What’s It Like? Living With This Swimmer?


I met him 30 years ago, so I’ve known him longer than I haven’t. His swimming passion isn’t new to me but I realize that it’s new to some as he goes public with his English Channel challenge. So people are asking, “What’s all of this like?”

Getting out of bed way before the sun rises to fit in one to two hours in the pool is a part of him. Smelling like chlorine is a part of him. Teaching all of our kids how to swim to the point where most of them are lifeguards is part of him. I love those parts.

I’ve sat on beautiful beaches while he’s done laps in the ocean waves back and forth.

I’ve paddled a kayak for miles while he’s done laps in salt water ponds back and forth.

This back and forth brings him peace. I certainly love that part too.

These quests of his have provided unending opportunities for our whole family to jump in. Whether it’s to time at a pool, to guard on an open water swim or to help him research the latest, greatest hydration drink, we all have a place on his team.

He and our son, Bill, built a mahogany kayak from scratch this summer so that Bill can use it when he guards for Doug on his swims. (Bill and his younger brother, Gordy, are the guards on 90% of the open water swims.) I chronicled the building of the kayak in photographs that may be seen on http://www.kayak007.blogspot.com.

I’ve gone to the “Big Shoulders” open water swim event in Chicago more times than I can count. I’ve gone down to Oak Street Beach with him to practice even more. I’ve traveled to too many states to count for open water events where I didn’t know a soul, but him, who seems to know everyone. I’ve gone to bed way too early on Friday nights before a race, while my favorite friends are out at our favorite bar, so that he could get a good night’s sleep with me by his side.

To all of these races I have brought my camera. Following Doug has allowed unending opportunities for photography. I bet I have the most abundant collection of open water swimming photographs in the world.

And as far as the support that he needs from us … his family … he’ll tell you that he thinks he’s taxing us. But I think the opposite. He’s given us all a common goal and something to work toward together. It’s been unifying. It’s been nothing short of fabulous for us … just a blast. We’ll all be better off for it in the end, I am sure. This is a wonderful example he is showing his children. And, who knows, maybe one of them will follow in his footsteps.

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