It takes about three hours to drive from the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in Hudson, N.Y. to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Rockville Centre resident Lori King, 39, swam that distance in 34 hours. “I’ll never look at the Hudson the same way,” she said. “I swam 120 miles of it.”
From June 7 to 14, King swam from bridge to bridge, working her way down the river at an average of 17 miles a day, with one day of rest. She and five other swimmers took part in the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, a marathon open-water race.
“Each stage was the most physically, emotionally and mentally challenging thing I have ever had to do in my life,” said King. “You learn a lot about what you can handle and what you cannot.”
She finished in 34 hours, 15 minutes and 49 seconds, one of two swimmers who completed all seven stages. She even set a new record for the sixth stage, from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the George Washington — 3:06:18. “I got the record by [22 minutes],” she said. “I’ll take it. Grace [Van Der Byl] held the record. She’s an incredible swimmer, and anything that has to do with her is amazing. She did it in three hours and 28 minutes. My conditions were perfect — who knows what her conditions were … but I’ll take that record.”
But the event wasn’t all smooth swimming. “That’s the thing with open-water swimming,” said King. “You never know what you’re going to get. First three days had head-on winds, overcast and raining. The first nice day was Stage Four. Stage Five, we couldn’t have asked for a better day, [although] we had wind chop in some areas.”
The chop made Stage Five, the 19.8 miles between the Bear Mountain Bridge and the Tappan Zee, particularly challenging. “It’s called ‘the beast,’” King said. “It’s the hardest stage, and has taken down many a strong swimmer.”
The year before, she said, a swimmer named Andrew Malinak was stuck in one spot for an hour and a half, and took more than nine hours to finish that section. This year King finished it in 6:22.
She had special thanks for her crew and cheerleaders, especially her kayaker, Margrethe Hørlyck-Romanovsky. “She got me down the river in one piece,” King said. “Kayakers have to get you in the good current. It could make or break whether you make a stage or not.”