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Wednesday May 22 2019 

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Sumners' Great Adventure
Jan 31, 2019, 6:27 pm


On Friday, July 20, Sumner was on a relay team that swam the English Channel, a significant accomplishment in itself. On Wednesday, July 25, he swam the channel again, solo this time. 


How did you get into extreme swimming?

When I moved to Portland in 2008, a colleague said I should do a triathlon since I already biked and swam. I hated the running, so after the first two triathlons, I decided to just do the swimming. Swimming channels gives me an excuse to travel the world and see parts of countries that are off the beaten tourist path. Marathon swimming is also a small community, and I have met some wonderful people pulling together to help each other accomplish challenging goals.


Why did you want to cross the English Channel?

It's one of the most popular swims in the marathon swimming world, with a great history. And it's challenging. The direct route is 21 miles at the narrowest point.  


You swam the channel twice — is that common?

Not really. Prepping and coordination for a swim like this is challenging, and travel costs are significant. I was there for the relay only, but the opportunity presented itself and I figured that the combination of cost savings along with wonderful conditions was too good to pass up. It usually takes three years to set up a swim. Getting one set up in three days is rare and lucky. However, when opportunity knocks, you answer the door — and dive in. 


How does the relay work?

The relay swim started at 5 a.m. on Friday, July 20. The first swimmer starts off and swims for an hour. Then the next swimmer jumps in behind the first swimmer and overtakes them. This goes on until you complete the full distance. Our team was a nice mix of swimmers of various strengths and experience levels. We were a team of British, Scottish, Maltese and Americans. Our relay time was 12 hours and 55 minutes.


And then a few days later, you swam it again?

Yes, the solo crossing was Wednesday, July 25, and started around 8 a.m. I completed it in 11 hours and one minute. I figure that I lifted each arm 18,500 times, but I barely raised my arms for three days after that. A swimmer will burn about 600 calories in an hour, so I burned 6,600 calories.


How do you eat and drink on a swim like this?

The support crew throws water bottles at me filled with water/protein shakes, and a long rod was used to hand me ibuprofen and solid foods (canned peaches). You can't touch the boat or hang onto a flotation device while feeding, you have to tread water and keep swimming. I was fed every 30 minutes after the first hour.


As I was nearing the end of the swim, my crew said this was my last feed. I wasn't aware of how close to land I was and was pretty upset. They knew that if I swam rather than talked, the current would land me on Cap Nes Gris. My salt-swollen tongue plaintively asked, "Can I have more pweaches pwease?" Their answer: "No peaches for you. Swim faster." I trusted the crew and 20 minutes later I reached land and crawled up on a huge boulder, knowing I was going to have some peaches once I got back on board.


How do you train for something like this?

Generally, I train at 24 Hour Fitness, with Oregon Reign Masters, and in the Willamette River with a kayaker (Portland Bridge Swim needs kayakers). My training for the channel swim was not very good. I should have been swimming a consistent 40 – 50 miles each month in the pool and open water and I was only at 30 – 40 miles per month. 


I also would have preferred more salt water training because it's a real challenge. Salt water tears you up more than fresh water and pool water; the salt and other particulates in the ocean increase chaffing around the shoulders, neck and thighs. It leaches water from your system and causes swelling in the mucous membranes (mouth, nose, lips, etc.). You lose your sense of taste as the swim progresses. Having a feel for the situation is ideal.


What was the most rewarding and challenging part of this adventure?

The most rewarding aspect was the sense of accomplishment, of course, and also the fact that everyone pulled resources together to help me cross. It is very humbling to be the center of attention of seven people for 11 hours and one minute. They are focused on your health and well-being and you are trusting them to keep you safe from hypothermia, sea creatures (I only saw jellyfish) and some massive tanker ships. 


The challenging part was not the exhaustion; it was that my wife, Siani, wasn't there. She's been my biggest supporter and a huge part of my success in marathon swimming. She stayed behind on this trip because I wasn't planning on doing the solo swim. When it all came together, there just wasn't time for her to make the trip in three days.  


Has anything changed for you?

Incredibly, a few things have changed. People at regular pools have always known I was faster than the average non-competitive swimmer, but now they come up to me having heard my story from someone else. Or when I say they can split a lane with me, they defer to using a wall lane because "I am intimidating."


Post channel I have had more people come up to me to say I am a good swimmer. One fellow got out of the sauna to tell me I was a good swimmer, but said "This is unsolicited advice. Your right arm recovery is too high." The advice was unsolicited and definitely didn't come from my coach Dennis Baker. It isn't the top thing Dennis has told me to work on (anchor arm, breathing sooner, the hand should enter the water more flat, not thumbs down).



What's next?

I'm aiming to complete the "triple crown" of marathon swimming. I've done Catalina and now the English Channel, so that means Manhattan Island is next. After that, I'm looking at the Oceans Seven challenge. I'm spending the next two or three years working on my Associate of the Society of Actuaries and then I want to swim Manhattan Island as my reward for (hopefully) getting the ASA. After that, I will shoot for my Fellowship of the Society of Actuaries.  


Link to a video of the swim

Holiday Party 2018
Jan 6, 2019, 3:19 pm


Link to US Masters Swimming
Jan 5, 2019, 9:23 am

Click on this link to renew your membership or to join USMS: http://www.usms.org/reg/

Everyone must be registered with United States Masters Swimming to practice with ORM even if you do not compete.

New Members
Jan 5, 2019, 9:13 am

Congratulations to Coach Aubree and Lee
Jun 20, 2018, 7:26 pm


Nate Young's 2018 National Championshio Xterra Triathlon
Jun 17, 2018, 7:22 am



Apr 22, 2018, 2:31 pm

Good Luck Abass
Sep 24, 2017, 7:40 am

Click here to Watch KATU interview Abass.


An Afghan refugee is taking Portland pools by storm, and he’s now training for the biggest swimming competition of his life.


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