Given the robust talent in the greater Boston area, I am honored and humbled to be chosen as the Eagle Tribune’s 2016 Sportsman of the Year.

The Eagle Tribune has been in my corner every step of the journey. I am grateful for the support and friendship that I have developed with them.

Check out the article here

Or by clicking on this link!

http://www.eagletribune.com/sports/local_sports/sportsman-of-the-year/article_86a18317-eaed-5134-bcd9-56f5ad4a609e.html

Thank you all for the continued positivity and love. It fuels me in a way I cannot describe. Special thanks to my mom, dad, and brother, as none of this would be possible without you.

Thank you Crimson Aquatics and Andy Cannon at NorthEast Rehabilitation for keeping me on my “110% game.” Thank you NYOW for putting on a world class marathon swimming event, 8 Bridges.

Thank you to my sponsors: GRRRL Clothing, Vermont Peanut Butter, BRL Sports Nutrition, Knuckleheads Apparel and VOMAX…you have taken my training and performance to the next level.

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The Andovers: towns located in the North Shore of MA, which have a very rich history and legacy dating back to 1642. In addition to the historical landmarks, it is home to thriving multi-generation businesses and is concentrated with top and elite prep schools in the nation. My family has been lucky to call this area home for many generations, as my ancestors immigrated and resided in Andover. Being featured in their premier magazine is an incredible honor, given the robust talent and events that are in the area.

This article is written by Dave Dyer, who has been covering my story since pre- English Channel days. In addition to being an athlete himself, Dave is an excellent writer. He always asks questions that make me take a second to think about, and accurately conveys the points. It has been an honor and privilege talking to such a talented writer over the years. image1

This article documents my journey and highlights those who have played a fundamental role in my swimming and more importantly, my life. I am incredibly blessed.

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To me it’s funny… you can spend hundreds of thousands of hours, millions of miles, and years of thinking about a goal, but in the end, it comes down to the 39, 11 or 9 hours that you are gritting it out in the inferno…can you get it done when its time to do your marathon swim.

This summer, the gritty “Smith College Marathon Swimming Fempire” was formed. This fempire was created spontaneously: Abby Bergman ’17 was training to swim the world renown Catalina Channel (20.1 miles), Eliza Cummings ’16 was training to swim the rare Plymouth to Provincetown swim (19.1 miles) and I, Paige Christie ‘15 was training to swim the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim (120 miles). The order would take place as such: myself, “the Veteran”, going first with the 8 Bridges swim from June to July, Abby “the Open Water Enthusiast,” going second at the end of July, and Eliza, “The Shark Whisperer” going third in August. Abby and Eliza were both going for their first marathon swim, and I was testing my rebound abilities after my English Channel Swim in 2014. In addition, the three of us were serving as either support swimmer or mentor for each other’s swim. A chain of sisterly support.

The three of us celebrated in each other’s successes and were the sounding board for many of the uncertainties that come with marathon swimming. A month before my swim, a vintage plane went down in the Hudson, a week before Abby’s swim there was a massive sewage spill in the beaches just south of where her swim would finish, and Eliza’s swim had many shark sightings prior. You need a supportive network of strong-minded individuals to help get the best version of self out of each other. No doubt, the success that snowballed from each other’s training and marathon swims propelled each of us forward.

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Now that the three of us have dried off from our respective swims I was able to ask some questions:

Why did you pick your specific swim?

Abby: I have wanted to cross the 20-mile Catalina Channel ever since I was 12 years old and read Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox. Reading about other people working hard to achieve their goals inspired me to put in the effort to reach my goals. I will be swimming the English Channel in 2017 and I thought it would be a way to test myself by completing another portion of the Triple Crown, prior.

Eliza: I picked the 19.1-mile P2P because I wanted to do a marathon swim that was a comparable sort of distance to one of the Triple Crown swims but was more financially viable. I was looking primarily at the east coast for possible swims and David Barra (famed open water swimmer) actually was the one who recommended the P2P to me. It was the right distance and the kind of channel challenge that I wanted to undertake. Before my attempt only 7 people in the world had successfully completed the swim so I was also drawn to the P2P because it was a fresh, exciting challenge.

Paige: I live by the philosophy, if you going to do something, you might as well do it right and go for the highest standard…raise the bar. My first swim, the English Channel was and is considered the “Everest” of marathon swimming. After having done that, I thought, “lets go for the longest, most challenging swim out there and put myself to the maximum test.” Regardless of the outcome I wanted to leave the water having learned something about limits, support, and life.  Fast forward a year and I found myself becoming the 6th person to ever swim 8 Bridges, the longest marathon swim in the world, in one of the most historic rivers in the history of our nation.

Do you feel your time at Smith has prepared you for this kind of a challenge…a challenge that is beyond the Smith lecture halls and Dalton Pool?

Abby: Swimming with Coach Kim Bierwert has taught me that anything can be accomplished through hard work and passion. I really appreciate his belief in me and his support of my goals.

Eliza: I would not be the swimmer I am today without the guidance of Coach Kim and the support of the Smith College Swim & Dive team. As an incoming first year I was one of the weakest swimmers on the team but three years later I was able to accomplish something I never would have imagined being possible. The passion, hard work, and dedication of the athletes and coaches at Smith pushed me to become the swimmer I am today.

Paige: The Smith network is unmatched. The support I felt from Smithies past present and future was a huge motivator that symbolically poured the gasoline over the flame of my determination. To top it off, I had the support and wisdom from my 4-years under the guidance of Coach Bierwert, “the mastermind,” who is the epitome of a dedicated and inspiring coach.

What was the most challenging part of your swim?

Abby: There were two parts of my Catalina Crossing that were particularly difficult. At about 3 hours in I started to really feel the mental strain of swimming alone in the dark in the middle of the ocean. I started to think, how am I going to do this for 8 more hours, but I convinced myself to keep swimming. The other hard part came when I could see the shore but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. By that point, my shoulders were aching but I knew I was so close to shore so I kept swimming.

