20 Bridges

This coming Sunday I am wrapping up my 2017 marathon swim season with 20 Bridges. For those of you who aren’t familiar, 20 Bridges is a 28.5 mile, circumnavigation swim of Manhattan Island. Yes, you can in fact swim in the water around Manhattan. Yes, you can get sick from swimming in the water depending on if it has rained recently which can increase sewage and decrease water quality. But don’t worry, I’ll be fine. If I can swim across the Cape Cod Bay having thrown up for the first 4 hours chumming the water for all the Great White sharks to come and find me, possible NYC sewage is not going to deter me. Welcome to the psyche of an open water swimmer.

Quick side note: I decided that instead of writing individual recaps of SCAR and Catalina, I am going to write one long summer recap that encompasses all the swims I did so keep an eye out for that.

Back to 20 Bridges—this is one of the triple crown swims of open water. The other two being the English Channel and Catalina. The swim is run by David Barra and Rondi Davies who are power houses in the open-water race-organizing world. They organize many other swims including 8 Bridges, the 120 mile, 7 day series down the Hudson River. I am looking forward to what I’m sure will be an extremely well-organized and exceptional swim.

This swim is unique for lots of reasons. For one, unlike most open water swims that look like this for the most part:

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20 Bridges looks like this:

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Pretty amazing. ^^

20 Bridges is also different from some OWM swims because you apply, have to be selected to swim, and then are slotted on a day with a field of swimmers with maximized diversity (nationality, age, gender).  It is a swim that is meant to bring together a diverse field of swimmers and build bridges (get it 😉 ) across the world in the open water community.

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To follow along as we all make our way around Manhattan check out: https://track.rs/20Bridges/ each swimmer will have their own spot tracker so you’ll be able to see our differently colored dots plotting along.

Also if you hadn’t already guessed, the reason the swim is called 20 Bridges is because you swim under 20 bridges during the course of the circumnavigation. So in honor of the 20 bridges I present to you 20 quotes that encapsulate what open water marathon swimming has taught me. These are quotes that I think about while I swim as well as pieces of wisdom that I find applicable to this incredible sport and to life.

Hudson River (date built/length):
1. George Washington Bridge (1931/1,450.85 meters)

Harlem River (date built/length):
2. Spuyten Duyvil Bridge (1899/186 meters)
3. Henry Hudson Bridge (1936/673 meters)
4. Broadway Bridge (1962/170.08 meters)
5. University Heights Bridge (1908/82 meters)
6. Washington Bridge (1888/723.9 meters)
7. Alexander Hamilton Bridge (1963/724 meters)
8. High Bridge (1848/600 meters)
9. 18. Macombs Dam Bridge (1895/774 meters)
10. 145th Street Bridge (1905/489 meters)
11. Madison Avenue Bridge (1910/577 meters)
12. Park Avenue Bridge (1954/100 meters)
13. Third Avenue Bridge (1898/853.44 meters)
14. Willis Avenue Bridge (1901/979 meters)
15. Triborough Bridge (1936/230 meters)
16. Wards Island Bridge (1951/285.6 meters)

East River (date built/length):
17. Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (1909/1,135 meters)
18. Williamsburg Bridge (1903/2,227.48 meters)
19. Manhattan Bridge (1909/2,089 meters)
20. Brooklyn Bridge (1883/1,825 meters)

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Swimming: aka cardio at high intensity with limited breathing = clearly not intense enough. Let’s add in open water, obstacles, and do it for 7+ hours. Yeah that sounds good.
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-Yoda, -Kim Bierwert (No excuses, no attempts, show up and do)
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In marathon swimming and in life pain is unavoidable. Suffering on the other hand is the choice to let pain envelop you. I choose to move forward with and through the pain, to relish in the challenge and let the pain wash over me. 
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Marathon swimming to me is only 20 percent physical but 80 percent mental. The greatest strength that I have as a marathon swimmer is not in my lats or quads. It is the tenacity, grit, and determination that resides in my spirit.
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Marathon swimming is a time and energy intensive activity. For every event, hundreds of hours are put in training in pools, open water, and the weight room. If you join the sport just for the glory of the finish, I can guarantee you’ll never make it there. You have to find the joy in the present moment. While I’m swimming around Manhattan I want to appreciate every moment being in that water having the privilege of doing that swim. 
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Marathon swimming=perseverance, perseverance, perseverance. When I first decided to do the P2P last summer (having never swum even a mile in open water) multiple people told me I should wait, that I shouldn’t do, that I couldn’t do it. But no one knows what you are capable of other than you. Through continual effort and focus, the impossible becomes possible and then becomes reality. 
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-Wayne Gretzky -Michael Scott (this quote doesn’t need any explanation, other than My Shot from Hamilton is one of my favorite swim pump up songs and I ❤ the office)
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If marathon swimming has taught me anything it is that human bodies can do incredible things. If you can manage to get your mind out of the way, your body will take care of the rest.  
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This is in the same vein as my all time favorite quote, “Do that which you think you cannot.” I try to live my life constantly finding new challenges that scare the sh*t out of me because it is in the moments that you are most afraid, most unsure, most challenged that you grow and become the person you always wished you were. 
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Another classic from Kim Bierwert. Fatigue is a state of mind. If you tell yourself you are not tired, you are not tired. Your body will respond to what you tell it and I tell it “there is no such thing as fatigue.”
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Marathon swimming is about continual training, focus, and effort. Excellence is the accumulation of steadfast effort.
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The best advice Paige Christie has ever given me other than to trust myself. This is by far the seven words I repeat to myself the most while I swim. 
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And in the case of open water marathon swimming, all three are usually involved making it the ultimate cure for all things. 
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I have always found that once I start swimming my mind and body calm and everything feels possible and attainable. Sometimes you need to idly think less and just do. 
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A good friend told me this piece of wisdom earlier this year while I was going through a difficult time in my personal life and it brought me great comfort. I have found myself thinking about it often as I swim. Life is challenging, things are out of your control, pain is inevitable. But it is in the rough sea that you discover how resourceful, strong, and capable you are. 
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While all marathon swimmers set out with big swims planned and goals that they want to achieve, it truly is about the process of marathon swim training and the journey of the swims themselves that are transformative and life changing. 
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When everything hurts and the thought of not finishing tries to force its way into my mind, I remind myself that the pain and suffering of the present moment is fleeting but how I will feel upon finishing will stay with me forever. 
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There is something completely indescribable about the experience of open water marathon swimming that only those who have done it understand. It truly is a special kind of magic.

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Stay posted and follow the swim via: https://track.rs/20Bridges/ and follow me on instagram: lizacummings for live swim updates on Sunday!

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