Local swimmer goes the distance for big win - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local swimmer goes the distance for big win

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A local record-breaking swimmer is back in San Diego after accomplishing an incredible feat.

Grace Van Der Byl won the 31st annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the same challenge that nearly killed her last year.

Van Der Byl, a Solana Beach resident and world-class open water swimmer, has tirelessly pursued her passion from the age of two.

"You love it so much, that every day you get in is an opportunity and you just want to seize it and be a part of it," she said.

Opportunities this 36-year-old water phenom continues to seize. Earlier this month, Van Der Byl -- who already holds the record for crossing the Catalina Channel and a host of other nautical firsts -- won the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the championship of traditional swimming marathons. She swam 28.5 miles in a jaw-dropping seven hours and 14 minutes.

"It's pretty tough," she said.

Tough is an understatement.

"You go into three water systems. You start in the Battery in New York, then you go into the East River, then you go into the Harlem, then back down the Hudson to the Battery. So it's pretty epic," Van Der Byl said.

An epic undertaking that Van Der Byl had previously attempted.

"I almost died doing this one last year. They had to pull me out. my heart was in v-tac," she said.

Two hours into the competition in 2013, she says that hypothermia and shock set in.

"The water was sub-60 (degrees). I swam through dead bird, trash, you don't even know. It was disgusting," she said.

That time, she wasn't able to finish. It was a temporary setback that ultimately did not hold her back.

"At that stage I didn't know if I was done, but I didn't know what was next. So this was a nice comeback," she said.

A hard-fought and deeply deserved comeback that comes with religiously training six days a week, Often swimming 70 miles a week.

"You build up, it doesn't happen overnight," Van Der Byl said.

And it also doesn't happen without practice, perseverance and a burning passion. It's an example everyone can learn from.

"If anything, just not giving up on what you're passionate about, no matter what," Van Der Byl said.

Van Der Byl says she plans to paddle the Catalina Classic in a couple of months, and will also be doing a lake swim from the U.S. to Canada later this year.

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