Heavy Is the Head that Wears the Triple Crown

It's not a title many people have - the Triple crown of Kiwi Swimming - a title given to those rare few who have successfully swum the three great open water swims of New Zealand: Lake Taupo, Cook Strait and Foveaux Strait.  Last week North Shore Swimming's Caitlin O'Reilly become the youngest person to achieve the honour.  We caught up with Caitlin to learn more about her motivations, training and how Covid changed her plans and techniques!
How long does it take to prepare for something like this swim, and how did it differ to the other two big swims you’ve also done?

I decided to do this swim when we first went into lockdown as it was unknown if we were going to travel or not to swim in California and Japan for Ocean 7 swims. For this swim I’ve been doing 35-40km weeks as 80% pool swimming and 20% open water swimming. The training was the same as previous swims but lockdown at the beginning of year changed it to more land based. For this swim I trained all through winter with no wetsuit in the ocean which I haven’t done before and it was to acclimatise to colder temperatures.

The triple crown is an amazing feat for any swimmer, and you’re the youngest person to achieve that title, what inspired you to set this goal?

When I decided I wanted to do Cook Strait I didn’t really think about doing anything else after that but then two years later I swam Lake Taupo (40.2km).  The Triple Crown came about because I couldn’t travel overseas to continue with Oceans 7 swims. We were originally thinking of using Foveaux Strait as a cold water swim prior to the North Channel. 

What goes through your mind when you’re out there in these places, hours into the swim?

During my swims I sing in my mind and try to keep my thoughts positive.  During Foveaux swim my mind fell in to a hole of negative thoughts which I struggled to snap out of and it affected my stroke and pace. Lets just say there were a few tears!  In the end I just pushed through and tried my absolute hardest to get to the end. Physically I felt ok but mentally I was drained. I have certainly learnt a lot from this swim.

What advice would you give to people considering giving any or all of the triple crown swims a go?

For someone doing an ultra-marathon swim it is so important to have an outstanding support team for both on the day and for during training. The training can sometimes be harder than the actual swim itself because of the continued commitment required. Having the right people next to you while your swimming for hours on end can make the difference between getting to the end or not. Personally for me having Mike Cochrane and Philip Rush in the IRB next to me gave me the confidence that everything was going to be OK.

Anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

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