An Interesting Email Exchange

Should you set a big goal you’re not sure you can achieve and thus motivate yourself?  Or should you set a nice, sweet, achievable goal that you’re sure you can do thus, in theory, building your confidence?

This is an interesting debate.  View the exchange below between myself and the facilitator of our upcoming Escape from Alcatraz Swim.  Also, Leslie, if you’re reading this, I didn’t think there would be a problem if I published this exchange.  This is a complete professional exchange between a student and an instructor.  You will see the warmness she exudes in her communication which is why I went with her (there are several swim instructors running Alcatraz swims) over the others.  Go to if you want the realest deal in San Fran swim instructors.  In this exchange, you will see that both of us want the same thing – my success.  Which method is better?  We’ll discuss that in a moment.

First me:

March 3

I have never swum open water for distance, as in “okay Ryan, your goal is to swim from here to there” but I have swum in the ocean several times. This is the first time I have learned TI, but not the first time I’ve learned to swim.
I was planning on arriving Apr 2, I know you guys swim on Wednesday but don’t know if I can make that date, I will be there a few days beforehand to swim in the swim park or anywhere else you suggest. Are there other groups that swim on other days – Thursday Friday Saturday?

Her reply:

March 5

Hi Ryan,

Ok. That helps a lot.

So, I don’t want to be discouraging, but here’s what I think might work really well for you, in terms of progression, planning, and succeeding at what you want to accomplish.

1) Get comfortable with your stroke between now and May
2) Do some open water swims in Chicago in June
3) Come out here in July or August to swim Alcatraz
4) then continue to increase your distance and plan for some cold water training from September 2009 – whenever you are booked for Dover in 2010.

I think this plan will bring you the most success. I’m happy to hear your thoughts. If you are still determined to do Alcatraz in April, we will be happy to have you. Let me know what you think.



And my reply:

March 6
Thanks for your concern. I’m still doing this. I understand your doubt, but that’s okay. I have one month to take that away. So anything you want to share in terms of what you would like me to accomplish this month before I come out is fine.

Okay, thanks Leslie,

March 6

Hi Ryan,

Your goals for this month should be:

1) be able to swim a mile in less than 40 minutes in the pool, without stopping
2) be ready to tolerate 50-53 degree water by taking cold showers (are you wearing a wetsuit for this swim? – I would highly highly recommend it.
3) be able to sight efficiently and successfully
4) be ready to swim in choppy water – we call it the “washing machine” effect the way the water tosses you about.

I’ll wait to receive your sign up form.


March 6

Yes I’ve already been
1.submerging myself in the tub 45-50 degree gradually increasing time, yesterday was 10 min
2. swimming in the lake (Michigan) for brief periods (close to shore, don’t worry) don’t tell the cops, you’re technically not supposed to for another 2 months
3. Yes I’m using a wetsuit for the swim
4.sighting is upcoming in my lessons
5.I’ll give you updated times as I get them
So thank you. Once again, I understand you’re doing your job by warning me, but I’m commited. I’m young and ambitious, and don’t think I’m being unreasonable. If I am, it’s not a dangerous unreasonablity, so you shouldn’t be worried about me biting off more than I can chew. I will show up prepared. I have my goal; I will do it.
Thanks for supporting me.

So there you have it…
She wanted me to succeed; that much is obvious.  She did think I should wait, but I don’t want to.  I want to go for it.  It inspires me.  I could wait but then I’d feel like I was throwing the breaks on a beautiful ramp up to the big day.  I can’t back down.  I’ve gotta do it.
Now, as you’ll notice, I’m pumped.  The fear is pumping, but the excitement is too.  If I waited till July like she said, sure I’d have had a “better” shot, but then there is no motivation, no inspiration; and, that’s what we’re about – exploration, vision, touching the stars.  There is no star in waiting.  Let us do it.  Let us explore more visions.  My vision is to complete Alcatraz in under an hour.  Let us do it.
Here’s another exchange between me and my brother Zach, the most rational of the family.  “Are you preparing?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m doing all I know to do.”
“Are you just gonna show up there munching doughnuts saying ‘where’s duh water?'”
“No, I’m training, cold water training, elliptical machine, swimming every day.  I’m just scared; it’s my first open water swim.”
“Look, it’s a challenge; it’s gonna be challenging no matter how you look at it.  Just do all you can do and go.”
“Am I being naive?”
“No.  You’re not being dangerous.  You’ve got a goal, you’ve got a preparation plan.  Go do it.”
God, I love my brother.
So I feel a lot better after that.  Alcatraz, here we come.
Stay tuned.


March 7

Hi Ryan,

I AM reading this!!! LOL. And I’m FINE with it. It is an important discussion. I am glad you posted it. Your enthusiasm makes me so happy. And you can do this!


5 thoughts on “An Interesting Email Exchange”

  1. Ryan,
    I think each person here was writing to specific goals. Leslie was prepping you for an English Channel swim. You were prepping yourself for a wetsuit swim. When i’ve gone out for the Alcatraz swim in August, about one in ten is NOT in a wetsuit, and that’s in August. She’s not talking you down, but simply talking about a different thing.

  2. Hey dudes im over here in Ireland ,the sun is rare and the rain plenty. Dave is correct the distance is not the issue with a wetsuit the cold cant be a problem . Perhaps the bank could issue me a loan and i join the craic . I once did a 2km swim in Ireland i needed a gallon of R very hard stuff to warm my parts back togeather again . Dont take it serious dude ive spent my life out of my depth .GO .Let me know your thoughts . Bye GERRARD in Ireland .

  3. Im going up to the city pool to do a 1km swim .Ill do a lotto on my way if i win ill pop over to alcatraz and show you cats how the swim is done HA HA ! . bye GERRARD .

  4. Top of the morning to you dudes .Iclocked a mile in the pool yesterday in 35 mins . I treated myself to a pint of black n a wee halfin went down a treat . I did not win the lotto but i dont give a rats ass . Check out west port Ireland . Well got to see a man about a grey hound for tonights race . GERRARD TA .

  5. Iclimbed croaghpatrick westport southern ireland on saturday it was a plesant and tuff challenge . Last year i completed gaelforce west . Have a google and tell me your thoughts BYE GERRARD .

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