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!
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