How much is too much for youth sports?

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My daughter with her Piranha crew.

Youth sports is a multi-billion dollar industry and as a sports mom myself, I know we were big contributors to it. In an article on CNBC.com, Lorie Konish writes that 27 percent of parents spend $500 or more a month on their children’s sports. That seems crazy high, right? But, especially if you have more than one child, it’s not hard at all to spend that much on sports. Trust me, I know.

As parents of two swimmers we easily did that, especially as the kids got older. We traveled to meets, stayed in hotels and ate out. Then we had the plan to buy an RV to eliminate the hotel stays. There’s some rocket science for you. Do you have any idea what it costs to own an RV? Yep. Pretty much a lot more than a few nights in a hotel per month.

Besides the travel, there were monthly dues for the club team which go up as your children get faster. Private lessons at $50 to $80 an hour to ensure your kids DO get faster. Then, the $485 “fast suit” to super make sure your kids are fast.

Here’s an excerpt from the article and some ideas to ensure you don’t go broke before your kids become super stars making beaucoup bucks–and you can afford your own retirement in case that plan doesn’t pan out–or you don’t win the lottery:

“Your child’s sports could be sabotaging your financial health” 

Parents are spending more than ever on their children’s sports with the hopes that they will make it to the big leagues.

And dads are often the ones likely to shell out the most cash on their children’s activities, according to a new survey from TD Ameritrade.

Yet spending more with the hope that your child will make it big could have consequences for your finances, particularly your own retirement.

The survey, which was conducted online between February and March, included 1,001 adults ages 30 through 60. Of those respondents, those who were considered “sports parents” had one or more children in elite or club competitive sports and had more than $25,000 in investable assets.

The result: 27% of parents spend $500 or more per month on youth sports.

This was especially true for fathers, 20% of whom spend $500 to $999 each month per child on youth sports. Meanwhile, 7% of dads admitted they spend $1,000 or more.

That money is going towards everything from equipment to private coaching to tournaments out of town, according to Dara Luber, senior manager of retirement at TD Ameritrade.

Those dads may be reliving their youth or reviving their own professional sports aspirations, Luber said.

But the one thing those fathers — and all parents — need to be wary of is whether those costs will force them to make sacrifices in other important areas.

For the parents surveyed, that could mean cutting back on spending on entertainment or vacations. It could also mean taking on a second job or delaying retirement.

One in 5 dads surveyed said they worry about how their spending on their children’s sports will impact their retirement savings.

TD Ameritrade also found that sports parents are less likely to save for retirement through a 401(k) plan or individual retirement account than they were three years ago.

“There is nothing wrong with helping your son or daughter realize their sports dreams, but it definitely shouldn’t come at the expense of your own retirement or understate your family’s needs,” Luber said.

 

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My son in front with his Piranha buddies.

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Are Baby Boomers More Involved With Their Adult Kids?

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Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

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The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

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My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them? 

My favorite things about swim meets

I wrote this five years ago when my daughter was still swimming with the Piranha Swim Team in Palm Springs. What an amazing time we’ve had as part of Piranhas since 2001. Swimming has been a vital part of our family life, and now with the kids gone, my husband and I have joined as masters. It’s fun to look back at my memories from the team. So many great coaches, kids and parents throughout the swimming community.
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One of my favorite parts of being a year-round swim parent for the past 14 years has been swim meets. Not home meets, but traveling to meets. Don’t get me wrong, the home meets have their unique qualities that I’m sure I’ll miss — but, travel meets — I’ll definitely miss more.

kat at a meetThis past weekend, we were at a meet in So Cal Thursday through Sunday. Other swim parents posted photos and wrote on Facebook about how much they enjoyed the weekend and meet. My age group swim parenting days are numbered — 40 days and nights to be exact — but who’s counting? With my daughter leaving soon for college, I’m nostalgic about why I and other swim parents love meets. kat meet

My top six reasons why I love swim meets include:

