I DID NOT BUILD THE TEAM - THE TEAM BUILT ME

Jan/24/2015 - This is a special day. It's Vivek's 11th birthday and he's a happy dude with his Lego Star Wars set. Suman does a neat job in buying things that we all need (note: not what we want). She haas the patience to scan through the stores, websites etc. After Vivek opened his gift, I headed to Brett's LOCT Bean There, as Rob had arranged a neat little gathering to wish us all well. This just blew my mind - I just love the community that I belong to. Everybody in the gang has achieved something crazy (both professional and personal and within the community we live in), yet they are simple and always ready to help and support. Rob shared a few facts about the straits of Magellan and my immediate response, should I really be going there to swim? (Here is a comment from Lynne Cox: "The Straits of Magellan are a huge swim. Only those who climb into those waters really know how challenging it is").

The gathering was just fantastic, I loved the energy that people brought to the coffee shop - this is our LOCT. Joe Cleary (75 years 550 marathons) showed up. Last time, I had seen him was in 2010 after our return from Marathon Des Sables. Joe played a critical role in my finishing the MDS. He's a great guy and brings in a lot of energy and people love him. It is a neat experience to know and hang out with people like Joe Cleary - Joe Cleary is a legend!!!

It was really overwhelming to see everybody and feel the energy at Brett's. This actually took me back to Aug/24/2013, which is when I started training for the straits of Magellan. The Lake was cold that year. I would make attempts to swim in below 5C. My swims would not last beyond 5 minutes. Thanks for the patience of Mike, Brian, Eileen, Alan and Steve E who were there on the beach to help me.

I was never able to push the swim beyond 5 minutes, and the winter of 2013/2014 was a wild one. We couldn't access the lake as it had a mountain of ice on the beach. I continued in my dry land training with Giulio Carlin. Giulio has been critical in making me strong (he doesn't need any advertisement, as he has a strong client base - but, anybody out there who needs to get strong - I strongly advice to see Giulio Carlin).

2014 brought a lot of changes in my professional life. I had finally settled in at The Dominion (in a difficult group) and was finally able to contribute effectively, push projects ahead and had built solid relationships with people at all levels. But, the name of the game is CHANGE. The Dominion announced that Travelers had just bought them. This gave me an opportunity to work on some cool projects and also collaborate with people in different parts of North America - it was neat that we had all become good friends (although, we knew our last days at Travelers was getting closer - we focused on the task and objective at hand, it was fun). This provided me an opportunity to work for Teranet (great team, great boss and great cubicle neighbours), and currently Outside IQ (http://www.outsideiq.com/ Great group of people and great leadership). I have always been fortunate to be around good people.

With all the change happening in my professional life, I am not sure how we managed to work on fundraising for this monstrous project. This is where the core fundraising team stepped up. Tracey, Lucy, Kim, Harvinder, Melanie, Donna and Mike came up with creative ideas (Painting class, a silent auction night - I was surprised with all the contributions from the local businesses). This was neat and it was a fun night and I just loved hanging out with so many cool people. Thanks for making it happen ladies. I really have a lot of respect for you all - they were fantastic in taking ownership of their respective roles (I really did not have any visibility to any of this, until the night before the event). Thanks to everybody who joined that party and contributed towards this venture.

Another neat and interesting thing happened - Patrick Portmann (from Santiago, Chile living in Oakville) who is my GO train buddy, we have shared some interesting stories of our childhood days and other crazy things in life. He had learned about my swimming adventures from the Torstar's article on my Lake O crossing and when I decided to swim across the Straits, he was the obvious target to learn all about the country, local logistics etc. However, Patrick surprised me one day with his company's social/community responsibility fund and wanted to support my venture. His motivation was our focus in building strong communities/team (It is very important for us, hence "it's not about swimming") - Thank you Patrick. Patrick and Monica (Patrick's wife) took an active role in helping us with all the communication with Claudia in Chile. None of us speak Spanish and with a venture like this, it is not just the translation, context is of significant importance - Patrick and Monica understood that and made all our communication seamless. Thanks Patrick and Monica.

This was also my first time in raising money to support the venture (just because of the magnitude of this project). I was nervous and not too sure about the how, what, who, where and when. So, I apologize if I have offended anybody in this process of asking for support.

Please bear with me on the next few lines. I just want to share my association with the few big corporate sponsors, it is really important for me to do this.

