Right now, 35-year-old Ben Beard of Las Cruces, NM, is busy managing his home construction and sales company, while also juggling intense prep for the challenge of a lifetime. Beard is raising money in order to help young people reach their educational and business potential, and will bravely swim the English Channel in aid of The Grant Cardone Foundation. Impressed, and eager to find out how the business man, and father of four, is getting ready for such an epic challenge, M&F took a ‘deep dive’ into his motivations and training ahead of this ultimate test of strength and endurance.
Swimming the English Channel is no mean feat. The narrow 21 mile (32 kilometer) stretch of water, between the southern coast of England and the northern edge of France endures changeable weather and as such, completion times vary wildly due to the individual athlete’s own ability and the unpredictable environment that they must battle through. The average swim time, however, is 13 hours, 33 minutes, and 54 seconds while a record of 6 hours and 55 minutes has been held by Australia’s Trent Grimsey since 2012.
So then, the first question is simple: What attracts a professional man like Beard to throw himself into the deep end like this? “I first read Grant Cardone’s books; ‘The 10X Rule’ and ‘Be Obsessed or Be Average’ in 2017,” he says. “At that time, I was preparing to start my business; Red Cliff Homes. I had approached some land sellers with a small idea to get my business started. Then, after their lukewarm reception, I realized that maybe I needed to go bigger to make the deal more attractive to them, so I literally followed the teachings I had read, and multiplied by pitch by 10. This led to me getting started on my own in the home building business, and allowed me to scale up quickly, closing 27 homes my first year in business.”
Having gained so much insight from the Grant Cardone Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to provide career guidance and educational resources, particularly to the young and vulnerable, Beard felt the need to pay it forward, and set himself a target of raising $50,000 for the cause. Here’s how he’s gone from land developer to long distance swimmer.
Rekindling Old Passions
Ben Beard chose to swim the English Channel, in part, as a way to rekindle an old passion. Well, they do say that you should follow your inner compass! He began swimming in high school where, initially, he wasn’t a fan of distance swimming but having stuck with it, also keeping a toe in during college, Beard realized that getting into the water was not just a great way to stay in physical shape, as he felt a range of mental benefits too. “I enjoy the chance to shut out the world and just swim,” he says. “It’s kind of like meditation for me, with the chance to clear my head while working my body to the point of exhaustion. Cold water adds to the head-clearing aspect of swimming and also tends to make me hyper aware of my body, so that I can focus on which muscles are sore and any slight internal temperature changes that my body is going through during long swims.”
Through his recent training, Beard says that he’s learned that swimming the channel isn’t purely a physical challenge, noting that it is also “about mental toughness to withstand the cold, the monotony, and loneliness.”
Putting in the Hours
The entrepreneur won’t be rocking up to the English Channel unprepared and has been training for 3-years to make this swim despite the demands of a hectic day job. Long distance swimming requires great stamina and cardio vascular conditioning. “I keep a running total of hours swam each month in my planner, to make sure that I’m staying on track with my training goals,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of travel for work over the last few months, so I’ve had to be diligent about looking ahead of time for places to swim while on work trips. Many gyms offer a short trial period, and this has been very helpful, and local city recreation facilities are also great places to train most of the time. I also bring running clothes with me to get in a run if I won’t be able to swim. Last week, I got caught in bad weather while flying and ended up having an unexpected 7-hour layover. The late arrival that night meant that I would not be able to swim before my work meetings, so I changed clothes in the airport bathroom, found a private spot to stash my bags, and went on a 2-mile run in the airport!”
Making the Weight
“I learned after signing-up that marathon swimming is not a 6-pack and ripped muscles kind of sport,” says Beard. “Most successful channel swimmers are fairly heavy, and those that aren’t will often need to put on weight in order to withstand the cold-water temperatures; expected to be approximately 60 F at the time of my swim. So, I’ve been intentionally gaining weight over the last year.”
Since Beard is swimming a lot in his training, he’s burning a ton of calories, so gaining weight is a challenge. He’s countered this with “calorie recovery” meals after long swims. He will also need to figure out what he’ll eat during his English Channel swim, in order to maintain energy levels. While undertaking the challenge, Beard will have a boat pilot and team that will get feeds to him. These feeds can differ depending on individuals tastes, and some swimmers opt for liquid supplements, but the main thing is that the food should be easy to grab and consume. “Over the last few months, I’ve been experimenting with different food for my ‘feeds’ during the swim,” he says. “I’ve settled on re-fried black beans, with lots of extra butter, as well as calorie dense mashed potatoes, both of which will be sucked out of pouches like those designed for feeding a baby. Potatoes are very high in potassium, and with the mix of beans and potatoes I’ll have a combination of proteins and slower burning, longer-lasting carbs. I’ll also add in a small candy bar for those short, quick bursts of sugar when I really need it. During training, I drink a mix of plain water and electrolyte drinks but during the channel swim, electrolytes aren’t as important due to being surrounded by salt water. So, I’ll drink hot chocolate for both the added heat, as well as the extra sugar content.”
Seeking Expert Advice
Beard is attacking this English Channel swim in the same way that he plans a housing development, by using expert advice and knowledge to gain the best possible result. He’s continually challenging the distance that he can swim in the harsh elements and has also sought insight from those that have gone before him. “When I set the goal in 2019, my wife got 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, I completed a swim across Bear Lake in northern Utah as part of my training. My guide on that swim was a former English Channel swimmer, Joelle Brown-Beard (no relation) whom I connected with on Facebook. From Joelle I got some great advice around upping my training. When I swam with Joelle, I expected that the lake crossing would be 6 miles and take around three hours. But it actually took 6 hours to swim 6.9 miles. The water was 54ºF, so that was a part of my slower than expected time but it also gave me a wake-up call that you need to seriously train for these types of swims.”
Since then, Beard has ramped up to where he’s now regularly swimming 10-12 hours per week. one to 1.5 hours on a weekday, and five to six-plus hours on Saturdays. With 3 years of training under his belt, Beard now considers himself to be an advanced swimmer but always remember: It is important to seek professional advice and supervision when undertaking long distance swims.
His English Channel swim is scheduled for June 8-15, dependant on weather and tidal conditions, and The Channel Swimming Association will also be on hand, to observe the swim and make sure that it is ratified.
“My main objective 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, but to complete a life goal. It doesn’t have to look pretty, I just have to get it done. I’ll be thrilled no matter what my time is!”
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