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Kingdom Swim 2010 -- Recap

At the end of the day – it’s all about swimming.  Forget about Flipper Fil’s crazy e-mails, Rocky and Bullwinkle, the hat you wore to the Elton John look-a-like contest, the flag you brought to fly in the Pet and Swimmers Parade, or even the boisterous camaraderie and great food at the Montgomery’s Café’s Swimmers and Yacker’s Pasta Dinner.  When the sun rose on Saturday, July 24th, 2010 (or tried to rise) 195 swimmers from 25 different states, the District of Columbia,  Mexico, and India headed to the water for a day of wonderful, glorious, high spirited, and serious swimming.   Lake Memphremagog dropped her defenses in welcome – water temperatures in the high 70s, not a wave to be seen, and overcast with even a drizzle now and then.

We loved watching the first wave (the ten milers) hit the water and chum their way around the Starter buoy, pick up their Yackers on the way to Buoy 1 and then turn north and past the lighthouse and on to the border.  A migration worthy of the Clyde and Willoughby Rivers in April and May.  And then came the second wave (the 3 milers), repeating the very same, enthusiastic “journey.” 

                There was a race going on while the rest of you were swimming

There were some high level horse races going on in the 10 and the 3 and the 1 mile courses.  Watching Rondi Davies take a deep breath, stretch to her full length and unleash a disciplined speed to overtake Joe Sheehan was simply breathtaking.  To his credit, Joe put up a very good fight.  He’s a credit to our gender.  He didn’t give up and maintained his own speed to take second overall and first among the males, earning his own hand carved walking stick.  But the picture of Joe on the beach, after he finished, said it all.  “Where the heck did she come from?”

Spirited races were also to be found in the 3 and the 1.  The brother-sister Walsh Team took the male and female honors in the 3 mile course with 1st and 2nd place overall.  With a time of 1:12:48, Tim (41 of Naugatuck, CT) beat his sister Christine (41 of Boise, Idaho) by about 4 minutes.  She beat everybody else, male and female.  Then there were our two fabulous Kingdom Swim River Rats who appeared as the overall male and female winners of the one mile course.  Michael McGean, age 15 of Lincoln, MA, returned to successfully defend his one mile championship title from 2009, with a time of 22:03.  And, Miranda Wingfield, age 15 of Florence, MA, was only 13 seconds behind, with a time of 22:16.

                Once again the little river rats were rocking the boat  

Oh yeh.  The kids.  More this year than last.  Swimming faster and longer.  What an honor to host 11 year old Swapnali Yadev from Mumbai, India.   We are going to see her in the Olympics one day.  But really, up and down the line we have some wonderful youth swimmers who have definitely caught the Open Water Fever.  Take 15 year old, Adam Lodewick. He shaved almost an hour off his time from last year in the 3 Mile Swim.  You got it – AN HOUR!!!  He was just 18 minutes off the winning pace.  He could win it all next year.  Then again, his IROCKET teammate, 14 year old, Eli McFarlane was just 16 seconds behind him. 16 SECONDS.  But you gotta love this one:  One of Adam’s coaches, Peter Stuart, (who is an organizer of the swim and a member of the board at IROC), beat Adam by 2 seconds.  NO MERCY.  TWO SECONDS.  Take him while you can Peter, but next year comes the revenge.  And isn’t that the point.  What a great coach working with his swimmer.  Pushing him to his limits.  Spend a little time with the race results and you will see a whole lot of races within the race, decided by a few seconds here and there.

Now the 3 mile girls were no slackers either.  16 year old Stephanie Bierman of Apple Valley, MN placed 10th overall among the women with a blistering time of 1:24:41 while our very own Kristina Gauvin, 13 years old placed 20th overall with a time of 1:29:42.

Three girls from Massachusetts, Lily Koenig (Boxford), Rebecca Kench (Newburyport), and Andrea Samuelson (Newburyport) just plain dominated the ¼ mile, girls and boys combined.  Not to be left out, Jake LoGiudice (Amesbury, MA) and Daya Sharon (Westborough, MA) raced in the 100 yard swim.  Kingdom Swim Fever is definitely contagious and continues to spread.  No Lanes – No Lines – No Limits for these kids.  I said it last year and I’ll say it again, they’re out of the pools and busted loose from the ropes. They are into the open water and on the move.   They are not looking back.  Get ready Rondi and Joe and Glenn and Tobey.  They know where you live.

