Triple Crown Is 28 Years In The Making

Triple Crown Is 28 Years In The Making

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

In August 1988, Kristian Rutford of Lincoln, Nebraska began his journey to the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. He quickly knocked off the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and the English Channel in 10 hours 44 minutes, both in 1988.

Then, he stopped crossing channels and starting focus on lake swim and circumnavigation swims.

Rutford has completed the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim 21 times. He still has one of the fastest circumnavigations of Manhattan Island in history with his 1992 swim of 5 hours 53 minutes. He set the fastest crossing of Lake McConaughy in his home state of Nebraska, participated in the USA Swimming national 25 km championships, and raced a 30 km FINA World Cup in Sylvan Lake in Canada in 1993.

But instead of completing the Triple Crown, he just kept on swimming around Manhattan. Just before his circumnavigation in 1997, he said, “I haven’t done the swim without thinking of quitting or wondering why I would come back to do it again.”

He kept on going including the first reverse (clockwise) swim around Manhattan Island in 1995 in 17 hours 48 minutes.

28 years after starting on his journey, Triple Crowner Rutford finally checked off his last Triple Crown box with an 11 hour 41 minute crossing of the Catalina Channel under challenging and gnarly conditions.

On the same day Amy Gubser of California battled unusually tough conditions with 10-13 knot winds and 5-foot swell and whitecaps in her 14 hour 56 minute crossing of the Catalina Channel, Rutford crossed in 11 hours 41 minutes.

Rutford reflected on how he felt during the channel crossing. “Frankly, since the swells began early in the swim, I was used to them and honestly didn’t notice when they increased later in the swim. I think the same is true with the drop in the water temperature. The swim became more difficult and challenging in the 9th hour with the tidal exchange.

Then more so when I was told at the 10hr feeding that I was stuck in a current and that I needed to pick it up or we were not going to the target finish at Pelican Cove. Based on my progress, I knew that we were 1.5 to 2 hours out. That is always a tough request that far into the swim. I did my best to oblige and the log does show that my stroke count increased – and we did make it to Pelican Cove.

With these swims, the most challenging part is the commitment to be successful. I tell people that more importantly it is the commitment to that commitment that is the key. As my family knows, I was all in on this swim.

I am also a marathon runner. I had a 10-year streak going on the Pikes Peak Ascent. Needless to say, I quit running for 12 months in preparation for this swim.

I believe that when I jumped in the water to start the swim, I was as prepared for it as much as any swim that I have attempted. Having trained for so many swims over the last 28 years and knowing what I was getting myself into, I felt like the training plan that I had put together was spot on – I did it with little variation and without complaint. My only fear was Mother Nature.

Of course, the weather conditions were not the best, but as I told many of my friends – I had prepared mentally for the worst and hoped for the best, so I wasn’t disappointed.

My one regret is that I wish I would have had the opportunity to spend some time getting a good ocean swim in sometime prior to traveling to San Pedro. The three days prior were helpful, but certainly not like getting out away from the beach. My hours in fresh water lakes just isn’t comparable, but it’s all we have here in Nebraska

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones