Branded As A Professional Marathon Swimmer

Branded As A Professional Marathon Swimmer

The life of a professional marathon swimmer is tough. Your livelihood is dependent upon your competition, your competitiveness and the conditions. Trent Grimsey tells of his summer season where he went from Australia to South Africa to China to Canada to Hawaii – hitting well-known pro and amateur races along the way.

Racing week after week on successive weekends, trying to recover from each race while moving to another country and another hotel and yet still train hard enough to be fit enough to be competitive…sums up a pro swimmer’s life.

After recovering from a debilitating illness (Ross River Fever), Trent finally got back into decent shape to compete in the 2011 Australian Open Water Championships held in Penrith, Sydney.

He competed in the 5K and 10K races that served as the selection trails and earned his way on the Australian national team.

Three weeks later, he competed in the 1500-meter freestyle at the Australian pool national championships despite a cold. In the build-up to the World Championships, Trent won the Tangalooma ocean swim, Mooloolaba ocean swim and Noosa Blue ocean swim in his native Australia. “In Mooloolaba and Noosa, it was a clean sweep for the Grimsey family as [younger brothers] Codie and Ridge took second and third.”

At the end of the Australian ocean season, he flew to South Africa in May to compete in the Cadiz Freedom Swim. Because of challenging conditions, the organizers postponed the race and changed the course to a 9K race in 11°C (52°F) water. Finishing second to Petar Stoychev, he missed out on the US$10,000 first-prize purse, but the fact that the slender (skinny) Aussie even finished was a testament to his tenacity. “The water was so cold that as I crossed the finish line I collapsed, my body temperature was 29.3°C.”

Trent continued his campaign in the Northern Hemisphere by representing Australia at the 2011 World Swimming Championships where he competed in the 5K and 25K events. He placed 16th in the 5K race (16 seconds behind the winner) and 5th in the controversial 25K race where the sea water temperature started at 29°F (84°F) before the sun rose and increased to 32°C (89°F) as the day wore on and several of the world’s fastest marathon swimmers could not continue due to the inhospitable conditions.

From Shanghai, he traveled to Québec, Canada, where participated in a 16°C (60°F) 32K lake race in lac St-Jean as part of the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix series. Trent explains, “I make a break after two hours and by 16K I had almost 300 meter lead on the rest of the field and felt great. However, after 20K my arms started getting pretty heavy and the pain really kicked in. By 22K [the eventual winner] Peter Stoychev swum past me like I was standing still. There was [still] 10K to swim…a few minutes later another guy swam straight past me. I knew I was in trouble. I had started throwing up at this stage, so I told my feeder I didn’t want any more feeds until the race was over – big mistake. With 5K to swim, I could no longer swim freestyle properly. I was doing a lot of breaststroke and backstroke as I was going faster doing those strokes at this stage. This was where I was passed by a couple more swimmers. I was in a world of pain. I had never felt as much pain in my life as I had right there – it was excruciating and I could barely move. When I eventually ended up touching the finish pad I was fifth.”

Traveling from one continent to another, from 32°C water to 16°C, racing for 6-8 hours, the physiological and psychological stresses placed on the elite marathon swimmers are nearly unimaginable.

His next races were in lac Memphrémagog, also in Québec, a 2K sprint race and a 34K marathon swim in more comfortable 22°C water. He finished first in the 2K and third in the 34K to the incomparable Stoychev and Ian Van Der Hulst.

Trent stuck around in Québec to win the 1K sprint race and the 10K lac Mégantic World Cup race boosting his spirits and confidence. For three straight weeks, the much-appreciated Aussie enjoyed the overwhelming hospitality of host families and professionalism of a local coach, “French-Canadians are always very friendly and Leandre Lapointe was such a professional in everything he did. There was no way I could have competed in these races without him.

After his stay in Québec, he flew across the North American continent to compete in the 20K Optimis Sport Distance Swim Challenge along the Southern California coast from Manhattan Beach to Venice Beach. “I met up with my brother Codie who flew from Australia to do this race with me. I ended up winning and Codie was second. The race director Alan Morelli put Codie and I up and gave us a car to drive. We were treated like rock stars the whole time we were there – it was awesome.”

From the lights of Los Angeles, Trent and his brother Codie took a few flights to Hawaii to compete in the 9.6-mile Maui Channel Swim from the island of Lanai to the island of Maui. The brothers helped Team Australia win the Maui Channel Swim for its fifth consecutive win in a row.

They then flew to Oahu, arriving late the night before the Waikiki Roughwater Swim where navigational decisions proved his downfall in a third-place finish. “I stuffed up the finish. I ended up finishing 100 meters up the beach from the finish line and had to push past people to get to the finish line.”

From the warm tropical waters of Hawaii, the slender Trent found himself flying back to California for the cold-water RCP Tiburon Mile US$10,000 winner-take-all race in San Francisco Bay. After the brothers worked together to put Codie in a position to win (he finished second by two seconds), Trent was packing to head home where he won the 2.5K Great Australian Coolangatta Ocean Swim on the Australian Gold Coast and the Straddie 1000. Coolangatta. He also won the first swim in the Great Australian Swim at Suttons Beach in Redcliffe.

But his endless season is not over. “Next weekend, I have the Qld Open Water Swimming Championships up at Kawana and an ocean swim down at Burleigh. I signed with Northcliffe Surf Club, so I’m excited to be able to race in some surf carnivals for them next season and see how I go racing against the surf guys.”

To follow his adventures from warm tropical seas to cold lakes, follow Trent on Twitter at @TrentGrimsey.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source