Doug’s been named the Les Turner ALS Volunteer Of The Year. If you click on the title of this post you’ll get to the article in Chicago’s Daily Herald. I wish I could put it right here but I can’t figure it out!
Who You Meet Along The Way … An Extraordinary Adventurer
The author of three books and the swimmer of many cold water swims, Lynne Cox is someone that Doug not only admires but follows like he’s crushing on her. So when she rolled into our neck of the woods to do a book signing of her latest book “South With The Sun,” I tagged along mostly out of homage to this woman’s amazing accomplishments as well as curiosity over my husband’s seemingly smitten stalking of her.
In the car on the way to the event I held her book in my lap and read one chapter. It was the one entitled “Coolest Crossing,” chosen because of the title and because it had interesting pictures. I’m not a swimmer, not even close, and my interest doesn’t extend beyond Doug’s involvement in most cases. But I was about to become enlightened.
I read the whole chapter and wished I had been more open minded and allowed myself to read this chapter much earlier so that I could have read the whole book. I was enthralled with what I read. With her. With her team. Her team was, a little, like me. She was, a lot, like Doug. And not only was I about to hear her speak, I was also about to be part of a small group sharing dinner with her at an intimate restaurant. I was nervous.
Sitting in the back of this little, independent bookstore, Lynne began her speech with lessons from what she has learned and seen. She told us that greatness begets greatness, meaning that when you start out to accomplish an amazing task, you look to those who have achieved those tasks. They, on the other hand, will almost instinctively bestow you with their greatness when they recognize the possibilities that you possess, and will give you information and strength to move toward your goal. She further said that those who have achieved greatness feel it is their responsibility to recognize those with possibility, those who are full of potential, and they feel it is their responsibility to pass on their ability.
Doug has seen this firsthand in his quest to conquer his open water swims. There are a handful of individuals who have achieved greatness who have bathed him in their light and empowered him. Sounds a little Star Warsish, but I’ve seen it.
Lynne then went on to recap the same chapter, Coolest Crossing, I had belligerently read on my way there. Magic was happening all around me.
Our dinner was held at a small, Italian restaurant that was quiet and calm and the talk at the table was plentiful. Lynne answered all of our questions with grace and poise and good humor and seemed totally, completely normal. Despite the fact that I can’t swim (so she probably wouldn’t want to be friends with me) I thought that if she lived by me I’d like to be friends with her.
I asked her how old she was when she swam the English Channel for the first time. (She crossed a total of three times.) She told us that she was 17, the year was 1974, and she set the record for women as well as men.
She told us that she set the record for the Catalina Channel, swimming from Catalina to Long Beach. She didn’t want to swim from Long Beach to Catalina, the way most people swim it, because she didn’t want to break her brother’s record.
Doug asked her if she had ever swum the Straits of Gibraltar. She told us that she was the first one.
This normal yet extraordinary woman has set records for open water swimming all over the world. She ate and laughed and answered our questions all night. I knew exactly why my husband was seeming smitten and why he stalked her.
She was extraordinary.
The books written by Lynne Cox are:
Swimming to Antarctica
South With The Sun
They are all available on CD.
This is a picture of Lynne Cox at her book signing …
What do you do when you have this cool story to tell? You tell it.
And top it off with videos and photographs that I took while no one was looking. The story just got cooler.
So Doug has a friend named Chad who made him a killer powerpoint and strategically added the photographs and videos. Thanks Chad, you rock.
William Blair invited Doug in to talk to their firm as soon as he landed back in the states. And that’s how it all got started. Next up he’ll be telling the story of A Long Swim this Sunday at 2:00 at …
McHenry County College
Crystal Lake, Illinois
You can rsvp at http://www.alongswim.com
SPECIAL GUESTS …
Since A Long Swim raised over $150,000 for ALS research at Northwestern, the doctors from Northwestern who discovered the cause of ALS will also be there. The announcement that they had made this discovery came on August 21st, the day that Doug returned to England from France.
You can bring your kids and you can ask questions.
Based on the 2011 season’s statistics from the English Channel Swimming & Piloting Association, it looks like this …
There were a total of 68 solo swims.
42 were successful.
26 were unsuccessful.
61% success rate.
8 were from the United States.
2 from the United States were men.
(Of the 42 successful swimmers, our boat pilot, Lance Oram, had 14 of them.)
An outside observer’s opinion: I had no idea what these numbers would look like. I knew that there were more relay swimmers and more individual and relay kayakers. I knew there weren’t many solo swimmers. I knew from the reactions that we received in England from shop owners and guys in bars. (In our best English accent now … “F…, you made it?”
Interesting that from the United States there were 6 women and 2 men. I’d like to know who they are.
Believe it or not, this all takes time. These swimmer’s shoulders are still a little sore. And this system is so new that it is very imperfect. It’ll just take more time.
I have this little brother, his name is Robert, and he’s not so little, because of his energy. He makes things happen.
He was the first one who made hotel reservations in Dover, even before us. He made a big donation to A Long Swim. He wanted to be there. He needed to be there. And we needed his energy. And does he ever have it.
Robert designs/creates/invents really cool things. Here he is talking about the good that comes from Green Toys, Inc., his baby. You’re gonna love this…
For those of you who enjoyed videos and photographs in real time from the English Channel, they were brought to you via one piece of technology … the iPhone.
Apple was the first stock I ever bought. And, 28 years later, my iphone sleeps under my pillow.
Steve Jobs is close to my heart for another reason. He came to his family through adoption, as have some of our children. Adoption is a beautiful way to have a family.
It’s not completely surprising. On some level it was expected. The way this has all played out. Parties and presents and cards, yes lots of cards. Newspaper articles and phone calls, yes lots of phone calls. The donations for the Les Turner ALS Foundation keep coming in and as of today the amount stands at $156,000.
Yet every one of us knows it’s time to move onward albeit with this accomplishment still at the forefront of our minds. All of it is all but impossible to forget. It has become a part of us.
Winter is just about here and this weekend I packed up the open water gear … ropes, watches, those perfect water bottles we found after trying out so many. But the log book remains in the kitchen. It’s full of stroke counts and times and quotes and notes from all of the qualifying swims as well as the channel. I’m sure we’ll keep it out all winter so as to keep it all alive.
As much as we cling to this event and as much as we try to move forward the truth is that nothing will ever be the same. For any of us. We’ve found a new confidence, the kind that comes from together working hard and the kind that comes from together watching magic.
We have a few shells from Wissant Beach sitting on our dresser that are earmarked for our grandchildren. The ones who aren’t even close to being here. The ones who are going to say, “My grandfather. He swam the English Channel.”
As time moves on the new normal will become a little quieter but forever and ever the future in each of us is as bright as those lights that we saw shining, no they were singing and dancing, on the shore of France.
“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”
In 2010 a guy named Ian Down swam the channel in 15 hours and 47 minutes.
Ian had a tough swim, as he was awarded the Best Swimmer in Arduous Conditions for the 2010 season. He also had some tough encounters with Freda Streeter, the mother of The Channel. He wrote a song about her called “The Channel General Song.”
Here it is …
The Channel General sat one day
Surveying her swimmers in the bay
The Wind was soft. The sun was up
Freda drained the tea from her cup
Barry was up, and maxim-making
His shingle stompers to the swimmers taking
She stubbed her fag. She felt sublime
Her red caps were coming in to feed on time
(But one got out and said:)
Can’t do it
Let me quit
My shoulder’s bad I need to moan
Feeling sea sick
I’m tired and I want to go home
I need to get out and eat something solid
Can’t do it I’ve had enough
(So Freda said:)
Or you’ll get an extra hour or so
My heart’s a-bleeding
If you’re asking to get out, it’s ‘no’
No more yak
Just go back
I’m not fooled by your plan of attack
Get in and start to swim
(But still she heard:)
Don’t want to
I’ve turned blue
I can’t feel my hands no more
Must stop now
Can’t see how
I can swim when I’m so sore
It’s no fun
When you’re stung
By a jellyfish the size of the sun
Can’t do it I’m getting out
(So Freda replied:)
Get to it.
Swim through it.
Do 5 hours and you’ll be through
Is easy in life it’s true
Or ask for mama
Just move one hand and then the other
I’ve heard it all before
(no chatting at the walls)
I’ve heard it all before
(come in on time for your feeds)
I’ve heard it all before
(stay close to the shore)
I’ve heard it all before
And here’s his video. We’ll have one of these for Douglas in short order. At the end of this video, watch for the lovely picture of Freda Streeter hugging Ian. Brilliant.