Rob Madell finished his 10-mile swim at the Kingdom Swim in 5 hours 53 minutes. The 71-year-old has been swimming since he was on his high school and college swim teams where he first competed at 50 yards and 100 yards. After my freshman year in college, I switched to long distance which in those days that meant 220 yards and 440 yards in a pool. Many years later in 2001, he had a very serious brain bleed. Upon examination, the doctors discovered that it was caused by a congenital malformation of some blood vessels in his brain. He underwent two surgeries to repair those vessels.
“Even a year later running made me dizzy so I returned to swimming. My first open water swims were in the Hudson – varying from as little as one-half mile to as much as 6 miles.”
Later in 2010, Madell made a decision to begin marathon swimming at age 67. He qualified for his 10-mile swim with a 6-mile swim off the Jersey Shore and have been successfully completing the 10-mile Kingdom Swim every year since.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you feel before the 10-mile Kingdom Swim?
Rob Madell: Since this was my fourth time, I was very relaxed – maybe too relaxed. Unlike the first time, I was sure that I could do it.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you feel in the first half of the race?
Rob Madell: The water was very flat. I felt strong. Nothing hurt. I was worried that I was swimming too fast – but I couldn’t make myself slow down.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you feel in the second half of the race?
Rob Madell: I was not happy with the rough water up near the islands. Particularly in the last 3 miles. I just put my head down and swam. I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter if I hurt, just keep going. With maybe 50 yards left to the beach I got a terrible cramp in my left calf. Two days later it still hurts. I thought about how awful it would be if I had to be pulled out 50 yards from the finish.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming:
Rob Madell: How did you get over the fatigue during the race?
Rob Madell: Fatigue doesn’t matter. I did the best I could to ignore it. I couldn’t ignore the pain in my calf. I had to try to stretch it out – and somehow I did.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What did you eat or drink? How often?
Rob Madell: Every 33 minutes I stopped for a packet of GU and a mixture of orange juice and water. After about 4 and one-half hours I took 2 Advil.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming:6. Did you and your kayaker talk during the race?
Rob Madell: Only every 33 minutes. My kayaker and son-in-law James Davis was great. Not only did he keep me on the course, but he kept telling me that I was looking great. Even while I was swimming he seemed to be smiling and nodding his approval.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What was your strategy versus your competition?
Rob Madell: My only strategy is to start slow. And I have no competition for being the oldest – all I have to do for that prize is to finish.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you feel after the race?
Rob Madell: For the rest of the day I felt perfectly fine. Two days later, my calf hurts, my nose is running, and I am dehydrated.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are your next open water swimming goals?
Rob Madell: I am not thinking about that yet. I train very hard for the Kingdom Swim and now I am taking some time off. The Kingdom Swim is a unique event. The parade, the costumes, the dinner, even the beef jerky. I have swum in a lot of races, but this one is far and away my favorite. Thank you Phil.
Photo by Roberta Moudry.
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