Meet Patty Hermann, 58, from Houston Texas. She is heading this way to swim solo in the 22.3km Apolima Strait swim, from Upolu to Savai’i on April 6.
She will be joined by eleven other solo swimmers from around the world for the Southern Hemisphere’s longest Open water swim. Yes, Samoa hosts a very unique swim race every year and it is gradually getting bigger. This is her story, in her own words.
Please give a summary of ultra-marathon swims you have done?
My longest single day swims have been a race called END-WET. The first year I did it (2013) it was 27 miles. Then for 2014, 2015, 2016 they increased it to 36 miles (58 kms). I have done SCAR twice (2015 & 2016). It is a 42 mile staged swim; 9½ miles on day 1, 9 miles on day 2, 17 miles on day 3 and 6½ miles on day 4.
I do a 10 mile (16km) race every year (2011 - 2017) in Tennessee called Swim the Suck. I’ve done the 12½ mile Swim Around Key West twice and am signed up for it again this summer. This past October I also did a 13 mile swim in South Carolina called the Swim Around Charleston. There are a few others, but that’s what comes to mind.
What is your favourite race?
My favourite race is probably SCAR. The scenery while you swim are amazing canyon walls. It is well run and has great camaraderie amongst the participants.
What was your toughest race?
Any long distance race where the water is much cooler than 21 degrees Celsius is tough for me. I can handle the cold for a while, but not for hours on end.
Have there been any scary moments where your life was in danger?
There have been some hairy weather conditions where I’ve seen escort boats sink, but I’ve never encountered any threatening marine life.
What about the training, how much preparation do you do for marathon swimming?
I have a pretty solid distance base. I pretty much train year round both in the water and in the gym. I usually get in 25 km a week but will increase that to 30+kms as I get ready for long swims. Then I cut back again a couple of weeks before the event.
Do you have a role model in Marathon swimming or someone who inspires you?
I’ve met a number of inspiring swimmers. I particularly admire the older crowd; the ones that aren’t using age as a reason to back off. I suppose my “mentor” would be Martin Strel; he’s the one that got me started on the longer swims. He has 4 Guinness Book of World Records for swimming the lengths of the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Danube, and the Yangtze Rivers. He has paddled for me for both END WET and SCAR and taught me a lot about training, nutrition, and mental toughness when swimming.
What is the epiphany for you in marathon swimming, what do you focus on during the long swims? Is there a spiritual connection with the sea, yourself or other?
When I swim, I’m usually just thinking about the swim. I WISH my mind could go somewhere and that the time in the water would just magically fly by, but it never works that way for me. I get distracted with scenery sometimes. If I start feeling tired I remind myself of what I’m doing and indulge in a little self-pride which can re-invigorate me for another couple of miles. When I really get tired, I start just taking it 30 minutes at a time; I just keep reminding myself that I just need to make it to the next feeding stop.
How did you come to hear of Apolima Strait?
Two different people recommended it, Tiffany McQueen (Apolima Strait, 2017) and Bruckner Chase (Ocean Positive Inc.).
What is your plan for the swim, do you have a particular approach to swimming 22.3km from Upolu to Savaii?
I don’t race. The pace I start at will probably be pretty much the pace I finish at. If we get a little current, I’ll pick up my pace a bit just to take the most advantage of the push. I put a lot of trust in my paddler to keep me on track. I will swim on the left of the kayak and use that for sighting.
What are you most looking forward to on your trip - is this your first visit to Samoa?
Yes, this is my first visit to Samoa. I mostly am looking forward to the race, but I have scheduled enough time to explore the island and have a nice holiday with my daughter and her husband who are coming from New Zealand.
Apolima Strait 2018 is scheduled for Friday, April 6. The first swimmer is in the water at 5.30am and the last start is at 7.30am. You will be able to follow the race on E-tracker. This technology has been used since the test swim in 2015 to showcase the race to the swim community around the world.
Samoa Events is being partnered for this race by Ford Samoa, Samoa Tourism and Samoa Shipping Corporation.