Julie Madison Swimming On Hope
Julie Madison, a former competitive swimmer and swim coach from Connecticut, moved to Florida where she attempts unprecedented swims and organizes an open water swimming series.
Her husband kayaked for her latest 7 hour 10 minute marathon swimming adventure yesterday.
She explains, “I went for an adventure. On the GPS map, it looks so small, so simple: swim from 684 Bridge to Sarasota Bridge in Manatee County, Florida, just 1 straight line south.
In the first few miles, Gregg Meyers and I set off on a 14 km tandem swim and had to navigate three marinas, one bridge, crossing the intercoastal channel, while staying aware of my husband’s position, a rising tide, increasingly fast currents, and an island to maneuver around, as well as some very tricky shallows getting down to 1-3 inches of water. What should have taken an hour and 20 minutes eventually took 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Once through this, I had to manage feeding schedules for both myself and Gregg. My husband didn’t feel comfortable dictating when Gregg should feed. I also know him; he would have swam until he burned out. We couldn’t afford that, not on a swim like this.
There were also concerns about the incoming and surrounding storms – which we caused us to get out of the water for 15 minutes. The rain got so thick we couldn’t see more than 25-50 yards ahead. When the lightning came, it felt like it surrounded us and made the air glow.
Getting back in was so hard, but we still had about 2 and a half hours left.
While on shore, my body and muscles felt like they were on fire. A body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest. Since it was my circus and monkeys, the call to continue was mine. Fighting the call of a warm shower and snuggle time with my dogs, we got back in. Everything was stiff. From there, I had to manage my body temperature and stroke rate to stay with the other swimmer and stay warm.
The area was so expansive. I’d swim for 20-30 minutes and look up and feel like I had barely moved. The fog and clouds moved in, so even being a few miles from our goal, and having a straight shot to the Sarasota Bridge, the bridge looked so small, and sometimes disappeared into the fog. During this time, working on getting to the finish, I thought about the power of hope. There was a study done on rats who had previously shown swimming skills. The rats were put in water and had to swim until exhaustion. It took 15 minutes. The rats were then rescued, and given a short rest. Then made to do it again. This time they made it 60 hours; no extra training, no steroids, no food. They weren’t new and improved super rats, but they made it an additional 59 hours and 45 minutes just on hope.
I thought about when I used to have the mindset of the rats who had never felt hope. I am so glad I felt it and allowed hope to move me in ways I never felt possible. If a rat can swim an additional 59 hours and 45 minutes just on hope, what are my possibilities? It opens a door that I am both afraid and excited to walk through.”
Madison organizes the Fresh Start Swim Series, a 3-race series in Florida with the following races:
- Honeymoon Island: 2-mile, 4-mile, 8-mile on 2 April 2022
- Madeira Beach: 5 km, 10 km, 1-mile run + 1/2-mile swim + 1-mile run on 4 June 2022
- St. Pete Beach: 500m, 2.5 km, 5 km, 10 km on 19 November 2022
For more information, visit www.freshstartswimseries.com.
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