69km, 32 Hours and 52 Minutes. A Lotus Rises meets Marathon Swimmer and Winter Swimming Champion Jaimie Monahan

On August 26th and 27th, 2015, Jaimie Monahan from New York City, swam the 42.8 miles (69km) across Lake Geneva in 32 hours and 52 minutes. It was the 53rd longest solo swim in human history – and she is the first American to complete a solo crossing of the lake.

This is another chapter in an incredible swimming journey that has taken Jaimie across the globe from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle, from Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier to frozen lakes in Siberia and Vermont to the Sahara Desert and the towering mountains and crystal blue waters of Switzerland.  And that’s just in 2015.

Jaimie has also just become the overall female winner of the 2015-2016 International Winter Swimming World Cup.

Paradise Bay Antarctica Courtesy of Arik Thormahlen

Paradise Bay Antarctica Courtesy of Arik Thormahlen

What inspired you to undertake this swim?

In February of 2015 I got an email through the English Channel swimmers distribution list about a new organization, the Lake Geneva Swim Association (LGSA) (http://www.lakegenevaswimmingassociation.com/) that was starting to organize swims across Lake Geneva in Switzerland for the coming summer.  I’d been focusing on ice swimming and winter swimming for the past year and hadn’t done any long swims for a while.  Lake Geneva was much longer than any swim I’d ever done and less than six months away, but something about it just called to me.  I researched for a few minutes about the lake, the surrounding landmarks, and the water, and decided to go for it.

I registered my interest on the website and within a few minutes was in correspondence with Ben Barham, the founder of the Lake Geneva Swimming Association (LGSA).  He was great and we locked down a date that same day!  In general, I try to only pursue swims that are exciting or meaningful to me personally rather than try and check off swims on arbitrary lists.

Lake Geneva Photo Courtesy of Ben Barham LGSA

Jaimie in her element in Lake Geneva

How did you prepare physically and mentally? 

Physically I swam as much as I could, and did a lot of yoga.  For me, yoga helps a lot mentally too because it’s taught me to just show up to the mat (or the water) and breathe through whatever happens.  I also thought it was important to get a long freshwater swim under my belt a few months in advance, so I signed up for Extreme North Dakota Racing’s Watersports Endurance Test END-WET http://endracing.com/end-wet), a 36 mile swim down the Red River of the North.  I had never swum much in fresh water, so END-WET was a great learning experience for me, as well as a lot of fun with swimming friends and the amazing people of Great Forks, North Dakota.  Definitely a great community race!

How important are logistics and support crew? Were there any particular instructions you gave to them? What did you eat?

Logistics are a very big factor on a swim this long. We planned for up to 48 hours worth of feeds which is a LOT of bottled water and carbohydrate powder.  Watching us load a huge shopping trolley cart of groceries onto the boat the day prior must have been really funny for the people watching us from Geneva’s stylish waterfront cafes.

Support crew is so important, perhaps THE most important thing.  I had a small but dedicated and experienced personal crew of one, the amazing Arik Thormahlen, and a wonderful team organized by the LGSA of our pilots Gérard Schoch and Jacques Massard and observers Ben Barham and Tim Davies.

I fed every 30 minutes on warm carbohydrate drink, interspersed with black tea and even some flat Coca-Cola at the end for variety. I don’t eat solids during swims but the drinks provide warmth and enough calories to keep me going, even for a long time.

JMonahan Feed with Arik and Ben

Jaimie and her super support crew Arik Thormahlen and Ben Barham, Observer and LGSA Founder

 

How much sunscreen and vaseline did you have to apply etc?

I could go on for ages on the topic of sunscreen but for this swim I used La Roche-Posay Anthelios factor 60 as a base layer with a thick layer of Desitin Maximum Strength brand diaper/nappy cream. It’s messy and we come prepared with latex gloves for a neater application, but with 40% zinc oxide, it is the only thing that works for me. It also prevents chafing so no need for vaseline! It was very effective and stayed (mostly) on, even after almost 33 hours in the water. I still daydream about ways to reapply in the water for even better coverage but haven’t found a good method yet.

