Rob Cooney was within 5 miles of completing a 24.3-mile marathon swim across Lake Erie when he ran into some rough conditions.
Cooney was confident that he'd finish the swim. After all, he'd been preparing for this day for nine months, with daily swimming workouts starting at 5 a.m. before heading to work at Plastikos Inc., a custom injection molder in Erie, Pa.
"We had nice weather, but I ran into some unexpected current through the middle of the lake," Cooney said. "At that point I just kind of switched off in my mind and thought, 'Just be happy, get this thing done and get out of the water before dark.'"
Cooney, 38, made it to Freeport Beach, near Erie, about a half hour before sunset on July 19. He was greeted by a big crowd, including family, coworkers and friends.
"It was like 8:12 p.m. It was just picture-perfect, the way that it ended. The water flattened out when we had about a half mile to go. We were getting pushed around in the last five miles or so by some heavy waves. But it seems like when the sun starts to set, the lake will lie down. So it was just a picture-perfect ending with a pretty big crowd there waiting for me," he said.
On shore, some of his Plastikos colleagues were wearing gray T-shirts with "Team Barra Cooney" logos. The crowd was big and noisy.
"The feeling, coming out of the water, was really hard to explain. Just to know that I did something that in the beginning, I felt pretty sure about, but not that many people have done it, and a lot have failed at it. So I was excited to get it done and get back to normal life with my family," Cooney said.