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"You can train your body to a certain extent to do extensive physical feats, if you train your mind," Marty said. "If I'm swimming 30 miles I might be capable of swimming 40, but my mind is prepared to stop at a certain point. You build up mentally to a critical peak, and when you reach it that is the climax of your mental preparation.
"Seventy percent of my ability is determined by mental attitude. It's detrimental to be noncompetitive, not to have the killer instinct. I have to work at it. I try to build up my enthusiasm, to get excited about performing well. I have to build up some sort of pride in achievement, to try to think positive thoughts, to try to think out at what points in the race I will be discouraged.
"I like to look good to the other swimmers—sort of a professional integrity. It's a sign of weakness of character to have to prove yourself to other people. I sometimes tend to, but I try not to. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think, too, every swimmer has some doubts about what kind of shape he's in. You have a few misgivings when you see the group all together at the start. We really form an inner circle, and the public acclaim is so far removed from what it's like and the real reason we enjoy it."
That night while she was waiting for a table at a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, a bartender looked Marty over and said, "You going to try to swim the island?" Marty said she was. The bartender reached across the bar and gave her biceps a feel. "You're a little girl," he said. "I hope you make it."
Long after Marty had gone to bed, one of her opponents, Carlos Larriera of Argentina, was sipping a gin and tonic and smoking a cigarette. "I am in training for the Toronto swim," he explained. "It is at night."
The morning of the race, Marty arose at 5. She got to the marina at 7:30 and, after kibitzing with several other swimmers, curled up on the wooden deck. The field was international, as always: five Americans, four Canadians, three Egyptians, who are apparently subsidized by their government, three Argentines, one Yugoslavian, one West German, one Netherlander and one Mexican. Of these, four were women—Marty, Greta Andersen and two girls who were entered in their first professional race. It was a bleak, fog-shrouded morning, and the gloom was not dispelled by a lady who played lugubrious selections on a small electric organ.
When the swimmers were asked to get into the water, Marty greased herself lightly with Vaseline, mainly under her arms, where she would experience the greatest chafing. "I was thinking," she said before, leaping in, "Margaret Chase Smith would have made the best running mate."
The swimmers hung to a line supported by floats, which was strung across the narrow harbor mouth. Their lifeboats waited 150 yards ahead. At 9 a.m. they were off, sprinting furiously. In 1963 Willemse got so far ahead at the start that he missed the unfavorable tides, which subsequently impeded the other swimmers, and came in an hour and 24 minutes before the second finisher. This time he quickly assumed the lead again but was closely pursued by Dicki Bojadzi of Yugoslavia who, before the race, had been going around asking everyone he saw, "Do I look American?"
The fog did not lift until 11:30, when the swimmers were plowing through moderate seas about 200 yards off Margate. Willemse and Bojadzi were still in the lead, then there was open water, then a pack of three, including the toothy Egyptian, Abdel Latif Abou-Heif, who is the second-best long-distance swimmer in the world, and Jorge Mezzadra of Argentina, then more open water and then another pack of three that included Marty.
Off Margate, Marty swam over to her boat for the first of six feedings of mixtures of honey and tea, honey and orange juice and honey and Coke that she had during the race. Dr. Abbott handed it to her in a paper cup, which she cast on the waves when she was ready to resume swimming. Feeders also give the swimmers advice and encouragement by writing messages on small blackboards that they hold aloft, and one message that cheered Marty in the early going was that Greta had dropped out. She already knew that the two novice women were hopelessly in the ruck.