La Jolla woman swimming towards Triple Crown title

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SAN DIEGO — La Jolla resident Susanne Blair began long-distance swimming roughly five years ago and is now on the cusp of accomplishing what very few have.

At 59 years old, she will soon add her to name to an elite class of swimmers.

“I just enjoy the beauty of being in the ocean,” Blair said.

One stroke at a time, Blair powers herself several miles across the ocean.

“After I swam Catalina Channel, which is 20, 21 miles, I thought you know what, I think it’s the same distance as English (Channel) and I thought I’m going to give it a shot,” said Blair. “So then when I did England, I thought why not, I should try and do the Triple Crown.”

Blair plans to swim Manhattan Island in New York in early August, marking the final marathon swim she needs to complete the Triple Crown of open water swimming.

“It’s going to be a beautiful swim, it’s called the 20 bridges,” said Blair. “I will be swimming underneath 20 bridges. I think the scenery is going to be amazing. Just the whole opportunity, I feel very very blessed.”

“It takes about eight hours to get around and between all the bridges and passing through the different rivers, you’re able to see all the street signs and that was really interesting to me,” said Triple Crown swimmer Cindy Tobin-Walsh. “After swimming the English Channel, you really don’t see anything out there but some large container ships and cruise ships but in Manhattan, it’s busy. There’s an excitement to it.”

Tobin-Walsh accomplished the Triple Crown in 2012 and has become Blair’s swimming partner. The two spend most days training at La Jolla Cove, swimming up to six hours in the water.

“Susanne is already a very accomplished swimmer so I think more of what our swimming is about is having a good friend to be out there and experience the same time in the water and to kind of cheer each other on,” said Tobin-Walsh.

The swim around Manhattan Island is 28.5 miles — roughly the equivalent of swimming from La Jolla cove up to Oceanside pier. But unlike the other two swims of the Triple Crown, Blair has one key advantage heading into Manhattan.

“For a significant part of it, we’ll be current assisted,” said Blair. “So I will basically be, as Cindy had told me — there’s times when she swam it, she was swimming and actually moving faster than the joggers that she could see on land.”

According to Long Swims Database, only 211 people have accomplished the Triple Crown of open water swimming. Once Blair adds her name to that elite list, she plans to swim even further east.

“My next couple swims I will probably do with my husband and we’re thinking about swimming the Straight of Gibraltar which is from Spain to Morocco,” said Blair.

Another open water swim she will no doubt master.

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