the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim!! When I turn to breathe, I see people clapping and cheering and while arriving to the finish, I think I do not want this swim to be over, I am enjoying it too much, I have a few strokes left. Finally I reach the dock stairs and I get out of the water; the clock stops; I finished!

It took me 8 hours and 8 minutes to swim around Manhattan Island; I finished in fourth place in the women’s category, and in tenth place in general. I swam 46 kilometers worth 46 surgeries for kids born with cleft lip and palate and that thanks to “Quiero Sonreir”, Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation and Marti Foundation. Swimming for others!”

Four years have passed since the day I swam around Manhattan Island and I´m still celebrating! Dad, your smile kept me going!