4 Ways an Open-Water Swim Changed My Life

The Caramoan 7K/3K Open Water Challenge

July 12, 2015  |  Caramoan Peninsula, Camarines Sur


There’s a slightly lunatic yet sexy appeal to accomplishing a long-distance open-water swim, not to mention the wonders it does for conquering fears—from the deep to the unknown.

By Lara Parpan


When the Caramoan Open Water Challenge for July 12 was announced in April, I declared an intention to do the 3K distance to complement my training for Ironman Arizona. But secretly, 7K beckoned, like the hot guy across the room or that big slab of salted caramel chocolate cake. After assessing how far I’d come in training (since I was already racing since the start of the year) and a vote of confidence from my coach, I went for the jugular. “Go big, or go home,” I told myself.

Long story short, I got the “hot guy,” my slice of “chocolate cake!” I trained, swam, and finished the 7K swim. It’s been more than two months since that race, and I always feel a big grin coming on and a glow of pride rising in me when I think of it. Here’s how it changed my life (and how it can change yours, if you decide to do one).

 I learned to enjoy my own company.  There were training days when I logged up to 5,000 meters in one swim session. In those epic sessions, all I heard for three hours was my rhythmic breathing, and the “plop” of my hand with each stroke. I was alone with my thoughts. “I don’t think my form is correct” “Does he really like me?” “I can smell bacon.” “What will I have for lunch?” “Why do we vote stupid people into office?” I welcomed the noise of my thoughts, which, paradoxically, made me go into Zen-mode. I came out of those swims quite content and proud that I loved myself enough to enjoy being alone.

My swim skills improved. The only way to get better at something, is to keep doing it. In the swim leg of triathlons, I am not the fastest. I’m usually in the lower 50 percent of triathletes to emerge from the water. But training for Caramoan made me focus on my form so that I wouldn’t tire easily and be able to reach the second island checkpoint before the cut-off. And I was delighted to reach the checkpoint 30 minutes ahead of the cut-off. These days, I am learning a new technique, and would love to see how this translates in any open-water swim I join next year.

I honor and respect nature more. Caramoan is just breathtakingly beautiful. It’s a bitch to get there—about 3.5 hours by van from Naga City. But the drive going there, and the destination, are worth it. No wonder it’s been the shoot site of the international “Survivor” franchise for years.

In the days preceding the race, it was raining hard in Naga City and Metro Manila. We wondered if the swim would be cancelled. But on race day, we were blessed with perfect, sunny weather, calm, clear waters…and schools of jellyfish. The jellyfish were harmless, though a bit nerve-wracking when I’d see them in nebulous clouds in my line of sight and had to swim through them, or end up adding unneeded mileage to the 7K.

As I swam past the two imposing islands at the 3-km mark and had to stroke a bit harder and faster because of the current, I realized that it’s pure hubris for me to say I “conquered” a swim. In spite of all the training I do, come race day, it’s Mother Nature who decides whether I will overcome her or not.

 You see things in perspective. After this swim, I looked at life with a more positive perspective. I’m in the midst of transition right now, asking the question “What do I do with my life?” I still ask, but I am no longer overwhelmed by it. I’ve learned to look at and live life in terms of “now.” What is it that I can do “now” that will get me to my long-term goals? That’s a lot like how you finish a 7K-swim. You put one arm in front of the other, breathe, kick. Enjoy the sights you see along the way, bless the moment you’re in, and before you know it, you’re home. You’ve made it.

You ask me: “Will you join next year?”

I ask you: “Do fish swim?”

Swim Junkie is definitely planning another series in 2016, so if you’re keen on joining, “like” their Facebook page to stay in the loop.


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