PHOENIX, Arizona, July 24. WHILE the world is focused on swimming at the Olympic Games, six ladies will be attempting a world record double crossing of the English Channel, and we learn about the swim on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show.
Four of the six women who will participate in the relay swim from England to France and back to England talk about the inspiration for the swim, the charity they are raising money for and the mental and physical challenges they are working to overcome. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: Welcome to the Morning Swim Show for Tuesday, July 24, 2012. I am your host, Jeff Commings. Later this week, six women from Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be braving the treacherous waters of the English Channel and an attempt to swim from England to France and back again to raise money for ALS and hopefully set a world record in the process. Today, in the FINIS Monitor, we have four of those whom are joining us, Melissa Karjala, Susan Butcher, Amanda Mercer and Bethany Williston. Ladies, welcome to the Morning Swim Show, how are you today?
Bethany Williston: We're good thank you.
Jeff Commings: Good, I also want to mention the other two women on the team that weren't able to be with you today, Jenny Sutton Jalet and Emily Kreger. Now the obvious question is who came up with this idea to swim to swim with Channel?
Bethany Williston: Amanda did.
Amanda Mercer: Guilty.
Jeff Commings: Amanda, so what was the nugget that kind of got this whole thing going?
Amanda Mercer: Well, I think you know as swimmers, the English Channel is sort of always in the back of your mind, and Bethany and I talked about over the years and I think it all started to come together when I became involved with the local charity called Ann Arbor Active Against ALS after a friend and neighbor was diagnosed in 2008. And when I was started thinking about the possibility of putting this team together and doing it to raise awareness and money to find a cure, then it started to take on shape and that's when we started sort of telling Melissa she was going to swim, and recruiting Susan and it has been great.
Jeff Commings: So it wasn't just you know asking, it was demanding that they are going to be a part of this?
Melissa Karjala: I remember some sort of a warm water swim like Hawaii talked about — but all of a sudden, it's no, it's the English Channel.
Jeff Commings: So I would imagine, you know, you have to be very experienced swimmers to be taking on this English, just kind of go around and talk about your individual swimming experiences. Start with —
Bethany Williston: I started swimming competitively when I was five and I swam through college, well, first two years of college and after that I lived in DC and I did the Chesapeake Bay swim every year and a bunch of other open water swim and then Amanda and myself, and Amanda's husband and I – the three of us did a relay across the Tampa Bay which is 24 miles a bunch of years ago and my husband kayaked the whole thing so we have done some – you know some open water swimming but not cold water that we will encounter in the English Channel.
Amanda Mercer: I was an age group swimmer growing up and I swam at Michigan State and then continued with Masters Swimming.
Susan Butcher: I grew up swimming and I swam at Eastern Michigan and came back after taking a few years off and I got into triathlon and that's how I met these lovely ladies and got recruited to join.
Melissa Karjala: I swam in high school and I played water polo for the University of Michigan in college and I have been a pretty active Masters swimmer since then.
Jeff Commings: I imagine there's a lot of training involved. I mean obviously as you said, the English Channel is kind of the brass ring for all swimmers and I understand Amanda, your training was derailed a little bit when you got a cancer diagnosis. Tell us all about that and how you have been able to keep going through your treatment and chemotherapy to be ready for the swim.
Amanda Mercer: Well, yeah I was diagnosed in early March and as you can imagine it was a pretty big blow and initially I was pretty angry that of course it happened now that we have been planning to swim for about two years. But once we realized that we could work in the chemo before I needed to leave, I just finished last Wednesday then I knew that it was something I really wanted to try to do it if I could, and thankfully when I am feeling better, I am able to get in the water and train. I am a lot slower but I am grateful that actually that happened now because I have the Channel as a motivator to get myself out of bed and in the water and that makes me feel good. It's always been my solace. And on top of that I had you know all these women to support me and they have been amazing and it is actually been, I think the best experience that it could be.
Jeff Commings: Susan tell us about the support that you have been seeing from the Ann Arbor Community for the swim?
