By the time he had swum for 15 hours in California's Catalina Channel, Goody Tyler IV figured out that if he sang every verse of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," he had covered a half- to three-quarters of a mile of water.
Singing songs, focusing on good form and keeping watch of his spotter in a nearby kayak kept Tyler going during his attempt on June 26 to swim across the 20-mile channel.
"I was ready for it," Tyler said two days after the event, "it was just that the channel had another story."
Smashed by three- to four-foot swells, Tyler was stuck at mile 15 after swimming for 15 hours. Finally, he said, he had to be pulled from the water, after his crew accompanying him on a nearby boat decided the waters were too dangerous for him to continue.
"I would have swam myself into the hospital," the 35-year-old South Ogden man said, noting that it likely would have taken him a full 24 hours to swim the channel with conditions so rough.
Tyler hasn't been the only Utahn training for channel swims.
Gordon Gridley, a 40-year-old software developer from Syracuse, is training to swim the 20-mile English Channel in August.
Doing long-distance swims such as the Catalina or the English Channel is no easy feat. Training starts a year in advance. Both men swim five or six days a week to prepare, often starting at 4 or 5 a.m. to complete their swims before going to work. Gridley said swimming across the channels can take about the same amount of time it would take a marathon runner to run 100 miles.
Gridley said that while it's important that they train to go long distances, it's almost nearly as important to train the body to acclimate to the cold water. In the winter, Tyler and Gridley were swimming in the Great Salt Lake in 25 degree water just for 250 yards to try to get their bodies prepared for cold water.
"If you don't get cold-water acclimated, you won't make it a mile," Tyler said, adding that he hasn't taken a hot shower in months.
"I actually like them more," he said of cold showers.
Both men said there are often times when training seems overwhelming or too difficult.
"A big motivator for me is being held accountable to my family, friends, fellow swimmers and online peers in regards to my training," Gridley said. "If I don't swim for a day when I was supposed to, I feel guilty."
They both said their wives are also a huge support to them, encouraging their swim goals, tolerating their early-morning alarm clocks and caring for their children. Gridley and his wife have seven children, and Tyler and his wife have two.
Another motivator for the two: money. It's not cheap to do a channel swim. Tyler said the boat rental for his event alone was $3,000. Gridley said it will cost him about $20,000 for his trip to attempt the English Channel. Tyler said he always knew if he wasn't prepared for the race, all those expenses would have been a waste.
But doing a channel swim has been a dream for both the men for quite some time, so they continue setting their alarm clocks early, taking cold showers to prepare their bodies and logging miles in open waters like Pineview Reservoir and Bear Lake.
Gridley said he hasn't felt nervous yet for his channel attempt, and said if the conditions are right, he's confident he'll be able to master the English Channel.
"That's the beauty of [open-water swimming]," he said. "One day is rarely like the next."firstname.lastname@example.org