  1. Spending time together.  When you are away for two to five days with your swimmer, you have a captive audience. There’s no distraction of 8 hours at school, followed by 3 hours of swim practice, and hanging out with their non-swim friends. Spending lots of time together, unfettered with household, work, and daily school responsibilities is refreshing. Enjoy your little bubble of time, treat it like a mini-vacation. Play cards, sing songs, go to the beach, have fun! You’ll look back on these days as precious memories.kat girls
  2. Nap time. When your swimmer is older, and in age groups that have prelims and finals, you’ll find yourself in your hotel — with your swimmer — for three to four hours in the middle of the day. Your swimmer needs to be off their feet and resting, so going to the beach isn’t a good choice. Nor is shopping. Bring in lunch, relax, and enjoy some of the best naps you’ll ever have!50Free
  3. Walking. Being at a meet for days on end, without cooking, cleaning, working, etc. allows plenty of time to walk. I walk during warm-ups and warm-downs. I walk with my husband, with friends, and by myself. I look forward to checking out the areas by the pools on foot. Walking gets rid of my nervous energy and walking for hours and miles has to be good for me!kat shelby
  4. Friendships. You’ll spend lots of hours with team parents under the pop-up tent. Mostly, swim parents are generous, encouraging and have the common interest of your team and kids’ successes at heart. I’ve made great friends with parents from other teams and I look forward to seeing them at the away meets. I had a great conversation this past weekend with a parent of another graduating senior. Our daughters are in separate towns, on separate teams, yet they are both swimming in college next year — and going through the same excitements and anxieties. I’ll look forward to seeing these parents in the future, during our college phase of swim meets.kat medals
  5. Watching your swimmer race. What is it about watching your child race that is so rewarding and exciting? I’m not sure, but if you have the answer, please let me know. It’s so exciting when they do well. I love that feeling when I see their hard work pay off and watch their growth as a person and an athlete.kat relays
  6. Sushi. We eat lots of sushi at swim meets. I consider myself a sushi connoisseur and I’ve scouted for the best sushi restaurants near pools throughout Southern California.  My daughter likes to eat sushi at meets, too. It’s healthy, light, provides her with the right fuel to race. My top three favorite Sushi restaurants include: bake-lobster-roll_resize

O Fine Japanese Cuisine, Laguna Beach and Irvine, CAojc_00100_resize

Zen Sushi, Lake Forest, CA, and Orange Roll and Sushi, Fullerton, CA.sunset-laguna-roll_resizeAre you a swim parent, or a sports parent? What are your favorite things about going to away meets?

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Reflections on the big meet–or when life doesn’t go as planned

Two years ago, my husband and I flew to Washington state to watch our daughter swim in the PAC 12 Swimming and Diving Championships. We were so excited because she felt so good about her swimming. As swim parents we were pumped up with the anticipation of watching our child shine in her element. But, life doesn’t always go as planned. Here are my reflections from two years ago:

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The Utes cheering for a teammate.

It has been an exciting, disappointing, amazing and depressing meet. With one more day to go with PAC 12, NCAA and American records falling all around, I’m enjoying the show. But with my daughter’s mile this afternoon, I’m holding my breath.

I got a call last week from my daughter who said she had a tickle in her throat. I begged her to see a doctor and get on it, after all PAC 12s, her season’s championship meet, was less than a week away. She replied, “Mom, it’s just a tickle!”

So, if it was “just a tickle” why did she bother to tell me?

A few days later, she was sick. My husband and I told her to go to urgent care. She fought about it because she was so miserable she didn’t want to leave the warmth and comfort of her bed. A few hours later, she called to tell us she had the flu. They packed her full of meds and told her to return to her house for total bed rest. This was Saturday. She was leaving for the big meet on Tuesday.

She’s been scratched out of a few events, swam a single event, but mostly is lying in bed, waiting for today to be better and swim the 1650 free.

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My daughter and coach on the sidelines.

 

What I’m really impressed with is her attitude. She’s not showing us that she’s upset. She doesn’t appear to be down. She’s enjoying the time with her team. She’s proud of her teammates and shares in their successes and feels hurt when they’re upset and fail to meet their goals. About her own situation, she’s realistic. She said, “Isn’t this the craziest sport ever? What other sport do you train for eight months for one single meet and then you could be hurt or sick?” She also said that she’s tried her best and is content with that. “This isn’t in my control.”

Good luck today is all I can say. I may have my eyes closed, or peek through my fingers while she swims. I also wonder why am I the parent of distance swimmers? It would be so much easier to be the parent of a sprinter!

As for the exciting, fun wonderful stuff, we hung out with our fellow Ute parents. It’s once a year, we’re together for this long four-day meet. We send the kids off every evening during our pre-function with cheers and pompoms, which makes us laugh out loud together. We have fun watching other team parents, whether it’s trees on their heads for Stanford, blue wigs and a giant flag for UCLA or our own red mohawks. Rarely do we parents get to act so silly. It’s refeshing and fun, and gives us memories we’ll hold dear.

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UCLA Parents.

