Meredith - 1st Woman to Swim Channel 2x
Mark your calendar: September 22, 2013 Meredith is setting a World Record!!!
She has been training incredibly hard and has her sights on smashing the men's record of 11 hours and 45 minutes and inspiring millions everywhere! She trains heart and soul for this twenty mile swim in the beautiful state of Hawaii. She is a member of the University of HI Masters Swim Team and the Waikiki Swim Club. A former professional triathlete and swim coach, she inspires everyone around with her joy and passion for the sport.
Her message is simple...when faced with lifes challenges - keep going. Never stop...never stop believing in yourself and loving yourself...it's important when faced with adversity to not get stuck. Just keep going!
Meredith needs your financial support. Marathon swimming is very expensive. These costs cover her crew, captain and boat fees, hotel, airfare for 6, photography, SharkShield, etc. This very exciting event is going to be filmed by The Surf Channel. The show is expected to reach 25 MILLION viewers! The title sponsor will be named Executive Producer on a television show that will air internationally!!! The signage and footage in beautiful Hawaii will be unforgettably amazing.
Thank you for your support.
Thank you all for supporting and being a part of the Maui double. It is time to move on to the next dream...swimming around the entire island of Oahu while raising one million dollars for charity. This event will be corporately funded and money collected for charity will be done through More Than Sport. I learned so much sharing my first ultra swim adventures on this site...I hope you follow me to www.MeredithNovack.com where I will be blogging, sharing photos,etc.
I trained hard ALL year. This winter, I flew to Australia and swam 5 or 6 days a week during my "off" season. It was summer in Sydney and a dream of an opportunity. I trained in cold water for the first time since I was twelve. Half of the pools I swam had salt water in them and were 72 to 76 degrees. I could only manage about two hours before I started turning blue. Most of the pools in Hawaii are at least 80 degrees and the ocean averages 80. The past few weeks I have been training with the MAC Team at Queens University as well as MAC Masters at the Charlotte Latin School in North Carolina. It has been an absolute privilege swimming with some of the best swimmers in the country...there were many days that I had to kill myself in warm up just to make the intervals! It was so exciting to experience Dave Marsh's methods up close and personal. I felt like I was back in college. I utilized stretch cords, bands, power racks, FINA regulated blocks, light strips on the bottom of the pool that are set to the clock, and my favorite - these open ended mesh bags that go around your ankles that made me feel like I was getting sucked backward in the ocean. I really loved being around so many amazing athletes and coaches (especially Coach Jeff Dugdale) who truly define the word excellent. It may not have always been ideal for someone who's shortest race of the year is 3k but it was so nice to have support and challenging sets. I've really pushed myself...4:40am has been really hard but no big goal is easy.
I travelled to New York a few days before my race. I love airports and hanging out an extra four hours wasn't too bad...apparently there was a major storm in Long Island complete with 14 inches of rain and flooding. I was oblivious to this as I read all of the new September issue magazines and chowed on gourmet salad. The next day, I had a lovely stretch out swim in the ocean...I don't know where exactly but it was at a guarded beach which had two flags about 400 meters apart, so I got in and did laps in the chilly, choppy water. The sun was shining and seagulls flying as I went back and forth in the 75 degree water. Later that day, I started my trek to Lace Placid. The weather in picturesque Lake Placid was miserable -grey, cold and rainy, high of 55.
I AM a warm water swimmer. That fact is not lost on me. I usually train in 80 degree water and the lake I've been practicing in is 86. I have trained close to 10k more than a few times in 88 degree water (in the pool in Hawaii, Florida and Asia). While high temperatures can make recovery between sets challenging, I am able to swim my normal times - sometimes even faster. I feel as if all of my muscles relax and fire on all cylinders when things get hot. It takes intense focus. My body type is suited to warmer water - more Kate Moss than Kate Upton...
There was a cold snap in Lake Placid leading up to the National 2 mile Open Water Championships. The day before the race, I wanted to get a quick feel for the water. I got out about ten minutes later, shivering violently, and guessed that the water was around 60. There was nothing for me to do at that point except to be positive and try not to worry about it. You can't choose race conditions! I kept telling myself that I would be fine! Attitude is everything and I had worked too hard to let the weather throw me for a loop!
I had never swam in water under 70 degrees without a wetsuit. I have used both XTERRA full and sleeveless wetsuits. They have the best customer service on the planet and always sent whatever I need wherever I happen to be when I raced triathlons professionally...while I use their products now for training, as a professional swimmer, the rules have changed. Open water swimming and marathon swimming rules are very simple and straight forward. In marathon (Channel) swimming wetsuits are forbidden no matter the temperature. A traditional swimsuit must be worn. In FINA/USA swims 5k or more, the water must be over 60 degrees...while I wasn't looking forward to freezing, I tried to push all negative thoughts out of my mind.
The course was simple. Four out and backs along a cable with buoys about 400m long. Two miles. My goal was to break the National record in my age group...I had trained all summer based on those splits (@ 1:20 LCM). My plan of attack was to swim it like 4 x 50s. Out fast and feeling great/ holding/ strong, powerful, grabbing water/ go, go, GO!
