A bit more than a year ago, I was on my knees in a hotel room in NOTL scared, praying, breathing deeply and asking to God, ... to the universe and the lake to help me and to be gentle. Barely
After all by fullfillig a very selfish project I wanted also to help others to enjoy the water...
Many times I wondered while training : Why am I doing this?
I found many things about my past, my experiences, my fears and aspirations.
I came up with many theories that could justify such crazy idea.
But as often happen in many other situations in life we just need a sentence, a single moment that define and mold the course of our lifes.
That was the case for me when in 2007, chatting with Jim Rankin about my experience in England with my friend Enrique Flores that succesfully crossed the English Channel from Dover to Calais. Enrique has been always a great influence on me and we have a lot of respect and love for each other.
I was as happy as it was me the one that swam the Channel.
Thank you Quique for your friedship and all what does it mean after this first 30 years.
Then Jim told me : you know what you should do?
What? I said.
You should swim The lake.
What lake? (as usually stupid Miguel answers back)
This lake! Lake Ontario!
Yeah sure I said. Maybe, I need to think about it. Maybe those are not the exact words but you get the idea.
Ever since then, I started reading a bit every once in a while... but the case is that the seed was planted and it was just a matter of time and having the right conditions and motivation.
Thank you very much Jim.
Then in June 2009 I went to NOTL with my beautiful fiancee Katie on a short get away and saw the plaque with the names of the 42 successful swimmers. Looked across the lake and far, far at the other end I could see the CN tower ... yiiies, I can do it, I thought.
Maybe... maybe. Then we had lunch and I ask her: Would you support me on this project? Would you put up with my wynning?
–I get very needy you know...
She said yes to all my questions!
I have very few words to explain how Katie’s support is probably the greatest component of the preparation for the successful crossing.
Thank you very much is too short to express my gratitude to you Katie.
Nothing really happened for a few more months but the swim was always at the back of my head.
That was the summer when thanks to the wonderful initiative and cleverness of Janet Hurley, the Star paid for 100 kids to get swimming lessons. The summer when Royson James learned to swim and the summer when two middle east girls and their mother lost their lives in a hotel pool in Ontario.
If I needed a trigger Janet pulled it because with her editorial project she made me feel very proud of working in a place that actually cared for that part of me that has been so important in my life.
Thank you very much Janet.
If I needed a motivation Royson’s determination to learn to swim and the unfortunate drowning of inocent people gave me the kick in the butt to actually start swimming again and do something to help prevent pool and open water drownings.
The first days were very inconsistent and 1500 metres were enough to get me out of breath.
Soon enough I learned that this wasn’t an ordinary swim. That my time in the water was actually just a tiny part of the whole project.
After thinking for quite a while, one morning in October 2009 after my coaching time at the University of Guelph, I asked Kendra Burton: Kendra, I am thinking in swmming across lake Ontario. Would you coach me?
I never saw any signs of surprise or doubt or this blank look of many that usually means WHAT? , WHAT did you just said? on her face.
She just said: I need more information. When? what is the plan? how much time requires from me? what exactly means coaching you?
I knew at that point that I had a coach ... and lucky me, one of the best anyone in this planet can have!
I started swimming. A couple of months later we had a meeting at her house with Don, her husband and U of G Swimming head coach. Kendra made breakfast for me. And we talked.
Pretty much a basic plan draft for the whole project was made that morning.
Kendra, Don, and all those behind the marvelous Guelph Marlins Aquatic Club: meeting you almost 7 years ago has been one of the best things that ever happened to me. Your kindness and support has been always the steps where I know I can stand firm and safe. Without you I know I would not be where I am and I would not be able to do what I do. There is very little more that I can say to explain what your friendship means to me.
Then another key decision: choose a manager. There were lots of things that I just wouldn’t be able to do. Because I am totally incapable or because I wouldn’t have time or head for those; and happens to be the correct and timely organization of an incredible amount of details that at the end makes the difference between being successful or not.
Thank you Shirley. Without your help, support and kindness the swim wouldn’t have happened.
Then finding the charity... the programs to learn to swim that ultimately was the main goal.
Thanks to Dan Thompson and the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Foundation that gave us the opportunity to work together and support the swim programs that they already had in place.
The rest of the story ... you more or less know what happened: 9 months of very intense training, meetings, work to make sure that the fundraising for Jumpstart was happening, learning about cold water and the effects of it in humans... even more important the effect of it on this one typing here; learning to eat in the water, to pee in the water while still swimming front crawl, learning in a hard way how difficult is to find someone with a big enough boat willing to go with you; but beyound that how to be very flexible with whatever life throws at you. Some things you can control... millions you can not and still, they affect you so I learned that you just have to go with it.
The concept “long hours” was redefined, for me. I discovered and accepted the idea of swimming in the dark ... just because it came with the package (even when I didn’t ask for it!)
I discovered the pain of the extreme cold in your body and got used to it.
And when all was done I discovered a physical pain that I never experienced before.
During all the process, I had (as you can imagine) ups and downs, good days and those when I just wanted to fall asleep and wake up three years later.
Today, a bit more than a year after, I can tell you again that I couldn’t do it alone, that there were moments that actually gave shape to the outcome, specially in the emotional side.
You all know the ones we had personally. The messages you posted in the wide media, the little details, the few words. I know that I will miss mentioning many. But I want you to know that I am absolutely convinced that every word, every kind thought of support that you, (yes you, you know who I am talking to) deposited on me before and during the swim, were part of the great success.
Thank you all.