With English Channel crossing, Anchorage swimmer completes the grueling open-water triple crown

Just over a year ago, Anchorage’s Jordan Iverson set out to accomplish a feat that only a few hundred people in the world and just one other Alaskan have ever done: complete the open-water swimming triple crown challenge.

This summer, after swimming 20.5 miles across the English Channel — her last swim in the three-part challenge — she earned her place in Alaska swim history.

“It feels really great to have achieved this feat after all the hard work invested, not only physically but mentally and financially as well,” Iverson said. “I felt confident that I had done the work to be successful, but open water can be a different beast at any moment and conditions can often dictate if a swim is successful or not.”

She crossed the body of water between England and France in roughly 10 hours and 30 minutes on June 18. The open-water triple crown also consists of the 28.5-mile 20 Bridges Manhattan swim and the 20.7-mile Catalina Channel, which she swam last June and September, respectively.

With all three of her solo swims complete, she became the first woman from Alaska to complete the grueling challenge, which only 333 people before her have succeeded in finishing, according to records kept by the Marathon Swimmers Federation.

The only other open water swimmer from Alaska to complete the triple crown was William Schulz of Ketchikan, according to federation records. Records indicate that he became the first Alaskan to achieve the feat in 2018, with his swims spread out over several years: He solo swam the Catalina Channel in 2003 and English Channel in 2017, and the 20 Bridges in 2018 as part of a race.

“It feels great to have completed this feat, but I think the magnitude of it hasn’t sunken in yet,” Iverson said. “The open water community is pretty small, and I have been fortunate to meet so many people that have inspired me and have accomplished some truly remarkable swims.”


She remained in England following the swim and has enjoyed the enthusiasm and praise she’s received from locals for her accomplishment.

“They understand the distance between the two countries since it played such an important part of their history during the war,” Iverson said. “The local response here in England has been amazing from people we have interacted with and who want to know what brought us to England. To see the level of awe and respect for this feat as compared to those who have no concept of the channel and don’t see it on a daily basis has been really fun.”

Preparing for the final swim

Heading into her final triple crown swim, Iverson said her mindset was “pretty confident” because she felt like she had done the work and training to set herself up for success.

One of her concerns was preparing for how cold the water is in the English Channel. Since Alaska’s waters were either frozen or too cold to train in during the months leading up to her swim, she’d done about 95% of her training in pools. (The Channel Swimming Association recommends athletes be used to swimming comfortably in water temperatures of 59 degrees Fahrenheit or below.)

So, she tried to acclimate by spending 45 to 60 minutes at a time in a cold plunge tub she set up in her garage.

“When I got to Dover about two weeks before my swim and never felt cold when I was training in the harbor, that just strengthened my confidence that I was prepared for this swim,” Iverson said.

As far as the swim itself, she said it was the least taxing of the three in the challenge, and the first two had prepared her to complete the third.

To Iverson, the most challenging of the trio was the Catalina Channel, which she swam last fall.

“I felt like I was swimming really well and making good progress but had a difficult time mentally when I hit a current off the coast of California,” Iverson said. “I couldn’t tell that my speed had dropped to one-third of what it had been, but could tell by discussions I was seeing on the boat that something wasn’t going well for me. I was told to sprint, and ended up having to put in about a 90-minute push to break through the current. That was my longest swim by over five hours at that point, and mentally I wanted to be done.”

The hardest part of the English Channel swim for her was walking up the pebbled beaches at the start and end of the swim. She said she was “thrilled to escape being stung by jellyfish,” and there were times she could tell that she was ahead of her target time.

“From the moment I jumped off the boat and swam to the shore, I felt like I was going to have a great swim and that held true,” Iverson said. “Everything about the swim seemed to go perfectly, and I was fortunate to never have a moment of self-doubt or panic.”

The most enjoyable moment was getting back to the boat after she completed the swim and celebrating with her family.

“They have supported me and crewed all of my triple crown swims, so being able to have that moment with them was special,” Iverson said.

Determination, support and next plans

Iverson believes her personal drive is one of her strengths.

“When I set a goal, I don’t waver from it,” she said. “I think it helped that I was going to do all three of these swims in just over a year because then I also knew that the sacrifices and time I was investing into training were also going to just be over about a period of a year.”

Iverson said she’s grateful to have also had an “incredible” support system during this challenge.

“I have been overwhelmed with how much support I have gotten,” she said. “My parents and sister have traveled to these swims with me to be my crew on the boats, taking responsibility for feedings during the swims as well as my safety. My coach, Grant Gamblin, has helped me train for these swims, debriefing after each swim what I thought went well and what I thought could have been better, and then modifying the training to support the changes needed.”


Iverson also received a tremendous amount of support from people throughout the Alaska swimming community, former teammates from her time swimming at Service High School and Northern Michigan University as well as from her co-workers at Providence Alaska Medical Center, where she is an oncology nurse.

With the triple crown secured, Iverson doesn’t plan to swim more channel crossings anytime soon.

Instead, her goal is to take a step back from training to enjoy some of her favorite Alaska outdoor activities, such as hiking and fishing — though she’s also heading to Sitka later this month to participate in Change Your Latitude, the annual open-water swim race that set her on this path.

From there, she plans to travel to San Francisco in early September with about 10 others from the group she trains with to swim Alcatraz and Golden Gate.

Her biggest takeaway and piece of advice to pass along from her experience is to never give up.

“When things get difficult, is there a way to reframe it or hold on for just a bit longer before the situation changes?” Iverson said. “In marathon swimming, a common phrase is to just swim to the next feed. Feeds commonly occur every 30-45 minutes, and so it’s breaking up something difficult into smaller portions and reframing it. Instead of thinking of this massive challenge in front of you, can it be broken up into smaller, achievable segments?”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.