Eliza: The first three hours of my swim were really tough because it was pitch black at the beginning and I didn’t realize that due to the position of the safety boat I was inhaling fumes. The fumes made me really sick. Once the sun rose and I figured out what was happening I had my kayaker reposition us away from the fumes. Quitting or getting out was never an option but the beginning was definitely tough.

Paige: There is nothing easy about swimming seven, 15-20 mile marathon swims for 7 consecutive days. The muscle breakdown, logistical preparations, emphasis on recovery, sunburn, and exhaustion that occur when one swims for 39 hours can be overwhelming…. and that’s not even talking about the courses, weather, winds and currents! Without my support system of my family, knowledge and positivity from my kayaker, alert and intelligent race directors, and the synergy from the other swimmers, this wouldn’t have been possible.

What advice would you give a future OW swimmer?

Abby: Don’t let doubts (your own or other people’s) get in the way of achieving your dreams.

Eliza: Do it! Open water swimming is not for the faint of heart but it is a challenging, rewarding, and exhilarating experience. It is incredible what you can accomplish when you dedicate yourself to a goal. The human body is resilient and it’s really your mind that you have to get on board, but once you have the mental toughness, you can do anything.

Paige: You know yourself best. Make sure you are clear on the “why” before you get started. That “why” will help power you through your most vulnerable times.

How did it feel to be a part of the “marathon swimming fempire”?

Abby: The support of other Smithies during my training was invaluable. To be able to talk to Paige and Eliza daily helped me to get through all the ups and downs of marathon training.

Eliza: The best part was the support, love, and empowerment you get when you are part of a team of strong women! Even though marathon swimming is an “individual sport” it takes a team and environment of positivity and guidance to pull off any of these swims, and that’s what Paige and Abby gave to me everyday. Overall, I am so proud of the nine individual swims, and the three records we accomplished as a marathon swimming fempire this summer.

Paige: Abby and Eliza reminded me of how exciting it can be to plan and train for a marathon swim. In life, it’s always more fun to be able to share in success with others. I am grateful they allowed me to be a part of their journeys and narratives. It further proved to me that Smithies run the world.

“Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction.” 

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With the Catalina Channel checked off for Abby Bergman (making her “officially” a marathon swimmer and crazy person), and the seven stages of the beautifully grueling 8 Bridges checked (for me, Paige)… we now have the third mama in our 2016 Marathon Swimming Fempire, Smith teammate, Eliza Cummings, going for her first marathon swim: Plymouth to Provincetown challenge this Sunday 8/7! I am so excited to watch her take on this challenge, and have been so amazed by her determination and outlook this entire process. Abby and I feel blessed to have Eliza as part of the marathon swimming trifecta this summer, and we know she will not disappoint this weekend.

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Eliza (top), Meri, Claire, and I before 2015 NEWMAC final relay 

With any marathon swim, the commitment that you need to make preparations, find funding, stay true to your training on a daily basis, keep a close eye on nutrition, as well as make sure you have a solid crew you can trust, is a huge job. And we haven’t even begun talking the task of getting in the water and swimming …

Eliza’s commitment to her swim was evident. She started training after the college season was over while at Smith, and while managing the rigorous academic load that Smith touts. Eliza maintained a positive outlook on training, as well as inspired those around her to push their limits. She was nominated and elected to be Co-Captain of the 2016-2017 Smith Swimming and Diving Season, which I am so excited and proud of. This speaks to her leadership, drive, and ability to make everyone feel welcomed.

Eliza is a natural student on any endeavor she takes on. During the P2P training process,  she asked me thoughtful questions, and always considered multiple outcomes and prepared for them. As a friend/mentor, it is greatly reassuring when you get the honor of working with someone like Eliza, because you know she takes her job seriously, and that the success mentality is there. I live by the mantra, champions always do more, and no doubt has Eliza become a champion during this training and will when she completes her swim.

I am so proud of what Eliza has set her mind to do. Her hard work, mental focus, “stay calm and positive” demeanor, and feisty spirit is, creates a formula for great success. This success will not only be in the water, but in life. I have no doubts Eliza will do big things. I am just excited to have had the opportunity to swim with her, and cheer her on!!!!!!!

Love you Eliza! GO BIG AND DIG DEEP. What you feel you need, you already possess.

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Eliza and I always keeping it real

 

 

 

My friend, Smith College teammate, and “self appointed sister”, Abby Bergman’s Catalina Channel attempt is this Sunday, July 24th overnight to July 25th. I have had the great pleasure of working with her there past few months as she has been preparing, training, and (soon to be) attempting this great feat.

11781773_10152969256150976_3043710916417440375_n.jpgWhen I asked Abby about how she feels pre-swim, she said she’s “ready and excited.” Abby says she’s ready because “I put in all the grueling training and I trust in my abilities.” She mentioned that she’s most excited to be able to take a moment while swimming Catalina, and realize the enormity of what she is doing, and simultaneously excited to complete the swim and have a moment to think, its over. (Spoiler alert from Paige…. it’s never truly over:) )

 

I can honestly say Abby was an absolute pleasure to help mentor and be a support swimmer for. When I would offer her things to consider and plan, Abby would reply back with her multiple considerations and plans of action about the given topic…. basically a dream swimmer to work with. The number one lessons she feels she learned about herself during all this training is “to stay relaxed and approach any endeavor with confidence…in doing so, it will always work out”. In addition she learned that “approaching a goal without a specific outcome can actually help you focus. When I think, ‘I can do this, I will perform well and try to rank high,’ I end up performing my best.”

How does Abby feel about being newly labeled “ a marathon swimmer?” She says, “It’s all about the mindset. It feels good to get to be officially recognized after all this training…and hey, now I get to be part of this super secret club of crazy people.” I couldn’t agree more. She’s also incredibly grateful to her support crew, whom she say’s “I couldn’t do the swim without.”

Over these months I’ve seen that Abby does something every day to make herself better. This is hugely important not only in marathon swimming, but in life. She always thinks of all sides of an issue, and has a great sense of self. When combining these qualities with her workhorse work ethic, she is a force to be reckoned with, and one that will not disappoint this weekend.

