Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

What is it like to take the jump into the water, take the first stroke, and take the first feeding when there is 120 miles (193 km) to swim?

It takes a certain hard-core, hardened mindset. Something that 64-year-old Jamie Tout definitely has. He is shown starting and swimming in the 18.3-mile Stage 1 of the world’s longest open water swim, 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim from the Rip Van Winkle to the Kingston Rhinecliff Bridge five days ago.

Now, on Day 5, Tout and his colleagues and competitors are facing the extraordinarily difficult Stage 5, known as the 19.8-mile Beast down the Hudson River.

To date, 36-year-old Stephen Rouch of Indiana is pulling away from the field [see results below], but Tout is hanging in there tough – which is frankly surprising.

One of my doctors told me that there was nothing but a thin red line that separated me from death. My diagnosis of congestive heart failure on July 21st 2011 took everything away from me. I had been symptomatic for years, but the diagnosis was something different. It devastated me. I couldn’t lift anymore and running or riding was out of the question.”

The 10-time Manhattan Island Marathon swimmer and Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming member could not even do a flip turn in a pool because he couldn’t hold his breath long enough to streamline off the wall. His endurance athletic past – or even two laps in a pool – seemed to be over. Until one day he saw the news on television and his life turned around unexpectedly.

I saw a news program that covered President George Bush who jumped out of a plane to celebrate his 90th birthday. He also jumped when he was 75, 80, and 85 years old. A smile crossed my face; I thought, ‘That is simply amazing.’ And to be have a disability and still do it put President Bush’s accomplishment on a different level.”

Tout spoke about the impact of President Bush’s activities with his wife. They talked about his own history at the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. “I did MIMS for the first time in 1985. I was also there in 1995 and in 2005. The 2015 race was my 30-year anniversary.”

But he was realistic with his physical – and mental – limitations. “Even though my doctors told me my congestive heart failure was controlled with medication, mentally I was lost.”

But he started to swim and then got motivate to swim for others with congestive heart failure. “A diagnosis of heart failure can be a death sentence to some, but to others it can be an opportunity.”

Tout became motivated by the opportunity and started to step up his training. In order to achieve the Triple Crown, Tout planned on a “difficult double” as he wife described the nearly back-to-back Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and Catalina Channel crossing. He trained to do something that would make men half his age think twice: he attempted his 10th swim around Manhattan Island only three days after an attempt of the Catalina Channel. Not only did he have to swim 28.5 miles after a 20.2-mile channel crossing, he had to travel cross-country to achieve his goal – not an easy task for anyone and certainly not for a 62-year-old with heart disease.

I wish I hadn’t held back at Catalina, but a successful crossing is good even if my 11 hour 18 minute time is kinda slow. I had thought that I could get under 10 hours or at least breath my 10:33 English Channel time, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the effect a hard Catalina Channel crossing would have on [my] New York [swim]. I kept hearing Morty Berger’s words ringing in my ears, ‘Once it looks like you’re going to make it, take it easy or you will pay for it later doing Manhattan.'”

He did and he not only achieved the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, but also almost unbelievably swam his fastest Manhattan Island marathon time in 11 attempts over a 30-year period. “I did MIMS at age 32, the English Channel at age 34, and the Catalina Channel at the age of 62. I managed a personal record at MIMS on September 23rd in a time of 7 hours and 31 minutes. Of the 11 starts and 10 finishes, my previous fastest was 7 hours and 44 minutes that I did back in 1991. The swim was also a big improvement from my last place finish of 9 hours and 23 minutes that I did in 2006 when I was in end stage heart failure.”

Tout did eventually cross the thin red line as his doctor predicted. But it was in the opposite, more positive, direction.

Last year, Tout attempted to complete all 7 stages of the 120-mile 8 Bridges Swim, but came up short.

This year, he is right on track to complete the world’s longest swim as he passed the halfway mark. To follow Tout and the 8 Bridges competitors, see here.

Stage 4 Results of the 8 Bridges Swim
1. Stephen Rouch 4:51:09 [cumulative time of 19 hours 49 minutes 2 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
2. Joshua Gordon 5:00:34
3. Ed Stoner 5:07:42
4. Flavio Toi 5:11:39 [cumulative time of 21 hours 33 minutes 7 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
5. Graco Morlan 5:12:55 [cumulative time of 21 hours 8 minutes 15 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
6. Marta Izo 5:13:25 [cumulative time of 21 hours 32 minutes 17 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
7. Mark Spratt 5:17:02
8. Abigail Fairman 5:36:29 [cumulative time of 21 hours 49 minutes 3 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
9. Katrin Walter 5:43:14
10. Jamie Tout 5:51:23 [cumulative time of 23 hours 50 minutes 15 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
11. Ed Riley 6:09:25 [cumulative time of 23 hours 47 minutes 48 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
12. Steve Gruenwald 6:57:46 [cumulative time of 26 hours 1 minute 55 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
13. Harry Finger 7:07:37 [cumulative time of 26 hours 6 minutes 28 seconds in Stages 1, 2, 3, 4]
Paula Yankauskas DNF after 6:33:15
Mo Siegel DNF after 6:33:15
Ingrid Bon DNF after 6:33:15
John Hughes DNF after 2:38:15
Kimberly Plewa DNF after 53:15

Follow the 120-mile downstream race here.

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