Category Archives: English Channel Swim

So, What about the English Channel?

It’s not happenin’.  At least, it’s not happenin’ until I know I’m doing it for the right reasons.

The Wrong Reasons

120px-Carte_de_la_MancheWatch this:  http://www.zimbio.com/watch/wAy4zhIK6kZ/Ice+Cream/Little+Miss+Sunshine

In the movie Little Miss Sunshine the father, played by Greg Kinnear, is afraid of being a loser.  You think, he thinks he wants to be a winner, but it’s not true.  He is more fearful of being a loser than he is excited about being a winner.

You think, he thinks he wants Olive to be a winner; but, the way he goes about it is through the principle of resistance.  “Just say no! Olive, to the ice cream!  Resist!  Look at it, but don’t touch it!”  Any recovering Mormon can tell you how well that bit of wisdom works out.

Resistance

Resistance is wanting.  It is wanting NOT to be and not to be without.  I wanted not to be without the swimming of the English Channel.  Failure was not okay.  I was hard driving myself and not having a good time.  I was showing up to swim practice… exhausted.  I was angry and surly and I just wanted this shit to be over.

I was not joyful, I was not present; I didn’t give a shit.  Even if I had swum the English Chanel, even if I had stood atop the stone on Cap Gris Nez, would I have been happy?  No.  I would have been devastated – my worst nightmare would have come true – I would have gotten what I wanted.  I would have opened a new door into the next thing I couldn’t stand to be without.120px-France_manche_vue_dover

I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people, but think about it:  Ever hear the expression, “Be careful what you wish for; it just might come true?”  How true!  Had I finished the Channel, I would have gotten on the return boat to Dover; I would have felt like shit.  “What’s this all for?” I would have asked myself.  “Why?”  “What does this mean?  That I’m somehow a better person?”  “What for?  Why?”

There was no joy in what I was doing preparing for the Channel.  It took me a long time to realize that; but, luckily I made this decision before I made it to England.  At least I heeded my feelings before the big wedding day.  There was no passion in the pursuit of this goal, and I didn’t realize I wasn’t going to throw in the towel until I was halfway down the Mississippi River.  I knew I wanted to do the Mississippi.  There was joy, there was passion.  It was extremely hard, but I loved it.  There was no hard-driving football coach telling me I had to succeed.  I did it for me.  I did it for the love.  The Channel was not happening out of love; it was happening out of hate – the hate of not having, the hate of being a loser.

But can’t you swim the channel to become a winner?

120px-Strait_of_dover_STS106-718-28No.  You can’t.  You can’t swim your way to success.  You can’t overcome all your past failures through the swimming of a channel.  I interviewed many who had swum the channel; they told me they swam it for similar reasons to my own:  they were dealing with a divorce, dealing with getting older, dealing with failure of some kind.  Though they were proud of their accomplishment, I could tell something was missing – they still felt like losers deep down.  (Mind you!  That wasn’t everyone; but you could tell on some… you could feel it.)  Something still was missing.  The Channel had changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change everything.  And that was a problem.

“This was supposed to be my magic wand!”

“This was s’posed to be my ‘it!'”

“This was… it!  The Channel was going to be my BIG accomplishment.”

Some reading this blog are Channel swimmers and they should comment appropriately.  I think all of them will agree with me, however, that trying to accomplish something to prove that you don’t suck is not a very joyful way to go about life.

There will always more.  What will you do next?  Swim farther and farther until you can successfully fend off the loser feeling?  You’ll never fend it off.  You will “achieve” and achieve and achieve, and then what?  Another thing will show up.  Unless you are doing something for the love, your engergy can never be inexhastable.  Love is the only inexhaustable energy.  Something done out of love is done for its own sake.

But wasn’t the Channel a personal goal?

Greg Judge, who you will meet in The River is Life, said that paddling the Mississippi was reward enough.  It was its own reward, and I couldn’t help but agree with him.  Some force, some spiritual force was egging me on during the Mississippi – I had to do this even through the mosquitoes and fights and anger and pain and heat rash and sore muscles.  I went on and on and on and I didn’t care because I was lovin’ it.

I wasn’t lovin’ the Channel.  The more I trained the more it became apparent that it was not the right goal for me.

Shame.  It would have made an awesome goal… it just wans’t my goal.  And if it was, I wasn’t doing it for the love.

So what now?

On the Mississippi, Phil and I discussed the seedlings of what would grow into the Hell movie.  It was exciting; it had a message I wanted to say, a story I wanted to tell.  I was jazzed.  I knew the road would be long and hard, but I didn’t care.  It was okay.  Love egged me on.

No love in the Channel.  That took a while to admit.  Part of me wanted to hang on, wanted to finish the goal because I said I would, but it would have cost me my sanity.  I would have won the approval of some but not my own approval.  Inside I still would have felt like crap, and no one would have understood.  This goal, at least for now, is for someone else.  Someone else out there has the dream to to swim the Channel, and they feel the same way about it as I did about the Mississippi.

Is it okay to bail on a goal?

Hell yes.  Absolutely.  Some will disagree but that’s okay – they have the perrogative and the right.  France_cap_gris_nez_sbI was listening to a radio show by Michael Neill, a success coach, who was talking about his most financially successful client.  This client seemed to always have loads of money… always!  Michael asked his client how he set goals.  The term goal seemed foreign to the client.  “Goals?” he asked.  “I don’t really set them at all.”

“What?” Michael asked.  “How!”

“Well, I guess I kinda do.  I get together with my wife twice a year; we buy a bottle of wine and rent a really fancy hotel room and then we just daydream.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I get together with my wife, and we daydream.  We daydream about what we’d like our life to look like.  And those dreams I guess could be called our goals.  Oh, and if I realize after a while that that goal isn’t exciting for me anymore, I drop it.”

Michael was flabbergasted.  “So, you change your goals?”  This was completely antithetical to what he had been taught – Never! change your goals.  Commit!

“Yeah,” the rich client continued, “your life is about falling deeper and deeper in love with who you are and what you’re doing.  Why change that?  Why persue something you don’t feel passionate about anymore?”

Amen, I thought.  And amen, I affirmed to myself when I doubted whether I was doing the right thing making the decision to postpone? the Channel.  Just so you know, I might do some smaller swims.  The goal will be to fall in love with swimming, to swim for the right reasons.  It has to be a swim where, gosh darnit, you love being out there in that water!  No one to prove… anything to.

Choosing new and more passionate goals is the way, the truth and the light.

So next time you choose a goal, make sure it floats… or that it swims… to your heart.

Thank you,

Ryan

Success at Alcatraz!

ryanalcatraz-smallA short while ago, Ryan Jeanes of 11visions.com decided to swim from the Island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay to the mainland, in preparation for his upcoming English Channel swim, in the summer of 2010.  Did he make it?  Read ahead to find out.

The Isla de los Alcatraces has been conquered.  Al Capone is dead (tax evasion, was it?), also Tataglia, Barzini, the heads of all the five families.  That Clint Eastwood movie is true – you can build a rubber raft out of raincoats, and there are no sharks in the Bay (though for 3 minutes during the swim I was major, MAJOR! flipping out – What if there are!  I mean what if they’re lying to me; I’m separated from the pack; a Great White could easily pick me off here and I’m only 300 meters from shore, shit!  shiiiiiiiiiiit… ok calm down, buddy…

Because…

What I’m trying to say here is… I MADE IT!

In a shade under an hour.

Not bad for my first “real” open water swim.

The swim went extraordinarily well, and I want to thank my family, the SERC, the Dolphin Club, Suzie Dods, my mom, my dads, my brothers, Barzini (okay we did that joke), and especially…

Barry, Barrryyyy! from the SERC, for helping me with my prep swims in the Aquatic Park.  Couldn’t have done it without you, mate.

And of course, Cy.  Also from the SERC, Cy is the only Chinese American I’ve ever met who eats grits.  Thank you, Cy, for letting me stay in your home and for being pretty much the most awesomest, coolest person ever invented.  You are a true light in the world.  By the way, my dear readers, if you ever need your home remodeled, Cy Lo is your man.

We did it.

Yes, I was out there alone, but the supporters along the way were instrumental.

Now I just need to swim in a straight line.

Future posts will break this all down, but for now, just know…

I SWAM FROM ALCATRAZ TO THE MAINLAND!  THE SWIM IS DONE.

You can put your well-wishes and congratulations in the comment section below.

A la prochaine.

-Ryan

One Swim of Alcatraz Comin’ Up!

800px-triathlon_swimming
This ain't a race, but it'll look something like this.

It’s here, y’all.  Y’all read for dis, duh duh duh da duh duh, yeah! da da da duh duh duh, yeah! da duh duh duh duh, yeah! yeah! You know what song I’m talkin’ ’bout!

Yeah!  Yeah!

Answers to your questions:

Yes, I’m freaking out.  It’s here!

No, I am not pissing in my pants.  I’m gonna do that in the water.  BTW, I finally found out, in one of my Channel Swimmer interviews, what you do when you’re in the water and have to take a dump.  That’s go # 2 for all you sissies out there.  You pull down your Speedo and let ’em rip.  Dookieeeee!!! Cadyshack reference #1.

Here’s what I’d like you guys to do for me while I’m swimming.  Pray for me!  Hold positive thoughts.  Surround this swim, which will take place Sunday morning at 8:45 Pacific, with positive, positive energy.

I already got one girl on board for this.  She’s a former English Channel relay swimmer.  Check out Karen Drucker’s website for some positive inspiration.

So, recap:  I’ll be in the water around the island of Alcatraz at 8:45 am on Sunday.  Your job is to surround me with positive energy.

But, Ryan, how do I do that?  Any way you want!  Some people imagine a band of positive white light surrounding someone, me, in this case.  Some people think things like:  Ryan swims efficiently, elegantly and with great ease and enjoyment.  He finishes the “race” in under 45 minutes. Some people open up a bag of popcorn and munch the cosmic forces of the Universe into motion.  Some people will be asleep, so say your prayers for me before you hit the sack.

In the Meantime and for Your Enjoyment…

I’d like you to take a look at a snippet from a future post.  This is partial account of my experience with the South End Rowing Club, the oldest rowing/swimming club in San Francisco.  A lot of this is entertaining and it’ll give you an idea of the kind of people I’ve been hanging out with since I got here.  Enjoy.

It’s old, very old.  The coverings on the walls are photos of long-dead men with mustached faces spying at the camera.  They were the rowers of San Francisco’s South End Rowing Club (SERC).  They must have had to have sat there for four hours, Abraham-Lincoln style, as a washed-up man with a comb over and a 70s (1870s) camera shot them as they flexed their muscles gripping antique oars and trying to seem that much more sexually attractive before the flashbulb popped. I’ll never be in this shape again, Mr. Twirled Walrus Mustache says as I stare into the black and white photo, for he is now worm food.  But before I am worm food, I film him and the current members of San Francisco’s oldest swimming and rowing club.  (Video to be posted when I get back from San Fran.)

Not to channel Dead Poets Society, but as I looked at these old black and whites, I did hear a faint “gaaaaather ye rosebuds while ye maaayyyyy” permeating from their lips.  Spooky.  Will my photo be on the wall one day for a 2100er?  I moved on.

Today, the South End Rowing Club has more swimmers than rowers.  They have a handball court, two of them, and the atmosphere is decidedly male.  In the seventies (1970s), they and other clubs were forced to admit women, but the air of braggadocio remains.  I sniff it in and love it.

Dan McLaughlin, Head of the Boat House, turns to me:  “See that guy up there?”  It’s a picture of a bald-headed insaneasoid.  He looks like George “the Animal” Steele on crack.  “They called him the Masked Marauder.”  He is menacing.  He looks like he could rip my head off.  “He could rip your head off,” Dan says.

Former wrestlers, handball players with their shirts off posing for a 1950s camera, 80s mustached (maybe mustaches are an 80s thing in any century),

2080 - The Mustache of the Future
2080 - The Mustache of the Future

men in Speedos now with arms around welcomed women, more photos, and more history surround the boathouse.  I walk it as 2000s men and women hack and saw away at an old rowboat they called “The Barge.”  70ender

The Barge, also known as The South Ender, is fat.  Perfect craftsmanship wraps it in bolts and long shiny wood.  “We’re gonna get in this thing and kick the Dolphin Club’s ass” Dan says as he and five others work to make it seaworthy for their upcoming race against their rival rowing club – The Dolphin Club. The two rowing and swimming clubs sit side by side not far from San Fran’s Fisherman’s Wharf.  The Dolphin Club, bathed in Democrat blue paint, and the SERC in Republican red (don’t worry, everyone’s still a Democrat) don’t hate eachother; they just kinda… well, okay, they kinda hate eahother.  “It’s all for bragging rights,” Dan continues.  “There all so uptight over there,” another member chimes in.  “I’d like to go talk to them,” I say.  Dan’s face looks sour.  “We eat dinner promptly at 8,” which I took to mean I can’t believe you’re going to talk to those assholes.

It is dinnertime. Sarah, a young woman with a limp I am too afraid to ask about, prepares the meal.  “I want to swim the English Channel but I don’t think I have it in me,” she says.  “Yes you do,” I say.  A plaque on the wall lists all the members of the SERC who have swum the channel with their times.  Like I said, bragging rights.  “If you want to, you can.” I tell her.  “Meatloaf!  Who wants some!” she yells, and five men and one woman leave their work lights and buzz saws on top of the Barge and head into the mess hall.

Right on the bay.
Right on the bay.

“I’ve got vegetarian and turkey,” Sarah shouts.  The meatloaf is good, the vegetableloaf is good too.  I am filled with warmness.  It felt good to eat after my first real swim in the bay in preparation for my Alcatraz Swim on Sunday.  (Please feel free to comment on this post to cheer me on.  I’d enjoy tremendously your support.)

The SERC and the Dolphin Club are right on the ocean overlooking San Francisco’s Aquatic Park a giant concrete circle with a small opening that’s supposed to break the bay’s more dangerous waves, but when I went out to swim it four hours earlier, some of those babies were capping.

“You don’t normally see it this choppy, Barry, a displaced Irishman tells me.  “Well come on, I’ll take you out.”  We swim .5 miles from bouy to bouy in the circular sea filled park.  He kicks my ass.  He might have 25 years over me but he’s also 25 yards over me in each 100 yard stretch.  “You’re doing good,” he tells me.  I hope he’s not lying.  “You don’t even have a wetsuit on and I do,” I tell him.” “Pfft,” he scoffs, “don’t worry about that.  You’ll do fine on your Sunday swim.  Just fine.”

We come into shore and I almost run into the dock.  “Oooooh, I was doing good there, tearin’ it up, and then I almost run into the dock.  I have to remember to sight for Alcatraz.”  Michael Phelps, though he be the fastest swimmer in the world, need not worry about where he’s going in the water.  A thick black line fills the bottom of his goggle vision.  In the open water, the black line… well, what black line…..

More to come when I get back from San Francisco.  Take care and good luck.

Escape from Alcatraz!

Escape!

In preparation for our upcoming English Channel Swim, Eleven Visions will be, first, escaping from Alcatraz!  The Alcatraz swim, hosted by swim instructor Leslie Thomas, will take place April 5, and we want YOU to be there!  Follow our blog updates and web videos for the exciting details as Ryan tries to swim away from all the bad crap he’s done.  What he did to get thrown into Alcatraz we’ll never know.

The 1.25 mile swim will be Ryan’s first open water swim (no walls, no pool bottom) and he’s as nervous as the pope on his wedding night.  Come join in the fun.  We welcome your comments and suggestions.  ‘Swim straight’ has already been suggested.
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