#thisis50plus / Lake Ontario edition

Photo of Elizabeth Fry by Kevin Hagan, of the “Daily News of Open Water Swimming”

This month, 58-year old American open water swimmer Elizabeth Fry became the second-oldest person to swim across Lake Ontario, a distance of 32.1 miles. She completed the swim in an unofficial time of 15 hours, 46 minutes – fueled on energy gel and… cookies?

Fry entered the water shortly after midnight and faced average water temperatures of 15.5 degrees Celsius. A boat with her coaches followed alongside her or ahead of her, monitoring her body temperature and heart rate with sensors. Periodically a water bottle with performance gel or water was thrown to her, with a rope tied to it to haul it back in to the boat. To break up the monotony, cookies would be dropped to Fry as she trailed behind the boat that she would try and scoop into her mouth.

“I actually completely space out,” said Fry about being deprived of most of her senses while swimming. “My only sense of feeling comes in the form of cookies. At some point I need something crunchy because you’re basically on fluids the whole time. I really just zone out and enjoy my environment.”

Fry has a mind-boggling resume of marathon open water swim accomplishments, which she has somehow racked up alongside her day job as a financial consultant, and director of the annual fundraiser SWIM Across the Sound.

I’m not a very efficient swimmer. I’ve used it to recover from running injuries, and to get back to a boat after falling off water skis, but I’ve not used swimming to stay in shape. But a friend gave me a copy of Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier, and I immediately saw how I can improve my stroke and kick. Maybe this winter I’ll put in some pool time (I’m so intimidated by lane-sharing! is there an “extremely slow and laborious swimmer” lane?). Don’t go looking for any Open Water Pedia entries about me…

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