Right now, 35-year-old Ben Beard of Las Cruces, NM is busy running his home building and sales business while intensely preparing for the challenge of his life. Beard raises money to help young people fulfill their educational and business potential and will bravely swim across the English Channel to help the Grant Cardone Foundation. Impressed and excited to see the businessman and father of four prepare for such an epic challenge, M&F delved deep into his motivation and training ahead of this ultimate test of strength and endurance.
Swim across the English Channel is no easy task. The narrow 20-mile stretch of water between the south coast of England and the northern edge of France endures changeable weather and as such completion times will vary widely due to each athlete's own skill and the unpredictable environment they must contend with. However, the average swim time is 13 hours, 33 minutes and 54 seconds, while Australian Trent Grimsey has held a record of 6 hours and 55 minutes since 2012.
So the first question is simple: what makes a pro like Beard jump in at the deep end like this? “I read Grant Cardone's books first; "The 10X Rule" and "Be Obsessed or Be Average" in 2017," he says. “At the time, I was preparing to start my business; Red Cliff Houses. I had approached some real estate sellers with a small idea to get my business off the ground. Then, after their lukewarm reception, I realized that maybe I needed to go taller to make the deal more appealing to them, so I literally followed the teachings I had read and multiplied the pitch by 10. This resulted in, that I started my own home building business and allowed me to grow quickly, closing 27 homes in my first year in the business.”
After gaining so many insights from the Grant Cardone Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to provide career advice and educational resources, particularly to young and vulnerable people, Beard felt compelled to share them and set a goal to raise US$50,000. raising dollars for the cause. This is how he went from being a land developer to a long-distance swimmer.
Rekindle old passions
Ben Beard partially chose to swim the English Channel to reignite an old passion. Well they say that you should follow your inner compass! He started swimming in high school, where initially he wasn't a fan of distance swimming, but after sticking with it and also getting a toe in through college, Beard realized that it wasn't just a great way to get in the water going to stay in physical shape as he also felt a number of mental benefits. "I enjoy being able to shut out the world and just swim," he says. "It's like meditation for me, with the ability to clear my mind while I work my body to the point of exhaustion. Cold water contributes to the headless aspect of swimming and also tends to make me overly aware of my body, allowing me to focus on what muscles are sore and slight internal temperature changes my body is going through during long swims.”
Through his recent training, Beard has learned that swimming the channel isn't just a physical challenge, noting that it's also "about mental toughness to withstand the cold, the monotony, and the loneliness."
The entrepreneur won't swing to the English Channel unprepared and has been training for the past 3 years to make that swim despite the demands of a hectic day job. Long-distance swimming requires great endurance and cardiovascular fitness. "I keep a running total of my swim hours in my planner each month to make sure I'm staying on track with my training goals," he says. “I've been traveling a lot for work over the past few months, so when I go on a business trip I've had to look out for bathing opportunities in advance. Many gyms offer a short trial period, which has been very helpful, and the city's local leisure facilities are also great places to work out most of the time. I also bring running clothes to run if I can't swim. Last week I ran into bad weather while flying and ended up with an unexpected 7 hour layover. Arriving late that evening meant I couldn't swim before my work meetings, so I changed in the airport restroom, found a private place to put my bags and went for a 2 mile run at the airport!”
make the weight
"After signing up, I learned that marathon swimming isn't a six-pack and muscle-pulling sport," says Beard. “Most successful channel swimmers are quite heavy, and those who aren't often have to gain weight to withstand the cold water temperatures. expected to be around 60 F at the time of my swim. So over the past year I've been gaining weight on purpose.”
Because Beard swims a lot in his workouts, he burns a lot of calories, so gaining weight is a challenge. He counters this with "calorie-conserving" meals after a long swim. He also needs to figure out what he's going to eat during his English Channel swim to keep energy levels up. While taking on the challenge, Beard will have a boat pilot and crew to keep him fed. These feeds may vary based on individual tastes and some swimmers will opt for liquid supplements, but the main thing is that the feed is easy to grab and consume. "For the past few months, I've been experimenting with different foods for my 'feed' while swimming," he says. "I opted for deep-fried black beans with lots of butter and high-calorie mashed potatoes, both of which are sucked out of bags designed for feeding a baby. Potatoes are very high in potassium, and with the mix of beans and potatoes, I have a combination of protein and slower-burning, longer-lasting carbs. I'll also add a little candy bar for those short, quick bursts of sugar when I really need it. I drink a mix of plain water and electrolyte drinks during training, but electrolytes aren't as important during channel swimming as I'm surrounded by salt water. So I drink hot chocolate for both the added warmth and the added sugar content.”
Seek expert advice
Beard attacks this Channel swim the same way he plans a housing development, using expert advice and knowledge to achieve the best possible outcome. He constantly challenges the distance he can swim in the harsh elements and has also sought insight from those who have gone before him. "When I set my goal in 2019, my wife bought me a book written by a successful English Channel swimmer, 'Keep Calm and Swim to France: Tales of an English Channel Swimmer' by Mark Ransom," he says. “Then in June 2022, as part of my training, I completed a swim across Bear Lake in northern Utah. My guide in this swim was a former Channel swimmer, Joelle Brown-Beard (no relation), who I connected with on Facebook. I received some great advice from Joelle to improve my training. When I swam with Joelle, I expected the lake crossing to be 6 miles and take about three hours. But it actually took 6 hours to swim 6.9 miles. The water was 54ºF, which was part of my slower than expected time, but it also gave me a wake-up call that you need serious training for this type of swim.”
Since then, Beard has gotten so ramped up that he now regularly swims 10-12 hours a week. One to 1.5 hours on weekdays, five to more than six hours on Saturdays. With 3 years of training under his belt, Beard now sees himself as an advanced swimmer, but always remember: It's important to seek professional advice and supervision when undertaking any long distance swim.
His English Channel swim is scheduled for June 8-15, subject to weather and tide conditions, and the Channel Swimming Association will also be on hand to monitor the swim and ensure it is ratified.
"My main goal is to successfully complete the swim, no matter how long it takes," says Beard. "I'm not doing this to set a record or become a professional marathon swimmer, I'm doing this to achieve a life goal. It doesn't have to look pretty, I just have to be able to do it. I will be amazed no matter how much time I have!”
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