From reporter Mary Milz:
I like to run marathons. Some people ask why would ever want to do that? Jim Barber and Victoria Rian swim marathons (open water events six miles or longer.) I found myself asking them the very same question. Why?
Because it scares me to death.”
Yeah, me too. Twenty miles in the open sea – saltwater, surf and sharks. While the Monon has its moments, it’s nothing like that.
Victoria continued, “By trying to get over those fears, maybe it will help me with the rest of my life.”
Jim, who’s done the English Channel and Long Island swims, earns the Triple Crown of Swimming with Catalina, a feat only 34 others have achieved.
I swim some and struggle to finish a mile. At least with running or biking, you can talk, listen to music or take in your surroundings. Swimming is so solitary. The thought of pushing through the water for two hours let alone nine or ten is hard for me to imagine. How do you stay motivated?
Victoria told me she focuses entirely on what she’s doing – her breathing, her strokes, her kicking. Jim said sometimes he’ll be listening to music on the way to the pool or lake and a tune sticks in his head and he’ll be singing it through. Other times he works through a problem.
The two log about 40 miles a week when training for a distance swim. As Jim swims about three miles an hour – that’s roughly 13-14 hours a week in the water. Wow. And did I mention that Jim is 50, married and a father of four? He may be a bit slower than he was 20-years ago but he’s no less determined (and no doubt a lot faster than many a swimmer half his age.)
I’m in awe of people like Jim and Victoria. They found a passion (in swimming) and they go for it, and in doing so they demonstrate that we’re all probably capable of doing more than we realize. I’ll be among those cheering from afar when they hit land in LA.
On a different note – some of the accompanying photos show the work behind the story. Photographer Jacob Jennings had the challenging task of capturing the story from a dock and the front of a pontoon boat on a hot, sunny and very muggy day.
I don’t know enough about light and color balance to explain the difficulty of shooting on water with the sun directly overhead, but I can tell you Jacob went the extra mile to show Jim and Victoria in action from several different angles.
He got down to water’s edge, even immersed a small camera in the water to catch eye-level shots. Also, thanks to Lisa Sidner for motoring us around Morse.