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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anything Is Possible - Within Reason - In The Open Water

Photo of 53-year-old Penny Palfrey, courtesy of Thomas Mikkelsen of the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association at the Boston Light Swim.

You can do anything if you set your mind to it,” is an oft-stated post-swim statement of successful swimmers whether they are Olympic medalists like Michael Phelps, marathon swimmer Gilles Potvin, or English Channel swimmer Adriano Passini who is of more modest speed.

You can't put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get,” said Phelps after his 8 Olympic gold medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. "But nothing is impossible. I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything."

Canadian open water swimmer and marathon swimming coach Gilles Potvin talks about "With a valiant heart nothing is impossible."

English Channel swimmer Adriano Passini reiterated that “Nothing is impossible with determination.”

But these statements seems to be more of an affirmation of positive thinking rather than a statement of fact especially as it pertains in the open water. Swimming in a pool is one thing, but trying to overcome cold water, rough water, tidal flows, currents, marine life and extreme distances under unpredictably dynamic conditions is an entirely different realm.

For any marathon swim or channel crossing to be successful, there are a number of critical factors that must all fall into place in order to swim from shore to shore.

*An honest assessment of one’s potential
*Sufficient physical preparation
*Acclimation to water and weather conditions
*Cooperation of Mother Nature
*Self-confidence in oneself
*Commitment to reach one’s potential despite pain, discomfort, hypothermia, swimming at night, swimming with jellyfish venom, injuries, etc.

But if athletes set their mind to achieving their realistic open water swimming goals, they can - and often do - accomplish their goals within relatively short periods. These athletes do the following:y
1. Set age- and experience-appropriate goals. A triple channel crossing or an ice mile may not be possible for everyone.
2. Commit the requisite time to sufficiently prepare physically. They adjust their lifestyle and work, family and/or school responsibilities so they can put in the requisite number of hours and kilometers in the water.
3. Commit themselves to acclimate to the expected (and unexpected) water and weather conditions. They train at times when the water is cold and the winds are strong.
4. Start their swim when the weather and water conditions are most likely calm and/or stable. Without the ultimate cooperation of Mother Nature, the conditions for any and every marathon and channel swim can be impassable and impossible.
5. Never question their preparation, their plans, their escort pilot and crew. They understand that unexpected conditions or occurrences will be encountered and must listen to and follow the advice of those who guide and support them.
6. Understand that physical pain and discomfort, cold and possibly hypothermia, swimming at night and possibly with jellyfish venom, as well as unexpected injuries, may occur. These experiences will make the swim more difficult than they might have ever anticipated.

If an open water swimmer can set their mind to these six elements, then indeed their goals in the open water are most definitely within their potential.

Many times throughout history when a committed athlete sets off in the open water and ventures beyond the shoreline, seemingly impossible feats become possible. Often and repeatedly. For anything worth doing is worth repeating.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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