On Saturday, July 8, competitive distance swimmer Matt Moseley completed a 20,000-yard swim (about 12 miles) in a 25-yard pool — 800 grueling lengths. This was all part of Moseley’s preparation for his 50 mile swim in a three-day island-hopping event across the Caribbean that he is currently taking on. How does he get through such monotonous training? “There’s a laser in my head. I think of a golden point right here in my head that is literally propelling me forward. I can go to this place in my mind because I’ve repeatedly practiced.”
Fast forward a week to the shores of St. John’s at 3:51 PM on a Sunday. After an hour of prep with his coach and kayak guide, Moseley plunges into the ocean, bound for St. Thomas. It’s only four miles, a leg that is practically a warm-up compared to the next two lengths, which will be 24 miles and 16 miles.
A 12-person crew follows closely aboard a catamaran, spotting coral reef shelves in the narrow channel between two islands. If they see shallows coming, they signal to kayakers flanked on either side of Moseley. Crew members also take turns waving red flags from both end of the catamaran to warn boats of the swimmer in the water. At one point a large speedboat mistook the red flags as an emergency signal and sped up to our boat nearly running over Moseley.
For this short stint, everything went as planned. The current was in Moseley’s favor most of the way and the waves were the comfortably expected three to five feet. Moseley’s coach and event planner, Randy Soler, radioed over to Williams about every 25 minutes with Moseley’s precise “feeding” routine: some combination of electrolytes, gel, water, Bobo bars, and scrambled eggs. Soler knew Moseley’s nutritional needs so well he had them prescribed down to the ounce.
World Open Water Swimming Association rules prohibiting a swimmer to touch another individual, so Williams delivered the nutrition via a fishing net. About every hour, Soler asked Moseley do a few non-freestyle strokes to give his shoulders a break. Occasionally he suggested Moseley bilateral breathe in order to slow him down, so he didn’t burn himself out on the first day.
Immediately upon completing the swim in two hours and sixteen minutes, Moseley began resting for the second leg from St. Thomas to Vieques. This beast of 24 miles was to start only seven hours later at 1 AM to avoid the wrath of the equatorial sun.