JMonahan Zinc

WICKED!

What goes on in your head on a 32 hour, 52 minute swim?

Everything and anything!  I have a really slow stroke count so I often try to keep faster paced songs in my head to increase my turnover.  I felt quite sick for most of the Lake Geneva swim so I spent a lot of time monitoring myself…making sure my feeds were absorbing, that the cold I was feeling wasn’t hypothermia, just discomfort, etc. For this swim the scenery was a great distraction for me, beautiful vineyards, stunning mountains, and the water itself was ridiculously lovely so I tried to focus on that too.

Do you have a mantra? What keeps you motivated?

I don’t have a mantra.  Sometimes I count to myself, but always lose track.  It’s kind of calming though.  In terms of motivation, I just swim to the next feed, or sunrise, or some other landmark.  For long swims I try not to even think about being done until the very end.  It’s always the last 10% of every swim that’s the hardest for me, because my mind switches from swimming and being in the moment to wanting to be done.

How do you recover from a swim that big?

It sounds a little funny but for me swimming at my typical pace for long solo swims is not very tough on my body – even after swimming for so long I was only sore for about 24 hours afterwards.  Slept in the next morning, had a nice social swim on the second day and went on a (leisurely!) hike with friends before heading back to NYC.

Perito Moreno Glacier Photo Courtesy of Mariia Yrjo-Koskinen

The Perito Moreno Glacier: Jaimie Monahan overall female winner of the 2015-16 International Winter Swimming World Cup

We know that you love cold water swimming.  What are your top tips? Please refer to fancy dress in your answer.

Good question!  For training, my best advice is to ramp up gradually.  Start swimming in the summer or autumn and then just keep swimming outdoors as the water gets colder.  Keep your breathing under control, relax, and as you’re going in, try counting to 100.  By then it usually feels okay.  Don’t push your limits, get used to how your body feels and reacts and be conservative with temperatures and length of swim until you are familiar with what “normal” and “not normal” feels like for you.  And never swim alone!

Specific to winter swimming events and competitions – my best advice is bring as many swim costumes as you can, more than you think you need.  Keeping on a wet swimsuit between events can take a toll over the course of a long day of events.  In a similar vein, always dry off and get dressed immediately after a cold swim. You may feel amazing and want to hang out in the cold air, but dry off, cover your head, and get dressed including warm comfortable footwear as soon as possible.

And yes, fancy dress wherever/whenever possible!  I highly recommend a sheep hat.

Tooting Bec UK Winter Swimming Champs- photo courtesy Tolga Akmen

Sheep hats – The millinery of winter swimming champions!

A Lotus Rises is a community of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.

More inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog,  Facebook and Instagram and  Twitter – we’d love to hear from you at alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

Travelling 574 miles to swim 120 metres. The Big Chill Swim Weekend

I just travelled 574 miles to swim 120 metres; Why?

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Looking out from Low Wood Bay Marina to the white horses galloping across the beautiful rich darkness of Lake Windermere, up to the tips of the surrounding forests and on to the snow-covered mountains is reason enough.

What a setting! Note the expert time keeper on the left!

What a setting! Note the expert time keeper on the left – Thanks Jenny!

But throughout the Big Chill Swim weekend, that breathtaking view was also punctuated with cheers, laughter, world winter swimming champions, mind blowing feats of endurance, inspiring personal achievements, outstanding fancy dress swimming joy, hot tubs, hot ribena, fluffy dogs, wood fires, trail running, wild swims, wine, dancing, and the shapely buttocks of the ‘East German Ladies Swim Team’ (those of a delicate disposition may not wish to scroll down beyond this first photo …)

East German Ladies Swimming Club: Censored

East German Ladies Swim Team: Censored

 

East German Ladies Swimming Club uncensored

East German Ladies Swim Team: Uncensored

On the Friday evening there was a showing of ‘Big River Man’, the powerful documentary following Martin Strel on his 3,375mile swim of the Amazon River, followed by a Q&A with his son, Borut Strel.

