Sunday, December 12, 2010

Celebrate the Light (story by Tommy Cassell)

20 years ago, 11pm would have been the start of the party, now, time to get in the car, get home and enter zzzzland. 
Funny how our perceptions of life and fun change as we age: during our youth, we celebrate the night, being night owls and as we age, we look forward to the new dawn and breaking day, to make the most of those hours in the light, becoming early morning lark.

Today, I don't know if I'll 'exercise' (structured) at all, may be too busy getting the house ready for the Christmas and some baking later. It's OK, no guilt, tomorrow is Monday, and the water will be ready for my touch.

The water is Marcy MacDonald’s solace.
In 1994, the swimmer found peace while swimming the English Channel and for 16 years didn’t stopped
cutting through the comforting tide before a shin injury in September sidelined the 47-year-old swimmer.
Now out of the water, MacDonald passes her time watching the television show, “Mr. Ed”, working out, and planning her crossing of the English Channel.  She hopes to build off of her past achievement of swimming the Channel back-and-forth, by adding one more crossing to her regimen someday soon.

MacDonald, a self-employed podiatrist from Andover, didn’t always possess a love for swimming.  Although she grew up in Manchester and swam on a club team, her first true love was softball, which she went on to play at American International.  Busy with schoolwork and softball, MacDonald only jumped into the pool every once in awhile since she didn’t have much free time during the school year.

But when she started to lifeguard during her college summers, MacDonald started participating in triathlons that included running, biking, and swimming. “I hated running and biking,” MacDonald said, “But the swimming was always the best.”
She ditched the triathlons and started participating in swimming competitions after graduating.  Then one day, MacDonald saw people swimming around Manhattan Island. She thought they were crazy.  However, MacDonald soon joined the people she called foolish swimming around Manhattan, as her true affection for swimming finally began.  
“Three years later, I was swimming in the ocean with them,” MacDonald said, “It became my life.  It became my passion, it’s not a money-making sport, and I’m not a very bad girl.”

MacDonald’s first trial of the English Channel came in 1994, as she swam from the coast of the Channel to coast of France in 10 hours and 33 minutes.  Soon after her first trial, a woman named Freda Streeter planted a seed in her head about trying a double crossing.  So in 1997, MacDonald attempted a double but was forced stop her effort due to a triceps injury. 

But she wouldn’t let the setback deter her from trying the double again.  In 2000, she had the fastest crossing over to France than any other swimmer but on the way back to England, to complete the double, she got very cold and decided to quit her endeavor. “My mind beat my body and I was cold,” MacDonald said, “So I got out of the boat and immediately I was booking [a double for] the next year.”

Finally in 2001, MacDonald completed a double of the English Channel in 21 hours and 19 minutes, an accomplishment she said she appreciated much more a few years ago than she does nowadays.
Now, temporarily out of the water, MacDonald reflects on her previous accomplishments and also about the dangers and logistics of her swimming adventures.“Through the years, it goes through your mind, ‘oh my god what’s going to get me,’” MacDonald said, “I try not to think about those things but I do.”
But, she insists she’s not scared of the creatures swimming below her because she knows that she’s one of the bigger fishes in the water.  MacDonald often reflects on her time spent swimming in Hawaii where tiger sharks lurk in the warm waters, but her joy of swimming in exotic and different places trump the dangers of marine life in the water with her. 

Nothing is flashy about MacDonald’s art of swimming.  She prefers a freestyle stroke when she is alone in the water, swimming at 3 mph and counting her cycle of strokes to help her concentrate on anything other than her long journey and its boredom.  She wears a one-piece swimsuit, swimming cap, and $10 pair of goggles. 

A ‘pedro’ boat follows her as she swims, which is filled with a team of six people who count her strokes, navigate the ocean, and provide her with a high-powered carbohydrate soup that gives her strength to swim.

The one thing she doesn’t need help with is calculating the distance she has left in her swim, as she tells the ships captain, Mike Oram, not to give her specifics. "I don’t want to know the time or distance,” MacDonald said, “I’m just a fish in the water.”

Unfortunately for MacDonald, she’s a fish out of water now due to a bicycling accident that required 40 stitches on her shin and significant time to heal.  She hasn’t been able to swim for two months, but with her birthday and Thanksgiving coming up, she has just one wish.

“I just want to get back into the pool,” MacDonald said, “I would love to just swim.”

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2015 ... Swimming for Homes for the Brave

After spending the past 20 years paddling from Dover to France, it is time to venture into new waters, while helping some special people.
Soon, I will be traveling with my A-team to Scotland to swim the length of the famous Loch Ness.
As always, I try to help a Foundation raise funds and awareness and I thank you for interest and support.
I am deeply troubled with the thought of homeless individuals, especially in our US Veteran population.

That is why I am teaming up with our Connecticut-based “Homes for the Brave”. Can you imagine not having a place to call home?

Here is more information about Homes for the Brave! -Facebook pages –

- Annual Appeal with more information about our financials and programs-

-Check donations can be mailed to the following address:
Homes for the Brave
655 Park Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604

- Donations can be made online as well:

Please write “Loch Ness Swim/Marcy” to track your donation.

I will always be dedicating my swimming to all those battling cancer and in the memory of 4 special people in my life. Cancer first hit my family when I was young. My grand-aunt Eleanor Kersavage, passed away with uterine cancer and my Auntie Bea Halchak battled with brain cancer.

On January 1, 2002, our LEHY family lost Nikki Giampolo to bone cancer, just turning 16 years old. Her spirit still lives on in our East Hartford swim team.

In July of 2009, my brother-in-law, Gregory Allen Urban, who passed away, after a valient battle with lung cancer. I can see him now, talking about cars and projects around the house, music and his family.

I know Aunties, Eleanor and Bea, Nikki, Greg and all the angels will help me CUT through all this water this summer.

The St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation, based in Bridgeport, CT provides financial support for the needs that Health insurance companies don't cover, in addition to providing affordable cancer screening, wigs, medication and other things to make life easier for those suffering with cancer and their families.

Please make a donation, and thank you.

Online donations can be made at:

or you can send a check through the post to:

Swim Across the Sound
St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation
2800 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06606

Thank you so very much, peace and good health to all.