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During my training for 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim (120-mile Marathon Swim over 7 days), I incorporated Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) into my recovery techniques. I was able to work with both Judy Malcolm before the event, and Meaghan Murphy (who recommended the practice to me) during the event. I had never done FST prior to this, but rather was familiar with other therapies like massage and gentle individual stretching. I wanted to demo FST pre-swim, to see how my body would react to it. Judy was very thorough in her explanations of what she was doing, and created a very relaxing environment. Everything she did, she made sure to check in with me and make sure it was something I found beneficial, not painful or “tweaky.” It was important to try FST pre-swim because it gave me a sense of how effective it would be for me during the actual event.

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When doing an event that requires a heavy load of taxing mileage on the body via swimming, FST is incredibly useful. During my rest day after stage four of eight bridges, Meaghan came and worked with me using her expertise in both swimming and biomechanics to perform an FST session that was very effective in keeping me loose as well is ready to go for the next day. After stage four, I was experiencing some pain in the bicep and pec areas from the repetitive motion that is the swimming stroke. When you swim 7 marathon swims over one week eventually something will have an ache or pain. When I met with Meaghan she evaluated what areas were causing problems and created an effective FST session that allowed me to loosen the other muscles around the areas that had pain, which as a result relaxed and loosened the areas of concern, and allowed them to heal and rest. Meaghan never directly stretched the area of pain which was a relief to me because that would obviously be an uncomfortable experience which may further promote the problem.

Later that evening I noticed the pain lessening by at least 30-40% and then again In the morning even more so. The next day I was cautious when I entered the water, however I felt much stronger, and less tense/clenched than any of the stages before. I could apply more pressure during the grab portion of my stroke which I wasn’t able to do before. This was so important because that stage lasted 8 hours, and It would have been miserable if I had been experiencing the problems from the stages before.

Unlike massage or static stretching, where you worry about overdoing it and causing even more muscle breakdown and thus need more time for recovery, FST is dynamic, loosens and stretches the muscles in a way that cannot be achieved by doing independent stretching or just through massage. Allowing someone to move your limbs in a way that provides a gentle stretch is both relaxing and important. I was able to let Meaghan take over, and take my mind off having to do something active with my body. Meaghan wasn’t trying to increase my range of motion more than it’s ever been, she was trying to get it back to my personal baseline, which is an important distinction. In my experience, I needed quick recovery to perform back to back at my best. FST was the perfect recovery intervention along with rest and ice. Both Meaghan and Judy are fantastic and I would recommend FST to endurance athletes who are looking to stay loose between events.

Check them out:

Meaghan: http://www.Coachmegswim.com and http://www.stretchtrainachieve.com

Judy: http://www.perfect-fit-pilates.com

 

 

13524514_10153627458515976_6207367170677372070_n-1I have said before that swimming 8 Bridges was a transformative experience. That’s not a term I use lightly, and I use it because this experience has taught me so much about limits, trust, your support system, and the greatness that can happen when individuals work together to do accomplish goals.

There are a few things about the swim that are important to understand. In order to swim in 8 Bridges, you need a swimming resume, which proves your qualifications based off of your past swims. This swim draws a worldly crowd from elite triple crowners, to iron men and women, to individuals who have pioneered the marathon-swimming world. Each stage can only have a certain number of swimmers in the water at once (for safety and escort reasons), so the race directors want to be sure you are qualified because finishing is the goal. That being said, in order to succeed in any stage during 8 Bridges, you have to be able to make the ebb and flow currents. What this means is that you typically start swimming against the current, make a little headway, and then the current changes and you are swimming with the current. However, there are only so many hours the current is favorable, so if you don’t make enough headway while the current is in your favor, the current changes again and could push you backwards when you are even when you are close to the bridge. At the final mile of a 19.8-mile stage, you best hope the current doesn’t change on you because that would mean even after 8+ hours of extreme effort, you would have to be pulled. In addition the wind factor is crucial. In stages 2 and 5, during the portion of the swim that was supposed to be favorable, the wind was opposing us in the water, which felt as though any favorable conditions were cancelled out due to backwards pushing waves.

When swimming back-to-back marathons, there is an extreme emphasis on recovery. Typically my family and I would leave the hotel around 6am and be back around 4pm. In this window of time between swimming and waking up the next morning, I had to make sure I was rehydrating, eating, icing, stretching, showering, unpacking and re-packing your swim bag, washing out your bottles, re mixing your feeds, and sleeping. After a marathon swim the only thing you want to do from the above is sleep. That being said, this event is a team effort. If it weren’t for my mom locating the routes we would take to the start of each session, helping make dinners, and always staying positive, my dad helping me work through the aches and pains, making sure my head was in the game, and my brother serving as the mixology drink master, comedic relief, weather and wind checker and cheering section scouter, this event would not have been achievable. To me, there is no such thing as self-made. It takes the individuals helping you on your journey to make it successful. My family always goes above and beyond to support each other in whatever each of us sets our minds to and works towards. I am blessed to have grown up in this environment and would never ever take that for granted.

Each day of the swim was rigorous. You are not only doing 1 marathon swim, but 7, in a row. I had prepared in my training for this event to be more than I have ever done, and it met even my toughest expectations. As I said before in my pre-swim blog posts, my goal was simple: get to the bridge each day. There were many external factors I could have been thinking about, but at the end of the day your job is to get in the water, and swim for however long it will take you. When I finished each stage (you have to swim slightly past the bridge, not stop right when you are under it), I felt gratitude for the Hudson River for giving me a challenge, for Margrethe for helping me navigate that challenge and keeping me in the game, for David, Rondi and Captain Greg for keeping the swimmers safe and being their advocate while they were in the water and on the boat, and for my body and mind for allowing me to get through a days work. You have to have a moment to be thankful before moving to the next step.

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“A river cuts through a rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.”