                Breaking through

But to me there are so many stories that are equally wonderful.  By my count almost 50 of you were swimming 10 miles or 3 miles for the very first time in your lives.  You’d done the training.  You’d done your qualifying open water distance, and you were prepared.  Only two of you were pulled with problems.  Only two.   Absolutely extraordinary.  It was a real treat to watch the reports of qualifying come in during June and to be a small part in your journey into longer stretches of open water swimming.

Here’s to Rob Madell, 68 year old from New York City, not only the most mature participant this year (Sorry King!  He beat you fair and square) but an inspiration to us all.  He did his very first 6 mile open water swim (as a qualifier) off the Jersey shore in June and then did his first 10 mile distance with us and finished in the middle of the pack.  No tapering for this guy.  (Hear that Vinnie?  NO TAPERING)  He’s already registered to return next year, taking full advantage of our new 50% discounted Geezer Rates.  I love this guy.  Gives me hope, he does.  And WE RESPECT AND HONOR OUR ELDERS (learned that from Confucius, we did.  That’s what the guy told me anyway!! RESPECT AND HONOR YOUR ELDERS!)

And Peggy Bolster of Camp Dudley.  Swims in that god forsaken Lake Champlain year round.  In 2009, swimming the 10 mile course, she got cold and pulled herself.  She was pissed off, really pissed off.  Low and behold, she was one of the first to register for 2010.  That’s the fighting spirit.  Better prepared and more determined than ever, she kept her stroke speed up and nutrition up.  Finished just fine, this time.  And, guess what?  She was the very first on the 10 mile roster for 2011.

But Ali …. Ali Hall is surely one of the toughest critters I’ve ever met in my life.  A few years after she started (and fell in love with) open water swimming, she got a virus in her spine that paralyzed almost half her body.  Doctors said she’d never swim again.  She refused to accept that.  (I’ve seen her swear and it’s not pretty).  She grabbed those balls, started squeezing, and has never looked back.  She can now lift her arm out of the water and drop it back in, but she has no ability to power her stroke with that arm.  You got that?  She’s swimming one armed.  Last year she finished in the middle of the 10 milers.  This year, her spine has been acting up.  Her doctor said she couldn’t come.  She said, “Let’s get real!”  They compromised on the 3 mile.  That’s Ali.   Makes “The Fighting Irish” look like a bunch of whimpering little puppies.

And finally, Karen Newman, winner of our Last One Back To The Barn Award.   She’s a working mother and wife who has struggled to find time during the day for herself.  Sound familiar?  She was signed up for last year’s 10 mile swim, but circumstances and the pressures of her life forced her to withdraw.  But, this past year she committed to swimming on a regular basis and re-signed for the 10 mile course.  Swimming has become her refuge and her sanctuary.  It’s the one part of her day devoted exclusively to herself.  She completed this year’s swim in just under 9 hours, happy – no, joyful – in her accomplishment.  Waiting at the beach – her husband and her kids. 

We are humbled and honored to be hosting all of you in this swim.  It is a responsibility we take, very, very seriously.  We are pleased to offer a well supported day of great swimming, in a great little lake, supported by some wonderful volunteers and staff on the water and on the beach.   In some ways, it is little more than a high level pick-up swim.  We don’t do chips.  We don’t have an official at every buoy.  No prize money.  Just some cedarwood medals, a clay rock for completion, and, to the overall champions, a hand carved walking stick.  Heck our pink flamingos at the line forgot to note who was wearing a wet suit and who wasn’t.  (We did get the self reports and had the photos to verify).  But you come.  2/3rds of those of you who swam in 2009 returned in 2010.  And your overall numbers grew from 101 in 2009 to 195 in the water in 2010.    For those of us who have lived with our love of this lake for many years, it is very gratifying to see your appreciation of the magnificence of Lake Memphremagog and a great day of swimming.

