Woman Swims Around Siesta Key To Raise Funds For Veterans Services

June 22, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

SARASOTA, FL — Swimmer and dog trainer Julie Madison set a record for a distance swim around Siesta Key June 4.

The owner of Top Tier K9 Bradenton said the goal of the 37.5-mile swim was to raise $250,000 in funds and awareness of SOF Missions’ goal to support veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder by providing them with specially trained dogs.

Madison has done marathon swims before, most recently swimming around Longboat Key in 2022. Since then, she’s focused more on personal issues, including launching her dog-training business.

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“It really took me away from swimming,” she told Patch. “I’ve only trained 70 times in the last two years. I had been training nearly every day for Longboat Key.”

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She only decided on the Siesta Key swim about four months ago. While she trained a bit in April and March, it was “not significant,” just two days a week.

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“It felt good. It was enjoyable to be able to get back in the water,” Madison said. “After a few days, it was like ok, I’m not too far out of shape that this’ll hurt; it’s still going to be doable.”

Working with volunteers, she had kayaking crews following her non-stop as she swam the circumference of Siesta Key, which took her about 18 hours and 12 minutes.

“Way longer than I thought,” she said.

While the first four hours went well, it changed by the time Madison rounded the southern tip of Siesta Key.

“My whole body was on fire,” she said. “My hips weren’t working; my shoulders weren’t moving very well; one of my elbows, every time I pulled it, was like holy mother.”

By the time she rounded the southern tip, she kept going.

“Just knowing that it was a straight shot helped,” Madison said.

Even then, it wasn’t easier, because of rougher waters.

“But once I got around the corner, I just had to finish it,” she said. “I just felt responsible to not let (SOF Missions) down. It was one of the hardest parts of the swim.”

She also lost her kayaking crew at this point. Her kayaker flipped their boat and she only had a support swimmer to accompany her from Turtle Beach to Point of Rocks.

“Oh, that was so sketchy,” she said.

It was also a stretch where there were “no exit points,” Madison said. “There’s a lot of places where you can’t get out at all; nowhere I could pull out. You’re actually swimming over a reef there.”

Eventually, she reconnected with her boating team for the final stretch. And when it was all over, she “crawled up on the boat by myself then collapsed into a ball and couldn’t move for 20 minutes,” she said.

Now, she’s already thinking about her next swimming endeavor.

“I have some ideas of island combinations around here,” Madison said. “I’m looking for something fun and exciting and new.”

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