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Penny Palfrey Heading North

Penny PalfreyPenny Palfrey will attempt two swims of unimaginable magnitude within 2-3 months of each other.

For her first swim, she will attempt to swim 103 miles northwards from the north coast of Cuba to somewhere along the Florida Keys in June. Her 168K solo swim in the very warm and fast-flowing waters of the Florida Strait will force her to encounter box jellyfish, Portuguese man o war, sharks, waves, currents, tropical heat in the day, the Gulf Stream and a distance that will demand at least 140,000 arm strokes.

The logistics and planning of her Cuba swim is daunting, let alone the recovery time necessary for what will probably be a 30-60 hour swim depending on whether or not Penny catches the Gulf Stream or if the conditions turn out to be horrific.

But then after her Cuba attempt, she will turn her attention to the notorious North Channel between Scotland and Ireland. Famed for humbling one of the toughest swimmers in the history of marathon swimming, Kevin Murphy, the North Channel will present different challenges for Penny. With the water difference up to 30°F difference – 54°F (12.5°C) in the North Channel vs. well over 80°F (27°C) in the Caribbean Sea – Penny’s body will have to undergo a rapid chameleon-like metamorphosis from a warm-water swimmer to a cold-water swimmer.

Living in Queensland, Australia with the constant threat of jellyfish and sharks in her ocean training grounds, her training is well-suited for her Florida Strait challenge. However, it is the antithesis of what she needs for her North Channel swim. But that has not stopped her before: she has completed swims in the Catalina Channel and Santa Barbara Channel where the ocean temperatures dipped below 55°F (13°C). So water temperature should not be a major problem.

And neither should the threat of the Lion’s Mane or other jellyfish that often spread over the North Channel like frosting on a cake. Penny has suffered the excruciating pain of box jellyfish and Portuguese man o war, so other jellyfish stings will be bearable if they are not too numerous.

Although Penny will be 50 years old when she attempts the North Channel, she has the speed of elite swimmers half her age. Speeding along at a strong arm stroke pace with very disciplined feeding stops, Penny has set records throughout her career. She has an average swimming speed and proven overall endurance that can will be interesting to see in the North Channel.

With a laser-like focus on swimming and time on her hands, this summer may see some fast swimming in two different extremes by Penny Palfrey.

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