Why I Entered the 5.25 Mile Cross Bay Swim

I didn’t set out to swim 5.25 miles. It just sort of turned out that way. I was coming off 2 injury-plagued years that had interrupted my regular bodybuilding routines. Even without the forced pause, I had been getting bored with the monotony of the gym. I needed something different. I found that ‘something different’ in February of 2008.

From Bodybuilder to Injured Fat Ass to Long Distance Swimmer

Before I started swimming A short list included, but was not limited to the following; a collapsed foot arch, broken accessory navicular bone in one foot courtesy of flag football; a series of micro tears in my rotator cuff from driving fence posts through red Carolinian clay; and medical poisoning coupled with an awful reaction to poison ivy that had left me roughly 35 pounds over my norm. Finally, having my big toe bent 180 degrees the wrong way tearing cartilage and stretching tendons forced me to try to find something else to do.

With my foot problems, running was out. I had spent the last 8 months rehabbing my shoulder regaining range of motion simulating exercises like bench press, pull ups, and curls with a 5 lbs broom handle. Doctors had told me that part of the cause for the injury was that I had not equally developed all three heads of the deltoid and had totally neglected my rotator cuff. Years of bench press, military press, etc will do that to you if you favor chest workouts over back workouts.

I was overweight and had multiple injuries, still, I wanted to get better. My size and my limited mobility had severely impacted my appearance, temperament, and, as a result, my quality of life. I had started to make choices of what I was spending my time doing, whom I was spending my time doing it with as a result of being fat and immobile. Something had to change.

Enter swimming.

I’m not sure exactly what it was that made think of swimming as the perfect solution but whatever it was, I’m glad it got me into the YMCA pool. By swimming I was able to combine resistance exercise with cardiovascular exercise and flexibility training. The motions of swimming require total involvement of the shoulder addressing that part of my rehabilitation. While swimming I was weightless thus alleviating the issues with my feet. The best part about swimming was that it was fun! I had learned to swim at an early age and my best days are generally recounted at some beach or other. Here was a workout that was challenging and I loved to do! Brilliant!

The contest.

Some people say that my proclivity for extremes is my biggest personality flaw. Others see it as my biggest strength. Either way it was responsible for me declaring that I was going to enter the Maggie Fischer Memorial Cross Bay Swim. 5.5 miles from the Fire Island barrier beach to Long Island in open water fed by the mighty Atlantic ocean.

I had returned from an amazing 2 weeks in Israel and felt more like the old me (pre-2 years of injuries) than I had in a while. Travel has an amazing way of opening all sorts of new doors for people and I am no different. Before leaving for Israel I had been swimming for a mere 3 weeks and was still quite awful at it. Talking to my parents before my departure my father had told me about a friend of his that swam the Cross Bay Swim as part of his own 60th birthday challenge. To me this sounded insane. I could barely make 1 lap (50 meters there and back) in the pool without feeling exhausted. I knew I should be able to keep up with someone more than twice my age. And, with my own 30th birthday around the corner, I knew I could not.

In retrospect it should have been entirely predictable that I was going to end up doing the swim. It neatly follows my personal philosophy of Survive Endure Resist Escape. Survive – getting out of the injury rut. Endure – keep with the swim despite all of life’s obstacles. Resist – use the fruits of your labors as a force multiplier (ex compounding interest). Escape – solve a problem for life while doing things most mortals think is either insane or impossible.

Have you ever signed up for a similar challenge? Have you ever challenged yourself for similar reasons?

5.25 Mile Ocean Swim – in Pictures

It is difficult to comprehend how far 5.25 miles over sea is until you’ve been swimming in open water yourself.

Here’s a photo essay that might help:

Starting point:
Passing the Robert Moses State Bridge:
The Robert Moses State Bridge

Size reference: Here’s the Queen Mary 2 doing the same thing:

Past Sexton Island & Captree Island:
Long stretch across the Great South Bay:

Passing the Great South Bay Bridge:

Closing in to the finish line:

Here’s the course. I’m swimming from the bottom of the pic north: