Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come from anyone, anywhere, and at any time. This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded the VO2 Inspirational Person of the Year Award for the 2017 season. I’ve spoken on so many occasions this year about my English Channel swim, marathon swimming, training plans, health and wellness, you name it, that I was a little shocked when I got up to the front of the room to say my thank yous, talk about my amazing teammates that inspire me each and every day, and totally, completely blanked. I gave my coach, Ben Bigglestone, a big hug, looked at everyone and couldn’t remember for the life of me a single thing I had planned on saying in the minute walk from the table up to the front of the room. I love public speaking, doing interviews, and sharing all the things I’ve learned with others. So to have my mind go blank, well, it wasn’t what I was hoping for. In the midst of blaming it on the partial food coma I was in (y’all cook way too well for my eye to stomach connection), this is my re-do and also a post I’ve wanted to write for a while about my personal thoughts and feelings on what inspiration means.
I think we all hear those inspirational speeches that follow the logic of inspiration is in the eye of the beholder. For example, who is to argue that a big goal accomplished is any more inspirational than someone’s first goal accomplished. While I agree on the surface of the argument, I think there is more to inspiration than accomplishing a goal, whether it be your first, last or somewhere between. Then there’s the other aspect of inspiration based on how many other commitments a person has in their life. Do they have a family they are trying to take care of while training, do they work full-time, do they have a busy travel schedule, do they have multiple jobs, or are they going to school? Are the priorities in their lives so numerous and chaotic that their schedule alone makes them an inspiration? And what is it that makes people think that if they don’t have these extra things in their lives that their goal is any less inspirational?
I believe inspiration boils down to heart and commitment in pursuit of a goal. Regardless of what the goal is, what stage you are at in your athletic career, or what other lifestyle commitments and choices you have made, it is the heart and passion that is contagious. The goal itself, while it can be lofty, is rarely new in the world of goals among all the people that have attempted or completed a challenge, but the heart put into it is new and a unique story every time. For me it was the unknown that captured my heart as well as the desire to try something I was unfamiliar with. To be honest, I don’t know why I said yes, why I didn’t question it or think the suggestion was crazy like everyone else thought it was. I didn’t know if I would be able to sustain training and continually feed my drive and commitment to pursuing the English Channel compared to the amount of time it would take me to get there. I don’t know why I said yes, but maybe it was more than the swim itself, maybe it was also for me to meet all of you, to begin my adult coaching journey, and to change my perspective on career choices.
When I was asked if I was going to swim the English Channel a few years ago, it was an unknown adventure. I had never personally known anyone who did it and I parked it in my dream bucket. It was nice to talk about, to make a goal, but would I ever really do it? I didn’t know, but it made me feel good, I did know that much. It was like trying a new ice cream flavor. You don’t know if you’re going to like it, but you’re going to get it and eat it regardless because ice cream makes everyone feel good (sorry lactose intolerant people, you’re missing out). The goal slowly turned into a “huh, I wonder if I could really do this” moment after my 8-mile swim in 2015. In 2016 it turned into a “holy s*$% I’m going to make Catalina” moment after Mercer Island. And later in 2016, mid-channel, after hours of not believing I would make it, I landed on the beach at Pelican Cove, looked at my crew on shore with me and cried because it was the first time I accomplished something I truly didn’t think I was going to be able to do. That moment was a moment I’ll never forget where I knew I was going to make England.
The backstory is important because all of you, my family, friends, NASers, and VO2 Teammates have been with me on this journey. It wasn’t just a goal, it was a story that we wrote together, that we experienced together, that we committed to together. The heart I had not only for my goal, but for all of you, to want to share my experience with you, to commit to my goal so wholeheartedly is what was inspirational. Similar to life, if you don’t have people to share your journey with, what story is there left to tell? What is there left to give to others to make them dream and wonder about things they don’t even know they want to do? I didn’t know I wanted to swim the English Channel way back when, but my team and the journey we shared was the inspiration for the pursuit of a dream that became real and tangible.
What I hope this award reflects is my heart, commitment, and passion for my sport and my belief that without people to share heart with, there is no journey, no story, nothing to teach and pass on to others that may ignite that sense of wonder that changes the course of their lives forever. I didn’t choose this sport, it chose me. What I have learned over the years through my mistakes and triumphs is that I want to use my knowledge, failures and successes to continue inspiring others so that they can have the same opportunity I was afforded. The opportunity to let something choose them the way the sea chose me.
I am so proud to be a coach and team member on VO2 Multisport. I am so proud to coach alongside and with Ben, have him as my coach, as a teammate, and most importantly have him as my friend. To my teammates, we learn from each other each and every day. We have challenges, life throws us curveballs, kick sets without fins and pull buoys that aren’t ours, but we work through them together, we support each other, we tell each other when we are wrong, we share when we are right, we pick each other up when we fall, we celebrate and share in each other’s successes. This team has heart, we have commitment to our sport, we share the journey, and have created a story that I am very proud to be a part of. Thank you for allowing me to share what I love with you, for being there when I didn’t think I had it in me to continue, and for acknowledging the hard work and sacrifice it took to get to this point in my swimming career. I don’t take this award lightly, it’s truly meaningful because of who it came from.
Thank you so much for being a part of my life and being with me every stroke of this wonderfully humbling and rewarding swimming adventure. I hope to continue to inspire you to take on new challenges, shift your perspective on how you view what is in front of you, and encourage all of you to explore the unknown. You never know what’s waiting for you around the corner and if what you don’t know is something you’re meant to do.
Lots of swim love xoxoxox flippers forever,