Each day required persistence, control and trust. Persistence was found in every stroke regardless of the conditions. Control came from making sure I could temper my 17 years of racing energy. Since it was unclear the exact time you’d be in the water you had to over estimate to prepare. You had to control your mind in order to stay in the present. The present stroke, the present mile, the present stage…because naturally your mind will want to wander into what’s next, which serves no good in the present. Trust was critical in the swimmer-kayaker relationship. Margrethe and I established the trust in each other early on in Stage 2, when the conditions got to the point where not finishing the stage due to currents may have been a reality. I had to trust Margrethe when she said, “keep your head down and get there.” This trust created a force that perpetuated into the following days.

I came for the swim but stayed for the people.

Every day was the same but different. You’d go to the Launch 5, but each day there were new faces I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the water with. From swimmers who were trying their first marathon swim, to swimmers who have done stages annually, to swimmers who never gave up and finally achieved completion in a stage that they had tried to complete for years, was hands down one of the most inspiring situations I have ever been in. The camaraderie of the event was truly remarkable. Regardless of what had happened the day before, everyone involved was positive, supportive of each other and excited for the day ahead. To be surrounded by so much love for a common denominator made me feel like I had already succeeded, by just meeting and getting to share the experience with everyone. Even in the days after the swim, I have still been able to keep in touch with the swimmers, kayakers, volunteers and directors, who not only care about my well-being as a swimmer, but as a person. That distinction is important.

One of my bucket list goals was to be able to swim by the Statue of Liberty. And yes, I could’ve saved a lot of time by just taking a ferry out and jumping off and swimming for a few minutes, but the journey is where you experience growth.

Doing these swims doesn’t make you a “good” or “bad” person. Swimming is my passion and is something I enjoy doing. I can walk away feeling incredibly blessed to have spent a week dedicated to that passion, regardless of the outcome.

Many thanks to the individuals who made this week very special. David, Rondi and Captain Greg for your relentless efforts, and making the swim safe and successful for all those involved. Margrethe for being the Queen of the Hudson and my (s)hero. Cheryl, for being wonder woman in the flesh and always pushing me to be my best. Jamie, Thomas, Devon, Steve and Cristian, for the “going all the way” spirit and synergy all week. Charlotte for being such an all around exceptional person, friend, and teammate who is irreplaceable in my life. Mr. Samuels and the Samuels’ family for being so authentically supportive and helpful as I navigate the marathon swimming world. Spencer, for helping me navigate the legal world, and showing me that you can do both marathon swim and be a lawyer…huge! The volunteers who always had a smile on their face, especially Roy and his amazing tie dye shirts and ability to make sure that every swimmer got on to the boat and was hydrated and nourished. The incredibly dedicated kayakers who served every role from nutritionist, to motivational speaker, to navigator, to photographer…all the while paddling a kayak! The jet skiers who had halos above their head each and every time they picked us up post-swim, but also navigated the waters and kept the swimmers and other boaters safe. The NYPD for safety escorts. Auntie Amy and Mark for giving me one hell of a surprise!!!!! Jamie for being one of the most inspirational swimmers I have ever met. Tina for always cheering and keeping my mom and brother company. Kyle Kiki, for being my rock always. My Smithies for being the largest force of love this week, and for showing me that you can do anything through your own stories (especially Claire and Katharine who came ready to support!!!).Emily, who gave the best pump up speech. The homemade cookies some angel brought on Launch 5. John and Rondi for sharing the water with me and for the morale boost. My bananas for being kickass always. Addie for being my littlest fan and Smithie. Coach Kim Bierwert for opening my eyes to marathon swimming and teaching me that there is always more toothpaste left in the tube. Coach Michael Spring and Crimson Aquatics for making me into the swimmer I am today by pushing my mental capacities for 17 years. Andy Cannon for keeping my body and joints safe and pre-habbed. As well as playing quarterback while taking a holistic approach to planning this swim. Coach Brenda Hogan for taking an 8-year old with dreams seriously. Austin Prep for the prayers, positivity and love. Megan and Judy for the incredible fascial stretch therapy sessions. Miami Fitness and Lifestyle for keeping my cardio workouts bumping! My extended family, neighbors, and kids I have gotten the honor to nanny or teach swim lessons to… the videos, posts, shares, calls, texts, tweets and instagrams have been absolutely more than I could have ever expected. The individuals who were watching that purple dot go down the river…you’re amazing. That is the love and support drives me to do what I do.

All the swimmers I had the honor to share the experience with, and who all taught me a little something: Larisa, Susan, Louise, David, Todd, Erica, Kim, Leonard, Javier, Martina, Janine, Mo, Abby, Ali, John, Nicholas, Dongho, Paula, Hugh, Sydne, Capri, Andrew, Lyn, Janet, Phyllis, John, Glenn, Frank, Neil, Kenn, William, Jaimie, Teresa, Charlie, Ellaine, Laura, Kimberly, Ed, Mark, Doug, Martin, Charles, David, Michele, Mark, Ellen and Jeannie. Thank you.

My sponsors: BRL Sports Nutrition for my Tri-Fuel feeds which kept me fueled in the water and feeling stronger than ever, Vermont Peanut Butter for the post-swim fuel aka my PB and J sandwich which started the recovery process is a great way. VoMax for the custom apparel which kept my team looking sharp and warm on the water or in the rain. Knuckleheads apparel for reminding me to live life to the fullest. Grrrl for believing in me and proving that women can do anything regardless of age or size.

Mom, Dad, Cam…..you’re everything.

And if you’ve taken the time to read this whole thing…I applaud you and you likely have the endurance to be a marathon swimmer.:)

(Some Stage 2 clips to give you a feel for the longer swims. )

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I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to the dedicated, passionate, and brilliant race directors, Rondi Davies and David Barra. Both are incredibly decorated marathon swimmers themselves who have created an event that over the last 6 years has raised awareness for the beautiful and swimmable resource we have in the U.S.A spanning over 120 miles, the mighty Hudson River. I can only imagine the obstacles they faced to make this event come to fruition. But in true marathon swimmer fashion, they put their heads down and got it done…. and the success of the event has only grown. 8 Bridges has become the gold standard event in marathon swimming. It is considered the longest and toughest in the world.

