8 Bridges Recap


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.

“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. The marathon swimming fempire, Abby and Eliza. 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. )


To The Race Directors, Rondi and David

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.

Margrethe, Queen of the Hudson

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, set a 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?

June 30th=Rest Day

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.


Track My Progress

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.

Final Preparations

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”!