When I woke up, the temperature was 50 degrees. It was cold and gray and not expected to warm up. I had the most delightful home stay and was only a five minute walk from the start. I bundled up on schedule and headed to the lake. I decided to stretch and not warm up...no sense in standing around wet and barefoot during the mandatory 15 minute briefing before the start. Time flew and before I knew it I was standing knee deep in frigid water, looking at the start, and wondering if I would be all right...
I probably knew a few seconds after the start that things weren't quite right but I pushed it out of my mind. I was seeded 9th overall ( men and women) and was in the first heat, first wave. I knew who the favorites were and kept an eye on them... I was holding and where I wanted to be even though I felt I was spinning my wheels and gasping for air. At 600m in, I kept getting past but fought to keep my line...getting colder, starting to struggle. The second loop was miserable. I spun and spun...every heat seemed to catch and pass me.
"Try harder! Work harder! Come on!" I screamed at myself. Stay on people's feet...you are faster...but it didn't matter. I was giving everything I had and was being passed by the entire field. I didn't understand why I was moving so slowly. Every part of me was cold, goosebumps...and my feet were twinging with cramps. I was afraid if I kicked any harder that my feet would lock up and so my kick got slower and slower. On the third loop, I knew I was in trouble. I was swimming left and right. I noticed how close I was getting to the lifeguards that were out there in kayaks and floating platforms and wondered if they would pull me out. I was more than cold. I was shaking but determined to keep going. I figured they would pull me out if I needed to be rescued and that I should focus all my energy on giving 100%.
The fourth lap was so scary. I was out of my mind with cold. I hardly knew where I was going and every part of me was starting to cramp. I was weaving all over the place, even managing to be on the wrong side of the buoys swimming into my competitors head on as they neared the finish. "Keep going!" was all that I was yelling to myself. I stumbled on, going super wide around the last buoy.
When I finally reached the end, I was in tears. Surprised that I had made it, my hands were in the mud of the lake, holding myself up. I couldn't move. I didn't know if I could stand - my feet and legs were in cramps...three volunteers grabbed me from the water...friends in tow, I went straight into a hot shower...
And so there it is...that is what happened at Nationals. I have been very upset... I gave 100%... I am surprised that wasn't pulled...I am proud that I did my best...but I am disappointed with the outcome and feeling that so many months of training, waking up at 4:30am went down the drain...I am upset because for the first time, ever, I seriously felt like I could drown...
I know that FAILURE IS NOT ALWAYS FAILURE and I am sure, in time, there will be some valuable lesson...
I will say: if you are going to fail, FAIL BIG. Put yourself out there, commit and really go for it...as failures go - this one was pretty epic!
There are so many people that helped me
I am back in Hawaii. Trying to get into a training routine and getting my long, blonde hair back in shape after a few months of abuse! Kahea at the Marsha Nadalin Salon has her work cut out for her...but they know what they are doing! It's so funny...Kahea has learned so much about swimming and the last time I saw her she said, "Mere, did you get your hair tangled up in your goggles?!?" I did...
A few weeks ago there was a huge controversy in the media. It all started with a swimsuit ad from Target. Target had taken one of their beautiful, young models and completely altered her image. Digitally, they grossly erased her inner thighs.
Anyone that knows me well knows I love fashion, beauty and magazines! Reading fashion magazines is my favorite non athletic hobby. There are times when you can find me in front of the camera lens. I constantly fight with photographers to not photo shop my images. While I don't mind a stray hair or two being corrected, removing any physical attribute - moles, freckles, etc. is completely unacceptable!
Truth is beauty and sport is very beautiful and very real - sometimes raw, graphic...
While I know most ads and images in magazines are photo shopped - I had no idea to what extent! I was SHOCKED.
I was shocked to find out how heavily images are manipulated. I thought they hired supermodels for a reason. They have amazing figures, hair, skin, look fantastic in clothing, know how to sell...the average model is 5'10" and weighs around 130 pounds and has teams of stylists, makeup artists...I never knew that when I looked at a Victoria's Secret catalogue at the page that shows you the different styles of swimwear, that their amazing bodies had been drastically changed.
I want to know who made that decision! Are 60 year old men in business suits calling the shots? Did the photographers themselves start this new "beauty ideal"? Are women photo shopping other women?
I am saddened that "thigh gap" is a beauty ideal. The truth is, I cried. It made me think of when I was 13, 16, 24...hating my body and wishing my short, powerful legs looked longer and had a coveted gap. I used to try to stand in a special way so they would appear thinner...I am not that same, impressionable young girl that went through body image and food issues like millions of other ladies...but for just a moment it brought back those inadequate feelings.
When is someone going to say NO to digital thigh gapping? Most women's thighs touch. I think we should celebrate diversity. ALL shapes and sizes. Beauty shouldn't fit into a cookie cutter mold...heavy, thin, thighs that don't touch and thighs that do, scars, freckles, gap teeth, kinky hair, ebony skin color...there is so much to love!
What I love most about swimming, biking and running is that no matter what I look like - it always makes me feel beautiful.
