The Hardest Turnaround Since Abou-Heif Swam The World in 1963

The Hardest Turnaround Since Abou-Heif Swam The World in 1963

Abdul-Latiff Abou-Heif of Egypt was voted the best marathon swimmer of the 20th century.

His summer of 1963 as a 34-year-old professional marathon swimmer was legendary. He started his season of dominance by winning the Capri-Naples swim, an 18-mile (28.9K) swim from the island of Capri to the city of Naples in Italy in 8 hours 49 minutes. Two weeks later in America, he finished second in 12 hours 7 minutes to Herman Willemse of the Netherlands in the 23-mile (37K) Around the Island Swim in Atlantic City.

Seven days later in the cold Canadian lake in Québec, he finished second in the 19-mile (30.5K) Traversee Internationale du lac St-Jean. Next up was the 15-mile (24K) Canadian National Exhibition in Lake Ontario’s 55°F (13°C) water where he won in 7 hours 37 minutes. Less than three days later, Abou-Heif was at the starting line of the 60-mile (96.5K) Lake Michigan Swim Challenge sponsored by Jim Moran. 34 hours 38 minutes later, he finished the greatest stretch of marathon swimming in history. To go from the warm waters of Italy and Atlantic City to the cold waters of Québec and then do 60 miles in the 66°F (19°C) Lake Michigan within several weeks was mind-boggling.

But Penny Palfrey of Australia is training to do something similar, except arguably more challenging as a 50-year-old, in the summer of 2012. In early June she will return to the Cayman Islands where she completed her 68-mile Bridging the Cayman Islands swim in June 2011. She will undergo her final tune-ups and preparations for her assault on the Florida Strait, a 103-mile stretch between Cuba and Florida. In water that will be an estimated 83-85°F (27°-84°F), she will have her hands full with sharks (Oceanic white tips), currents, tropical heat, waves and stinging creatures (moon jellyfish, box jellyfish, Portuguese man o war). Then, she will prepare for her 21-mile North Channel swim in 55°F (13°C) water among even more jellyfish between Scotland and Ireland in August.

The physiological stress and psychological preparation that Penny will undergo is at a level unheard of…since Abou-Heif’s remarkable summer of 1963.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones