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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meet the Swimmer Scouts, Part III

This morning's offering rounds out our team of solo swimmers and introduces our one relay team.

Liz Fry, 52, Westport, CT
Financial Services Consultant
The most accomplished swimmer scout in the group, Liz Fry is something of a legend in open water swimming circles. The five-time solo crossing veteran of the English Channel achieved a major pinnacle of open water swimming earlier this summer by completing a grueling 24-hour double crossing of the English Channel. She undertook this amazing swim in the same season as her historic “Double Ederle,” a first-ever round trip swim between Sandy Hook, NJ and New York, NY. Liz also holds the record for the fastest clockwise circumnavigation of Manhattan Island—a battering swim going against the swift currents of the East, Harlem, and Hudson Rivers that she completed in 2010. A Catalina Crossing in 2005 puts her on the list of Triple Crown achievers, and some of her other off-the-beaten track swims have ensured her good standing in the annals of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame’s extensive record books.

This open water distance powerhouse is also the director of the St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation’s Swim Across the Sound, a premier, 25K-long open water event that sees upwards of 100 swimmers crossing the treacherous expanse of Long Island Sound every summer.

David Dammerman, 42, Saratoga Springs, NY
Manager, Great Mountain Investment Associates
Swimming changed for David the day he pulled through the water and actually moved somewhere.  So began long summer days at the Y and winter evenings at nearly every pool in Connecticut.  David swam competitively through high school at Fairfield Prep and at Hamilton College.  Ending a half-hearted attempt to continue swimming after college with US Masters, David steered clear of the pool for a number of years.
After moving to Saratoga Springs, NY three years ago, David found a group of early morning swimmers who gave him the boost he needed to come back to the pool regularly.  When spring came, they introduced him to the open water, and he was hooked on longer distances and lower temperatures.  
David swims with Adirondack Masters and directs the annual Betsy Owens Memorial One- and Two-mile Swim event in Lake Placid and helped develop a program to introduce young swimmers to the pleasures of open water swimming.  He won the 10-mile Kingdom swim event in 2011.
In his professional life, David manages Great Mountain Investment Associates, an investment company focused on real estate transactions other private investment opportunities.

Relay Swimmers
Alison Meehan, 39, Elkton, MD
Full-Time Mom (formerly an Elementary School Teacher )
Alison lives in Elkton, MD with her “super-supportive family,” which includes her husband, Ted, and two boys, aged four and nine. She trains in open water with the ABC group in Annapolis, MD. Her biggest challenge these days is raising an Autistic child and trying to squeeze in swim time.

Alison has swum competitively in the pool since she was a child. She was a top breastroker in high school. After high school, she took some time off from swimming, but got back in the pool about six years ago swimming in Masters swim meets. She is ranked nationally in the 50 yard and 100 yard breaststroke events.

Alison discovered open water swimming only four years ago. Her first event was the 1-mile Chesapeake Bay swim, where she placed third. From there on, Alison has competed in many open water events including the Chesapeake Bay 4.4-mile event in 2011 where she finished third in her age group. Her favorite swim so far has been the 6-mile event in Lake Memphremagog where she placed first overall in the non-wetsuit category. 

“Accepting this invitation to swim in a relay was a no brainer for me,” she says. “Lake Memphremagog is such a beautiful lake and I find it to be very spiritual. It’s like swimming to the heavens and I just feel so at peace in the lake.” 

Alison says she feels honored to be a part of this swim and hopes to do the 26-mile solo swim next year.

Shannon Keegan, 36, Derby, VT
Operations Program Manager, Microsoft
Shannon Keegan began swimming at age seven as part of a local summer club swim team. Within two years, she had joined a year-round club team in Denver, Colorado and focused on competitive pool swimming. “As far as I knew, swimming only occurred in the chemically-treated, crystal clear waters of municipal pools,” and Shannon spent most of her childhood “underwater, in chlorinated pools, watching a black line on the bottom.” She hesitated to venture into the local manmade ponds and reservoirs in Colorado because they seemed murky and uninviting, but she continued building up her pool swimming experiences. She competed in various intrastate and local competitions through the end of high school.

Shannon describes herself as a “middle of the road swimmer” and upon entering the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, she hung up her cap. But soon, she was pulled back to the pool by the water polo team.  During her second year of college, Shannon found out that water polo provided a great forum for applying her swimming skills. Once she picked up the fundamentals, she quickly started traveling with UNM’s co-ed intramural team to matches all over the West and Southwest.

In 2008, Shannon moved to Newport, Vermont, and that’s when she discovered the joy of open water swimming. Her first open water swim was the 1-mile race at the Kingdom Swim in 2009. “It was a last minute decision to jump in and I was unsure whether I would be able to brave the murky water or find my way around the course without a black line. Ultimately, I called on my water polo stroke for sighting and eventually found the cool, un-chlorinated, freshwater refreshing,” she says.

In 2010, Shannon tried the 3-mile Kingdom Swim event and later completed the 10K ‘Round the Sound Swim in Harrington Sound, Bermuda. Upon completing this swim, Shannon says she
“realized that there are no limits. If you just keep on swimming, the miles and hours fade away and you can, in fact, complete the 10-mile course at the Kingdom Swim.” She will be testing that theory as half of the lone relay team participating in the In Search of Memphre event. She will be covering 13 miles with Alison Meehan completing the other 13 miles.

When Shannon is not in the water, she works as an Operations Program Manager for Microsoft and enjoys spending time playing along the shores of Lake Memphremagog with her two dogs and husband, Noah.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meet the Swimmer Scouts Part II

This morning's offering of swimmer scouts includes two-thirds of our MetroWest Boston contingent, Greg and Jen, as well as our New Zealander.

Greg O’Connor, 42, Natick, MA
Cancer Researcher
Greg began swimming during the summer months off the southern shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, later becoming a competitive swimmer for the local YMCA, high school team, and Gettysburg College. “I learned how to manage my time and focus on goals during these years in the pool,” Greg says. “The skills and discipline that I gained early in life have helped me at work and play in my adult life.”

Over the past six years, Greg has continued to challenge himself with progressively longer and tougher swims. Beginning with the 8-mile Boston Light Swim, an event he now directs, Greg has progressed up the ladder of open water swims.

In August 2010, Greg broke the 41-year-old record for the fastest 16-mile out-and-back swim of the Boston Light course along with fellow swimmer scout Elaine Howley.  Prior to their swim, only four people in history had successfully completed the double crossing, and Jim Doty’s 1969 record of 9 hours 30 minutes had stood the test of time. Swimming side-by-side, pacing each other, the duo ended up shattering Doty’s time with a new record of 7 hours 7 minutes.

Following the Boston Harbor record swim, Greg attempted his first channel crossing, completing the Catalina Channel in 9 hours 26 minutes and qualifying for the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, which he successfully completed in June 2011 in just 8 hours, 21 minutes.

Greg, who is a cancer research scientist,  has also felt a strong need to give back to the community. He’s volunteered during the MIMS event in 2009 and 2010, became the race director of the annual Boston Light Swim beginning in 2009. “I have put together a committee of accomplished athletes, and we have brought the event into the 21st century,” Greg says. “In the future, we plan on forming a non-profit association that will sanction and assist swimmers in attempts to swim out to Boston Light and back, a 16-plus-mile feat in sub-60 degree water.”

Jennifer Dutton, 42, Wayland, MA
Swim Coach
Jennifer Dutton is a local swimming icon in MetroWest Boston. Nearly every swimmer you speak with from club team 8-and-unders on up to 60-plus-year-old Masters swimmers have either been coached by her or inspired by her perseverance in a sport that doesn’t always love her back.

Jen says she had an “unremarkable” high school swimming career in Connecticut, but planned to swim at college. But during her freshman orientation, she sustained a brain injury and struggled with everything at college. She dropped swimming for good, she thought, but managed to complete her degree.

However, the siren pull of the water brought her to Candlewood Lake in 1986, where she completed a 10-mile swim for “purely social reasons.” A few years later, she decided to give ocean swimming a go and completed the Boston Light Swim seven times between 1993 and 2004. Her 1997 BLS swim was most memorable because she was pregnant at the time. “I didn’t know I was pregnant when I started the swim, but figured it out as I went along,” she says. She returned in 1998 while still breastfeeding and competed again right after the birth of her second child in 2000. “The Boston Light Swim will always will have a special place in my heart because I have done it so many times,” Jen says. “It was different each time and it marked many events in my life.”
Jen has also completed the 10-mile Kindgom Swim twice, in 2009 and 2010, as well as a 17-mile swim in Lake George and a 15-miler in Morse Reservoir. She does all this while suffering severe sea sickness in virtually every swim she does, a residual effect of the brain injury she suffered as a teenager. Despite this uncomfortable situation, Jen still trains upwards of 24 miles per week and has conquered a range of health issues relating to both the brain injury and an underlying heart condition. “I swim to prove to myself that I can,” she says.

Jen has always wanted to swim the length of Lake Memphremagaog. “I have been putting a lot of training in for distance the last couple of years, and I am excited to do a long lake swim in the Northeast Kingdom, which has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.” Her parents now live in the Northeast Kingdom.

Charlotte Brynn, 45, Stowe, VT
Non-Profit Executive Director and
Fitness Instructor
Charlotte Brynn is the “resident alien” of the swimmer scout group. Born and bred in New Zealand, she was “lured to Vermont by love” in  1998 by her third-generation Vermonter husband. She is now the Executive Director of The Swimming Hole, a non-profit community pool and fitness center in Stowe, Vermont. She is also a personal trainer, group fitness, spinning, and kranking instructor, and coach of the Stowe Masters workout group

Charlotte has always been drawn to the water. She grew up just a mile or so from the ocean in New Zealand and when she wasn’t in the sea, you could probably find her in a nearby lake or pool instead. Charlotte raced while in school and during her college years in triathlons.  Recently, she has enjoyed open water swimming events and training and is currently working towards a solo crossing of the English Channel scheduled for the summer of 2012.

Charlotte is excited to be taking part in the Lake Memphremagog swim because it is promoting open water swimming, health and fitness, and because it involves “a talented and good-natured group of swimmers led by Phil White. He is unstoppable with regard to doing good things for people, and I would LOVE to cross the border swimming!” She also says her purpose is to “light the fire in me so I can light the fire in others. I am committed to helping others improve their overall health and fitness. Whether it be through instruction, coaching, guidance or inspiring others, whether one-by-one or making an impact on a community or state, the important thing is to encourage those around us. We are all different, whether it is swimming in Lake Memphemegog or making the goal of walking 20 minutes each day to start exercising— it is all fantastic.”

Charlotte recently won the 8-mile Boston light Swim event for the women with a time of 3 hours 6 minutes and 50 seconds. She also won the Lake Willoughby swim in 2010 and came second to Emma Otto-Moudry in 2011. She has also completed a 16.4-mile double crossing of Lake Champlain in 8 hours, 30 minutes, 49 seconds, which is her longest swim to date and her first long night swim. “I was excited to swim from Vermont to New York and back again. Once I finished and climbed into the boat, the highlight of the whole adventure was seeing my crew and pilot so thrilled and having so much fun,” she says.  

Charlotte was named a USMS All-American Distance Swimmer in 2009, and says her most exciting swim was the Golden Gate Bridge to Aquatic Park swim held in March 2011 in San Francisco, CA. “The water was 53 degrees, and it was exciting seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz while I was swimming, not to mention the sea lions and dolphins.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Newport Marine Services Signs On To The Search

We are pleased to report that Newport Marine Services has signed on as a sponsor of our expedition In Search of Memphré.  Newport Marine Services is donating the use of a pontoon boat for the swim, which will be a key component in keeping the scouts and crew safe.

We thank Bob and Amy for their support.

Meet the Swimmer Scouts

Over the next couple days, we will be introducing the swimmers and other players involved with the In Search of Memphre Tour. Today's installment includes Emma and Bill, who represent two ends of the swimming spectrum and Elaine and John, two east coasters who are firmly in the center of the age spectrum for this event.

William Shipp, 51, Mitchellville, MD
Bill lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. with his wife and two daughters. He is a relative novice to marathon open water swimming having completed the Kingdom Swim 10-mile event in 2010 and 2011. He has also completed the 4.4 mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim five times and has competed in numerous other open water swims in the Washington/Baltimore region.
A traditional pool swimmer, Bill competed in age group swimming as a youth and swam for Herndon High School in Virginia. He attended George Washington University on a swimming scholarship and graduated in 1982. He then proceeded on to law school at GWU as well. After college, Bill took a several-year hiatus from the grind of swimming, and after a few failed starts, returned to swimming in earnest in his early 40s. Initially competing only in USMS pool competitions at the local and national level with the Terrapin Masters swim team, Bill thought that open water seemed like a strange and foreign pursuit. After becoming affiliated with the Arundel Breakfast Club in Annapolis, Maryland, Bill found the club’s love of open water infectious and eventually signed up for the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. Since his first Bay swim, Bill has been hooked on open water swimming and has found the challenge of the open water and camaraderie among the fellow swimmers to be irresistible.

Bill will be attempting this swim on the weekend of the one-year anniversary of his diagnosis with prostate cancer. “A year ago I had completed a very successful indoor swimming season, swam the Chesapeake Bay swim four times and stepped up to swim my longest open water swim ever, The Kingdom 10-mile. In August we dropped our first daughter off at college and everything seemed to be going along just fine. Life was good,” he says. However, a routine physical in September that included some abnormal lab results became a game changer: Bill had prostate cancer. In otherwise excellent health, Bill’s prognosis for full recovery was good and he underwent surgery in January. He immediately set some goals for his recovery. I knew the Spring swim meet season would be lost but even before I left the hospital I determined I would complete my fifth crossing of the Chesapeake Bay in June and then travel to Vermont in July to do the Kingdom 10-mile swim again. 

“For me it was incredibly important to have a goal to shoot for. The Kingdom Swim is a great event that provides a first class open water swimming opportunity for hundreds of swimmers. More importantly it raises money for an incredibly worthy cause. The IROC programs that provide health and wellness support for those in need are critically important. Those with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other potentially debilitating conditions need the comfort and helping hand of their family, friends, and community. With the support of IROC these people can take charge of their lives again and achieve their goals, whatever they may be.

“I am honored to be invited to swim in the search for Memphre but more importantly, I am honored to know folks like Phil White and the many volunteers that work so hard with IROC to serve the community.
When he is not swimming in chlorine or river water, Bill is a partner in the law firm of O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore specializing in land use and zoning law

Emma Reade Otto-Moudry, 16, Ithaca, NY
High School Student (11th Grade)
Emma is a brand-new open water swimmer who is beginning to make a big name for herself right out of the gate. At just 16 years old, she is by far the youngest swimmer scout in the group this year. She swims for the Lansing CATS, a club team in the USA Swimming system and first tried open water swimming in the summer of 2009. She was instantly hooked.

In addition to setting the course record for the 4.75-mile Lake Willoughby Swim in August 2011, Emma has also taken part in the around Manhattan Island Marathon swim as part of a four-person relay in 2011. She is also scheduled to swim the 17.5-mile Ederle Swim from Sandy Hook, NJ to Manhattan on October 1st.

Emma loves “the wildness and the beauty of open water swimming, and the challenge. Swimming for a cause while you are doing something you love is powerful.” As such, the water is her medium for service; she helps to coach the youngest swimmers on her team as a volunteer, has been a volunteer lifeguard for Ithaca Hospicare’s Women Swimmin’ event on Cayuga Lake, and is fundraising for Swim Free in conjunction with her Ederle Swim in October. She is delighted to be taking part on the 26-mile event, which will be her longest solo swim yet.

Elaine Howley, 33, Waltham, MA
Elaine Howley (Waltham, MA) is recognized by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as the co-world record-holder (with fellow swimmer scout Greg O’Connor) for the fastest Boston Light “Double,” a 16-mile out-and-back swim across the Boston Harbor (between L-Street and Little Brewster Island).  She became the second female to ever complete the course on August 12, 2010 in 7:07:48. Her swim broke the 41-year-old record by 2 hours, 23 minutes.
Elaine completed the “Triple Crown” of open water, marathon swimming in 2009 by successfully completing swims around Manhattan, NY (28.5 miles); Catalina Island to the California mainland (21 miles); and the English Channel (21 miles).
Elaine has also completed swims of varying distances and difficulties including a 41K in Lake George, NY; the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in Lake Memphremagog, VT; a 12.5-miler in Key West, FL; and a 2.4-miler in 48 degree water in York, ME. All without a wetsuit.
Elaine attempted a 50-mile swim in Narragansett Bay, RI in July 2011 but was thwarted by conditions and sea life, managing to complete 27 miles in about 15 hours. That swim was a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and raised more than $10,000 for blood cancer research. Elaine lost her younger sister to Leukemia in 1986.

Elaine currently lives in Waltham, MA where she works as a freelance writer and editor. She is a frequent contributor to SWIMMER magazine and espnW. Learn more about Elaine at her website.

John Humenik, 36, New York, NY
Airline Pilot
John learned to swim early on but retired from pool races at the ripe age of eleven. After a long period of aquatic inactivity, he eventually discovered the joys of open water swimming in 2006. John enjoys swimming events around New York City, where he lives. He is an active member of the CIBBOWS group. The longest swim he’s completed to date is a 36-mile, two-day section of the week-long, multi-stage event 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim in July 2011.  He also won the inaugural Kingdom Swim 10-mile event and considers Lake Memphremagog to be one of the loveliest places to swim, but only “when there’s no wind.  And if the water’s not too cold.”

Out of the water, John is a connoisseur of fine marzipan and a creator of excellent cheescakes. He’s  also distinguished by his inability to gain weight, despite feasting on these two food items.  As an airline pilot, John tends to fly places, and he’s also been known to knit some mean pairs of mittens as prizes for local ocean swim races.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Planning the Search

The route has been set.  Our initial plan is to begin in Newport and end in Magog.  But that's just a plan.  Mother Nature will have something to say about it at launch time.