Their commitment to the swimmers safety, attention to the logistics and details, ability to read the water, and passion for the sport is incredibly inspiring. I believe an event is only as good as the directors, and they both are the gold standard in my eyes.

When this event was just a figment in my twisted imagination, Rondi and David were so supportive and approachable. As the weeks passed and the event took place, you could see just how invested they are in this event.
I learned after the first full day of swimming, that regardless of my own outcome, I was so blessed and honored to be around such enthusiastic, supportive, and interesting people from the swimmers, to kayakers to dedicated volunteers. I may have came for the swimming, but I definitely stayed for the people. Ronda and David have created this very special and unique environment. In what other event would one feel such positivity and energy throughout 120 miles of swimming?!

This past week was very special to me, and Rondi and David have impacted many peoples lives for the better. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Alongside every swimmer at 8 Bridges, is an incredibly dedicated kayaker. I don’t know how I hit the mega millions jackpot by being assigned to Margrethe, but all I can say is that I couldn’t have done the swim without her. At the top of my list of reasons why I succeeded, is her name. She has a love for the game, and told me on our first chat that she is passionate about making dreams come true. Her ability to read the Hudson River, the currents, shipping channels, and the optimum place to position the swimmer, is nothing short of genius. She is a force of nature.

You get to know a lot about someone by staring at them for 120 miles/39 hours 7 minutes and 11 seconds. Margrethe is one of the very few people that could really read me and understand my mental game. She knew how I was feeling, what to say to get the competitive edge out of me and when to say it, know how to reassure me when it was unclear whether or not we would finish a stage, and could tell every time I was trying to be sneaky and look at the bridge from miles away…. even when I thought she hadn’t seen it.

The reassurance, safety, support and love I felt from Margrethe were the perfect blend, which got me down the river. From the pre-swim hugs and strategy talk, to the post swim handholds under each bridge we conquered. I am just so honored to have been able to share the experience with her and feel so blessed to have her in my life.

Not all heroes wear capes, some wear bright pink hats. Margrethe is a hero to me. She is also Queen of the Hudson.

Together we finished the longest marathon swim in the world, broke a world record as youngest to swim the 120 miles of the Hudson River, won both 19.8 miles stages (2 and 5) (youngest to win a stage), and became the 6th human to ever swim 8 Bridges, the 120 miles of the Hudson River.

It was the 6th year of the swim, I was the 6th human to ever do it, and back in 2014 was the 6th Smithie to swim the English Channel…coincidence?

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Hello friends!

4 days down 3 to go!!! Logging in about 66.3 miles in the Hudson River thus far!

Tomorrow, June 30th is a rest day, but I will be back on Friday for Stage 5! (I am so excited because one of my favorite people/twin, incredibly decorated marathon swimmer, inspiration, and Smithie 2020, Charlotte Samuels will be swimming too)!

There will be a more comprehensive post on the details of each day when I have time after 8 Bridges, but it has been an incredible and transformative experience thus far. The water, scenery, and sheer distance is incredible and majestic. To think we have such a beautiful and swimmable resource so close to home is mind blowing.

The swimmers/kayakers I have met and the event camaraderie is truly remarkable. So many individuals from so many walks of life. Wow. I am taking it all in and loving every minute.

I am so grateful for this experience, the opportunity to swim, Margrethe, the Hudson River, and my supportive family,friends and sponsors. I see all the messages and try my best to respond to all of them because they truly warm my heart.

Mom, Dad, Cam…I couldn’t do this without you. Love you.

 

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TOMORROW: STAGE 1: SPLASH TIME 8:20-8:42
8 bridges

I wanted to make sure you all have the available tracker link so you can see the day-to-day progress as I make my way down the 120 miles of the Hudson River!
You can access the tracker at the link below (it will show all the swimmers in the water at once….about 20 each day). All you have to do is find my name when it loads on Sunday (the first day of swimming): It should be a blank web page before Sunday.
During the swim my dad will be on the water, helping as a volunteer, but not directly next to me in a boat. He will be on a boat overseeing all the swimmers. I have a FABULOUS kayaker Margarethe who will be by my side the whole time. My mom and brother will be following in their car, trying to find some good observatory spots. The tracker is connected to my cell phone, which will be in Margarethe’s possession. So since Margarethe is next to me, it should give my track….however, if Margarethe has to paddle away from me for whatever reason (get more feeds etc), it may show some discrepancies. Also, some people may be racing each stage….since I am doing all 7, I will likely be in the middle to back of the pack. Finishing is the goal!
In the meantime, if you want more information on the swim, the morning start times, which bridges Ill be swimming to and the distances, check out the event website:
I will be keeping my blog up to date: www.theenglishchannelgrind.wordpress.com
I will also be checking email messages periodically if you want to reach me!
Thank you so all the love, support, positivity and prayers. I have a lot of time to reflect doing these long swims, and you all are always in my thoughts. It makes a huge difference. i feel incredibly blessed.

As we round the final 3 days before GO TIME, final preparations have been put in place.

-Checking the weather and water temps for the 7-days of the swim

-Figuring out logistics- where to meet for the start, where to meet for the finish

-Solidifying my week nutritional plan (what works for breakfast, pre swim, post swim, and dinner)

-Solidifying my week during-swim nutritional plan- which alternations of drinks/food to use and when

-Practicing chugging water every 30 minutes to simulate feeds (and making sure I am used to taking in 8 ounces in a short period of time).

-Making sure I packed everything I need, from anti-inflammatory supplements to vaseline, to food I’m familiar with, to swim suits, extra caps, goggles, earplugs etc.

-Having group meetings to make sure everyone is clear what their roles are

-Keeping in touch with my sponsors

-Making sure I am maintaining the 10 lbs I have had to gain for this swim (for insulation as well as a calorie reserve). As well as making sure I stick with the same nutritional plan that I have been for the past month (protein, carbs, healthy fats, no heavy sugars, no alcohol).

-Meeting with my PT Andy Cannon from Northeast Rehab to keep my body loose, rested, and aligned.

