Columbus athlete to take on the English Channel

Columbus swimmer Eric Bradley has waited four years for this moment.

The 50-year-old swimmer labeled the English Channel as the “Mount Everest of Swimming,” and now, it’s his turn to swim to the top.

Signing up to swim the English Channel takes years of commitment. Swimmers are forced to sign up four years in advance because there are only two sanctioning bodies with which to register for it to count as an official swim. That makes for a limited number of spots per season, from mid-July to the end of September, each year.

Bradley, who will swim the 20-mile crossing solo Aug. 15, got a taste of what it will be like when a last minute relay spot opened up for him last year. He swam 3 1/2 hours of the four-person team’s 13 1/2 hours in total to finish. He is planning on beating his relay time and the average solo swim time of 14 hours.

“I feel like I’m a little better than average,” Bradley said. “So I would like to beat that … my really solid goal is to beat 12 hours and 40 minutes. That’s the magic number. That’s the time from high tide to high tide.”

Bradley’s best chance of not getting caught in the counter current is if he finishes under that 12:40 mark he set for himself. Pacing any slower than that would most likely cause him to tack on an extra couple of hours to his projected finishing time.

Bradley ran into that problem in last year’s swim when the team didn’t make headway for a little over two hours. They were stuck swimming side to side because the tides kept them away from advancing to shore. Bradley will prepare himself for those types of scenarios, but the real preparation started well before he even jumps into the water.

For three of the past four years, Bradley’s main concern was just making sure he maintained his swimming habits and improving his technique. It wasn’t until recently when he altered his diet around making sure his body was good enough at burning fat.

Bradley has been eating low amounts of carbs and high amounts of fat for the past three months. He wants to make sure he is not losing too much weight while swimming more than two miles a day and lifting every morning during his training.

“You need some fat for warmth,” Bradley said. “The diet is really around making sure all of my energy systems know how to burn fat pretty well. After the first hour (in the English Channel), the rest will be fat burning.”

Bradley will be taking in 200 calories every hour, which he said is not nearly as many as he’ll be burning. He also is following the English Channel swimmers tradition by creating a fundraiser for a charity or organization of his choice. Bradley decided to swim for Foundation for Youth.

“I’ve swam there for many many years and seen a lot of kids come through the program and think it’s a great deal,” Bradley said.

Donors can donate to the cause through the link on the FFY website. Questions already have surfaced for Bradley about if he will register to swim the channel again after this year. Another solo swim looks to be out of the question, but he is not opposed to swimming on another relay team.

Bradley’s wife and kids have toyed with the idea of putting together a family team in the future. For now, Bradley is focused on the task at hand. After four years of waiting and training, he is finally ready to go head to head in a one-on-one battle with the English Channel.

Eric Bradley

Name: Eric Bradley

Age: 50

High School: Tell City

College: Purdue

Residence: Columbus

English Channel swim fundraiser: Foundation for Youth. To donate, visit http://www.foundationforyouth.com/donate

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.