If you’re driving over the GWB Saturday, look down. She’ll be swimming under it.
By Rob Jennings | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Susan Kirk in 2015 after finishing a 15.7-mile swim from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the George Washington Bridge (Photo courtesy of Susan Kirk)
Susan Kirk will be having two hard-boiled eggs with avocado for breakfast on Saturday.
Then she’s going to swim around Manhattan — a distance totaling 28.5 miles from start to finish.
“I want to be able to get into a rhythm, what I call my ‘forever pace,’ and just enjoy the waters there, and all the bridges,” said Kirk, 58, of Long Valley.
She is among 15 marathon swimmers taking part in the “20 Bridges” swim, organized by New York Open Water (NYOW) and named for the total number of crossings under which they will pass.
This will be much further, and more daunting, than her longest swim three years ago, in which she swam 17.5 miles from Manhattan to Sandy Hook.
Yet, Kirk is planning to switch to a more challenging backstroke when passing under the 20 bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge, which is not far from the start of the swim. The last is the George Washington Bridge.
“I’m going to try to hit them all,” said Kirk, a married mother of two and retired pharmacist who chairs New Jersey Masters Swimming.
Saturday’s field consists of five women and 10 men, ranging in age from 22 to 58, according to bios on the NYOW website. In addition to Kirk, the field includes a 58-year-old male swimmer from Nebraska.
The $2,700 entry fee covers a boat and kayak, along with support crew and an official observer assigned to every swimmer.
Susan Kirk, on left, with Sarah Clark, who is joining her support crew on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Susan Kirk)
Swimmers from eight nations, including Mexico, Austria, Peru, Ireland, New Zealand, Gibraltar and Australia, are taking part.
Kirk is the only swimmer from New Jersey, and not unfamiliar with the waters around Manhattan.
In 2012, as part of a different event, Kirk joined a 4-swimmer relay team — dubbed “The Jersey Girls” and also consisting of Sarah Clark, Lynn Ascione, and Mary Guilfoyle — that completed a loop around Manhattan.
Saturday is her first time going solo, which she acknowledges is a “huge” difference.
“Obviously, the effort is solely your own and it’s a very different kind of swimming than when you are doing a relay,” said said, explaining that in a relay swimmers go faster knowing they can rest up when others are taking their turns.
Her crew will be passing her a Shaklee endurance electrolyte drink every half-hour, in addition to water and Clif Shot energy gels.
She is starting around 9 a.m. and expects to finish between 9 1/2 and 10 hours later, depending on the current.
“It all depends on the weather and the wind,” she said.
Ridgewood teen completes 20-mile swim from Long Island to Jersey Shore
Charlotte Samuels, 17, of Ridgewood, arrives in Sea Bright as she completes an open-water swim from Long Island to the Jersey Shore, Aug. 22, 2015 (Photo by John Munson / NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Other N.J. swimmers have made their way around Manhattan.
Charlotte Samuels, at the time a 16-year-old Ridgewood High School student, swam around Manhattan in June 2014.
She then completed the 20-mile Catalina Channel crossing in California and, in September 2014, swam across the 21-mile English Channel to become the youngest holder of the “Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.”
Bridgette Hobart-Janeczko, 55, of Jefferson, also holds the Triple Crown and completed her loop around Manhattan in 2012.
Hobart-Janeczko recalled marveling at all the water traffic, from jet skis to taxis, the fast-moving rivers, and switching to the backstroke — like Kirk is planning — while passing under the bridges.
“I know many think these waters are not swimmable, but I find them to be clean waters and special to swim in,” she said.
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