-Thanking the many people who have helped me on this journey…and in life!

This week it has been crucial to not try anything new. Sometimes something as silly as using a new shampoo could cause an allergic reaction, which would be incredibly inconvenient. Or even something like deciding to go bowling with friends can cause excess strain from new muscle movement. So needless to say, I’ve been keeping it very low key, very basic.

In addition, I’ve been in contact with the event directors: Rondi Davies and David Barra, who have been so dedicated and helpful answering all my questions. I can’t even imagine putting on an event of this magnitude, but they somehow do, and I can only be amazed at their abilities. They are awesome, I’m so grateful for them.

The mental component is crucial this week. It’s important to keep a positive outlook, remind yourself of what you’ve done to get to this point, and be grateful for such an incredible opportunity to challenge and test myself. When it comes down to it, I have nothing to loose. I have an incredible and historic opportunity in front of me and I’m training because I’ve been given the opportunity, not because I have to do it. You have to enjoy the ride. All the twists and turns. Doing these swims doesn’t make you a “good” or “bad” person, its something I enjoy doing and I’m excited for it!!!! I’ll be bringing some Boston into the Hudson River.

As my Coach Kim Bierwert told me, “swim with the water, relax and have fun”!

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Disclaimer: I am NOT nor have I ever been pregnant. I figured this was an important clarification.

I’ve been asked many times what preparing, training, doing, and recovering from a marathon swim is like? As I began to think about it, my best analogy was a pregnancy…. or what I imagine a pregnancy to be like. I’ve verified my experiences with some of the mothers I babysit for…along with my own mama!

First off, after you begin training for a marathon swim you start to notice bodily changes. Your arms, shoulders, and neck get bigger. The clothing you once wore, doesn’t quite fit as well as it used to. You get pretty tired and generally feel rather uncomfortable from being constantly sore. You get much more hungry than you ever previously were, but when you get the food, you have a hard time finishing it. You start craving food you haven’t craved in a long time. In addition, if you eat at the wrong time (before a long swim) it may only be a meal you rented.

Then the questions begin: You start imagining what you think the swim will be like. What qualities or characteristics will it have? Will you be equipped to handle it? Will you be a “good” marathon swimmer? Did you do enough reading on it? Have you talked to others who have been through it successfully? …You start hearing horror stories of it being done unsuccessfully.

It’s not before long that you start having vivid dreams about experiencing the swim. You’re swimming in the wrong direction and realize it halfway… you’re swimming and your hands keep breaking through ice…. you wake up in mild panic, but relieved that it isn’t real. You use these dreams as ways to improve your training so these situations are not reality.

You start to buy some products that you never thought you’d need, or need quite so much of…. Vaseline, check, body glide anti-chaffing stick, check, ibuprofen, check, muscle therapy gel, check.

Then its time for the “labor.” You show up for your swim and are patted down by officials, asked questions for cognitive baseline data, and given final words of encouragement. You have a select group of people you trust with you to share in the moment. You wouldn’t want just anyone around for this…haha.

You start swimming. You don’t know how long this will take…. you’ve heard dream stories of great currents, which resulted fast swims, but you’ve also heard horror stories of near 24-hour bouts of extreme effort. You try to stay in your own zone being mentally prepared for whatever happens.

Some people get emotional due to exhaustion. Others stay in the consistent mental zone. Either way hallucinations typically happen.

Once you see the finish, your mind narrows and all you want to do is get to the damn end! You’ll do whatever you have to at this point.

On your final strokes you are incredibly happy. As you finish the endorphins are unreal. You can barely hobble, and can’t move your arms.  You try to talk but your words don’t quite make sense.You’re still very swollen and have some battle scars.

Days go by and you reflect on the experience. People reach out to you full of joy, positivity and excitement. Over time the experience becomes a little more warped in your memory.

It’s almost as if you forgot the pains of the labor….

And before you know it, you’re on to your second one!

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h1OPbvE8Is the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim the longest swim in the world? 

Yes, at 120 miles it is the worlds longest marathon swim. (Florida to Cuba was 110 miles)

How is the 8 Bridges 120 miles of the Hudson different then the English Channel swim?

First: the distance. The English Channel was 20-30 miles (as the crow flies 21 miles, but you are swimming in place fighting a current for a period of time). The Hudson is 120 miles. The Hudson River does have a favorable current. But, although it’s a river, it is not entirely downstream. Each day’s marathon swim begins with the ebb tide at one bridge and ends at the next. There is a bit of urgency to make the current so you don’t get pushed the wrong way.

Second:  the body of water. The English Channel was an open body of water; the biggest shipping lane in the world. While swimming in the Channel there were many instances where I didn’t see land anywhere…you felt like you were stranded in the middle of the ocean going 2-3 miles an hour. The Hudson River, while wide, has land on both sides. This land consists of some of the most historic sights in America. In addition, we get to swim by the Statue of Liberty on July 3rd or 4th….dream come true.

Third: specific start and stop dates. Unlike the Channel where I had to wait 12 days for a good time to start, the 8 Bridges Hudson River swim is very specific. It is 7 days (with 2 built in days for potential electrical storms and high wind). On June 26th I start.

Fourth: fellow swimmers! During this swim, there are about 20 swimmers every stage. Not every swimmer is doing all 7 stages (only a few of us crazies) but there will be people in the water around me. We all have our own kayaker, and are all aiming to complete each stage.

Is the Hudson River Clean? 

Part of the mission of the swim is to raise awareness that the Hudson River is clean and enjoyable. The water quality is monitored by Riverkeeper. While I love a challenge, I would never subject myself to something that wasn’t safe for my health or the health of others.

What is one of the biggest challenges of the swim?

Recovery. Unlike other marathon swims where you are done after 20 miles. This swim consists of recovering day after day to complete the 120 miles. Proper recovery means getting the nutritional values you need, stretching, sleep, massage, and mentally being ready for 20 miles of swimming every day for 7 days.

What do you wear?

