More Matching

From the very beginning Doug didn’t want A Long Swim to be one of his bucket list things. He wanted to use A Long Swim for a good cause and what better cause than the Les Turner ALS Foundation … who supported Doug’s Father as he was dying from ALS. They support ALS research at Northwestern in Chicago … the same place where Doug’s Father visited his neurosurgeon regularly and ultimately donated his brain and spinal column.

Long story short, Doug was seeking a matching donation and found the perfect mate in Medtronic, the maker of the Prestige Disc, the bionic piece that lives in Doug’s now bionic neck, and allows him to swim at all. The piece happened to be installed at Northwestern. Medtronic was the first to step up and match all donations up to $50,000.

They reached their goal and, open the door, in came $100,000 to the Foundation.

Here is NBC’s interview that explains it all …

Open the door again, and in comes the Gilbert and Jacqueline R. Fern Foundation. A Family Foundation supporting ALS research who heard about Doug’s ability to use his muscles and lungs in support of those who can’t. The Fern Foundation has been a long supporter of the Les Turner ALS foundation and they have offered to match up to $25,000 in additional donations, over and above the $100,000 already raised.

Medtronic and The Fern Foundation have stepped up big time to be a part of A Long Swim. We can’t thank them enough and we can’t wait to report back on the progress.

Night Swim Practice

Since it’s 100% likely that part of the English Channel swim will be in the dark, we decided to practice a night swim in Lake Zurich, a beautiful little lake by our house.

Three girls in a boat: My little sister, Nancy + 13 year old Ashley + me = We probably should have had life jackets on. Driving a canoe backwards isn’t very smart either.

But, in the end, he practiced a night swim and did just fine. It was a beautiful evening and quite an adventure. Here’s a video I took with my iphone.

English Channel Pilot Boat

So when you cross the English Channel it’s a pretty official deal. Your captain has to be channel certified, and there are only seven of those guys in the world. Your boat has to be channel certified too. I can’t seem to find a good picture of our pilot, who is literally a hall of fame pilot, so you’ll have to wait till I get one myself. In the meantime, here’s what his/our pilot boat looks like. Name: The Gallivant.

There Was A Memorial Service Today

On this summer day, which showed both rain and sunshine, Betty Gelbach’s Memorial Service was held. It seems appropriate to retell this story.

When Betty Gelbach passed away, just after Christmas, we all gathered through the snow at her house, high up on a hill. She lived by Doug’s parents since the very beginning and her son, Kurt, is Doug’s oldest friend. Her house was a slice in time. Silver pieces meticulously displayed. Weathered family photographs honoring accomplishments. A kitchen that stepped out of the 50’s that was so 50’s that if you bought this house you wouldn’t change a thing. Once a hunting lodge, the Gelbach’s turned it into a pretty cool place to raise their three children.

On this night, we drank wine and ate one of Betty’s most notable recipes … liver pate’. The kitchen was so packed that all you had to do was hand your glass in and when you pulled it out it was filled. The snow fell and danced a different dance through the old, wavy windows. Stories were told and it was clear that everyone was better off for having known her.

I remember her as being the prettiest older woman I had ever met, even when I met her 25 years ago. Shorter than usual, her smile was perfect and always there. Her hair tied back in a classic style that she probably invented. She liked to touch me. She touched everyone. Her humor was wicked.

On this night, Kurt played some of the Gelbach’s home movies, now housed on YouTube, on a big sheet in the corner of the living room. That’s where I saw My Bionic Boyfriend running up the hill at a family party as a little boy. I had never seen him as a little boy, except in pictures, and except in my mind. He was happy. I wished I could have reached into that sheet and picked him up. Who would have known that little guy with brown hair and serious glasses was going to grow up to be mine. And who knew he was going to grow up to swim the English Channel one day.

Kurt Gelbach, and his wife Sue, on behalf of the Gelbach and Upton families, just made the largest donation to date to The Les Turner ALS Foundation and A Long Swim. And, small world, they are currently living in England. The card arrived under an English postage stamp and even included England Slang, calling the English Channel swim a “blightly long swim.”

On this night, when it was time to go home, we were invited to take a Christmas ornament off of Betty Gelbach’s still standing Christmas tree. It was hard to pick, but eventually I selected one that I imagined she made. The felt was hand stitched in the perfect measure that only that generation and those before them knew. I didn’t put it in the attic when it came time to put Christmas away. I hung it on one of the kitchen cabinet knobs, so we could keep remembering her a little bit longer.

