Feb 21, 2017

Swimming the Distance: How Do We Get from Here to There?

Swimming the Distance: How Do We Get from Here to There?

2014 Don Macdonald's watchful safety eye looking over Doug McConnell swimming around Manhattan Island

Last summer, 11 intrepid individuals jumped into the Cal-Sag Channel as part of the Cal-Sag Plunge. This monumental occasion signified that the more than 100-year history of the river as a sewage canal is over and recreation in, on, and along the water is here to stay. 
But is the river really safe enough for swimming? Who says so?  And how do they know?
Please join Friends of the Chicago River, along with other water quality experts, policy advocates, and urban swimming champions as we explore these questions and discuss how to make swimming in the Chicago River system a reality.
Speakers include David Barra, New York Open Water; Jessica Dexter, Environmental Law & Policy Center; Willie Levenson, Human Access Project; and David St, Pierre, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. A panel discussion will follow.
Click here for the summit agenda

Chicago River Summitt

Jan 4, 2017

Conquering Hawaii's Biggest Waves

Don Macdonald kayaking down the face of a huge rolling wave crashing down on Doug McConnell

It's a few months since escorting Doug McConnell (A Long Swim) across the Molokai Channel, better known as the Ka’iwi Channel (or Channel of Bones) separating the islands of Molokai and Oahu.

Stretching 26 miles (42 kilometers) and plunging to a depth of 2,300 feet (701 meters), the Ka’iwi Channel has the reputation as one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water.

Leaving at midnight in pitch black inky warm, with not even a house light from shore, we shoved off from shore Doug's red and green safety lights blinking away as the only visual contact between us, stars shining so bright I felt like Christopher Columbus knowing ahead there was an island yet to reveal itself after 18 hours of sun drenched paddling.

I knew that each human powered race across the Channel of Bones is regarded worldwide as the crowning achievement of the sport and it doesn’t give up easily.

Some 16 hours later, after calm seas and great swimming, mother nature unleashed strong winds following behind a tropical depression driving the seas to 12 foot.The escort boat with a fly bridge would dip down in the trough ahead of us and disappear completely.

As evening fell, it became apparent mother nature had won this day. I leaned over to Doug and said ‘you have to let it go’, your sister and dad will understand and prefer you come home safe. I find in these swims when every ounce of energy is depleted and you are mentally destroyed, you must help swimmers (who are in a depressed state) to make these decisions with little coaching comments and suggestions to allow them to come to the right (and safest) decision. We abandoned the swim within a 1/2 mile of shore but facing jagged black rock walls, 10-foot surf to come ashore and darkness once again.

Before we left, I reflected on some recent history which left an impression and one that would live up to its reputation. The tragic loss of Hawaiian big-wave rider and waterman Eddie Aikau in the Ka’iwi Channel during the 1978 Polynesian voyage of the Hokule’a sailing canoe added to the mystique and revered power of the channel. After gale force winds and 30-foot swells disabled the Hokule’a, Aikau left the ship on his rescue paddle board to seek help for his stranded crew mates. His body and board were never found. Paddling has been a part of Hawaiian heritage since early Polynesians navigated thousands of miles of open ocean guided by nothing more than currents, wind and stars. Double-hulled sailing canoes were used to cover longer distances and single-hull outrigger canoes covered shorter, inter-island distances.

I am sure we will be back and if mother nature allows, we will be standing on the Oahu shore.

Jul 18, 2016

Hawaii Channel of Bones Swim - Doug McConnell & ALS

For those of you interested in watching live feed tracking the ALS team as we move across the Molokai Channel

July 25th - 30th is the swim window

Total time 16-18 hours

We will have the team on the escort safety boat (always very good practice), two kayakers with anti-shark devices and a whole bunch of sunscreen, food, and motivation.

Enjoy the swim

Consider donating at: http://www.alongswim.com/molokaichannel/

Link: http://track.rs/alongswim/

Jul 7, 2016

Affects of Fueling from Sugar or Carbs and Affects on your body

A Long Swim & One Stroke at a Time Teams
"Channel of Bones" Hawaii Charity Swim
July 25-31, 2016

First lets talk about health fueling when you swim - 

Two great video shorts on the affects of fueling your body using sugar based diet or carb based diet in easy and simple to understand terms.

The affects of these fuels, the timing, and amounts can act as a arterial inflammation agent. Review and consider the fuels used for open water and marathon level athletic events. Consider using natural foods as an alternative such as juices, fruits, peanut butter rather than dextrose based gels and Gu pacs.

Keep up the great adventures and remember One Stroke at a Time.

Catch our next adventure kayaking for friend and training partner Doug McConnell and the A Long Swim (ALS) team as we attempt to cross the Channel of Bones from Molokai to Oahu over some 18 hours of truly open ocean swimming. 

Eat Well, Live Well

Apr 12, 2016

The next big Adventure - Kaiwi Channel for Friend Doug McConnell and Team ALS

2016 is looking like an exciting year with swimmers from the US, Australia, Russia, Mexico, India among the swimmers to challenge Kaiwi this year.

To date Kaiwi has been conquered solo 37 times and 5  relay teams have successfully crossed the Ka'iwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu. If you are up to the challenge just send an email with your swim experience and an approximate date for your swim. We'll guide you from there.

1)   What is the distance across the Kaiwi Channel?
The shortest distance is 26 miles. From where most swims start to where we try to finish is 28.5 statute miles. When starting this adventure have a conversation with crew and boat pilot about how you want distances measured - nautical mph, kph or  statute mph. 

2) Where do we stay?
In Waikiki or near there. Lots of options depending on your budget but the cheapest prices are about $100 per night. Check travel websites. A few recently have used Air B&B. One night max on Molokai and this can wait till you get here. Options for the swim are to either spend one day/night on Molokai or fly over and go right to swim start. That can be decided in advance or when you get here.

3) Can we go over to Molokai on the boat instead of flying?
You can but it is not recommended.  Its really an awful boat ride. Most swimmers who tried regret it. Its exhausting and if you at all prone to seasickness, it really can adversely affect your swim.

4) Do we need Kayakers? 
Yes, they are mandatory.The Kaiwi channel is usually so rough that the boat isn't really that close. And even when it is, it isn't going in a straight line. Here you steer off the kayak. The kayakers can steer very straight and get feedback from the boat when a course correction is necessary. For both safety and steering we use two so someone on a kayak is always at your side. (This is where I come in).

Like other big swims, dehydration, guidance, moral support, sharks, food, and of course some man-to-man humor will be involved, groveling on Doug's part is usually included.

Our Host, jeff kozlovich giving some tried and true advice for the big swim and sage advice to those intrepid swimmers trying the big one.

Apr 8, 2016

The Biggest, Badass Swims in the World - The Oceans Seven

The Oceans Seven

Open Water Marathon swimmers take on risks, face death, and climb mountains before the sun rises, in the deepest dark of night, and face conditions that make the best roll-over and go back to sleep.

Self motivated, driven and battle tested, open water swimmers get the job done.

We swim with the sharks every day.

Oct 12, 2015

Early Marathon Swimming in USA

Early Marathon Swimming in the United States

Friendships cast in the belly of competition, team sport outlive today's trials and tribulations of fast paced life and distance for Steve Conder and Don Macdonald. 

In the summer of 1980 then standout high school swimmers, along with a third (Craig Kercher) and coach (John Gibson) who had all swum for Bryan Rathke's UN-defeated Goshen Redskin swim squad embarked on what would be their biggest swim challenge yet, joining the early namesakes of US open water swims like John Kinsella, Lynn Cox, and others albeit not at that level but certainly well ahead of a sport that today is exploding.

Macdonald, Conder and Coach Gibson welcoming
the beach after a successful swim.

Marathon swimming

A class of open water swimming defined by long distances (at least 10 kilometers) and traditional rules based in English Channel swimming. Unlike marathon foot-races which have a specifically defined distance, marathon swims vary in distance. However, one commonly used minimum definition is 10 kilometers, the distance of the marathon swimming event at the Olympic Games.[1]
As in all open water swimming, tides, surface currents and wind-chop are major determinants of finish-times. For a given course, these factors can vary dramatically from day to day, making any attempt to draw conclusions about athletic ability by comparing finish times from performances undertaken on different days meaningless.
One of the earliest marathon swims was accomplished in 1875 by Captain Matthew Webb, when he became the first person to swim across the English Channel. Similarly, perhaps the most famous marathon swim of all-time was accomplished in 1926 by Gertrude Ederle, when she became, at 19 years of age, the first woman to swim across the English Channel. In doing so, she demolished the existing world record for the crossing, by employing the crawl stroke technique.
The Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming includes three of the most well-known marathon swims: (1) 21 mi (34 kilometres) across the English Channel, (2) 20.1 mi (32.3 kilometres) between Catalina Island and the mainland in Southern California, USA, and (3) 28.5 mi (45.9 kilometres) around Manhattan Island in New York City, USA.
The Ocean's seven is a collection of seven channel swims: (1) North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, (2) Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand, (3) Molokai Channel between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii, (4) English Channel between England and France, (5) Catalina Channel between Santa Catalina Island and Southern California, (6) Tsugaru Strait between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan, and (7) Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa.

Competitive Friendship Builds Life Long Resilience

My friend Steve Conder whom I swam across Lake Wawasee and Syracuse (8 miles) in the early 1980's accompanied by our fellow swim team member Craig Kercher and coach John Gibson did what was barely even known back then an open water swim.

Back then we learned about fueling the hard way.

We began swimming together in grade school along with a whole bunch guys and girls (whom I will not try to name as I would inevitably miss someone accidentally, but you know who you are). These friends became all close and through our parents families included.

After high school we all went our separate ways. Many on to college or not but usually catching up in the summer. Years turned into 10, 20, and 30.  Social Media made it easy to get back in touch, catch up and realize his was the foundation to life long resilience. Warriors in the finest Redskin tradition competing against each other with the highest regard pushing each other well beyond our youthful character to become among the best in the State of Indiana's swimming tradition. Competitive spirit pushed us both to become our best, our friends and coaches (school and family) always supporting us to challenge the next thing, to push harder, to believe in ourselves. Little did we know these attributes would follow us for years. 

We have all shared in personal failures throughout life, felt sorrow for the friends, coaches and family we have lost, but I would say these teachings allowed us to stay on course, persevere and to realize there is no "I" in "We".