 

As for the meet itself, it’s indescribable. Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzel, Kathleen Baker, Ella Easton, Lia Neal, Katie McLaughlin, etc. The world’s greats all gathered together for a college meet. Records falling left and right. Shaking my head with disbelief at what amazing swims I witnessed.

It’s a special meet, and although things in life don’t always go as planned, I’m proud to be a small part of it.

The following to videos are exciting races I was privileged to see, the 50 and 200 free.

 

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Last year, my daughter and teammates cheering during the 200 fly.

P.S. She did great! The 1650 was ok!

Helicopter Parents: Hover a Few Feet Higher

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My kiddos jumping in the waves in Laguna Bach, CA.

I received a question from a swim mom the other day about families that team hop. “Why do they often want to destroy the team they left behind?” she wondered. This mom said that if her own family were to make a decision about leaving, they’d do it and not look back. Their decision would be their own and they wouldn’t need to tear down the team or coach. I wrote about that question in an “Ask Swim Mom” story. You can read it here.

I received a text from a swim and dance mom friend who read the story and whose daughter went to college with mine. She said it’s easier for us to see a better way to handle things because our girls are no longer involved. “For these people it’s still very personal and real.”

That’s it. It’s all so personal when your kids are young and you’re involved. I regret many things I did–not only as a swim mom–but as a school parent, too. Every day I didn’t need to put on armor and fight each battle. Some things could have been left alone. I really felt the need to solve each issue, from a parent not fulfilling volunteer commitments on the swim team, to a teacher who wasn’t great at teaching. I wish I would have known that “this too shall pass.” I barely remember what caused me such inner turmoil in younger years with my kids.

Relax, stand back, and enjoy each memory you’re creating with your family. If we could convince newer parents to take a step back and not hover quite so closely, they might be able to enjoy parenting even more. I think it’s okay to helicopter parent, just do it from a higher altitude so you can see the big picture.

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What regrets do you have as a parent or in life? What would you do over if you had a second chance?

Team loyalty versus splintering teams

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I wrote this article several years ago and I still wonder about this today. In our LSC, Southern California Swimming, we’ve always had new teams splintering off from older teams. It’s a phenomenon that I see as unhelpful because it takes so much support to keep a team afloat. Also, there seems to be little team loyalty and parents are always jumping from one team to another. I say parents, because I’m not convinced that kids are driving the issue.

In the 16 years I’ve been involved in swimming, several new teams have cropped up. I wonder, did a child say, “Dad, I’m really unhappy with my coach, I don’t believe I’m getting the training I deserve, so why don’t you start a new team?”

No. I highly doubt it.

When a group of parents fracture off and start a new team, many unexpected things happen. First, they learn that it’s not as easy as they thought—most of the teams I’ve seen crumble in under five years (not all, but most). Second, friendships and relationships are divided, loyalties are developed—you’re either on one side or the other—and there’s a lot of unhappiness all around.

If a situation is bad, or you see fault with it, why not address it? If you have an issue with a coach, why not talk about it with the coach? If you’re unable to do that, or don’t feel comfortable, then why not talk to the board, or at least send an email?

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Is there something you can do to help the situation? Can you volunteer your expertise or time to make your team better? That’s what I’d do and what I’ve practiced through the years. New teams usually start, because of a private agenda or ego issue with an adult—and it’s not always with the best interest of the kids in mind.

When new teams begin, the resources of the community are spread too thin. Without a large population of families, communities cannot support a number of teams. There are only so many families willing to make the commitment to swimming. A well-known club, college and Olympic coach told me that you need a million families to have a national championship level team. You need a large pool of families for kids to come in and out of the program as they move onto college.

Plus, coaches are highly trained and there aren’t a lot of them around who have gotten kids to national levels. If you want the best for your kids, then it would seem you’d want a chance for your child to improve, learn new skills, build friendships and have the opportunity to swim in college and beyond. It makes sense that you’d want your child on a team with a proven track record of getting kids to those levels.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Speaking of friendships, how does it help your child to be put on a new team away from the kids he or she has bonded with on a daily basis? Do you want to ensnare your child in the drama that’s sure to come when the kids come face to face at a meet? Do you want to be the parents dragging in their own food in coolers to a meet hosted by your former team—because you refuse to support their snack bar?

When I talked about this years ago with my son, he felt that teams splitting up and new teams starting were a good thing. His viewpoint was that competition is always good and will make the existing team even better and more committed to excellence. I agree with that concept, but sometimes the process is painful.

