By Grace Van Der Byl
Life is funny, as soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out and you have done all you can do with what you’ve been given; life throws you an opportunity to do more. You can take on the challenge or you can let it pass you by.
When I decided to take on all of the 8 Bridges, I had no idea that it would be such a defining moment in my life. The experience was everything I had imagined and so much more!
Stage 1, I showed up to the dock with no idea what to expect. I kept to myself while I got ready away from the group. In typical So-Cal fashion, I had on my board shorts, flip flops, surf shirt, and a trucker hat. It was obvious to everyone that I was from out of town. My anxiety was nearly a 10 when I jumped into foreign waters, racing a distance further than I had ever gone before. Once into the swim, I settled down and started to enjoy the river.
Stage 2, like stage 1 was also uncharted territory for me in distance but I found myself so focused on the sights that I forgot about the how far I was swimming.
Stage 3 seemed to go by so fast that before I got my head around the swim; we were already at the bridge.
Stage 4 was one of my two favorites. There were beautiful cliffs, an island with a castle, Monistaries, trains, and when Rondi and I swam past West Point, they shot their cannons for us!
Stage 5 was a beast!! Rondi and I swam together for half of the swim. It was really nice to have company while we were swimming against the current in warm water. On this stage the river widens and it is massive!!! I was so focused on my kayaker that I didn’t notice until I stopped for a feed and peeked around us. I was gobsmacked by the size and the amount of traffic on the water. Captain Greg of Launch 5, David Barra on Agent Orange, and Buddy on the rib kept us all so safe that I never considered what was out there a threat.
Stage 6 was supposed to be a super fast stage but Mother Nature decided otherwise. Even with the crazy conditions it was a blast!
Stage 7 was unimaginable! The conditions had smoothed out from the day before, so that definitely helped make it fun. However, the feeling I got when I swam past the Statue of Liberty made any hardship I had faced totally worth it.
The 8 Bridges Hudson River Race is the most awesome marathon event that I have ever had the privilege to participate in to date. Swimming in the river that built America, racing in conditions that are unpredictable and challenging, the opportunity to see a stunningly beautiful part of the country from a unique perspective, and most importantly meeting new friends that will last a lifetime!! Thank you so much Dave, Rondi, Margrethe, Captain Greg, Lisa, Clare, Riverkeeper, Bridge Authority, Scenic Hudson, and everyone else that I didn’t mention but was there, for the experience of a lifetime!