8 Bridges 120 mile Hudson River Swim follows Marathon Swimming Rules: no wetsuit, no water mp3s, no touching anyone, no getting out,  one swim cap, no flippers etc. It’s purely you and your swimming ability.

Will you have family on the water with you?

For most stages, no. My mum and brother will be trailing in their car, and my dad will be on the “mother boat” which will be around the swimmers but not directly next to me.

What is your training philosophy?

You can’t study like a B student and expect to get A’s. What this means is that you need to align yourself and your training to the specific demands of the swim. For example, rather than train in the pool every day, I do open water swims. I do back to back 2-6 hour swims because my event is a back to back kind of swim. I train with the worlds best kayaker (my brother Cameron) because I will be following a kayaker during my own swim.I watch videos of past individuals competing in the 8 Bridges swim to mentally prepare myself for the sights, logistics and atmosphere I will be in. (WARNING: I did this before my channel swim and the first video I clicked was a very dramatic failed attempt (luckily it didn’t really phase me and I took it as an educational moment)….but just be careful what you click on if you get easily scared).

 

You now are sponsored…..Are you still going to law school? 

Yes. I have been accepted to law school! While I am blessed with this unique opportunity to be able to follow my childhood dream and go pro in swimming with sponsors, I have professional legal career goals too….my sponsors have made achieving these goals financially doable.

 

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Check out my teammate, fellow open water marathon swimmer, and “lil sis” Abby’s blog!

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One of the main reasons I was attracted to Seven Sisters colleges and Smith College in particular is the deep history and legacies, both in academics and swimming, attached to these schools. Between 1984 and 2014 seven Seven Sisters women successfully swam the English Channel, a swim that traditionally has a 1 in 10 success rate. Ever since middle school, this has been a swim that has interested me and when I heard about Paige Christie‘s crossing the summer before I started at Smith, I couldn’t help but get excited. Following Paige’s little dot as she plowed across the Channel helped me feel as if I was already part of the Smith team. Seeing Paige’s success helped me decide to pursue my own channel dreams; I will be swimming the Catalina Channel in July, 2016 and the English Channel July, 2017. As I prepare for my July 25th Catalina crossing…

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The Smith College Athletic Facilities got cosmetic updates!

One of the updates is a historical timeline of Smith women accomplishing some massive athletic feats. Some of these accomplishments include: Senda Berenson Abbott of Smith’s athletics department introducing basketball for women (and Smith students being the first college women to play the game) in 1892, Victoria Murden ’85 becoming the first woman to cross-country ski to the South Pole in 1989, and  Smith Basketball winning their first ever ECAC title in 2012.

Since the English Channel swim (with a 1 in 10 success rate) has had quite a remarkable (and quite frankly, unheard of) 100% success rate under the guidance of Coach Kim Bierwert… all of my Channel mothers and I got a spot on the timeline!

To be honest, this is very surreal. To be able to continue the legacy was always my end goal. No doubt, there was a bit of self-inflicted pressure being the 6th person going into a swim knowing there is a 100% success rate before me. But we all did it. To know that we are all in the history books, and that nobody or no result can ever replace or take this away from us will always give me the chills.

Start unknown, finish historic. 

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How great is this photo of Margaret and Maura!!!!!! The true pioneers!!!! 

 

image1Thanks to my friends at FINIS, I am the proud owner of a FINIS DUO! Unlike other swimp3s which sit in the ear socket, the DUO sits on your temples….therefore, you don’t have to worry about water getting trapped in your ear socket! The sound quality is amazing. It’s a very unique experience. Per usual, I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t something I loved. Since you have to get used to being in your own head during marathon swims, I only train with this on special occasions.

This is what I’m jamming to (courtesy of FINIS DUO)! These songs always bring up memories. There is no genre off-limits. (Always get the clean version of these!!!!)

  • Hypnotize– The Notorious B.I.G. (this beat is unlike any other, I always start my workouts to this song)
  • Mr. Brownstone-Guns N’ Roses (a song I loved since as early as I can remember… only realizing what it meant a few years ago…)
  • Long Way 2 Go – Cassie (I love the sass in the lyrics)
  • Calm Down– G-Easy
  • Country Boy– Aaron Lewis (the biggest things in life are your friends and family)
  • Sacrifice– Theory of a Deadman
  • Nobody Does it Better– Nate Dogg
  • Rump Shaker– Wreckx-N-Effect
  • Dirt Road Anthem– Jason Aldean (this was on repeat driving out to Smith my first year)
  • Golden– Jill Scott
  • Return of the Mack – Mark Morrison
  • Ladies and Gentlemen– Saliva
  • Undercover– Lane 8 (Radio Edit)
  • I Meant It– G-Easy
  • Lookin’ for a Good Time– Lady Antebellum
  • She Wants to Know – Half Moon Run
  • Who Gon Stop Me– Jay Z, Kanye
  • Bound 2– Kanye West (Always reminds me of my ‘14 bananas)
  • Someone New– Hozier
  • Fast Cars and Freedom– Rascal Flatts
  • You’re Not My Girl– Ryan Leslie
  • Ready to Run– Dixie Chicks (What’s all this talk about love?!)
  • Sorry-Beyonce
  • Paradise City– Guns N’ Roses
  • Ride– Ciara
  • Ain’t Nobody– Chaka Khan (Chaka slays)
  • My Life Your Entertainment– T.I.
  • I Wont Back Down – Tom Petty
  • God’s Gunna Cut you Down– Johnny Cash
  • The Promise Land – Bruce Springsteen (fist pump is necessary when listening to the chorus)
  • Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue– Toby Keith
  • Runaway Love– Purity Ring
  • Drive– Halsey
  • Rhiannon– Fleetwood Mack (Charlotte Samuels’ Bight Swim anthem)
  • Going the Distance– CAKE (fitting)
  • Talk that Talk– Rihanna (if this song doesn’t make you want to dance…)
  • Summertime– Kenny Chesney
  • What Was I Thinking– Dierks Bentley (appropriate question especially when you’ve been swimming for hours)

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Ever wonder how marathon swimming is different from pool swimming? Check this article out! 