I think it all comes down to one thing, the swim team should be for the kids. How does creating turmoil and drama help your child? Maybe you can take a look at where you are and realize, hey, it’s not that bad! Or better yet, jump in and make it better.

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My daughter with her first swim instructor.

What are your thoughts about creating new teams? Do you think it’s a good thing, or not?

I want to be a “Scilly” swimmer too!

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The swimmers gather with their groups. Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.

I feel like I am standing still in cement while I watch my swimming friends fly off without me. I barely make it to the pool more than twice a week lately–and I’ve had to start completely over this year due to knee surgery.

Meanwhile, my Piranha Swim Team Masters’ friends are getting faster, stronger and swimming longer workouts. Not only that, they are taking on challenging open water swims like the Tiki Swim in Oceanside and the Scilly Swim Challenge in the United Kingdom, 35 miles off the coast of Cornwall.

My friends Linda and Karl, who were former Piranha and St. Theresa parents with me, swam the Scilly Swim Challenge for their second straight year. This swim challenge is a 15k swim combined with a 10k walk.

Event organizer Dewi Winkle said, “We are on year five now and 10th Challenge just completed. Nick Lishman and I came up with the idea in 2013 and we thought the islands are so beautiful and the attraction of swimming between them would be well received. We started in 2014 and have now built to three events a year with up to 150 people per event.”

Dewi said their plans include a race around St Mary’s as a relay event and a test event in Croatia in October. Currently, they have a two-day and one-day swim in September and a Spring Swim in May.

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A map of the Isles of Scilly and route courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.

From the Scilly Swim Challenge website

Swim and Walk the Islands over one or two days

6 swims averaging 2.5 km (total 15km) and 6 walks averaging 1.7 km (total 10km) completed as a group with full safety and logistical support.

Whether you choose to complete in one or two days you will experience  the amazing swimming and beautiful scenery Scilly has to offer.

Route

The event will start and finish on St. Mary’s, the main island, visiting St. Martins, Tresco, Bryher, Samson and St. Agnes.

It’s not a race and the emphasis is on everyone getting round safely.

While you’re swimming we will transport a bag for you which will be available at the next island. You will then carry it to the start of the next swim.

Full safety support is included.

There are food stops at the end of each swim.

Wetsuits optional.

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The Kestrel, Linda and Karl’s ride for two days, at Hugh Town. Photo courtesy of Karl Siffleet.

According to Linda, her second year was easier than the first. “Coming out early to get used to the water was helpful,” she said. The water temperature was 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast, we swim in a pool with a temperature of around 80 degrees! Yes, she wore a wetsuit the entire time.

Linda and Karl signed up for the one-day swim but arrived several days early and volunteered to help out or “crew” for the two-day swim. The two-day swim allows a more leisurely pace than the one-day challenge. Linda and Karl checked swimmers in and out of the water and helped with the baggage boat. Linda said the support staff is incredible and includes “30 kayakers—they were awesome! Five safety boats (power cats) and a baggage boat.”

Swimmers can swim as much or little as they want. If they need a break they can hang onto a kayak or climb aboard a boat and go to the next island. In between, they are fed snacks and drinks.

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Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.

“There was tea, coffee, other hot drinks. Cakes, soup, salads, rolls, candy bars. Diet Coke, homemade pastry and Cornish pasty,” she said.

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Hot tea after a cold swim! Photo from Linda Burns.

The swimmers pick which one of three groups they want to swim with according to their speed. “We swam in different groups and nobody keeps time. You can swim as much or as little as you want.”  She said the groups are “Red, amber, green. Swimmers self-select which pod to swim with. Red is fastest. Karl swam amber and I swam green. I was much happier swimming in the front of the green than the middle of the amber.”

I’m sure a lot of the appeal on taking on a challenge like this is the camaraderie. The swimmers must feel so much accomplishment and bond together after their swims. I know it motivates Linda and Karl to keep swimming year round and a goal to work towards in their practices.

Like I said, my friends have been getting stronger and faster. Linda said she felt great swimming. “I felt good. I got into a good rhythm for sighting and really enjoyed it—except the several times a wave broke over me as I inhaled and I thought I was going to cough up my lungs.”

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Photo from Linda Burns.

Someday, I’d like to take this challenge, too. I don’t think I’ll be strong enough yet in May, but perhaps in a year or two. In the very least I’d like to travel to the Isles of Scilly and see this quaint, quiet and beautiful area for myself.

What motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and try something incredibly challenging?

 

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Photo courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.