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Cross Lake Michigan

 
A strong group of local swimmers went from Chicago to Michigan through the water...
(8/20/2013)
Kyle Thele
Almost everyone has thought about it. The thought of swimming from one side of Lake Michigan to the other seems so enticing, especially on a clear summer day when the Chicago skyline is so noticeable from the Indiana and Michigan beaches. However, like most ideas of this ilk, the devil is in the details. A group of local Chicago swimmers finally decided to put this challenge to the test, 20 swimmers took off from a Chicago beach and less than 24 hours later they arrived on a Michigan beach as part of the Swim Across Lake Michigan portion of Swim Across America.

The process started the same way it always does. Mark Hauser was sitting with friends looking out onto the Lake talking about how much fun it would be to swim to the other side. While that is the end of the conversation for most, Hauser found himself in a much different position as a strong enough swimmer to take part in an attempt this difficult. The idea grew strength with a fortuitous relationship. Hauser's son happened to be close friends with the son of Swim Across America Chicago event director David McClellan.

The two decided the challenge was worth their time and they began the arduous process of planning out what became an ever growing problem. With the marketing help of Swim Across America, they were able to field 20 swimmers who would be able to fundraise enough money and had the ability to make the trek. While all were strong enough swimmers, the talent level covered a wide gap. The roster included those who just swam for exercise to David Sims, a 1980 Olympian who currently holds two world records in masters competitions. Swimmers had a number of reasons to take part in the cross-lake swim. Some did it for bring money and attention cancer research, a group of swimmers from Evanston raised more than $60,000 by themselves.

The Swim Across Lake Michigan Team:

David Sims, Bob Lewis ,Mark Hauser, John Martin, Melodee Nugent, Ryan Foley, John Schoser, Sean Russell, Michelle Milne, Bill Lee, Dave McClellan, Kendra Robinson, Andrea Rudser-Rusin, Dan Cline, Kara Pellaton, Chip Gilbertson, Jim Sara, Michael Markman, Ellen Bintz Meuch, Stephanie Felber

Once the team was put together the true logistical nightmare set it. McClellan said they needed near perfect weather conditions, their first attempt to head out in July was squashed due to high waves. After seeing the relatively calm, yet still incredibly difficult, water they eventually fought through, McClellan said he was happy the first attempt fell through. Even with ideal weather, the trip needed to find paramedics to be on hand. As of noon on Friday, August 16, the day they planned on starting their swim, they still didn't have a green light. Finally their proverbial ducks were in a row and at roughly 7:15 the first group was in the water.

Hauser had meticulously scheduled when the swimmers would be in the water, and what other swimmers they would be with. The first group out, the strongest swimmers, took the longest shift in the water. Knowing that night time swimming would be most difficult, the first group was swimming for nearly an hour before rotating out. This first shift was made especially difficult after a snafu with the three boats they had traveling with them forced the swimmers to go much farther then they intended. Hauser planned the lead boat to be the 50 foot yacht, what McClellan called their floating hotel, however the lead boat needed to go slow enough for the swimmers to follow. Even at its slowest speed the yacht needed to zig zag through the water to slow down, causing the swimmers to go back and forth with it. The problem was resolved after the group's sail boat was brought to the front, replacing the yacht. Hauser said that with its sail down the boat traveled through the water at the perfect speed for the swimmers.

After the first group, each leg stayed in the water for roughly 30 minutes with no group taking more than one graveyard shift through the especially choppy water. However, the most difficult stretch for Hauser came on his fourth of five legs. During this stretch Hauser said the combination of tired muscles, sleep deprivation and desire to be finished made this stretch significantly more difficult than his final leg where he finished on shore. McClellan said that some of those middle legs were so difficult that the swimmers may not have even moved forward at all as they fought through the oncoming waves.