I was recently featured in an article in Swimming World written by my teammate/great friend/lil sis/ future Catalina Channel swim finisher, Abby Bergman! I am quoted alongside the hugely inspirational marathon swimming pioneer, Lynne Cox (Swimming to Antarctica) and one of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Coach, Dave Kelsheime!

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I’m a firm believer in expressing gratitude for the individuals, places and events that have been meaningful to me.

Life’s short…nobody knows what the future holds. If someone is important to you, tell them. If they’ve helped you in some way, let them know. If there is something you admire about them, make their day and say what that is.

I wanted to highlight a few people who have always stepped up to the plate since day 1 (and especially recently), and deserve a lifetime of thanks from me.

Family is incredibly important to me. As my Papou once said, “If you are a tree, family are your roots. These roots help you stay strong in any storm, or stand tall on a nice day.” To me, family isn’t always blood. Family are the people who are part of the process no matter what the outcome…make your happiness their happiness, and the people in life who want you in theirs.

The love and support of my Mom, Dad, and older brother Cam, is indescribable. Not only are they a huge source of inspiration to me, but they are also the world’s best mentors. If any of us say we want to do something, be something, achieve something, we all do what we can to support that dream….while simultaneously keeping each other loyal to the goal we proclaim.

My best friend Kyle, who has been my rock, reality check, and favorite person to talk to about literally everything…. You are such an irreplaceable person in my life and an incredibly loyal friend. You don’t find people like that that very often, if ever. I admire your realness, confidence, and ability to see all sides of a situation.

My incredible sponsors: GRRRL Clothing, BRL Sports, Vermont Peanut Butter and VOmax. I have been absolutely blown away by your generosity and enthusiasm. Having the backing from companies who are eager, interested and excited about what I am working to accomplish… as well as passionate about getting to know me on a personal level and supporting my career aspirations has exceeded any expectation I ever had about the athlete-sponsor relationship. I truly believe in your amazing missions and products and am so grateful to be a part.

To everyone deserving but not listed here, thank you!

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It’s 3:45am in mid-January of 2009. Even for an early bird like myself, my body attempts to protest.

I’m awakening by the sheer fact that I am uncomfortable, sore in every way possible, and exhausted. In addition to the pain of leaving my warm bed, I then have to slide on my still damp (from last night) uniform practice swimsuit and waterproof heart rate monitor. I go over and wake my mom up, who gets the pleasure of driving me at this God-awful hour before her full day of work starts. I am headed to the pool at 4:30am to make sure I am not late for my 4:45 am swim practice. If you were late, you’d get locked out. You’d allow your teammates, who were also your fiercest competitors, to get the extra training… those extra milliseconds that may be the difference between success or not.

A “normal” high school experience (I imagine) consisted of going to school, doing your homework, having relationships with your friends, participating in clubs, holding a job, and going to the school dances. That’s a lot. Ours included all that but also completing it in the slim-to-0 window you had between practicing 2-3 times a day (depending on if you swam for your high school team…that was additional and not replaceable for a Crimson practice). Whether you liked it or not, you had a 98% attendance policy to uphold if you wanted to stay at this elite level on this team. We practiced 8 times a week/ about 24-28 hours weekly. If you were going to add that element of risk by going to that dance or having that party you better make sure you were at 100% in the morning …excuses were nothing to Coach Spring. Crimson Aquatics was and is still one of the most elite teams in the U.S.

At Crimson, we lived by a few mottos: “the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle,” “always expect the unexpected” and “if you’re not doing it, someone else will be.”

These quotes taken in literal form consisted of our weekly 3×1000 on 11 minutes test set, 100,000 yards over 7 days of Christmas vacation training, Saturday practices including 6-mile runs followed kettle bells, TRX workouts and then 2 ½ hours of intense threshold sets, or having Coach Spring ask his young daughter at a weeknight practice what her favorite number was, to which we would do that amount of repeat 300’s (her favorite number was 20 by the way).

We would push our limits, wearing sneakers and ankle bands having to tread water hands-out style for 28 minutes because someone miss-counted a set, used nets (which were screen door-like objects that clipped to the lane line) which made sure we got past 7-meters off every wall, and did on-land dolphin and flutter kicks continuously for 14 minutes (due to people putting their feet on the ground during the usual 5 minutes of kicking) before we got in the pool. You had to check your ego at the door because on deck you were a nobody (including swimmers with trial cuts, or olympians). Your a$$ was going to get kicked.

Why would you stay? First off, nobody was forcing you to do this, you could leave at any time. Sure, you could go to a team with less commitment, but at the end of the day nothing would replace the hustle you were taught at Crimson.

Simply put, we expected excellence because we trained though anything that could ever scare us. You learned to improvise, adapt and overcome any obstacle you could ever dare to imagine.

This kind of intense training took place every day over the 11 years I was at Crimson Aquatics.

This is why I am confident in my predictions, because I am so confident in my preparations.

This is why I was able to go from no marathon swimming experience to accomplishing what swimming aficionados call “the greatest open water swimming challenge in the world” on my first try… with no protest during the swim.

This is the reason why when someone says: “naturally talented,” I laugh. This is 16 years of maximal effort.

When I pick my big swims (like the 120 miles of the Hudson), I know if its up to me, I can accomplish it. That’s not because I feel that 6 months of focused training will be enough, but it’s because I know I have had 11 years of being broken… which is why I am unbreakable now.

When you have that ammunition, no fear or doubt will ever be in your mind.

I dedicate this to the ladies who have been there through it all: Samantha Hall (College of the Saint Rose, Captain), Carah McClure (UVM, recent LA Marathon completion), Selene Chilton (CCSU), Kasey Chilton (CCSU), Danielle Tagarelis (Assumption College), and Allie Hall (MIT). We’ve laughed, cried, celebrated victories, supported each other through defeat and gone through training that nobody will ever fully understand. Even this post doesn’t do it justice.

To me, having this kind of unconditional friendship is the biggest success story. I owe a lot to you all, and words will never do that justice. I am incredibly proud of where we all are today.

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