Karen Pyra recently wrote in to De Soto Sport ~ "Hi Tracy,
This past weekend I completed an 18km swim for the first (and likely last!) time in my life in support of a children's charity. You were a big part of making that happen when you helped me find a wetsuit that actually fit me.
I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, which has cold spring weather. When we started open water training in lakes in May, the water was so cold we got headaches. The temperature was probably around 13 degrees Celsius. There was absolutely no way we could begin open water training when we needed, without wetsuits. When we moved to ocean training, the water was slightly warmer by then but still chilly. The big swim took place in the Northumberland Strait. The water temperature was around 20 degrees Celsius, but even so, 2 swimmers wearing wetsuits recently suffered from hypothermia. I was in the water for 8.5 hours (slowed down mightily by a tear in my rotator cuff in my left shoulder that occurred around the 10K mark.) Unbelievably, not once was I cold in my T1 Wetsuit. The two piece design also made it possible to actually find something that fit me well. All other one-piece wetsuits I tried, didn't fit because in order to be wide enough, the wetsuits would always be too long in the torso.
Thank you for being so supportive. The whole experience has been transformative for me. Thanks again, Karen"
Karen shared her journey a few days before she completed the swim. With her permission we'd like to share it with you.~
3 goals set. 3 goals met.
There are lots of us who joke about the journey into menopause. But there aren’t that many of us who tell the whole brutal story of that journey. The last 2 years have been somewhat of a physical hell for me. And it’s not over yet. Insomnia. Weight gain even when implementing all the strategies research tells us to try to avoid weight gain. Crushing fatigue that sometimes makes it hard to make it to the end of a work day, let alone spend time with family or my horses. Menopausal arthritis is making it hard to walk some days. Uncharacteristic forgetfulness. Self-loathing every time I looked in a mirror and saw reflected back someone who no longer looked like me. For a once very physically fit, fiercely independent woman, this journey has not been easy.
Last summer, when my sister proposed that we do the BIG SWIM together my first reaction was utter disbelief. I thought she was joking. And then I was sad. Because once upon a time I was fit enough to tackle such a goal. But I kept thinking about it. Because my sister was not joking. She believed we could do it together. A month later I mustered the courage to discuss it with my husband. Who in his ever-supportive way said “You can do anything you put your mind to. You will succeed.”
With the strong belief of these two people supporting me, I decided to take a huge risk – the biggest risk being a failure. I set three goals in October 2017. 1. To train enough to be ready for open water training by May 2018. 2. To be ready to attempt the swim across the Northumberland Strait the night before the BIG SWIM. 3. To motivate my work in part by fundraising to support kids with chronic illness who get to go to Brigadoon Village for the experience of a lifetime.
Well, here we are. I was ready for open water swim training by April 30. It is three nights before the BIG SWIM, and I am as ready as I can be mentally, physically and spiritually to make the attempt. And with the support of many people, I surpassed the required fundraising target by more than $2000.00. I have spent many hours of joyful time with my sister. I had an accountability buddy for the first part of the training who always asked me with great positivity how the training was going when most people were asking me if I was crazy to try (thank you, Nancy). I had constant encouragement from my sister who never wavered in her belief that I could do this (thank you, Margaret). I had outstanding help from a hypnotherapist to help with mental focus and to conquer my phobia of jellyfish (thank you, Jim, for that and so much more). I had great advice from a nutritionist (thank you, Kathy). I had awesome support from my amazing kayaker who has trained with me and will be by my side all the way on August 12 (thank you Andrew, and Holly for loaning him to me).
I don’t know if I will be able to swim the whole distance across the Northumberland Strait on August 12. Too much of that is out of my control on that day. I am perfectly content with that. I will do my very best, whatever that turns out to be on that day. I do know that as a result of three goals, I am healthier, fitter than I have been in years, sleeping better, and have pain free hips. I have shoulders and biceps that prove I have trained hard. I didn’t lose an ounce of weight – in fact, I gained weight during this training process that burned more calories in 6 months than I ever have before. Yet despite that, I have become a little more accepting of the image reflected back to me from the mirror.
On August 12, I will swim for every woman who has struggled with this phase of life. It’s a rough journey. But you are not alone. And if it sometimes feels like you are losing parts of yourself, take a risk - set outrageous goals, find those who believe in and support you, believe in yourself and you will find YOU again. I did.
I am Karen Pyra. I am a 52-year-old woman struggling her way through peri-menopause. On Sunday, August 12, I will swim across the Northumberland Strait. 😊 #BIGSWIM2018
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