                Healthy Changes

In the process of all of this, we have heard so many of your personal stories.  Your support for IROC and our Healthy Changes Initiative leaves us speechless (well almost!)  But really -- it does fill us with speechlessness and amazement.  The program isn’t a cure.  But it has such a positive and immediate impact on the lives of so many individuals.  It is extremely gratifying to see so many of you appreciate what this program is all about and support it.
This year, when all was said and done, our Kingdom Swimmers raised over $28,000 for this program.  Bill Shipp, one of those crabby people from Maryland, presented us with a Maryland state flag that had been flown over the statehouse for a day in honor of the program.  It was a totally unexpected honor.  But you know, this Initiative really is a ground breaking and highly effective program targeted for people suffering from chronic conditions.  We love spreading the word and are already seeing the “use it or lose it” concept replicated in other parts of Vermont and in other parts of the nation.  We started our Summer Series of running, biking, and swimming events as fundraisers for the program.  But, if they also serve to help spread the word about a truly effective way to help people manage, contain, and even improve chronic conditions – all the better.

This year we were especially pleased to be able to offer so many wonderful prizes to our high pledgers:  Swim Art’s guided Alcatraz Swim; Ned Denison’s “boot camp” for those considering a channel crossing; an EXTERRA wet suit; a four pack of lift tickets to Jay Peak and also a weekend Condo, a unique, one of a kind, hand carved bird house; Go Swim TV training CDs.   It was really great to be able to thank our leading fundraisers with these great prizes and to support the growth of open water swimming at the same time.

Our volunteer patrol boats and kayakers also raised over $2,000 for other charities, including the Memphremagog Watershed Association, Coutts Moriarty, and Northwoods Stewardship Center.  As a thank you for their volunteer efforts we donated money to various charities of their choice. 

We also have to take a moment to thank all of the folks who supported this event so fully.  The governmental boats who are the bottom line, the Volunteer Boat People, the 40 or so volunteer Yackers, Julie Gunn our on the beach field marshal, Pat and Chuck Gilding who counted you as you went in and counted and timed you as you came out, and to all of the battle hardened staff and volunteers of IROC – Thanks.  To Bill Peck and his wonderful, hand carved walking sticks – you are truly THE MAN.  Not only is it a wonderful prize, but you have helped keep our swimmers out of the fast suits, honoring the channel crossing standards that should be the standards of open water swimming everywhere. 
And thanks to the many wonderful sponsors who have supported Kingdom Swim and all of IROC’s summer series of running, biking, and swimming events this year and in years past:

Community National Bank – Jay Peak – Vermont Highland Cattle – Louis Garneau
Hammer – Boston Sports Club – XTERRA Wet Suits – Swim_Art – Vittoria Tires
The EastSide Restaurant – Paul Decelles Investment Planning – Wilson & White, P.C.
The Town of Derby – Poulin Lumber – Jennifer Nelson, Esq. – Kinney Drugs
Passumpsic Savings Bank – Jay Peak and Island Pond Area Chambers of Commerce --
Tony Pomerleau – Community Financial Services Group – Roger Gosselin, Inc.
Memphremagog Press – North Country Hospital – Derby Village Store
Newport Marine Services – Clyde River Recreation – Radio Shack – Hayes Ford
Eva Hayes Accounting – Lo’s Tavern – Orleans Northern Essex VNA – MSTF
Montgomery’s Café – Seymour, Salem, and Willoughby Lake Associations
Village Bike Shop – Memphremagog Rentals –Caldwell Banker All Seasons Realty
Libby’s Catering – Newport City Parks and Recreation Department
These folks support us – we hope you will support them with your business.  (Personally, I can’t wait for the Vermont Highland Cattle Company’s steaks to be available by UPS delivery.  Just can‘t wait.)

But this year’s special thanks have to go to Chris and Pat McFarland of Clyde River Recreation.  They have been at our side, supporting this event (and our other events) from the start.  They have our back when we need it.  They get the job done smoothly and efficiently without a drop of drama.  None.   And they are bringing a new wave of flatwater and river kayaking to this part of the Northeast Kingdom.  Good People.  It’s great working with them. 

Phil White, Member
Organizing Committee
Kingdom Swim