Thursday, August 27, 2009

More from the swimmers!

Another viewpoint from our first timer Greg Erne...

Wow, what a memory Ric has. My recollection was "shoot, darn, ouch, cold, yucky seaweed, was that an alligator with a musky in its mouth?, cant pee in this damn suit, shoot, darn, ouch, how the heck does ric keep going? i need fins next year, i'm hungry, what kind of a show-off does butterfly on a long-distance swim - I won't show him up right now, did my arm just fall off?, there is that alligator again - but with a jobbie nooner in his mouth - serves him right for skipping work, i sure hope that is seaweed i just swam through and not ric's recent meal, how come i cant catch up to these guys, i didnt realize that the 9 mile tower was so small - oh its not it is just miles away, shoot, darn, ouch, okay - this is ridiculous...and lastly - what a great event - and everytime i think I am tired i just think about someone with CF and the above compaints go away"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We Made It Again!!!!

First, I need to say that this is one man’s version of the events. I just wanted to put some thoughts down to herald our effort. And I want to thank our team - they are great friends, great swimmers, and a heck of a lot of fun to be around. And I am happy to say that I made it the entire length – again… At 54, hey, I’ll take it.

7:30am – The Boat…

Mike Hutchinson, Derek Weaver, Greg McDuffee and Greg Erne and I met Mike Stevens on his boat at the dock at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. We were joined by Richard Mishler, one of my partners at 4731 Consulting who came by to wish us luck. As fate would have it, we had an extra spot on the boat, so Richard joined us on the trip. We got all our gear on board and left the harbor at 8:00am headed for Harsen’s Island. The sky is overcast, the waves are pretty quiet and obviously there isn’t much wind at all. The weather report had called thunderstorms all morning… Seriously, weather forecasters must not get out much – they weren’t even close… The trip is 25 minutes, and we arrived without incident. The only hard part is watching the shoreline completely disappear in the distance. It makes you feel pretty insignificant – and brings into mind the idea that Lake St Clair really should be considered one of the Great Lakes. It also makes you question your judgment about swimming all the way back…

Mike Stevens recommends that we start at the southern tip of Harsen’s Island, and swim to the South Channel Lighthouses. Then from there, we’ll head southwest directly towards the Nine Mile Tower, located off Jefferson about a mile or so north of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. The idea was that this year we would swim across the lake currents near the top of the lake and then use the shore currents to help us slide down the shoreline, staying no more than a mile or so offshore.


Four of us get in the water: Greg Erne, Mike Hutchinson, Derek Weaver and me. We toast Rickie and our own bravado, say goodbye and start swimming. The sun is threatening to come out for good, the clouds are receding, and the water feels great. It was probably 73 degrees at the start, and ranged from 69 to about 76 on our trip. The water is smooth, there are few if any waves, and we’re swimming with the current. About 40 minutes later we’ve reached the second of the South Channel lighthouses and take a photo break for a couple of minutes. Personally, these little breaks are tough for me, because it is far easier (for me) to swim than to tread water, especially with a steady pace.

As we get ready to go we look back and see how far away the Harsen’s Island shore appears. It would not change for the next 2 hours or so… One of the frustrations to overcome in a long swim like this is the notion that you can swim for an hour or two, and your landmarks sometimes appear not to have changed at all. This is especially true of the shoreline itself, or of large landmarks like the 9 mile Tower that would later appear almost never to get closer during the middle 3-4 hours of the swim.


Our first official break – we all get out to rest and to replace a couple of the swimmers with fresh bodies. I always feel best right after one of these breaks – the other swimmers speed me up a bit, and I feel a sense of their energy. I rest for 5 minutes, gulp down an energy packet (“GU”), drink some Gatorade and dive back in. Hitting the water is always a shock… And the temperature can change immediately. Frequently you’ll be lulled by some really warm water, and just as you’re getting comfortable you’ll hit a pocket of what feels like ice-cold water that nearly takes your breath. It’ll wake you up fast…

11:45 – second break. I can’t really explain what happens between breaks. My mind is thinking about everything and nothing at once. Most of the time I am trying to make sure I swim relatively straight to get maximum efficiency out of my effort. I am still feeling pretty good at this point. I am focused mostly on keeping the boat in sight (to my right) and making sure I don’t run into whoever is swimming next to me. We don’t look up much – there really is no reason. At water level, you can’t see anything but water anyway. I think about Rickie, about the guys I am swimming with, about my wife and family, about the economy, etc. Occasionally I look over and see Derek - he’s doing the butterfly, for crying out loud…

12:50 – Suddenly, Mike Stevens calls us into the boat. North of us, a pocket storm is passing through. It is small circle of dark clouds, which would probably be OK by themselves, but they are dropping lightning onto the lake. It is hard to tell which direction the clouds are moving, “severe weather” warnings have been issued and the National Weather Service is calling for potentially dangerous weather. We mark our coordinates and immediately head for shore. On the trip in we never did get wet or even any serious wind, but the Weather Service is right often enough to always listen to their advisories. We’ve been swimming 4 hours and have probably 6 miles left. It is hard to stop…

1:45 – We wait for a half hour at the GPYC, and suddenly the weather passes us or dissipates or disappears, and we get an all clear from the Weather Service. Mike Stevens declares we are going back out… Derek has just finished a huge hamburger and French fries from the GPYC concession and head back out. The rest of us went the fruit and liquids route. At his age (24?) the food doesn’t even affect him, and he is a pretty decent swimmer. The night before he had just returned from the US Masters Swimming Long Course Championships, where he placed 3rd in the 400 freestyle competition. At 2pm we’re back in the water.