Susan Butcher: Oh, we have had a lot of support. We just had a fund raiser few days ago and we had just a wonderful showing from the community – a lot of family, friends were able to make it. We just had a great fund raiser at Cobblestone and we have lots of raffle items and auction items and we actually got some great jackets that were given to us by our sponsors rehabilitation specialists and there was a biddng war from everyone, friends, and it is just have been great. Everyone has been very supportive, got a lot of well wishes and it's been wonderful.
Jeff Commings: And Melissa, I understand this is as I mentioned the top of the show, this is not just going across the English Channel once. This is going from England to France and then back, was there – was that always in the plan or was it initially just a single crossing?
Melissa Karjala: No, I think it was always in the plan. I think kind of the thought was that we are going to be there we might as well do everything that we possibly could and there and back with six swimmers, I mean should take hopefully around 20 hours if, you know, things go well which, you know, we are gonna be there, we might as well do – do everything we can.
Bethany Williston: Well, that was also when Amanda look into the possibilities, like events that we could do. One of the things that she found out was that there is a world record held by six women from Mexico who have done a double crossing of the English Channel and so that really appealed to her and to all of us to try you know make the record, a USA record.
Jeff Commings: Yeah, they have old records just under 18 -just under 19 hours. Now just of kind of give yours a little background where a relay swim at the Channel is, everybody swims an hour at a time, you take turns swimming for an hour, so by my calculation, basically it means everybody is gonna get to swim three times, correct?
Amanda Mercer: Right.
Bethany Williston: Ideally.
Jeff Commings: Ideally, yes. So you know, as you said Bethany not really having any cold water swimming experience, I mean what are you – what do you think is going to be the biggest challenge for you guys to complete the swim not just to break a world record but to be able to complete it?
Bethany Williston: We all have had various fears going into this, and one of the fears was the cold water, so we did a lot of training in the open water in the fall and got really well acclimated and unfortunately, our summer has been, you know, in the 90s-plus everyday so every pool and every lake around here is really warm, even Lake Huron where we went swimming a couple of weeks ago even that was very warm so when we get there, we are gonna have to do some more acclimating, we have a few days once we get there to settle in and get used to cold water and salt water but you know there's all kinds of things — there's swimming at night, they are jelly fish, there could be debris in the waters, sighting off the boat is something new that none of us have done before so there's all kinds of challenges.
Jeff Commings: And this is obviously something that you know, you have to kind of – you can't say we are going to swim this day because obviously the elements kind of determine when you are going to swim. What's the first day that you guys are planning on making the swim?
Amanda Mercer: The first day, we could swim, it is most likely July 27th, so it is the same day as the opening ceremony for the Olympics which is kind of fun but it will all be dependent on our pilots, our boat pilots make determination of whether the weather is good. There are aware that we wanted to set the world record and so they want to make sure we get the best condition as possible coz obviously we are getting 3 or 5 foot swells that makes a lot more challenging.
Jeff Commings: Yeah, wow this will gonna be a lot of great news coming out of England. All the Olympic stuff going on but you know, we will have to definitely keep our eye on this world record that would just, you know, at least in swimming world, that would probably be just as big as an accomplishment as somebody won a gold medal a the Olympics.
Ladies: Well, thank you.
Jeff Commings: So let's go back to this fund raising you guys are doing for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. How much money have you guys raised so far and what's the goal?
Amanda Mercer: We are about $63,000 now and our goal is $120,000 so like on our website, we are got a little swimmer that swims to England and France and she just made the turn back from France so we are just over halfway and people can donate at channel4ALS. Org.
Jeff Commings: Alright, well, we are definitely hoping people do that. We want to see that little swimmer in the website get back to England. Ladies, I really think this is a great thing you guys for doing not just for raising money for ALS but just a lot of inspiration, I am sure for open water swimmers out there. Everyone here in swimming world wishes you the best of luck and keep us inform how it goes.
Ladies: Thank you, thank you.
Jeff Commings: Alright, well, have safe travels over to – over to London, over to England.
Ladies: Thank you, bye.
Jeff Commings: That's four of the six ladies for the Channel 4 ALS relay that is going to be swimming the English Channel. We advised you all to stay tune for their progress as we all will and we invite you to also go to our facebook and twitter pages to join in the conversation. Our twitter handle is @swimming world. That's gonna do for today's show. Thanks for watching.
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