Reflecting on our swim:
What can you do when you have little training, little preparation, and a plan thrown together? Anything you put your mind too.
On a whim my amazing brother in law Scott Kuepfer and I decided to swim over 7 miles around Black Oak Lake. We are not swimmers, we did not train, we do not do cardiovascular exercise. As we had over 10 hours in the water this week, I had a lot of time to reflect on this experience and wanted to share it with those who have been following us.
I first want to put this swim into perspective. For anyone who lives, vacations, or has been to Black Oak Lake (BOL) our daily swim equaled swimming across the lake (.70 miles one way) and back and then halfway across again daily. We faced swimming against the wind, waves, and weeds. I knew it would be a challenge mentally and thought I was better prepared for what to expect.
Each day we both were challenged in different ways physically and mentally with thoughts occurring of “What was I thinking” “Will my muscles hold out” “Can I make it”. The struggle was real!! I think when any new venture is started in our lives that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable doubt can quickly set in. We can talk ourselves out of doing something before we even start. We can let our mind take over with unhealthy thoughts, it is easy to lose the mental war that can rage inside us with the dialogue we have with ourselves if we don’t put it in check quickly.
My mental war took place day one about 1/3 of the way into our swim. We started at Barnum’s pier and were halfway up Lazy bay with over a mile left to swim. I was already tired, and muscles were sore. I started convincing myself that just swimming to the island would be an accomplishment (which it would have been). But my focus started turning to being tired, how much we had left to swim (over 6.3 miles), and the time it took daily to do this.
We cleared the sandbar when a loon started calling its beautiful song and stood up on the water shaking its wings out. This carried on for 30 seconds and was enough of a distraction for me to focus on this beautiful sight then the pain I was suffering mentally and physically.
After that point I became more focused on the experience of the swim and what was around me. When I focused my mind on the speed of the clouds, ripples in the water, water bugs dancing on the surface, Lilypad flowers, and the changes in color of the shoreline the swim became enjoyable instead of difficult. Two hours and twenty minutes later our feet touched ground at the island, and we had made it!
Day two I was prepared for. I have never been a fan of swimming in weeds. My previous thoughts are they are slimy, they freak me out, and are plain yucky when they wrap around your leg or arm. As we started from the island I decided to head into some weeds and be uncomfortable. It did not take long for that uncomfortable to turn to mostly comfortable and day two was the most relaxing day of our swim for me.
Day three: Hump day we were committed and got to experience swimming in waves for the length of the North shore. Scott and I probably did not realize it at the time but we each did a good job leading at different times throughout our swim and keeping a pace for each other.
Day Four: The temperature dropped 20 degrees and it was raining with waves being big enough to have white caps. I noticed an Eagle had been following us since day 1 and was not sure if it were cheering us on our wondering if we would get weak enough to feed on us for a meal.
Day Five: Our shortest swim of 1.2 miles and largest waves with a North West wind. But with family and children there cheering us on we powered through to complete the first people to swim around Black Oak Lake. We felt much love and support by all that followed our swim and supported us through donation to the Black Oak Lake Preservation Foundation.
How can I relate this experience to life?
I felt this relates to what many may be experiencing in life right now with the changes in the world since March. Things are difficult, we are challenged, some may have lost jobs, lost loved ones, are missing contact with family and friends, what was comfortable is now uncomfortable, daily routines are not set, and whatever personal struggle you may be dealing with right now. Like the struggle I was having Day one in the swim, I ask you what are you letting your mind focus on?
We can take our mental energy and turn it to thank God for having our families, children, jobs, support, houses to live in, food to eat, running water to drink, a lake to swim in, and the beautiful things in our lives that we may take for granted from time to time. We can choose to focus our thoughts on the good in our lives and the good things that are happening.
For the struggle we must snap out of the negative thoughts and create a plan to overcome the struggles that may be bringing us down. To Persevere and overcome making us stronger.
I also learned to never set expectations of what can be done. When we started our swim, we hoped to raise $500, this quickly turned into $1500, and then $2500. Through everyone’s support and generosity we were able to raise over $6355(still going)!!!!! This again taught me that we are only limited by what we think we can do.
We learned by having a goal each day to swim too, and then doing it, we led by example. Our kids wanted to try challenges at the lake they were not willing to try before. This led to swim tests passed, new distances swam, and new water skiers. What a difference we can make by just setting an example for others to follow should they choose to.
For Scott and I we persevered on this swim. We overcame negative thoughts, difficult challenges daily in the swim, and were able to achieve a personal goal and raise money for our beautiful lake.
In reflecting this swim on life, I can say this: Do not be limited by what you think you can’t do, get uncomfortable to become uncomfortable. Start new things “one stroke at a time”, you never know the example you set, what it will lead other people to do and try. If you find yourself in a negative frame of mind a reset can make a world of difference.
I hope wherever you find yourself in your swim in life you choose to be happy mentally, to not put limits on what you can do, and to take time to enjoy the little things that matter in life. We cannot control what happens in our life but we sure can choose how to react to it.
Jack Barnum & Scott Kuepfer
PS. A Big thank you to our family for supporting us by boat, kayak, and swimming on this journey. We appreciate your time and sacrifice while on vacation to help us accomplish this swim.
PPS. A big thanks to everyone who followed this on FaceBook and through lake wide emails. Your support and donations surpassed anything we thought was possible. Your generosity and love helped raise $6255 to date!!!! The emails and kind words we received were amazing. We wish you the best 😊
- Jack Barnum