The intensity of the film was balanced with a delicate exhibition of art and poetry: Chiang Yee ‘A Chinese artist in the English Lake District’, that was tucked away in a corner of the Low Wood Bay Hotel. Chiang visited the Lake District in the 1930s and wrote an illustrated journal about his time in the area. As a sinologist and swimmer it felt particularly special to read his thoughts on the inspirational waterscape of the Lake District and the parallels he drew with places in his home country, like the West Lake in Hangzhou.

“This morning I paid my visit to the lake and mountain. They smiled at me like relatives and friends.

And the next morning I completed a beautiful 120 metre swim in delicious water alongside an inspiring group of swimmers and cheered on by friends old and new. Very proud to have won my first swimming medal too – a bronze!

120m swim ladies keeping toasty pre swim. Ever so slightly excited...

120m swim ladies keeping toasty pre swim. Ever so slightly excited…

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120m Freestyle Start. Credit Jacqui Scott at Mountain Creative

120m Start. Credit Jacqui Scott at Mountain Creative

Enjoying 120 metres of Lake Windermere loveliness. Credit Jacqui Scott at Mountain Creative

Celebrating our 120 metres of swim fun with super swimmers Helen Lin and Helen Gibbs

Celebrating with Helen Lin and Helen Gibbs, the 120 Metre Freestyle Ladies 🙂 Credit :Jackie Cobell

Thank you to Chillswim for such a wonderful event.

芙蓉出水。Out of the water a lotus rises.

Cheers - Celebrating with Hilary Richardson - that's my pint , not Hilary's - she was smashing the 1km endurance swim the next day - congratulations Hilary!

Cheers!  Celebrating with Hilary Richardson from Wild Highlanders, who I met on the OSS swim on the Isle of Skye- Note that’s my pint , not Hilary’s – she was smashing the 1km endurance swim the next day – congratulations Hilary!

Mary makes sure the serpentine ladies relay team keeps meets the gender quota

Mary makes sure the serpentine ladies relay team meets Chillswim gender quota requirements.

Amazing

Amazing

Post 120m swimming excitement with Fiona B. Swim excitement levels went off the scale late that evening when I discovered I had won bronze - never won a medal before - wicked!

Post 120m swimming excitement with Fiona 🙂

Hilary and other 1km endurance swimmers head off on their swim

Hilary and other 1km endurance swimmers head off on their swim

Gold Medalist, Doggie paddle

Gold Medalist, Doggie paddle

 

芙蓉出水: (fúróng chūshuǐ) Out of the water a lotus rises

Get in touch:

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and even swimming marathons.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebookTwitter and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

A Lido of Legends: The UK Cold Water Swimming Championships 2015 at Tooting Bec

My first UK Cold Water Swimming Championships; In fact my first ever championships in anything. Anything at all…

The event brings together swimmers from around the world to enjoy 30m of front crawl and head up breast stroke with millinery joy, along with a big group ‘Splash!’ – This year all at a delicious temperature of 3 degrees.

CWSC the scene is set. Credit: Sam Mould

CWSC the scene is set. Credit: Sam Mould

Like all championship swimmers, I meticulously prepared my championship kit the night before:

Championship Swimming Cossy; Championship Bikini; Championship Swim Hat; Championship Goggles; Championship Towel; Championship Thermals; Championship Woolly Hat; Championship Down Jacket; Championship Sombrero; Championship Moustache; Championship Sunglasses; Championship Sean Conway Beard; Championship Wonder Woman cape and Championship Wonder Woman head, waist and wrist band.

I was championship ready.

My only concern was that my championship sombrero was not hand made (a condition of the CWSC hat competition is that your hat needs to be hand made). Although that meant I could never be in the running to participate in the official championship hat parade, I just had to hope that the famously austere SLSC officials would at least let me compete with it on…

The Championships were officially opened by a full championship choir singing a championship song especially commissioned for the championship, as steam rose up from the championship hot tubs and floated around the growing crowd of championship swimmers.

