Aug 6, 2011

Don Macdonald to Swim English Channel, Swam for coaches Bryan Rathke and Chris Shorthouse at Goshen High School

Don Macdonald swam for coaches Bryan Rathke and Chris Shorthouse at Goshen High School before graduating in 1980.

By Steve Krah - Elkhart Truth
What started out as an 8-mile swim around Lake Wawasee with some buddies three decades ago has led Don Macdonald to the quest of taking on the frigid waters of the English Channel.

An arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates Great Britain from northern France, the English Channel is 21 miles at its narrowest. The warmest the water ever gets - July to September - is in the range of 58 to 63 degrees. It is one of the busiest commercial waterways in the world, with ferries, freighters and fishing boats. Then there's the salt water and the jellyfish.

After years on the waiting list, the window of opportunity for Macdonald and his Barrington (Ill.) Swim Club teammate, Doug McConnell, is Aug. 20-26. A successful crossing means the pair will likely be in the water for 12 to 14 hours. 

With just a swim cap, goggles and trunks - authorities do not allow wet suits - Macdonald and McConnell will go to England, where Macdonald's cheering section will include wife Jennifer, daughter Rachel, parents Don and Jean and sister Katie - the latter three coming from Napa, Calif. Rachel and Kate are both accomplished pool swimmers.

Kate, a 1984 Goshen High School graduate, is in the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame. She was a three-time MVP at Indiana University and competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1984 and 1988.

Kate Macdonald and Ted (Also from the area)
While circumstances sometimes forced him to train in a pool, Macdonald has come to prefer the open water.
"Swimming in the pool is rather boring," says Macdonald. "It's just going back and forth and looking at the black lines."
Macdonald, a pool swimmer for coaches Bryan Rathke and Chris Shorthouse at Goshen High School before graduating in 1980, was joined in his first open water swim so many summers ago by Steve Conder, John Gibson and Craig Kercher.
After high school, Macdonald swam one year for coach Bob Thomas at Ball State University. He graduated from Indiana University and today is employed by UL-DQS Inc. as the Director Sustainability and Energy Quality Programs.
Daughter - Rachel
Flash forward to the present with many miles of training and years of open water competition behind him and the 49-year-old Macdonald is ready to be joined by McConnell for a chance to take on the famed open-water challenge.
"It became clear that both of us were more than capable," says Macdonald. "We have done a lot of races together."
Macdonald, who has swum at Alcatraz, Tampa, Boston, Lake Micihgan and finished high in the U.S. Masters Open Water National Championship, began training for the channel in 2008. That was a few years after a European trip had him standing on the beaches of Normandy, France.
A month ago, Macdonald was swimming 45,000 yards per week in training. He has now scaled back to less than 25,000 to allow his body to recover.
Macdonald churns out the strokes through skin burns, numb fingers, illness and so many other things that could stop him if he allowed it.
"It's mind over matter," says Macdonald. "My coach (Marcia Cleveland) tells me to work through and accept the hurdles that come to you. Because they will come."
With that attitude, Macdonald is raising awareness and funds for Barrington School District 220's emotional learning programs. He tells students and other groups about resilience and putting life in perspective.
"I'm using my experience as a treadmill to teach and learn and get the message in," says Macdonald.
Macdonald's journey can be followed in word at A GPS through Google Maps will also be imbedded in his blog and Facebook page to follow his swim across The Channel in real time.
"People can sit and drink their coffee and know that I am in the cold, cold water," says Macdonald.

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