Just keep swimming.
That’s what Mary Sue Newth of Holdrege did to complete the YMCA’s 100-mile swim challenge.
Nothing could stop her. Not a full-time work schedule. Not a busy family life that includes six kids. Not even a broken boiler in the Y pool that made the water feel more like an ice bath.
Mary Sue signed up for the YMCA’s 100-mile swim challenge last December, and she was determined to meet her goal of swimming those laps by May 31. She was the first swimmer to complete the challenge, and she even finished it one month ahead of time.
“If I sign up for something, I’m not one to quit,” Mary Sue said.
She and her husband, Jerry, had fallen out of their regular Y routine and needed something to bring them back. Mary Sue and her son signed up for a winter boot camp, and then she saw a flyer about the swim challenge.
“I thought, I wonder if I could do that because I’m not a very good swimmer,” Mary Sue said.
When she heard of a few other friends taking on the challenge, she took the plunge and signed up, too.
She calculated that she would need to swim 20 miles a month to meet the challenge by the May 31 deadline. She set a goal of swimming 35 laps (one lap is up and back) five days a week. When she first started, swimming those 35 laps required one hour and seven minutes of her day.
With six children between the ages of 3 and 19 who are actively involved in sports and school activities, and a full-time daycare in her home, 5:30 a.m. became her preferred swim time. She refused to hit the snooze button on her alarm and had her clothes and swimsuit set out and ready to go each morning.
By the end of March, Mary Sue had completed 2,697 laps, or 77 miles. And then, the boiler broke in the Y pool. The temperature slowly dropped from a cool 84 degrees to an icy 74 degrees. While many of the regular swimmers gave up the icy pool water, Mary Sue was determined to reach her goal.
She just kept swimming and started praying to help her through it.
“It might sound kind of crazy, but I just started saying prayers for people who were sick or for my kids or whatever so it passed the time,” she said. “I just started praying through the water.”
She floated through the water on those prayers for the last month, and on April 27, she swam her 100th lap. Her husband, Jerry, along with a YMCA lifeguard and Y members Laurie Hill and Sally Fox cheered her on that last day of swimming.
Three of her children, Christian, Cassidy and Carter, work as YMCA lifeguards and encouraged her at times through the challenge. She is grateful for her family’s support and the support of other Y members and lifeguards.
By the end of the challenge, Mary Sue shaved 17 minutes off her swim time and could complete her 35 laps in 51 minutes. She estimates that the challenge helped her lose about 9 pounds, her clothes are fitting better, and she feels stronger.
“It felt great every day to get my workout done for the day,” she said. It also lifted her mood and helped her relieve stress.
Jo Ellen Lundeen also completed the 100-mile swim challenge, swimming her 100th lap on May 17. The Y swim challenge deadline has been extended until June 30 due to the boiler issues, and several others swimmers are still hoping to meet the challenge.