Guest Post: Abby Nunn on winning the 2012 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim

Abby Nunn has had a big couple of months. In May, she graduated from Yale University with a degree in History of Science and Medicine. A scholar-athlete in the truest sense, Abby received the Kiphuth Award for highest GPA among varsity athletes – while specializing in distance freestyle for the Lady Bulldog swimmers.

Five weeks later, Abby became the 30th champion of the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.

I got to know Abby through the Marathon Swimmers Forum, and have enjoyed keeping in touch as she prepared for her biggest swim yet (her previous-longest was the 12.5-mile Swim Around Key West).

One interesting bit of trivia about Abby is that she’s a 6-beat kicker – which is unusual for an ultra-distance swimmer. Back in March she asked the Forum: Is 6-beat kicking prudent for a marathon swim? Apparently, she had been advised that “trying to maintain [a 6-beat kick] for 7-8 hours is counterproductive/a waste of energy, if not impossible.”

Some Forum members agreed with this sentiment. I did not. If someone has been 6-beat kicking her entire swimming career; 6-beat kicking in training; 6-beat kicking in the 500/1000/1650 pool events; 6-beat kicking in 5km open-water races; 6-beat kicking around Key West — why would she fundamentally change her stroke for MIMS? 

People are different. Human bodies are different. Therefore, it seems obvious that individual swimmers’ adaptations to water – and moving through it efficiently – will be different. 6-beat kicking for 8 hours would not be efficient for me; perhaps it wouldn’t be efficient for most marathon swimmers. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be efficient for Abby.

You know how the story ends: Abby dominated MIMS – 17 minutes ahead of second place. And she 6-beat kicked the whole way. Even at the end, she was still pulling away.

Different strokes for different folks.

Abby graciously agreed to write a guest post about her experience swimming around Manhattan. I’m honored to publish it here.

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