Keep things real!
"What does that mean?", I asked.
"It DOESN'T mean 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 k if that's what you're thinking", Thorsten said.
Ok...guess we're swimming long! Glad I had lunch and brought some water...
We started at Bondi Beach, taking our time cutting through light chop and then heading right. The plan was to swim a few beaches down and then swim back, get some water and then do "Bondi laps". Swimming loops of around 2k.
From the start, Dori pulled ahead (she is training for a double crossing of the English Channel). She swam confidently towards a rocky peninsula. I thought Matt was on her feet and Thorsten was behind me. The chop picked up and we started swimming towards some big waves slamming into rocks. I glanced up. It wasn't Matt on Dori's feet. It was Thorsten and they were pulling away- a good 8 yards ahead. I started to get really nervous. My mind drifted and I started to worry about sharks. Why, oh why, must I always worry about sharks?!?
Thankfully, Matt was swimming behind me and when he moved around to start bridging the gap I sprinted and grabbed his foot.
"Matt, be my swim partner!!!!", I yelled.
"OK," he said...in swim speak that's the equivalent of me crying, "Please don't leave meeee!!!"
On we went, riding up and down on huge crests of waves. The waves pounded the black rocks and Dori stopped. We all caught up and treaded water, me pulling my feet close up to my chest still worrying. Dori said it looked like there were lots of rocks around and that we were going to have to swim out wide. She was right, there seemed to be rocks everywhere even though me were so far from shore. Again, my anxiety creeped up. A black helicopter flew over head and all I kept wondering was if there were sharks in the area. Was there a shark in the area?
Matt knew what I was going to say and said not to worry- that white helicopters meant sharks. Great.
Everyone was super kind. It's very mentally challenging swimming in a brand new area and they knew what I was going through. Swimming in unfamiliar territory can be extremely nerve wracking.
I tried to calm down when we decided to swim two beaches away down the coast. While I swam I had quite the conversation going on in my head. I was telling myself to suck it up, swim faster, stop being such a baby...I could tell Matt was swimming easy so I could be near him and panic was making me swim slower and slower...but I kept going! We were now in much bigger waves. Pro only not for beginners waves. They pushed strongly towards shore and we rode them as we angled to the right.
We stopped. I looked at my watch- almost 29 minutes since we started. Matt had GPS and said we had swam 2k. Going back was going to be interesting. Definitely slower. Treading water, another helicopter zoomed by us and then turned around and headed back to Bondi.
Trying to cut through massive waves was fun! Even though sometimes they smack you on all sides. It was a welcome distraction from my fears. I enjoy big waves and chop. I try to fly above it. I'm so little and it's easy to get thrown around so I just relax, stay high and breathe when and where I can. I had a little bit of trouble sighting and had moved right of Matt, swimming outside. I didn't want to be near the rocks...rock side or shark side- what a choice?!?
After we swam around the point I got confused. There was another point about a mile ahead and I wasn't sure if that was where we were going. Matt broke stroke and yelled we were swimming in towards the beach. A minute later we regrouped and Dori said to swim to the far rocks near a cliff about 1,000 meters away. I couldn't see anyone swimming at the beach and asked if we should be in the water...everyone said it was just impossible to see because of the waves.
My anxiety was creeping up, again, and I told myself only 15 more minutes...I swam my best through the cool waters and heard another helicopter zooming around. There were now two helicopters that I could see when I breathed to the right. A black one and a white one! Oh my God!
We still had more than six hundred meters til the rocks...we were in no man's land and everyone started swimming faster. I think I was shaking while I was swimming...
Now there was a red helicopter on the scene. It was getting louder and louder and we kept swimming faster and faster. This red rescue helicopter swooped low and hovered a few feet above me...300 meters til we could scramble out on the rocks...less than five minutes! Swim!!!!
The helicopter was so close the water was spraying me in the face and throwing me around. I was so scared I couldn't cry. I sprinted as hard as I could and caught up to Matt, Dori and Thorsten. My mind screamed, "GET OUT! Get out of the water NOW!!!"
None of us had any idea of what was going on. Why wasn't anyone on a bullhorn? I kept going- head down, charging towards safety.
It was so strange when we got to the rocks...there were two lifeguards in a boat and a few snorkellers and hundreds of people on shore. We could see EMS and lifeguards on the rocks and slowly the pieces came together...apparently there had been some horrific accident on the rocks. A man had possibly fallen from the cliffs onto the rocks below... The helicopters were filming us for extra footage...
I said a quick prayer for the injured person and thanked God for keeping all four of us safe...
My nerves were shot and I was done. Matt, Dori and Thorsten got back in and swam 12k for the day while I changed into my bikini and enjoyed being on the sand for a change...
Welcome to Australia!
I still can't quite wrap my head around this training swim. It was one of the scariest moments of my life...I am happy I kept going and I suppose that's just like life- pray, do your best, keep going...love, Mere
So happy for you, Meredith! Your ever-shining bright light and positive energy are palpable - I know you're going to make history and keep on going! So very proud of you!!! xoxo, Mickey