I should thank Desi News (http://www.e-desinews.com/publications/2012/09/) for inviting us to a wonderful party filled with achievers from the south Asian community - this is a fantastic event. Eswar and Shagorika have been leading this for the past 19 years. In 2012 I met Peter who is one of the main sponsors of Desi news and the event. Eswar introduced me to Peter, and right away I liked him, this was in 2012. Eswar invited us again in 2014, and Peter still remembered our little chat from 2012. I was a tiny bit nervous, but I reached out to Peter Mielzynski from PMA Canada (http://www.pmacanada.com) and he was very generous, and was very much engaged with us during our training and all the fundraising events - thank you Peter for all the support. Peter also sent us wonderful messages during our time in the Straits. Thanks Peter and PMA for helping us. Peter, you'll like this: First thing, I noticed when we landed in Santiago was "Grant's Whiskey" in the Santiago airport duty free shop.

Davide and Karen Carnivale who are our neighbours, and very good friends, made a significant donation to our venture. Davide and Karen run a very successful Tree care business in Oakville (http://www.thetreespecialists.com). Davide and Karen are both avid long boarders, cross fitters, adventurists and we've had some long conversations about many crazy things in life. Thanks for all the support Davide and Karen. I look forward to our sailing across the pond one day.

Anoop and Anette Chawla have been our friends since 2004. Anoop has played a significant role in helping us set our roots in the GTA region. Anoop, not sure if you are tired of hearing this - but, I'm not tired of saying this "Anoop helped me find my first job in Toronto in 2004 - I landed a job in less than a week after we arrived in Canada. This was after completing my English Channel swim, which was also our big move from California" Many of you will not be able to appreciate this; it is really tricky to move to a new country and find a job quickly. So Anoop - thanks for that initial push (help in setting up that launch pad for me). Anoop and Anette have always supported my ventures. Anoop and Anette, thanks for the big support and all the fun times.

Blair and Peter (http://blairandpeter.ca), my initial introduction to them was through the neighbourhood news circular which gives a real estate market overview of the Coronation Park community. Blair and Peter - thanks for participating in the silent auction and sponsoring this project. This is awesome!!

Dr. C. Shivaprakash is my uncle, lives in Maryland where he's a geologist. He and his wife Suman have been running a successful consulting business (http://www.stemint.com) for the past two decades and they are very well known in their field of expertise, they have always been very affectionate and kind to my parents and us. Thanks for sponsoring this venture and all the support.

Inksmith Printing is a printing shop run by my dear friend Marcia and her husband in Palo Alto. We go a long way from my days with Rinconada in Palo Alto. It is amazing that she reached out to support our venture. Thank you Marcia and Inksmith Printing (http://inksmithprinting.com)

Danny and Grace Jose are our neighbours in the community. Danny manages the team that builds the http://www.findmespot.com website. He worked his magic with his marketing team and got us the new SPOT equipment. Thanks Danny and SPOT LLC.

Thanks to Suunto (http://www.suunto.com) for giving me the VIP athlete privileges. I'll let a Garmin owner Loren vouch for Suunto. Suunto Ambit 2 captured my time and route in the Straits Magellan. It is a fantastic watch. Suunto - thanks for supporting me and my team.

Idextrus (http://www.idextrus.com) is a web application company and is associated with Mike Morton - thanks for the donation and support. It means a lot to my team and I.

I also want to thank everybody that supported us, if I built a web map of the geographical locations of all the friends that supported us, it would generate a cool map. Everybody is very important to me and we have a story or a fun memorable experience that has made our friendship very special. Thank you for supporting us (see the list of supporters here: http://www.itsnotaboutswimming.com/supporters). I would like to emphasize, the importance of this link. The image on the supporters link has Denise Short in the picture. She should've been here to experience this with us.

I also want to make a special note of the support and donations that came from my friends in Mysore, my parents' friends and my cousins in New Jersey and Portland, and my uncle from New Jersey. Thank you everybody.

Since the days of my high school geography classes, Ferdinand Magellan has been in my mind, but I never thought about swimming across the straits. In 2004, on reading Lynne Cox's "Swimming to Antarctica", I found out about the swim, and at that time Pedro from South End Rowing was training for his crossing. Still, never did my own attempt occur to me. Swimming across the English Channel was only a stopgap plan, as I was between jobs and I did not need any special visa/status to do masters swimming. That led to open water swimming and which led to getting across the English Channel, and I came across this neat community of long distance swimmers and friends for life from Rinconada in Palo Alto, South End Rowing Club, Dolphin Club and the channel swimming community.

