COCHECTON CENTER- I believe in the power of intention: that summoning of self through discipline, perseverance and unshakeable will that can achieve something once perceived as seemingly out of …
COCHECTON CENTER- I believe in the power of intention: that summoning of self through discipline, perseverance and unshakeable will that can achieve something once perceived as seemingly out of reach. To be clear, there is all the world of difference between dreaming and wishing for something and the marshaling of one's full agency needed to make it happen. It is this very quality which I have struggled hard to master that enabled me to surpass 1000 miles of swimming on July 30, a quest dating back to my five-bypass open heart surgery in March of 2015.
There are times when life happens to us and other times when we happen to life. Life happened to me registering my shock and imminent sense of mortality, when a cardiology exam revealed the severity of my condition. After experiencing shortness of breath for more than a month, which I had tried my best to ignore, the catheter exploring my arterial labyrinth revealed the undeniable truth: genetics had caught up with me evincing multiple blockages that would require open heart surgery.
I was at the time, as I am now, in very good shape. I had logged countless miles since I had resumed my lifelong love of swimming in 2000. The construction of an in-ground pool and the use of Woodloch Sports Complex in Hawley, PA had kept my aquatic routine steady, but it had not prevented me from suffering from the same condition that ultimately claimed my father's life.
An excellent cardiac surgeon, superb care in both Good Samaritan Hospital and Helen Hayes Rehab Hospital were key in my rapid recovery as was the loving support of wife and children who encouraged me to take the steps necessary to regain my strength and vigor. By June I was back in the water, albeit a bit tentative given what I had been through.
I began swimming laps and by July I had worked my way back to the daily mile swims that were my routine prior to the surgery. From July 10, 2015 to July 30, 2020 I wended my way from that first mile to the 1000th. Each year from May through September I swim the 132 pool lengths in my own pool that amount to a mile.
Once my pool is closed I travel five days a week to Woodloch Springs and swim the 88 pool lengths in that longer pool to add to my mile accrual. Many friends on Facebook have born virtual witness to my quest. A few numbers here may help to understand its magnitude. A mile is 5,280 feet. 1000 miles equals 5,280,000 feet. It took 132,000 pool lengths, 3,300,000 strokes and what amounted to the equivalent of 33- and one-half days and nights to reach that zenith.
Needless to say it has not been easy. A year ago in February I tore my rotator cuff falling on the ice. Arthroscopic surgery from Crystal Run's Dr. Noticewala, six weeks immobilized in a sling night and day and 20 sessions of physical therapy with a remarkable physical therapist, Megan Eggleton, in Callicoon Hospital rendered the improbable result: full recovery or complete range of motion and strength.
Given my age (72 at the time) and the severity of the tear (two tendons ripped off the bone), Dr. Noticewala was stunned to see the result. He had been candid with me cautioning me to prepare for less than my former dexterity. He underestimated my intention.
I love the water and the feeling of swimming. In no other realm of my life do I feel such peace and agency. I love that I have learned to quiet the voices of resistance that try to tell me, “I'm tired. Do it tomorrow or I'm too busy.” I am currently in the best shape of my life and that includes the times of my running career in my 30's when I ran back-to-back NYC Marathons.
As of this writing I am now at 1015 miles. People ask me what is your next goal? My answer is that I intend to continue my mile swims as long as I can, hopefully for years to come. Swimming centers me emotionally. It has done remarkable things for my health and my fitness but above all else it makes me deliriously happy.
People have told me that I am an inspiration to them. My answer to that is that we have to become an inspiration to ourselves. Find something you want to do and create the intention to achieve it. Work hard to overcome the inevitable obstacles that will stand in your way. Don't be obsessive, be consistent.
Never let anyone discourage or sway you from your goal and you will arrive at that moment of satisfaction. My thanks to Eileen Hennessey for filming my final laps of the 1000th mile that graced Facebook. I am humbled by the congratulations, accolades and love from so many of the people whose lives I have touched over the years principally from my 35 years of teaching and my 18 years as a sports journalist and photographer.
Life is for the living. Find your passion, hone in on your goals and aspirations and make your life extraordinary. We all have so much more than we imagine and it is up to discover that potential within ourselves.
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