The Swim Genius Blog is thrilled to present a personal success story. This blog does not belong to one person, swimmer biographies, success stories are going to be an integral part of this website. Please contact us at SwimGenius@outlook.com if you are interested or know of a great story, and please enjoy the read. Gayla is a true fighter, and a swimspiration (Swim + Inspiration) much love, The Swim Genius. Now to the story!
When I asked Gayla her why it became immediately apparent the importance of swimming in her life. Her response: “Staying clean and sober.” Gayla was a competitive youth swimmer; “I swam in High School and got 8th in the state for 100 butterfly. I was born and raised in Hawaii so a lot of swimming there! I swam on a club team for a couple years in college but drinking and drugging got in my way so I dropped out.”
Life continued to evolve, and Gayla had children, swimming remained in the background until she had raised four children. Swimming came back into focus after joining a Master team, this in conjunction with encouragement and a race goal hooked Gayla. “My girlfriend signed us up for the 10 miles “swim the suck” by staying up all night to register. After a few 5k’s and a 10k, I was hooked”. “I think about swimming all the time! I was lucky that when I joined my masters team that I stuck to it!! There were many times I started an exercise regimen and didn’t. What kept me coming back was the natural high I get from swimming, the people, encouragement and ultimately setting goals for competition. It became much more than a way to stay in shape but an integral part of my life and recovery-I am 8 years sober and I think swimming has helped me come this far!”
With her love of swimming, and well established goals, sobriety and swimming continued to align. The next goal came after unforeseen adversity; “I had a bad bicycle accident a year ago and while I was convalescing I signed up for the 25k Border Buster (A legal exception, and international swim that is located in Vermont, taking off from a US beach, swimming into Canada, and returning to US soil). A month after the accident I swam a 500, then a 1000 then got back on my masters swim team. By the end of the year I was swimming up to 20 miles a week.”
This is a massive goal, any marathon swimmer respects someone who is taking on a mile, because we know what it takes that make a mile. Fifteen miles, for the metric crowd Twenty five kilometers is a haul, it requires training, and demands respect. Along with this distance comes a training regiment, and mental preparation that takes a toll. You have to be all in, you have to believe that you can make it, it takes a mental dicipline that few have. I know that Gayla has it, her sobriety is a living testament to her will, and ability. She soon worked her way up to five to seven hour swims. “At first they were very tiring but later I could do a 5 then get back to masters practice the next day. Training through exhaustion, knowing I was improving, even though I didn’t feel like I was.”
Planning continued, her journey was about to begin: “I love training for a big event. Plotting out a training plan, reading up on advice on marathon swimming, obsessively reading and posting for advice on Facebook’s #SwimStory and putting on the yardage.” I witnessed this effort, it was readily apparent that her will, and ability were in match. She was ready! Her distances, and feedings were ready. Her body prepared, and her mind just right; scared, but appropriately confident. This is why prior to her race, I asked he if I could write this article.
“My thoughts were laser focused on my 15 (25k) race for a year. I methodically trained for this race, made all travel plans, packed all my feeds, and got on a plane with my son headed towards Vermont. I was happy to see “my” lake when we finally arrived at Newport. I was so glad to see and meet my friends who had also trained so hard. I was nervous. We ate a big pasta dinner, I went to bed early. I was ready no matter what this 9-hour swim would do to me.”
Then tragedy happened; “At 2 in the morning I heard moaning from the bathroom. My son came out and said he was sick. He went back to the bathroom several times and at 3 I decided something had to be done. I checked on him and he was in fetal position lying on the shower floor. We had to go to the hospital-race be damned.”
“I had thoughts I didn’t try hard enough at 5am when we left the hospital to stop at the venue. I should have harassed and harangued people to find me a kayaker. I couldn’t do it. I went home dejected and slept it off. Later I realized I needed not to isolate but to go back to the venue. There was a one miler at 2 pm. I registered for that (thank you!), warmed up and did a sweet one mile race where I placed FIRST woman over all!!!”
