Channel Swimmers

Madhu Nagaraja


Madhu's bio page. | Madhu's swim-report in his own words.

The Rinconada Masters swim team has been more than a swim team to me and to my family. The club has been a big support to us, and not just in my swimming life. We've grown into a big Swim Family with people of diverse talents, strengths and personalities, and this has been a big motivational factor for me to train day-in and day-out for a big overwhelming venture like this. There are about 100 members in Rinconada Masters; everybody supported me in their own way. Some people asked me all the difficult questions about my swim and made me think a lot on my training strategies. I had to look into my weak points and question my strengths; this was the amazing part of my swimming - to solve problems and, in turn, to ask many questions of all the expert open-water swimmers from all over the world. They all liked my seriousness in my training. Some even made fun of me on The Channel Swimmers chat site - they are an amazing group of accomplished swimmers. I would like to mention a few names from the Rinconada group to whom I owe special thanks. Carol Macpherson, the Head coach with Rinconada Masters, has been my main support since the day I expressed my plans on training to swim the English Channel. She gave me a lane for myself and started catering workouts for me (people would complain about 3 x 800 or 3 x 1000). She gave me access to the pool when we had to start our swim at 4:30 am in the morning. She always watched my stroke and jumped in to make changes when required. She took initiative in all of the fundraising for our venture. Carol, thank you very much. Catherine Haas, popularly know as CAT, was so helpful, she would jump in when we needed help and would turn everything around and completely take control of the situation; she was always cheerful and always gave me a dose of positive energy. Dana Hubbell who is always cheerful "like a butterfly" took the initiative in designing the T-shirts for fundraising; she came out with a great design and people in Rinconada loved it. Bob Hubbell, Dana's husband, was a big support to me and he always said positive things to me to keep up my training standards. Pat Keller, my lane mate and bosom buddy who is 88 years young, has an amazing spirit of life; he always gave me a hard time if I was late for my swimming! He was a great source of inspiration to me. Ken Hepper and Luba, assistant coaches at Rinconada, made sure I completed my scheduled swim for the day. Another important person during my training was Caroline Lambert, who volunteered to swim with me during my long pool swims. We jumped in at 4:30 am once and went on till 8:30 am. She always gave me a hard time when I fell short in my training and made sure I completed my scheduled swim yardage. Caroline's husband, who is an avid pilot, also donated two flight trips around the bay for my fundraising event. Doug Compere, who was supposed to accompany us for the Channel swim, was my dryland training partner. He also completed his first Ironman event in Idaho during this time. Bobby Callison and Paul Anderson were a great inspiration to me during my training. Bobby made sure that I talked less during my training and we both pulled each other's legs when either of us saw the other person talking! Shawn Sasse always brightened the pool in the morning with her ever glowing, infectious smile. Gary Gibson, a great butterflier, would race with me during my morning training swims. Ivan Vladmir, who was my lane mate when I started swimming with Rinconada in 2002, always motivated me and we've been great friends since then. After Suman supported my idea of swimming the Channel, I discussed my thoughts of the swim with Shelley, who is a good friend and has been a support for me during all the phases of my training; she immediately agreed to be on the boat as my lead crew. There are many others that helped and encouraged me; their names not being here does not mean that they are not appreciated and thanked.

The South End Rowing club has been a big part in my training for the English Channel. The club has many experienced open-water and cold-water swimmers. The club members were very helpful in making sure I got all the required exposure to swimming in the open waters - it is indeed very tricky to swim in open waters, where the tides, currents, wind and temperature cannot be controlled. My first swim in the bay was the Annual DOLPHIN - SOUTH END ROWING club Triathlon race - I finished the 1.2 mile swim placing 13th and gaining 8 valuable points to South End Rowing Club. In fact, the South End Rowing Club won the race and I was proud to have contributed for that cause. People in the club were very friendly and immediately recognised my skills - all the expert swimmers started giving me valuable pointers (Lynne Cox, Drew Downs, Pedro Ordenes (who is a popular cold water swimmer), Gary Emich, Laura Colette, Kristine Buckley, Bill Wygant, Diane Wygant, Fast Eddie, Kimberly, Bob Roper, John Meyer, JP (my open water swimming partner), Leslie Thomas (gave me valuable tips and also escorted me on a kayak during my shorter swims), Jonathan Hathaway, Tom Carlson, Tom Linthincum, Brenda Austin, Nancy Iverson and many others. I've tried my best to mention as many names as possible, they did give me valuable pointers and escorted me during my swims in the bay. Bob Roper and John Meyer were the main two pilots during my swims in the bay and they always made sure I finished my swims and pushed me when needed - training for a long distance swim is very difficult and there is big mental factor. It is said "Long distance swimming is 90% mental and 10% physical" and it is true. During my Channel swim I was very stressed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the Channel.

