As a lifelong swimmer and amateur ocean racer, stories about endurance swims or challenges in the water fascinate me. This feat, above all else, is amazing: How Lynne Cox Swam 1 Mile in the 33 Degree Antarctic Ocean
Here’s a column I wrote about Lynne Cox’s incredible accomplishment:
You think you’re tough sitting in your little cold plunge tub for 6 minutes at 48 degrees?
How about trying a one-mile open water swim in Antarctica battling: icebergs, killer whales, leopard seals, deadly currents, 33 degree water…
Lynne Cox did it in 25 minutes. At 45 years old…
This is her inspiring story of survival, guts, grit & glory:
1/ The first thing you need to know about Lynne Cox is that she’s tougher than anyone you know.
Maybe mentally tougher than anyone ever
She’s held the record for swimming the English Channel.
She was the first woman to swim the Straights of Magellan.
2/ Lynne Cox was the first person to swim around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
Yeah, the same cape where boats crash and struggle…
In 1987, she swam the Bering Straight from Alaska to the old tip of the Soviet Union.
Took her 2 hours and 6 minutes.
3/ If anyone could complete a one mile swim in bone-chilling, certain-death conditions for 99.99999% of humans…
It’s Lynne Cox.
But even she admits there were extra challenges she had to train for.
4/ The currents were a dangerous, possibly deadly mystery:
“The currents and tides aren’t mapped. They’ve been studying them down there for 17 years and people still don’t know which way the currents move,” she told a Wisconsin radio show.
They could make swimming impossible…
5/ The unpredictable weather could overwhelm her and her team.
“The weather there is so unstable.
It can go from very calm to 60 knot winds within 15 or 20 minutes.”
A wind gust at those temps could drown her.
Then, of course…
6/ The ice could prove to be an unstoppable killer.
“You can have glaciers snap off and become icebergs.
And if you’re swimming around them, it can be a bad thing,” she said, understating the possibility of navigating a 10 or 20 foot wave full of ice shards…
7/ But even with all those challenges accounted for…
A big one remained:
Could her body survive the sub-zero temperatures?
In order to put the odds in her favor, she had to train to swim a little differently than normal.
8/ “You lose up to 80% of your heat through your head. You know that being in Wisconsin, ” Cox said.
“And so the idea is that if I could swim head up, I would be able to prolong my ability to stay in the cold.
But at some point, you know, you get tired or…
9/ “because you’re pressing your entire body against the water, you’re sort of almost swimming upright.
So in order to compensate for that, I had to do a whole lot more weight training.”
Don’t forget, Cox wasn’t a college kid.
She was in her mid-40s…
10/ In 2002, Cox splashed into the arctic water 1 mile from the beach in a place ironically named Paradise Harbor
The water temps swung from 32 down to 28.
The currents shifted.
She lost feeling in her hands, feet and limbs.
But became disoriented.
But she made it ashore…
11/ It took Cox days to stop shivering.
And months to get the feeling back in her skin.
So why do it?
“I like this kind of exploration. I like the idea of pushing the body beyond what’s been done and sort of feeling out what human beings can do and how far that reach can be.”
12/ I’ve done a bunch of open water swims.
In places like LA, Miami and Texas… Haha.
Can’t even imagine the mental & physical fortitude Cox has to complete her swims.
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PS: Did you ever watched Michael Phelps in the 200 meter butterfly and wonder how the hell he stayed that fast for that long in the world’s hardest stroke? I have your answer from first-hand experience in this piece:
And if you’re looking for an incredible biography to read, check out my book on the one and only Macho Man Randy Savage. You can order it here.
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