This race was important, her efforts were rewarded. An additional piece of good news, her son was ok, nothing serious was wrong. What I love about this story is it’s centered around redemption. From swimming to maintain sobriety, to achieving audacious goals in the name of health and personal improvement. Gayla was not going to be shorted her swim, she would make Canada, and return the very next day. “I jump into the water right outside our Airbnb home. I was excited to swim and all my stuff was ready from the day before! I started off fast-my taper was in full force. I did the first mile in about 25 minutes. The water was smooth and easy. I wasn’t sure my son could last very long so I decided to push myself. We were to do 10-12 miles a 12 would be my longest personal swim. The lake started getting choppy around the big island by the border. We went completely full circle around it and headed back to the house. Ultimately swimming is a solo sport so with or without a race it is a challenge.” Twelve miles, and a new longest personal swim was in the books. This is an achievement!
I asked if there was anyone that Galya would like to thank, and I’m pleased that she brought it full circle. We all have our heroes, many times, it’s found in the kindness and challenges provided by people that we interact with every day. “I would like to thank my friend Melinda who signed me up for my first 10-mile swim thus starting me on this challenge of marathon swimming. I would like to thank my family for their unwavering support, I would like to thank my masters swim team who was there for me week in and week out. I would like to thank #SwimStory and all the people there who post all their successes, challenges, feedback, workouts, and support. I am a part of a community group who provides me mental and spiritual support to keep my life on track. I am blessed!!!”
Blessed indeed, and I’d personally like to add, an inspiration. We applaud you!
My own personal take away, because every hero has a story, and every story has a moral. It may not always turn out as planned, but your preparedness is not to be wasted, live well, press on, and achieve greatly! Thank you Gayla!
The Swim Genius may have missed a calling somewhere along the way, and should have been a MD. It’s still very early in theory, but sugar has really screwed up our society. Boxed cereal, bags of chips, and sports drinks, are causing mass inflammatory diseases. An epidemic created by food marketing, and in order to stop eating as the American cultured does, 80% of the grocery store needs to be dismissed. It all comes down to how the body breaks down food into an energy source, in short how much insulin is required, i.e. Insulin Factor, "IF"… The grocery store, and the pharmaceutical companies are profiting from the current inflammatory diseases in this country, things that in the 1940’s did not exist, are common place now, and it all comes down to sugar that we cannot fully digest. To make this even more dramatic, the foods we crave, and are addicted to have little to no nutritional content, so let’s include detox into the article, because without food based detox, we have an increase rate of cancer. Off the top of The Swim Genius’s head, this makes up 80% of the grocery stores, and if you link that to inflammatory disease, about 90% of the commercial base promoted by the pharmaceutical industry. Think back, where was the last time you viewed a commercial block without an anti-inflammatory drug advertisement?
It started simple enough, The Swim Genius changed his diet a bit, and was attempting to get high micronutrient valued from what I called my “Big ass salad”, this was a literal big ass salad that took up the better portion of a serving bowl, and The Swim Genius immediately felt better and healthier, but The Swim Genius was trading hard carb calories for kale, and cauliflower, and energy levels became erratic. In the past The Swim Genius tried to cut carbs, and always ended up sick, and lethargic. The Swim Genius kept thinking that this was a way to increase carb sensitivity, that way once they were there, The Swim Genius could do more with them. Then carbs were put in, there would be great energy in short burst, but nothing that would carry through ultra-distance, "the goal". Additionally The Swim Genius stomach was terrible on the carb based supplements. Other medical oddities existed, The Swim Genius was always sick, there was an ongoing thought about an allergy to yeast because of the results of ionic footbaths dumping yeast on a continuous basis. In addition, constant inflammation, Enter the solution Keto.
