Monday, May 12, 2008

One of the greatest inspirations

I wanted to share this video that my friend Jessica made and just shared with us.

Most of you who read this blog didn't know me last year when Jessica made her attempt to swim the English Channel.

All the words in the world can't do enough justice for me to describe how inspiring she was. From the moment she announced to all of us "I'm going to swim the English Channel" up until days after the attempt - I remained inspired, because if anybody would do this, I KNEW it would be Jessica. Her commitment was unwavering and unending. As she described it, "I honestly believed, with every single bone in my body, up until they had to pull me from the water, that I was going to make it." She had believed that from the very day she made her deposit with the Channel Swimming Association.

She spent a year training. Numerous swims in the San Francisco Bay. All swimming, all the time. Jessica had a plan and that woman STUCK WITH IT. I was so impressed by her ability to get into that COLD-ASS BAY when it was 48 degrees in the middle of winter and DARKNESS, and complete her training swims.

So the day finally came last year. July 8, 2007. I got word that Jessica had received the go-ahead to make her jump. I was one of the friends who would distribute update e-mails from her mom, so I was glued to my computer when I woke up that Sunday morning.

I was so excited. But the first e-mail I woke up to was "Yikes!"

Jessica had been swimming through tons of jellyfish for an hour. Luckily, she hadn't been stung badly, but was a bit unnerved by having jellyfish everywhere.

That was about 4 hours in.

Time rolled on, and the first sign that things were wrong was when she threw up all of her nutrition at 11.5 hours.

What Jessica didn't know was that she had come down with aspiration pneumonia. Her final blog post tells the whole story of that day, so I won't re-tell it here.

But what I do want to say is that she kept on. For 3.5 more hours, she kept swimming. She really believed she was going to make it. She swam for 30 miles that day, coming within 1.5 miles of the French coast. Unfortunately the tides were off that day, and all but a few who attempted it that day never made it.

So some might say she failed. She didn't make it to France.

Kind of like some of you out there who feel like you failed somehow because you made mistakes at a race, or it didn't come out nearly how you expected.

But in the end, it's not the result that matters. It's the heart you put into it. It's what you gave. It's the experience you had. It's what you learned. It's what you took away. It's how you changed as a person because of everything you did to prepare. It's how you will do things differently going forward.

It's also the fact that you chose to SHARE your experience with others, no matter the outcome. The ups and the downs, the good and the bad, you are making a choice to let friends, family and strangers in on your adventures and your lessons. I think that in itself is a form of success.

Jessica didn't fail. She succeeded in spite of SO MANY odds that were against her that day. Her shoulder is still messed up. She's moving on. She's taking up cycling, which I'm happy about (because there's no way in hell you'll ever catch me doing anything longer than Donner Lake, which is 2.7 miles!).

And she's still working it all out. But she remains one of my greatest inspirations for the way she handled her entire experience, from beginning to end.

Great job, Jessie. I'm so glad to have you as such a great friend.


Bruce Stewart said...

Bree thinks I'm swimming a lot, but compared to Jessica I'm hardly doing anything. I really admire people like that. On a day with better tides, she would easily have made it. She should try again.

Paul said...

Too funny. I just met Jessica and Alice on Saturday. My buddy is moving to Seattle and had a going away party. Heather ( a friend of mine) stopped by and brought them along. We were talking about their nutty swims! :)

Small world.

Rainmaker said...

Cool video indeed. And impressive feat - very impressive. Thanks for sharing.

Chris Westall said...


I will never complain again about how my shoulder hurts after an hour swim.

Jessica Sullivan said...

Sar, thanks for sharing a bit of my journey on my blog! I hope you enjoyed Tahoe today and we'll catch up when I get back from China on the 13th. love, Jessie