One problem for distance swimmers, unsuspected by outsiders, is what to think about as they swim. "I arranged for the people in the guide boat to give me a wigwag signal every 15 minutes, meaning that I should change strokes from one side to the other. I figured I would make the trip in 30 hours and so would see this signal 120 times. I decided to keep track: one down and 119 to go; two down and 118 to go and so on to the end. And I did keep track as far as 80 down and 40 to go. Then my right arm went bad and I could swim only on my left side, and there was no more need for signals.
"I also occupied my mind by working out simple mathematical problems, and all the way across I kept reminding myself: when you get near the shore you must remember to ask for your swim trunks and put them on." (Distance swimmers usually wear no trunks, chiefly because even the slight constriction of the waistband may help to bring on cramps.)
"In all those 30 miles I came across only two objects in the water: a fish net anchored to the bottom 300 yards off Kelley's Island and a very dead fish which I could smell for five minutes before I got to it.
"Every hour I took some nourishment. I drank a lot of tangerine juice with dextrose added and once, treading water, I ate a Clark bar. I needed something hot, and for that I had one of the Gerber baby foods—strained, chicken, mixed with something to make it a liquid so I could drink it from a coke bottle. It helped a lot.
"After about three hours, the water begins to affect your eyes and your vision gets cloudy. (I threw away my goggles after the first 20 minutes because they leaked.) Toward the end, I couldn't see the small boat beside me and had to guide myself by the big cruiser where they had the galley. The blurred vision didn't worry me; it has happened before on other long swims. It clears up in a day or so.
"Once, early Sunday morning, they let me pull alongside the boat up ahead, just for the psychological lift. It's tough to keep swimming hour after hour and never catch up.
"The worst spot came near the end, naturally. I asked one of the marines, 'How far?' and he said, 'Four miles.' An hour later I asked another one, and he said, 'Four and a half miles.' That was a little hard on morale.
"I kept thinking of that cruiser, and the bunk in the cabin, and getting into the bunk and going to sleep. Also I imagined myself climbing out on the bank and beginning to cry because it was finally over, and the idea was so real that I began to cry right there in the water, with miles yet to swim.
"When the horn on the cruiser began to blow, and blow, and blow, I was in a kind of delirium, but I heard it and knew that we were nearly there and that I was going to make it. Then my foot touched the bottom, and I remembered to ask for my swim trunks and put them on. My eyesight was just about gone by that time. I couldn't see the people on the bank as I waded out. But I heard them cheering."