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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cu Co, Clear Cure

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Jennifer Figge was injured from a terrible skiing accident and she needed to rehabilitate both physically and mentally.

Like many, she did physical therapy including all kinds of AlterG sessions.

But unlike anyone else, she decided to go for a stage swim...from Cuba to Mexico.

She left Cabo Cruz on the western part of Cuba and landed 9 days later in Cozumel, Mexico. "It was a beautiful 9-day crossing and brought back good memories of swimming the Cozumel channel in 2003."

The total distance of her route was 530 nautical miles or about a fourth of Atlantic Ocean as the veteran stage swimmer thinks (see AC4).

"It was really fun being 'out here' again, trying to get my figure back."

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: why use swimming to come back from injury?
Jennifer Figge: It's the way I travel.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Did you swim every day during your recovery?
Jennifer Figge: Mark Purnell, my orthopedic surgeon, had other plans for me. Following the ski accident on January 13th 2014, he repaired 4 fractures in my left femur and hip. He basically replaced the upper leg with titanium. I had no weight-bearing for months, as one fracture he could not fix and it needed to 'knit' on it's own.

So crutches on land and floaties in the pool was my prescription. The anti-gravity treadmill at the hospital was how I learned to walk again and eventually run 7 months later. It was important to strengthen weak pelvic muscles and correct a pronounced limp, as well as build bone. Swimming couldn't accomplish the goal. The surgeon said I would need to jump rope and jump off of boxes.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you decide on swimming from Cuba to Mexico?
Jennifer Figge: In March, Captain Tamas Hamor and first mate Sara Hajdu were married on the island of Eleuthra. They mentioned that the catamaran Pearl was to be relocated from the Bahamas to Mexico and Belize for charter.

I thought to myself, '14 months have passed and I am more than a bit out of shape.' Crossing seas are inside me, kind of like a migration. It was time. Time to get my figure back and me back.

Tamas and Sara suggested having a Hungarian friend Romeo Szentgyörgyi on board. Romeo is a 6-time world champion in gymnastic aerobics and they have seen me on so many ocean crossings where 'I just do it'. But this was different, this was trying to come back. Sometimes others know what you need more than you do.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you complete this swim?
Jennifer Figge: Normally, we set aside a 6-hour block of swim time per day for my continuous multi-day stage swims. For "Cu Co" (Cuba to Cozumel) I had 2 workouts per day with Romeo: TRX and warm-up in the morning, stretching in the late afternoon with a 4-hour swim in-between. The only speed work I performed was when two different Oceanic white tip sharks came very close to have a look. The team worked incredibly fast to bring me back on the life sling.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you feel after I exited the water each of the 9 days?
Jennifer Figge: I felt like I was home. And the 'new' leg was definitely stronger than the 62-year-old one.

This is very much a mental sport, fortunately. I am really grateful for the entire crew who made me well. I am more convinced than ever that salt water cures everything."

Cu Co Data (79-80°F water temperature):

Day 1: April 19 (19 50.53N 077 44.28W) - 6.44 miles swum in 4 hours in 0-1' waves with 10-12 knot winds - "good start from Cabo Cruz"
Day 2: April 20 (19 43.73N 078 47.43W) - 7.47 miles swum in 4 hours, 59.8m covered in 3-5' waves with 14-17 knot winds - "nothing special"
Day 3: April 21 (19 42.31N 079 38.53W) - 4.94 miles swum in 3 hours, 48.2m covered in 1-2' waves with 3-6 knot winds - "scary oceanic white tip shark came by"
Day 4: April 22 (19 34.85N 080 27.48W) - 9.08 miles swum in 4 hours, 46.8m covered in 3-6' waves with 10-12 knot winds - "strong counter current setting to south"
Day 5: April 23 (19 14.14N 081 27.53W) - 6.21 miles swum in 4 hours, 60.4m covered in 1-2' waves with 6-8 knot winds - "time zone change, no current, slow day?
Day 6: April 24 (19 17.31N 082 43.41W) - 8.4 miles swum in 2:45 hours, 71.6m covered in 0' waves with 6 knot winds - "picked up the fast westerly current, another oceanic white tip shark"
Day 7: April 25 (19 27.15N 083 49.06W) - 12.3 miles swum in 4 hours, 62.8m covered in 0-1' waves with 8-10 knot winds - "good current, good mileage, lots of birds"
Day 8: April 26 (19 32.59N 85 20.42W) - 7.13 miles swum in 3:30 hours, 86.5m covered in 5-7' waves with 16-20 knot winds - "windy with short choppy waves, like a washing machine"
Day 9: April 27 (20 17.95N 087 01.55W) - 12.88 miles swum in 2 hours, 86.5m covered in 2-3' waves with 18-24 knot winds - "arrival to Cozumel, very strong northerly current:

Summary: Cuba to Cozumel: 31 hours 15 minutes swimming duration covering 76.11 miles over 522.6 miles

Upper photo shows Jennifer Figge approaching shore in Mexico. Lower photo shows Captain Tamas Hamor, first mate Sara Hajdu, Jennifer Figge and Romeo Szentgyörgyi.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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