Alumna Lauren Lesyana swims North Channel Trail

On July 1, Gunn alumni Lauren Lesyana swam the icy waters of Northern Ireland, following along the North Channel Swim. Spanning a total of 21.4 miles from Northern Ireland to the cliffs of Southen Scotland, the North Channel Swim is regarded as the most difficult open-water swim in the world.

Throughout the route, Lesyana faced many difficulties, notably the water temperature. “The North Channel, in particular, is challenging because it’s really, really cold water,” she said.

Lesyana also had to adjust her route because of changing tidal currents, adding even more miles to the swim. “You are hitting northern and southern tides, so your track is going to be in a curve shape, kind of like an S,” she said.

In addition to the tides, Lesyana also struggled to avoid jellyfish. “The worst part is the lion’s mane jellyfish,” she said. “They obviously sting, and it’s pretty painful. People have been sent to the hospital and weren’t able to finish the swim because they got stung so much.”

Lesyana is now one of a small number of people to have successfully completed the North Channel Swim.“It is pretty cool to say that you’re the 82nd person to ever do this random crazy thing,” she said. “I don’t swim for the notability of it, though. It’s really more of a personal accomplishment of ‘I am scared to do this thing, and I know it’s gonna be a lot of hard work.’ It’s that feeling of personal accomplishment. After completing it, [it’s] kind of surprising to realize [that you] can do these random crazy things.”

In addition to open-water swimming, Lesyana works as a biology teacher and waterpolo coach for Menlo-Atherton High School. In order to fulfill both her teaching and training obligations, Lesyana has had to carefully manage her time. “It’s really difficult, and I think a lot of it has to do with planning out your time and planning out your week,” she said. “On Sundays, I
am figuring out how I’m going to get my yardage in for my swims. I try to stick with a consistent schedule, but things pop up. Sometimes grading takes longer than it was supposed to.”

Though her training schedule can be grueling at times, the tranquil feeling of being in the water drives Lesyana to continue swimming. “I enjoy swimming because it can be really meditative,” she said. “It’s almost like sensory deprivation a little bit. You can’t hear a lot. All you can hear is the splashing of the water. It’s really just a time to be in your own head.”