In December 2016 The Swim Genius switched to a dietary regiment known as Keto – short for Ketosis is your liver processing fat into ketones, an efficient fuel source for the body. The Swim Genius's diet was so close at that point, the biggest adjustment was ditching the morning bowl of cereal, for a bowl of berries, and full fat yogurt. This change reduced the carbohydrate load dramatically, and curbed the “obvious carbs” all together. What is an obvious carb? An obvious carb is any source of bread, or sugar. The Swim Genius believes, if the wrapper crinkles when you are trying to get at the food, you should probably not eat it. Breads, candy, soda/pop, yeah 80% of the grocery store. The non-obvious carbs are generally vegetable based, and are more than enough to cover the needed carbohydrate requirements of the body. Why do you need carbs? The body will run for the most part on ketones, with one big exception. Your red blood cells cannot run on ketones, and if that system is damaged, it results in keto acidosis. After switching, The Swim Genius quickly began feeling amazing, distances took off, and in one month The Swim Genius surged ahead of a six months a training schedule upswing and completed a 36 mile swim in June 2017.
The Swim Genius also self-diagnosed a yeast sensitivity, including all things fermented, and not distilled. This was life changing, and The Swim Genius’s overall health and wellness again improved. A lifetime of illness including, ear, sinus, and upper respiratory infections were no longer a problem, thus the research, and in depth understanding of ketosis. This may be something that you look into. Start by cutting un-distilled alcohol, and all obvious carbs, aka, beer, wine, candy, and breads. Don’t worry, you’ll still be an American, that is unless you’re not.
Now, getting back to IF, and Keto. Sugar, is a drug, and causes inflammation. The Swim Genius calls it a drug because when it was introduced to Europe it was used as a recreational drug. Think Mediterranean diet, on a quick influx of sugar; going from detoxifying bitters, to sweet fast energy would jolt the system. This classification is as honest an assessment of its addictive qualities. These qualities have been assessed in a study where they gave mice the choice between Oreo cream, and Cocaine. The mice chose Oreo cream every time!
Back to the insulin factor question, sugar comes in a four calories per gram, requiring insulin to break down, and is an ineffective long term fuel source. Protein, also four calories per gram is excellent, and will maintain strength, repair the body but takes about the same amount of Insulin to convert to energy as carbs, it just takes far more calories to convert at a 3 / 28 ratio. Then we have fat, 9 calories per gram, slow burning, and does not require insulin to break down because the energy conversion is handled by the liver. This is why we can survive roughly 72 days without food, we have a metabolic system that can cutinize itself. There can be trouble here, inflammation can happen, and result in keto acidosis. In short Red blood cells will not run on ketones, they require sugar to perform their role in the body. If they are not able to efficiently perform healing, immunity, and detoxification tasks, the body will turn on itself. You need sugar, but an appropriate amount, this can be tracked using strips. The trick is, at least 30 gram, safer at 50 gram of carbohydrates in a day, preferably from green/vegetable sources. This is easily handled, even if you cut all “obvious carbs”.
Food hack for good immunity that fits keto : every day… Pomegranate, onion, garlic, mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, seeds, and nuts. All berries are superfood, as many berries as you would like, they will fill in as quick sugars in a pinch, and the antioxidant / nutritional gain will outweigh the sugar intake, and detox the body. The Swim Genius uses high fat dairy, along with seeds, and nuts for energy and protein. The Swim Genius also uses MCT oil to initiate keto burn. MCT oil was originally used to treat epilepsy, personally, it calms The Swim Genius down, and it’s direct line keto energy, c8, c10 breaches the energy barrier of the liver without processing and is energy in a bottle etc… science for another day. The Swim Genius balances out at 90% vegetarian, 10% Atkins diet, and it seems to be good, less the recovery concerns that would cause The Swim Genius to become a true vegetarian. If you are already there, congratulations. Tip: Romaine leaves, are a great substitute for all things you would wrap in a bread.
One last note, as you take on this challenge you may detox rapidly. Fat stores toxins, and as you decrease your fat percentages those toxins release back into your blood stream. If you are not able to detox these quickly enough, side effects can include headaches, and lethargy. Don’t become discouraged, despite all of the hype, in The Swim Genius’s experience ionic foot baths are a legitimate way to detox, and may help. Good luck, feel free to ask questions!
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