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Sherwood woman makes it across English Channel

by: Submitted photo courtesy of Mackenzie Bradley STELLAR SWIMMER – Mackenzie Bradley undertook the grueling English Channel swim from England to France last week in 60-degree water.

Despite a jelly fish sting and some larger than expected waves, Sherwood's Mackenzie Bradley completed a grueling 23.69-mile swim across the English Channel Friday.

It took the 20-year-old Smith College student 13 hours and 5 minutes to swim from Shakespeare Beach in Dover, England, to Cap Gris Nez, France. She undertook the grueling race along with fellow Smith swimmer Emma Reim of Connecticut.

A 2009 Sherwood High School graduate who began swimming almost 14 years ago, Bradley started her quest around noon on Thursday, arriving on French shores at 1 a.m. Friday.

Bradley was aided by an escort boat, whose pilot determined the course of the trip with Bradley deciding its pace.

'The water was a little choppy but it was sunny and warm outside so the cold wasn't much of an issue for us,' she said. 'Once it started getting dark you feel a little chilled but you never generally felt cold.'

The water temperature was 60 degrees. By contrast, the Sherwood Family YMCA pool is a toasty 87 degrees.

Within the first half hour, Bradley got stung by a jellyfish.

'It's really not as bad as you think,' she said. 'It feels like a bunch of bees stinging at once.'

Her swimming partner was stung four times.

Bradley and Reim began preparing for the endurance swim1½ years ago, and last summer Bradley swam11.7 miles in the Willamette River as part of the Portland River Fest.

However, what got her through her English Channel challenge were three songs that she kept playing in her head. She doesn't even recall what the songs were, only that they were choruses and pieces of Christian rock songs.

She said knowing Reim was nearby was nice even though she was never able to see her swimming partner.

'What really threw me off were the waves, which were bigger than expected,' she said.

Her progress was tracked by an official from the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, who certified she made contact with both shores and remained in the water with no assistance during her entire swim. To keep going during her swim, Bradley had planned on eating a little solid food along the way.

'I had intended to eat oatmeal…they strongly suggested against that,' she said. 'They said it would be a bad idea (that) it would probably expand in your stomach.'

Instead, she got her energy from chugging Maxim Original Energy Mix, an Australian carbohydrate drink that she drank once an hour for the first five hours and every half-hour after that.

Heading to the French shore, she was instructed where to land with the escort boat crew shining a spotlight on the rocks where she would land.

Bradley said it was her Smith College coach, Kim Bierwert, who encouraged her to swim the channel.

With Bradley and Reim completing their country-to-country swim, Biewert can now count five students he's coached who have successfully navigated the English Channel.

'He was very excited, very proud of us,' said Bradley.

Once across, both women received their first meal since embarking on their adventure.

'My teammate's mom bought meat pies from the local farmer's market,' she said. 'It was just strange eating solid food.'

After completing their swim, Bradley and Reim returned to England Dover, this time taking a ferry back and arriving at 6:30 a.m. Both then went to sleep but for only a mere 2½ hours, their bodies thrown off by the time changes.

Instead, they got up and swam in the ocean for about 15 minutes to loosen up their muscles.

'We kept looking at each other and saying 'I don't think we actually did it,'' said Bradley.

After arriving back in Sherwood this week, Bradley plans on taking it easy before returning to Smith College where she is a junior studying religion and government. She's still up in the air regarding a career choice.

'I wish I could get paid to swim but that's not going to happen,' she said.

Visit the blog detailing her adventures at http://smithchannelswim.wordpress.com