That's how I kept going after the sun came up. I felt strong again and very happy.
"Hasta la victoria" (to the victory) as the last phone message of my great friend Paco said. And pretty much I repeated that statement in my head over and over and over.
Arlene was the first pacer that got into the water and swam with me. She is an incredible strong open water swimmer and I knew she would pull me up and get me in a faster pace. I don't know if I actually did speed up because of my physical state at the time but certainly was great to have someone swimming along beside me, made me feel good and even when we could not talk just having eye contact was enough to made me feel comfortable. One by one pacers got into the water for an hour, or half an hour each time. Sue, Ted, John Eddolls, Melanie, Bob Knuckey (the legendary marathon runner).
With all of them I had a great time and joy got distracted from my pain and exhaustion because all of then had a different rhythm and a different way to approach the water beside me.
At some point I was making my numbers in my head and asked Kendra how much had we covered. About 34 Km. she said. I smiled at her and said "I just swam the English Channel distance!" It made me feel so good.
So, 6 more hours I asked her trying to get her to tell me that she was confident on my pace and me. Yes! she answered back almost right away… well maybe; she added later.
After that first round of pacers, a second one started about 10 or 10:30 a.m. Arlene got again and had the bad luck of finding a struggling Miguel.
I had hit the wall as they say. I was about to say that's it. I am done.
I was very slow I felt like a drowning spider with no chances to get a piece of land to survive but Arlene (as the rest of the crew) was there to make sure that wouldn't happen. She patiently swam slow beside me, just making sure I was beside her and somehow (I am pretty sure of this) passing me part of her energy.
When that half hour passed and I stopped for food, I said to her: I'm done. No. You are not! she answer back right away with her usual friendly-bossy-smart-quick mind tone in her voice. I closed my eyes and I was actually able to see her showing her middle finger at me as she usually does when she is feeling like I was (she never did it there by the way).
I ate and ask Katie if next time I could have something warm.
Even when the sun was really warming up my back the water definitely was getting colder and I had been in the water about 14 hours.
Yes she said and I smiled at her. I knew what ever she decided to give me would be good.
I was mostly swimming with my eyes closed and then I remembered, (like luke listened to Obi-wan in Starwars) the Marlin coach Hans Wittola's words: There are 99 ways to be successful and just one not to be. Use your 99 before you get to the not so positive one that is stop trying.
Then the image of the wall at Marilyn Bell Park I've got two days before, stuck to my mind as a permanent marker to the clothes that your mom told you to keep clean.
I couldn't stop thinking in thi simage of me touching the wall and that kept me moving my arms.