The Swim

Molokai, The perfect blueprint.

I left for Iraq 4 years ago with the goal of swimming Molokai. I kept it rattling around in my head as a motivator. There were more irritating issues to keep me preoccupied, but never the main event, at least in my mind. Training for one of the world’s most difficult solo marathon swims was about to get seriously creative. 

Tours during this time lasted between 84 and 180 days. Molokai requires swimming, and I’m heading to a desert-ish country. Somehow I think this could work. Like I said, “It’s about to get creative.” 

The entire overseas experience was a validation of attitude, strengths, and willingness. Every trick I could muster to keep my true intentions stoked and in a state of constant simmer were to be verified years later. It was a dice roll. The thoughts of one day getting into that metaphorical ring, hungry for round one, kept me going. Molokai has become the opponent in that ring, and I want that fight. It’s going to be a gory sight, a hard earn. Earning that position on the beach, alone, states clearly, “I’m alive, I never sold out my Soul, and I never kneeled” — the last piece of the healing process (‘No Plan B’).

It starts with an intention. Revolve around that intention, don’t give it up. If you demand details upfront, statistics, powerpoints, and are enslaved in a constant stream of ‘WHY’ questions forefront in your mind, I am here to say with absolute clarity as it relates to this Molokai mission or any mission, you are fucked! I’m sharing the unshared-raw. You have got to make that ‘Jump’ right into the darkness to reach incredible summits. The ‘Why’s’ prompt revelations well after the fact. It’s a perfect analogy for those ambiguous crossroads where the voice in your mind reminds you of the possible lifelong consequences. I’ve come to realize the results of not jumping are more profoundly debilitating.  

But on the other hand, filled with wonder, you might have a chance. Your intuition and senses need to be explored and then trusted to lead the way into confidence. Be at peace with being fluid. Make being uncomfortable routine. Tricks include being unreasonable with yourself. Be stone-cold defiant in your resistance to the lemmings of the world. Embrace pain and mental fatigue daily, make them allies. Replace fiber with ‘grit.’ Your level of willingness speaks to the level of your courage, so write a will if need be. Whatever it is you do in your life, do it in the above manner. We will then have something to chit chat about at the same table–swimmers and non-swimmers alike.  

It took 31 years to attain answers to some of those ‘WHY’ questions that are rampantly common. There is more to the elevator speech response the masses become sadly satisfied with and always have been. It’s a human story, a Hero’s Journey. I invite you to play the Hero; you know your backstory, your crossroads, fears, pain. It’s your individualized program uniquely designed, from sources unknown, that will make you that Hero. 

We are staring down Molokai, moment by moment, making this wolf into a puppy. In two years I will land in Hawaii into the arms of my boat captain, who insists the last three attempts ended with bites. Injuries contained with tourniquets. His enthusiasm wasn’t linear with the situation, but I liked his ‘Old School’ matter-of-fact attitude. I sensed integrity and honesty in his voice. “He’s My Guy,” Perfect. The fight’s on.

Logistically, a series of injuries, events, and rare dialogue evolved into the most comprehensive blueprint reaching beyond the physical straight into the depths of the psyche, the spiritual, and metaphorical. 

Physically, the challenge was to maintain in environments not conducive to my Molokai mission. Swimmers need to swim. Miss too many beats and your momentum may be lost forever. Three days is the absolute cutoff. Out of the water, more than three days in a row, your mind switches gears, becoming uninterested. I’m in Iraq. Creativity played a major role in maintaining a smooth rhythm. (Details covered in ‘No Plan B’).

Resistance training runs linearly with swimming. They support each other. The level of intensity generates power, personally and professionally. The script is inhumane to earn my spot on that beach (Molokai). Every training session search for the ‘doorway,’ that ‘threshold’, where your hesitant with fear, (another metaphor in my mind) and then muster the courage to enter. Just don’t enter, ‘light it on fire and bust through.’ Show up with this intention, search. The term ‘workout’ doesn’t cut it, ‘training’ is more accurate and in my mind, a higher calling. The attitude is to never give in to your ‘WANTS’ that constant internal dialogue loaded with excuses that appear legit. The real training is to set your psyche straight with the pushback, “I don’t give a fuck what you WANT.” A beautiful blanket statement.

DIET; This is where some significant and bold shifts took place. I say ‘bold’ because the core of the action is counterintuitive to mainstream thought. I will swim Molokai in a state of ketosis.

Macro/Micronutrients trump anything to do with dogma and the illusion of ethics. Timing and fasting play a significant role in daily performance. 

Stretching, ‘The bridge between power and water.’ The secrete, most overlooked, intricate, dial to turn. Mandatory. 

Awareness of posture is constant, especially while asleep. 

Language, I’m in continuous dialogue with the psyche. Thinking ‘nothing’, staying in the ‘NOW’, and often wrestling for peace within the quiet. This intimate and potent conversation remains the constant and most powerful practice bleeding into every aspect of my life. The language, perceptions, unwanted advice, and unwanted suggestions are like surgery to my Soul. I’ve become strategic and very selective. It can be lonely at times, but therapeutic. The language within my mind is cautiously secured and guarded. Metaphors motivate and most often dictate the direction.

Teammate, finding the compatible person to parallel training for hours is a hard find. This person has to have an iron will. They are facing hours of cold temperatures with no guarantees of success. A varsity player with a defiant history, refusing to sit on the bench. This person needs never to complain, be on time, and focused. They are always prepared to face pain. Not the usual add description on Craigslist. 

When I arrived in Chicago, this search was at the forefront of my mind. Selfishly, I needed that person to bring me through. My drive and enthusiasm received a few dents along the way, and at times I need to draw upon the strength of this caliber of person. 

The search was successful — the .001 percenter emerged.

Again, I am staying in the ‘NOW.’ Past and Future are useless. Being in the ‘NOW’ is by far the most potent life-altering tool you can ever have in your black bag. I created my practice in Israel and Palestine under some not so favorable conditions with excellent results. I had no idea about the power of this practice, nor did I know it was deeply rooted in Zen teachings — the calm on my face needed to be the authentic reflection of the Soul. Over time, very little time, peace in the face of adversity became mundane. 

At the top of the scale, the real conversation is about the Soul. Keeping it stoked, fueled, and dancing. A display of pure passion, peace. Protect that dance at all costs. A life without Soul has a grim disturbing look to it. 

At the end of these two years if all you think to ask is, ‘What was your time?’ or ‘How long did it take?’ know that you sadly missed the point. Those parameters are limits to your vision, an elevator speech, a lame barometer at best. Ask nothing. How about that? Create a statement instead. Say, ‘Thank You.’ 

My life revolves around these next two years — a real education. A gift to myself, the permission slip signed by integrity. It took my entire life to reach this level of vision, attitude, and acceptance to risk with absolute zero talent. I still struggle with the level of sacrifice. Like I said; It’s a Hero’s Journey.

Please realize, this is not a story of swimming. It’s one giant metaphor happening in real-time. Relate this journey to your life. At that moment, we will be teammates. 

The Molokai Channel also called the Kaiwi Channel separates the islands of Molokai and Oahu. Roughly 27/28 miles wide and 2,300 feet deep. There is more than a 75% failure rate due to brutal conditions, aggressive marine life, and darkness. Historically, only 70-ish people have ever made it across. 

So we go!