JEFFERSON - It’s hard to believe that someone who became the 102 person to complete the world Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming once had a fear of the water and couldn’t pass swimming lessons, but it’s true.
“I actually failed swim lessons a few times when I was young,” Bridgette Hobart Janeczko of Lake Hopatcong said. “I was afraid of the water.”
On September 18, Janeczko successfully swam the 21 miles across the English Channel from England to France in 13 hours and 28 minutes, her last requirement for completing the world Triple Crown of open water swimming. Previously, Janeczko swam 28.5 miles around Manhattan Island and 20.2 miles across the Catalina Channel in southern California, the other two swims needed for membership. Her swim across the English Channel, however, brought a 35-year dream to its fruition.
“In 1979, I did my first open water swim after Cornell (University) Swim Camp,” Janeczko explained. “I was invited to the Cornell Team’s picnic after spending the summer there with their coach at a camp. I just loved that one mile swim across the width of Cayuga Lake. A few months later, when being interviewed for the “High School Athlete of the Week” in the Binghamton Press, I stated I wanted to swim the English Channel one day.”
Considering all of the hours of training and preparation, some may think that Janeczko is a woman obsessed. However, it is the time spent in the water that has made her life well-rounded. As the owner and president of Paradigm Technology Consulting, LLC since 1999, Janeczko’s focus was entirely on her business, working extremely long hours and leaving time for little else. Although Janeczko loved being a part of a team and the feeling of fitness and community that fostered, she left swimming behind for a long time after competing for both Binghamton North High School and Nazareth College. After years of focusing solely on work and opening her business, it was a conversation with her grandmother that helped Janeczko to gain a different perspective on her life.
“At 45, I promised my Gram that I would return to swimming to find balance,” she said. “I was working often 80-plus hour weeks, and my life balance was out of whack a bit. When she passed in August 2007, I wanted to keep that promise and joined the Sussex County YMCA and began swimming a few days a week.”
After meeting a friend named Erika Maresca at the Lake Mohawk Pool who convinced her to participate in a point-to-point mile swim at the Jersey shore, Janeczko signed up for a 10k “Round the Sound” swim in Bermuda. This proved to be overwhelming, but it was the point at which she decided that open water distance swimming was something she wanted to pursue.
“I was so lost out there,” Janeczko said. “But even so, I remember feeling so relaxed and thought it was awesome. I was hooked from there, and put a plan in place to work my way up to bigger events.”
In order to complete the world Triple Crown, Janeczko started with Manhattan Island because “it was my home turf.” Knowing that she wanted to end the Crown with swimming the English Channel, she swam Catalina on her 50th birthday and said “it was magical.” Her training began with increasing her distance so as to build her confidence. As she added long swims to her regimen, Janeczko then included cold water acclimation training, spinning, weight training and Pilates and put on weight for added warmth.
Of all the three swims for the world Triple Crown, Janeczko did find the English Channel to be the most challenging. Despite remaining pain-free throughout the entire swim and having her swimming buddy Lisa DeLaurentis and husband Bob at her side, the water leading to the French countryside was filled with the unknown.
“Water flows. It is never the same, and so many elements add to that; weather, currents, marine life,” Janeczko stated. “So, based on my actual swims, for me England was the most grueling. It was the longest and coldest and toughest mentally.”
Even though she has achieved her 35-year-old dream, Janeczko sees more time in the water on the horizon.
“What started out as a promise to my Gram to get balance in my life, then to resurrect a childhood dream of crossing the Channel really became so much more and a way of life,” Janeczko said. “I can’t imagine stopping just because I touched France. I want to focus and stay positive on the next adventure.”