Despite all the problems, the final stretch seemed more like it belonged in a Hollywood movie instead of on the Michiana shores. Hauser and Sims made up the final group, as they approached the beach they could see a group of 50 or so people waiting for them and cheering them on. A group of local children swam out to them to give their encouragement. As they all came to shore an unlikely connection was formed. Sims had grown up on this very beach, while he lived in Joliet his grandparents owned a house on the Michiana beach. It was at this house that the Olympian learned to swim and learned to love it. Now, as he finished this remarkable accomplishment, the children who were cheering him on pointed out the house they were living in. The very same house Sims stayed in with his grandparents.

When the boats finally docked in nearby Michigan City, the final push of energy had worn off. The sleep deprived swimmers and organizers were finally ready to collapse. During the 23 hours on the water, McClellan said he had maybe 30 to 45 minutes of sleep. Hauser, who said he personally covered 8.5 miles in the water, didn't sleep at all during the entire trip.

While the entire venture was incredibly rewarding for all involved, a repeat performance next year is far from guaranteed. Both Hauser and McClellan said adjustments would be needed and the pure logistics of the event need to be perfect to do it again. The two have no doubt that there would be an interest level from more than capable swimmers, and the charitable aspect of it all more than makes it worth looking into for the future. McClellan said that if they do set it up again they would use more small boats, like the lead sail boat, to pick up and drop off swimmers. Despite all of the difficulty, they payout is clearly worth it, Hauser said. When he first teamed up with Swim Across America they had a donation goal of $15,000; the group has raised more than that just since the final swimmers reached shore Saturday morning. All told the event brought in $110,000 and that number is still growing. That money will go to fund a significant research project at Rush University Cancer Center. Now with a blueprint to work off of, and proof that the trip is possible, Hauser said he is excited to start planning again. To donate or learn more about the Swim Across Lake Michigan Relay or Swim Across America, visit their website

Comments:
Monday, August 26, 2013 12:35:50 PM by Anonymous
1) Incredible!
2) I was an "helper" during this year's 2013 "Open Water Swim" at the close of the race, at the Ohio Street Beach, as swimmers disembarked from the water.
3) This type of "Open Water Swim" across Lake Michigan exists as a very interesting event involving "Open Water," something I haven't done since swimming across "Lake Geneva" in Wisconsin from "Covenant Harbor" to the opposite side of the lake, then back again early mornings in the late 1960s, as a "Camp Participant" from Rockford, IL's First Evangelical Covenant Church.
4) I'm delighted the event was finally completed in August 2013.
5) I earned both my "Jr." as well as "Sr." Life Saving "certificates" during different summers at the noted "Covenant Harbor" a prelude to my ultimate "Water Safety Instructor" classification from Rockford, IL about 1973-1974 (exact year?) where one of the "WSI" class members was "John Martin" from Springbrook, Ltd. in Rockford, IL.
6) Is the "Lake Michigan" Open Water Swim's "John Martin," the same "John Martin" as the "Springbrook Ltd." John Martin who took the "WSI" class with myself [(also Tim Sullivan as well as Bob Orr), all of "us" from Springbrook Ltd.], at Jefferson Sr. High School in Rockford, IL about 1974?
7) I was more into the Springbrook Ltd.'s "maintenance" as well as "lawn mowing" (even work at the Manager's Residence on Bruner Street, in Rockford, IL) than functioning as a "Life Guard" at the pool ( I failed to advertise to "Bob Gus," the "Pool Manager," my own WSI class' attendance/completion in the same class as "Bob Orr," "Tim Sullivan," as well as "John Martin").
8) Should "John Martin" be the self-same "John Martin," would he please contact me by e-mail address.
9) Thank You as well as Good Day.
Sincerely,
DavidRJacobson@gmail.com, i.e., "Big Jake" [my other brothers were also employed at Springbrook, Ltd., especially the summer I had to attend Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL also of "Jake" nicknames (Steve, as the youngest "Jake" of my childhood family, became an "All American" diver at Guilford Sr. High School during his student days, about 1973?), Ron's an Attorney in Dixon, IL with Steve as a Senior Control and Design Systems Engineer with the B-2 Stealth Bomber airplane by about 1992 "work history title").

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