I know that open water destination vacations are a growing business. Perhaps in the future you have races not only in Florida but in the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Croatia...
AP: Absolutely. I think that's a legitimate goal, a very appropriate goal. It would make the most sense, too. Oceana is an international organization; by no means would I want to limit myself to just one coastline. I'm trying to get something out in California, trying to branch it out and get people involved from all around the world.
Are you excited that you're catching this really big wave of post-Olympic interest in swimming?
AP: I would have been doing this anyway. It's pretty awesome, though. Coming back home and seeing the reception, that was incredible. [Michael] Phelps is like a Beatle—watching the people react around him. So, yeah, I think it certainly helps.
I suppose using something like that in a beneficial way works for what we're all trying to do. I'm not the only one doing things with charity right now. We're all trying to see what we can do to give back. For the past couple years, we all feel like we've all been fairly selfish [with training for the Olympics]. But now we are able to get back and give back and do something we're passionate about that had been put on hold for awhile.
Where do you see your advocacy going after your swimming career is over? Or is that too far away to think about?
AP: I really want to see this particular event go well. I'd love to give it an international foundation and get the whole world swimming community involved. Everything has to start somewhere.
I think this year has been a huge step for us. A huge bump up for us was the donations we got from our sponsors [Bank of America, Pure Sport, Oceana, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, Toyota, USA Sports Clinics, and Go Swim]. Without them, it would have been a lot less than it already is. They were the ones who said "We'll help you guys out this first time around. We think it's a cool idea."
Where does this event fit in to your post-Olympic training?
AP: Well, right now I'm working on this. As far as training goes, not much of that going on. Probably just a little bit of cross-training. I've been running, some tennis—stuff I haven't been doing for a long time.
My body needs a break, my mind needs a break, and I'm not the only one in that regard either. I've been looking forward to this fall for a long time. It's a huge boulder lifted off everyone's shoulders and now you can focus on doing things that you've been pushing aside for some time now. You can go on vacation now; you can go have some fun. Yeah, man, we've been having a great time. And we're finally getting able to do the stuff we love.
Are you going to be participating in any of the Race for the Oceans events?
AP: Oh yeah. I'm going to be doing the 1K on Sunday. Like you said, I'm not a distance swimmer. [Laughs] Depending on how I feel, I might just jump in and do the 5K that day as well. My sister, Hayley, is coming to town. She's also a world class swimmer so it'll be cool for her.
Do you think this is something that could fit into an in-season swimmer's training?
AP: Yeah. We're trying to get local teams involved. It's for a good cause and it's also a little something different to break up the monotony of swimming in the pool. I remember growing up near the coast and swimming in the pool and wishing we had practices in the ocean. I would love to get teams involved.
I talked to Rowdy Gaines earlier in the week. He had some great things to say about you and about the potential for the Race for the Oceans. I asked him this question, and I'll pose it to you, too. How do you convince a landlocked swimmer who rarely, if ever, finds their way to a coastline to join this cause?
AP: Well, with me living in Austin, I think I can directly relate to that. It was hard for me to move away from the ocean to go to school [at the University of Texas], but I'm glad I did. You eventually realize that every river leads to an ocean. Just because you live inland doesn't mean you don't have a direct affect on what you're putting into the ocean.
It's the little things—taking canvas bags to the grocery store, not pouring paint into the gutters, stuff that you can almost chalk up to common sense that can really make a difference.
I just know from even 10 years ago what the beaches look like now in some places, it's night and day. Some of them are worse, some are better. Trying to make a lot more of them better is the goal of organizations like Oceana and the concept of what I'm doing.
For more information on participating in the Inaugural Race for the Oceans, visit racefortheoceans.org.