3:00 – The times get a little more fluid here, but it’s always the same - fresh swimmers, quick break for nutrition, then back in the water.

We change swimmers roughly every hour. At each stop, we all get out. I always get back in, along with at least a couple of other guys. Some of them have put in serious mileage as well. We decide not to have more than three in the water at any one time – we get spread out too far and it is too hard to watch all of us. More GU, more Gatorade. I am getting pretty tired. And apparently I am turning to the left a lot. My left shoulder seems a little sore – I can’t quite find the stroke anymore that keeps it from hurting. But, the weather is decent, and I enjoy looking up and watching the sun and the clouds each time I take a breath. At one point the boat takes off – to go collect some trash on the water.

4:00pm - It is getting harder to get “clean air” – I keep taking in water because the waves are kicking up and shifting direction, but things are generally manageable. McDuffee frequently swims on my right side, and is as steady as a rock. When he is in the water, I mostly just keep an eye on him. He seems to watch the boat and somehow also stays with me, in spite of my frequent left turns. It’s the same thing with Hutch, who swims on my left, except for the fact that I find myself nearly running into him all the time.

5:30 – It has suddenly gotten very difficult to breathe. The waves are now coming out of the southwest directly into our path. Clearly the wind appears to have clocked 180 degrees in a very short time. I am aware of the different direction of the waves for only about 20 minutes until suddenly I hear the guys on the boat screaming at us to get out of the water. Greg McDuffee, Derek Weaver and I all swim hard to get to the boat, but have not completely gotten on board when the rain hits. It is pelting us, and the wind has suddenly and unexpectedly elevated to about 40 mph. But what is most interesting is the hail. I have been caught in a hailstorm before, but never while swimming in a lake. We all manage to make it on board just in time to hear Mike Stevens yell, “That’s all she wrote, boys. We’re done!!! At this point we’re about ½ a mile away from the mouth of the harbor. Mike is the self-appointed President of the Lake St Clair Swimming for Rickie Sanctioning Board. We all cheer and shake hands. It is really a great moment. Then we all come forward, and huddle together near the wheelhouse as we make our way to the harbor.

By the way, I must say that I feel partly responsible for the hail. At about a mile out, I realized I was having some difficulty. With the waves, I couldn’t get any power in my stroke, and I was working so hard to get air on each breath I was losing what energy I had left. So, I figured that I’d say a little prayer, get the winds to die down, or the waves to settle down a bit, and we’d be all set. But hail? Never even thought of that one…

I am the luckiest guy in the world. Rickie continues to be healthy and we have been blessed with great medical care at the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital. We have had great support for our little swim – including this group of seven guys on the boat who have offered their time and resources (and energy) to train for and swim in this effort two years in a row!! And we’ve already had several people offer to help us next year. We all made it, we have a great story to tell, and some really great people have supported us. Now – if you happen to know any others with cf who want someone to talk to – please send them to us. It’s always easier when you’ve got friends…

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Two and a half more miles!


The storms came from the north with lighting, so the guys had to stop for a bit...

They are continuing on strong, they're on mile 11 as of 4pm. They are soooo close!

Monday, August 10, 2009

8 Hours and counting!!!

Last year getting into the water!

After their swim we are there to welcome them!

As of 10pm this evening the swim is on! Of course our weather changes very quickly so we'll see in the morning how it looks!

Starting point - Harsen's Island

Path - swim between the two South Channel Lighthouses, and head for a spot just north of the 9 mile tower. Once we get close to the coast,
we will stay about a mile offshore and swim south to the Grosse Point Yacht Club (GPYC). We will get out at the breakwall by the GPYC.

Timing: - at the GPYC at 7:30am; on the boat at 8am. Boat to Harsen's Island before 8:30am, begin our swim by 9am.
- 7 hours in the water equals 4:00 pm finish at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club.
- 8 hours in the water equals 5:00 pm finish at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club.

7 Swimmers - Ric Geyer, MIke Hutchinson, Greg McDuffee, Mike Stevens, Derek Weaver (all 2nd year, all met at the Detroit Athletic Club)
- Greg Erne, Pete Stevens (1st year rookies...)

Tom Trainer - Gen Mgr of the GPYC - if you need permissions, etc. He is expecting you guys at some point.

We are hoping that at least two of us to swim the entire distance, the others will all swim legs of the distance

Funny story - last year we would have gotten coverage, helicopter, the whole deal, but Kwame Kilpatrick resigned that day - pulling all the news people. This year we're hoping Bing stays put, and Monica's already resigned...

This unfortunely is not a spectator event...although we would LOVE to have a lot of people at the finish, we're not quite sure if the GPYC will allow that.

Thank you for your support, next year we'll try to have an event at the finish!