I have to make special mention of Bob Roper and John Meyer who spent long, cold boring hours on the Zodiac inflatable boat, when they escorted me on my swims. Sometimes the Zodiac would be flooded when the winds created a big wave, and during all this they had to protect me from the busy boat traffic and kept updating my position to the coastguard and vessel traffic control. John also kept a log of my stroke rate and how I did during my swims (like, if I gagged, my feeding pattern, etc.). This was a big help, I could always look at the notes and make necessary changes for my future long swims. Also, I would like to mention all the friends from Dolphin club, Suzie Dods (who swam the channel in 2000 and John Ottersberg (who swam on August 14, 2004), Rick Avery and Si Bunting. John and Rick were a great help to us during our travel to Dover; we became great friends, exchanging notes during our waits for our respective swims. We would swim together in the Dover Harbour, have dinner together, and hang out together - our favourite place was La Scala (Great Italian food).

I trained for this event from June 2003, logging thousands of yards in the pool, and spending long hours in the cold waters of San Francisco bay - making sure I got acclimatised to all the conditions similar to the English Channel. People in Rinconada always made me smile and supported me in my training. Carol, the coach, made sure my stroke was efficient and I wasn't dragging myself in the water - this made my swim so much easier.

Finally, I would like to thank my friends from India and my family who have been a major support during this journey. I would like to mention my uncles Dr. Ravi Kumar, Dr. Chandra Kumar and my cousins living in Bangalore and New Jersey. I would like to make a special note of my cousin, Jayadev Munimallappa, who has been like a brother to me. I would also like to thank Mahesh my other cousin who lives in Fremont, who always gave me a dose of positive energy.

On mentioning my plans to swim the English Channel, my friends Rajesh Rao and Geetanjali Suki jumped in and offered a big financial aid to the event. Also, Arun Kallur, Madhu Shivanna, Sunil Shah, Brahma Prashanth, Venu Kallur helped me significantly during this venture.

I would like to mention another important friend who helped me at a critical stage. January 2004 was the deadline for submitting the Channel Swimming application and also for confirming one's swim spot. During this time, Suman was full-term pregnant and we were expecting the baby any day and I was not able to take care of the application formalities. At this time I contacted my friend Madhu and his wife Madhura who live in England, who offered to mail all the required checks (about 1,000) to the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation. This took a big burden off my head so I could focus all my energy on our family, and Suman delivered our beautiful son Vivek on January 24, 2004. Vivek has been a big support in this venture. He's been a good sleeper, since the day he came home!

One of the motivational factors for me to swim the English Channel is the present President of India, Abdul Kalam. I read his autobiography "The Wings of Fire", from which I realised Nation is so much more larger than self - I've always believed in the team strength and this drove me to be a prominent part of Rinconada Masters swim club. I remembered some of the stories in "The Wings of Fire".

Reading his story had always impressed me and I was looking for a way to place my country's name among this elite group of swimmers in the world. People in the group recognise me for my swimming talent and the vast amount of knowledge I gathered during this training phase. I was proud to carry the Indian Flag in Dover. People in Dover and at Rinconada Masters in Palo Alto were very happy to meet me as an Indian. They were very curious about our culture and history, and the best part was that they liked Indian food! Looking back at my English Channel swim, I succeeded because of the support and strength from my family and friends from different parts of the world - and the strong Rinconada Masters community.

I would also like to add a message to my fellow country men - People from other parts of the world always look at us as Indians, rather than as an individual, and hence we have a big responsibility when we are abroad - we are ambassadors of our country and we always have to make sure we uphold our country's pride, culture and heritage.

This was a great experience. Thank you everybody.

Material provided by Madhu, Rinconada Masters, and The Channel Swimmers

Created: 9th January 2005
Last Updated: 9th January 2005