CWSC 2015 Choir

CWSC 2015 Championship Choir and Championship Swimmers

The swimming started and in no time at all an expert team of volunteers were guiding us from our assembly point to the start positions for the individual front crawl. Our names were announced and then with shoulders underneath the water, 3…2…1 …we were off!

CWSC Fire Breathing Dragon! Credit: Sam Mould

CWSC Championship Fire Breathing Dragon! Credit: Sam Mould

An hour later it was head up breast stroke – wearing a sombrero, moustache and sunglasses helped keep my head position above the water and within the head up breast stroke swimming guidelines. Halfway across I was almost incapacitated with laughter, but thankfully managed to re-focus like a true cold water swimming champion and power through.

CWSC Championship Sombrero and Moustache in action. Credit Sam Mould

CWSC Championship Sombrero and Moustache in action. Credit Sam Mould

CWSC Sombrero hot tub

CWSC relaxing post swim in the championship hot tub

And then, in an inter galactic constellation of loveliness, team Wonder Women were GO! in the front crawl relay. Our team was a very last minute combination of super hero glory.

Sometimes all you need is a picture (or two). Well done team!

Team Wonder Women. Has anyone seen Bee? Credit: Sam Mould

Team Wonder Women. Has anyone seen Bee? Credit: Sam Mould

 

Team Wonder Women. with their invisible plane. Credit: Sam Mould

Team Wonder Women with their invisible plane. Credit: Sam Mould

Then all that was left to do was enjoy the swim finals, hot tubs,  music, pakora – chilli naan and a pint, and admire the hat parade – stunning!

Balanced

Balance

Elegant

Elegance

Subtle

Grace

CWSC is a bi-annual event, so as much as I would love to only have to wait 12 months for another CWSC, I now have two years to become a millinery expert and, perhaps, become speedy enough to reach an actual championship final…CWSC 2017 – can’t bloomin’ wait!

A massive thank you to the organisers and wonderful volunteers for making this such a wonderful day.

 

CWSC Hot Tub. Credit: Sam Mould

CWSC Serpentine Hot Tub. Credit: Sam Mould

芙蓉出水: (fúróng chūshuǐ) Out of the water a lotus rises

Get in touch:

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and even swimming marathons.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebookTwitter and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

A Joy and Privilege: The Peter Pan Cup at the Serpentine on Christmas Day

In the Serpentine Swimming Club’s compact and bijou changing room, I regularly find myself gazing at the black and white pictures of swimmers that adorn the walls. The energy that emanates beyond their frames is captivating. Often the swimmers are emerging from a snow encircled Serpentine, prompting an inhalation of breath and empathy with the glint in their eyes.

Winter Swimming

The Joy of Winter Swimming

I know I am only just beginning to scratch the surface of the history of this wonderful swimming club but I’m already inspired; and that’s before you enjoy the camaraderie amongst the swimmers and the wealth of knowledge they bring to one another’s swim journeys.

Last winter I was in the Alps and my friend Dee and I made it down to the local lake for short dips roughly once a week. I loved it and when I returned to London in May I was looking forward to becoming part of an outdoor swimming community that enjoys getting out into the open water all year round.

Swimski with Dee O'Neil. Always be prepared...

Swimski. Always be prepared…

Having completed 8 of the 9 saturday morning swims in the Serpentine winter swim calendar, I qualified to participate in the wonderful Peter Pan Cup on Christmas Day.

Bagpipes led us out of the changing rooms to the lido bridge, with hundreds of spectators and even the media looking on: 100 yards of swimming history and joy in the Serpentine Lido.

The Start

The Finish – Congratulations Alan Mitchell!

A very special start to Christmas day.

Some great pics from the morning were featured in the Telegraph, including this 🙂

"Fu 荣出水“ Out of the Water a Lotus Rises: The Serpentine Peter Pan Cup Christmas Day 2014 as featured in the Telegraph online and other press (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“芙蓉出水“ Out of the Water a Lotus Rises: The Serpentine Peter Pan Cup Christmas Day 2014 as featured in the Telegraph online and other press (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA)