Mariel Hawley, the first Mexican woman to achieve the so-called “triple crown” of open water swimming, told Efe Wednesday that her discipline is more demanding than long-distance triathlons because it forces athletes to push themselves to the absolute limit.
“Neither a marathon nor Ironman Triathlon can compare,” the 43-year-old Hawley, the first Mexican woman and 61st person overall to complete the triple crown, said.
“The Ironman is a walk in the park compared to open water. You can eat on your bike or on the road; you can ease off during the race, but the ocean pushes you beyond your limits, physically and mentally,” Hawley told Efe.
A lifelong swimmer, Hawley took part in her first open water event - the Maraton Guadalupano, a four-kilometer (2.5-mile) race in Acapulco’s Santa Lucia Bay - in 2001 after the birth of her daughter, Andrea.
In 2008, Hawley completed a double crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar and then on June 6, 2009, she notched the first leg of the triple crown by circumnavigating Manhattan Island - a 46-kilometer (28.5-mile) route - in eight hours and eight minutes.
Two years later, on Aug. 12, 2011, 10 years of preparation paid off when she swam the English Channel - considered the pinnacle of open water swimming due to its difficulty - in 14 hours and 33 minutes.
Although Dover and Calais are 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) apart, Hawley ended up swimming closer to 57 kilometers (35 miles) due to a strong current.
Earlier this year, she completed the triple crown by covering the 34-kilometer (21-mile) distance from Santa Catalina Island to the California coast in 11 hours and 27 minutes.
In August 2013, Hawley plans to compete in the Ederle Swim from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
That event pays tribute to late American competition swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Gertrude Ederle, who in 1926 became the first woman to swim across the English Channel.