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Taming the Hudson – the 20 Bridges Swim, New York

Diego Cantillo reflects on swimming around Manhattan and how he “provoked the god of the waters” to complete the 20 Bridges Swim

Before starting the swim, my crew commented that the previous day’s swim there had been slow and so it was best to take care during the first half, to reserve the energy in my shoulders for the Hudson.

I left Pier A observing the Statue of Liberty in the distance, and then went up the East River where I could see the Empire State Building, the UN building and all the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

When I reached the Harlem River, there was an area with more vegetation and fewer buildings. I could see the train going to the right side, which helped me to enjoy the swim and to maintain a constant rhythm.

In this first half, I passed most of the bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. There are 20 in all – that’s why it’s called “20 Manhattan Island Swim Bridges” – and they are closer to the water than I thought. You can hear the cars, trains and people crossing the bridges. I could also hear people chanting my name, at least that’s what I told myself as a way of staying motivated. Towards the end of the Harlem River, I reached a rock with a large C from Columbus University and continued on at a steady and safe pace.

Then suddenly, before I knew it, I was on the Hudson. Its size and super-agitated waters make it known. When I reached it, I said to myself: “Now it’s time, open the door to the bull! Güip! Güiip! Güiiiip!” It was like provoking Poseidon when Ulysses sticks a spear in the eye to the Cyclops – son of the god. The sky turned dark and as I had been warned, I could feel the force of the faster moving water on my shoulders, arms and back. Again I provoked the God of the waters exclaiming: “Hey Poseidon! Is that all!?” And again with a war cry under the water “Güip! Güiip! Güiiiip!” I continued my course.

We then crossed the George Washington Bridge and for several hours, the battle was maintained against these turbulent waters. It was inevitable to feel dizzy. I longed for my arrival to Ithaca (Pier A) and continued to offer my shoulders as a sacrifice to the gods.

Then in the distance I could see the Freedom Tower and knew that my arrival was closer. I felt relief when I again observed the Statue of Liberty in the distance as I knew there was very little of the swim left.

In the last minutes, the sky cleared and I decided to swim hard to the finish. At the end, the god Poseidon himself, accompanied by his hippocampus, handed me a silver medal with a blue ribbon and said: “Welcome, you are in Olympus, we will have dinner of the gods and we will toast with good wine”.

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