What is that popular expression often cited as the reason mountaineers attempt to climb Mount Everest: “Because it is there”.
That’s pretty much the same explanation Andie Nelson gave, aside from being a new challenge, for completing the 28.5-mile 20 Bridges Manhattan Swim around famous New York Island on August 24.
It was the Arlington resident’s first attempt to swim.
Although still struggling with symptoms of Lyme disease, the Chicago native regularly competes in this type of open water competition. She swam various distances in the Potomac River and completed a 9 mile swim in the ocean. She has also competed in Ironman triathlons.
Swimming around Manhattan was the longest swim she has attempted.
“This is one of the great open water swims I wanted to do, and I felt great all the time,” said Nelson. “It wasn’t a very hectic day for the water and there wasn’t a lot of debris or jellyfish. I was a little sad to finish because I had invested so much time and training. I was in no rush to finish. “
Dressed in a cap, bathing suit (wetsuits were not allowed) and zinc sunscreen, Nelson started swimming at 8:30 a.m. at Pier A in Battery Park. Eight and a half hours later, she finished in the same spot, swimming in mid to mid 70s water temperatures. Nelson, 42, has never left the water, taking water breaks. liquid nutrition every 30 minutes with his crew in guide boats.
The Hudson was one of three rivers included in the swim. The East and Harlem rivers were the others. Participants swam under 20 bridges, some choosing to swim on their backs to see the bottom. Nelson did it for a couple only, choosing not to break his momentum.
Nelson enjoyed the scenery of swimming in Lower Manhattan. She encountered “bad smells,” spent two hours cruising the strong tides of the Harlem River, and came into contact with a two-foot-long dead fish in the Hudson River.
“The changing tides made it difficult. I was swimming but didn’t move for a while, ”said Nelson.
She had her best time in the Hudson.
“I was flying,” she said.
To keep his mind fresh, Nelson asked his team to tell him jokes without the punchlines. She tried to figure them out while swimming, mostly freestyle.
Nelson also counted her hits, which helped her smell the water and enter a sort of “meditative state.”
Growing up, Nelson swam for neighborhood pools during the summer and in high school.
“I have never been an exceptional swimmer. I often finished last in my heats, but I loved swimming and competing, ”she said.
Nelson was also a young gymnast and diver on the Bates College women’s team, and played Ultimate Frisbee at Indiana University.
She eventually got involved in endurance sports, developing an endurance mindset.
“It just clicks with me,” she said.
Nelson is also a member of the Wave One open water swimming group, which meets in National Harbor in the summer. She swims all winter in the South River near Annapolis without a wetsuit.
She also visits the Donaldson Run Stream almost daily to monitor the health of the stream as a volunteer for Arlington County. During the coldest part of winter, with temperatures between 30 and 40, she sits in the stream for 7 to 14 minutes. Her three school-aged children join her on some of these ice banks.
“My trainer and friend Bob Soulliere tells me, ‘When you feel calm, you are ready to go out,’” said Nelson. “I find practicing cold water motivates me, forces me to focus on the here and now, and helps me deal with stress. If you can learn to calm your mind in painfully freezing water and just stay, I promise you will have better control over your body’s response to daily stress. Yeah, I’m totally nuts. “
As for future long swims in open water? Nelson aims to swim in the English Channel in 2023, as well as the Catalina Channel in California at some point.
These three, the 20 swimming bridges included, are considered the triple crown of open water swims.
It’s one to lose and two to lose for Nelson.