A Swim Coach For Life

Dear Don Sammons,

You Coached the University of Illinois Men’s Swimming Team when Doug swam there. When I met Doug, 31 years ago now, he told me about you. Over and over. And during those 31 years I’ve heard him tell our kids about you. Over and over.

And during those years I’ve seen the letters and cards from you come into our house. He reads every word, your words of support and guidance and even training sets. He shows me. He shows our kids. You have been an unending source of love and support for Doug and I have been astonished at your consistency and at your uncanny ability to say just the right thing to him at just the right time.

I can’t begin to tell you what you have meant to him.

Thanks for sending this letter of support to him as he gets ready to leave for his big swim. I’ll be by his side in England and I’ll keep your letter with us.

All my love,

Drink It Up

Lots of people ask lots of questions about swimming the English Channel and Doug’s answers are the same as other channel swimmers. “How long is the swim?” 21-30 miles. “Do you stay in France when you get there?” Nope, you have to be gone in 15 minutes. “How many people in your support boat?” 8.

But the answer to this one question is different. “What do you use for nutrition?” The answer is Infinit Nutrition.

As the nutrition maven, believe me, this one is easy.

This nutritional drink is different for a bunch of reasons but there is one giant detail that separates it from the drink in the next lane. It’s a custom blend based on YOUR specific activity and based on what YOU are specifically looking for.

For instance, My Bionic Boyfriend is looking for lots of carbs, calories, protein, and electrolytes. He needs to take in 1,000 calories per hour while swimming the English Channel. He also needs tons of electrolytes as his muscles tend to cramp up. His blend is very different than mine, for example, as I’m interested in less carbs, less calories, yet plenty of protein and plenty of electrolytes. (I happen to love it and I use it exclusively too.) You can also factor in amino acids, caffeine and flavor.

Doug practiced and practiced with different products and this one not only had everything he needed but it didn’t make him throw up in those rocking waves. He used it exclusively on The 24 Mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim. It was after the Tampa swim that he contacted Infinit Nutrition and they immediately asked if they could sponsor him. That means that they splash his picture all over their stuff. It also means that anyone who designs and orders their own specific formula, and it’s easy to do on their website, gets a 10% discount AND 10% of their purchase prices goes to A Long Swim’s charity, the Les Turner ALS Foundation. Extremely cool of them. (Coupon Code is ALONGSWIM)

So here’s a link to their website. All you marathon swimmers as well as runners, bikers, iron manners, and even dancers, drink it up. It’ll do you good and you’ll be doing good.

(Coupon Code Is ALONGSWIM)

Doug and Wendy Abrams, Executive Director of Les Turner ALS Foundation, on Ohio Street Beach awaiting the NBC 5 interview. 10% of all purchases of Infinit Nutrition products on their website, using ALONGSWIM as the coupon code, goes to support the Les Turner ALS Foundation.

NBC Chicago & WBBM Chicago Interviews

We got up early this morning and headed down to Ohio Street Beach in Chicago for two interviews. This location is perfect because you have Lake Michigan with the Hancock Building as a backdrop. Everyone is so happy and upbeat that it’s a great experience.

Here is one of the radio spots that WBBM Chicago is playing throughout the day …

And here is the interview with NBC Chicago which will air on the 5:00 and 10:00 news …

Doug, Beth Richman and Wendy Abrams being interviewed by WBBM Chicago’s John Cody. Ashley too.

Doug showing NBC Chicago’s Richard Moy the Medtronic Prestige Disc that is housed in his neck which is allowing this all of this to happen.

Doug’s favorite swim cap these days.

Time Is Closing In

Without realizing it I’m picking up the house, cleaning out the fridge, putting fresh sheets on the beds, like we’re going somewhere. Nesting.

At a monthly meeting in which I participate at the village hall today they wrapped it up by saying goodbye to me. I felt verklempt and realized that the next time I see them all I’ll have a story to tell. Some of them slapped me on the back, like I was about to swim the English Channel. They asked me to send pictures and videos and I assured them that I’d stay in touch as much as I could. I’m still not sure if there is cell service in the middle of the English Channel. (I will, however, figure it out and it’ll all be on the Facebook pages for A Long Swim and My Bionic Boyfriend, so I guess you had better “like” them in short order.)

I suppose this all makes sense because Doug told me that he’s now tapering. That’s when swimmers begin to back off and reserve their energy for their event. Tapering is an art and is as individual as the individual swimmer. His tapering means that he’s only swimming four miles each morning now.

And the donations to are pouring in.

One more thing. We’ll need someone to babysit this adorable rescue puppy who is now full of life and whose feet never touch the ground. Her name right now is Eleanor, but the second he makes it across the English Channel she will become Dover.