Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The importance of crew, plus story (by Matt McDonough)

Mark Green
While we honor the swimmer who has swum the long distance, there is always crew in the background to help make it possible. Swimming successfully for over 5 hours with no support crew is almost never done, let alone dangerous. Behind the swimmer is the escort boat (and their crew) and the swimmers own crew. There is usually a #1, to-go person, easier to describe as the crew chief. They normally are in charge of the preparation of feeds, spotting and entertaining the swimmer. My #1 is Janet Galya, my life partner. For my close friend Marcia Cleveland, her stand-by guy has always been her husband Mark Green, a friend I am celebrating his 49th birthday today.

One more year 'til the big 50
Swim: 20 x 100 (2 on the 1:30, 3 on the 1:35)
Buoy: 8 x 50 (**3 on :50, 2 on :45, 3 on :50) alternate breathing pattern
Fulcrum: 8 x 50 ** Modified catch up for all, except 4&5
Swim: 9 x 100 (1:30)
Tube: 8 x 50 **
Big paddle: 8 x 50 **
Swim 20 x 100 (2 on 1:30, 3 on 1:35, 2 on 1:30, 3 on 1:40, 2 x through)
= 6500 yards

Dream, Prepare, Succeed (and honor your crew)


To swim across the English Channel is a rigorous task. Besides the 21-mile journey from England to France, swimmers must deal with murky water and unpredictable weather conditions. The water is cold, and at night, it is even chillier.

But for swimmer Marcella MacDonald there is no other place she’d rather be than in the cold waters of the English Channel at night.

“I like to swim at night because all you do is swim,” MacDonald, 47, said. “You can definitely let your mind go. In the channel at night, the light hits the water, and when it becomes fluorescent it gets kind of freaky.”

MacDonald had planned to take another dip in the Channel this past fall, but an injury has kept her out of the water for the last two months.

“I was on my bike in Hawaii and was almost done with the ride,” MacDonald said. “My foot got caught on the pedal and my shin got ripped open by the pedal. I had to get 40 stitches in my leg and it has to heal on its own. I wish I could say a shark got me.”

To say MacDonald is itching to get back in the water is an understatement. She hoped to get back by her 47th birthday, Thanksgiving week.

MacDonald was the first American woman to swim across the English Channel twice, but her occupation isn’t swimming, it’s her passion. 

“I’m a podiatrist,” MacDonald said. “Without that I couldn’t do the things I enjoy. I’m a sole practitioner so I can plan on taking time.”

A swim across the Channel is not a one-day event. An appointment with the Channel Swimming Association must be scheduled and paid for in advance. MacDonald takes her crew and coach with her, and for the first crossing in 1994 she took her family.

MacDonald grew up in Manchester, CT and swam throughout her youth. She swam in high school as well as with a club team until she was 17 years old. MacDonald accepted a scholarship to play softball at AIC, but would sneak over to nearby Springfield College to swim in the school’s pool. MacDonald said she continued to work as a lifeguard in Manchester and never stayed away from water. That’s why the break is so hard for her now.

“I’m just a swimmer, a fish in the water,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald was never a prodigy. In fact she wasn’t always a distance swimmer. MacDonald tried her luck at triathlons, but hated the running and was indifferent towards biking.

“I was always the first out of the water and slowly got to the back of the pack,” MacDonald said of her triathlon talent.

MacDonald never saw herself as a long distance swimmer and when she heard of a swim around the island of Manhattan in 1993, she thought the swimmers were crazy.

“Why would anyone swim around land,” MacDonald said. “Then 3 and 1/2 years later I did the 3.5 mile swim.”

In 1994, she completed her first swim from England to France. She received some publicity, from the Hartford Courant and Sports Illustrated. MacDonald understands swimming is not a high publicity sport, and rather than making a splash in the headlines with non-swimming issues, she’d rather just make a splash jumping in the English Channel.

“It’s not a money-maker sports and I’m not a bad girl,” MacDonald said.

With little fanfare, it was a challenge from Freda Streeter that kept her fire burning. Streeter’s daughter, Allison, is called the ‘Queen of the Channel,’ and has completed three triple channel swims. Streeter was pessimistic about an American accomplishing a double and challenged MacDonald to prove her wrong.

“She never thought I’d make it,” MacDonald said. “She says when are you going to come back and do a double. I had no idea what it was. She said no US woman has ever done it. She planted the seed in my brain about the double, and it became a passion for seven years until I completed it.”

Her first attempt at a double was cut short when she tore a bicep muscle and was out for three months. In 1999 the weather was bad and in 2000 MacDonald ended her attempt at a double by touching the boat.

“On the way back it was cold and my mind was telling me I couldn’t make it,” MacDonald said. “So my mind beat my body and I got on the boat.”

The next year her coach suggested a new strategy: instead of taking a break on the shores of France, start the swim back right away and rest in the water. It worked to perfection, as MacDonald finished the swim in 21:19 and 45,000 strokes.

“I appreciated it much more,” MacDonald said. “I was glad it was over with. I finished at 1 in the morning.”

MacDonald, 47, has swam across the globe, in warm water like that of Hawaii and Bermuda to cold water around Jersey Island and the Channel. In Hawaii there was a tiger shark sighting, but MacDonald doesn’t like to think about what dangers are under her.

“I really don’t try to think about those things when I swim,” MacDonald said.

But MacDonald jokingly wishes it was a shark that caused her injury, because she has been out of her comfort zone the last couple of months.

She is a fish out of water.

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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.