The Strait of Magellan (Spanish: Estrecho de Magallanes), also called the Straits of Magellan, is a navigable sea route separating mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego to the south. The Strait is the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans but it is considered a difficult route to navigate because of the unpredictable winds and currents and the narrowness of the passage. (Here is a description of the flow in the straits of Magellan by Lynne Cox: "The currents and tides could be as strong as ten knots, faster than a rain fed river after a torrential downpour").

My training objective was to get acclimatized to the cold water (Lake O gave that opportunity), and get strong (Giulio took care of that). I was easily holding a pace of about 1:40/100s on a 2 mile swim - so was OK with my speed. Complete an ICE MILE. There is a large community out there who have completed an Ice Mile - kudos to them. We have come close but not done it yet. (We swam 1200 mts in 1C. Fell short by ~410 mts).

To achieve the above, it is just impossible for me to do it alone. Loren and Mark managed to keep swimming with me and they, in fact, were critical for my Saturday swims. I loved swimming with them (I loved the post swim better). Every time, getting in the lake was a bloody pain. Here is where the core team comes into the picture. (DID I REALLY BUILD THIS TEAM? WE DID NOT PRE-SCREEN ANYBODY). They were kind enough to support me in my venture. They knew I needed help, support. They picked up their respective roles and stuck to it. Made sure we were safe in the water. They learned a lot about cold-water swimming, and our friendship grew stronger - this whole experience was magical. It is really important for me to acknowledge each one of them, so please bear with me as I do this.

STEVE ELLISON (AKA: Mom # 1): Not exactly sure how Steve got roped into this, thank God for him being there. Steve had joined us for a couple of times in 2013 while swimming with Brian and Eileen, Alan and while Mike would take pictures and be in the kayak, when the conditions were good. We couldn't swim much in 2013-14 as winter was a bit unfriendly. Steve took control of the post swim ritual, very critical. (Here is a note on Canadian winters: Air temp around -20 and water temp: 1C). The faster you get dressed, the faster you recover. As some of you know, I have trouble getting in the water and I also have trouble getting out of the water, I managed to fake my time in the water. Steve took care of me when I got out of the water. This was not a prearranged role, he just realized I was struggling post swim to get into my clothes. This was just amazing and I later on noticed that he had done quite a bit of research on hypothermia. Steve - thank you very much Pal. (Here is another disappointing fact about Steve: of the 1.2 billion Indians on this planet - I'm his first East Indian friend and yes, I have introduced him to Indian food and I still need to work on him). Buddy Steve - yes, I'll get bigger socks for the next phase of the training.

Here is Steve's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"Madhu, after having my usual toast and peanut butter with a nice cup of hot coffee (my ritual breakfast at Bean There), and after zipping up my three layers of high-tech clothing with the Merino wool being the base layer next my skin, I was ready to hit the cold outdoors. It was Saturday, November 1, 2014 when I first went to Coronation Park to cheer you on and support your efforts.

After our "good morning" greetings, we all turned and stared quietly at the lake...that's when I got a text from Brett, "so, how's it going?". Being a news junkie, I don't read a lot of novels, but the conditions forced my brain to find an appropriate response back to Brett, "the lake is angry today".

Then, my phone rings. It's Marty. He is astonished to hear where I am, as I tell him about you and the guys...and that's when it started to snow.

Of course, when I first watched you guys start to walk into the water, my natural reaction was to cringe. I spoke with Mike on the shore while you were swimming, and he briefed me on what to expect when you guys came out. What a sight. I had never seen anyone with hyperthermia before. 

As you guys struggled to dry off and put on warm clothing, I noticed you were having more trouble than Mark or Loren. That's when I jumped into action...my human nature wouldn't let me just stand there and watch you desperately trying to take off your bathing suit shivering your brains-out...and the rest is history. 

Over the course of the last 40 years or so, I have had the pleasure to help a variety of people strive to achieve personal goals. As such, without you asking ( just me butting in ), I took upon myself to adopt you, and decided I'd support your shivering efforts every Saturday morning...even despite the fact you wouldn't get bigger socks !!!

Madhu, although I have only known you for the last couple of years, you deserve all the accolades that have been bestowed upon you. Not just for the special man who has committed himself to attain super-human accomplishments in his lifetime, but for the humble guy in a small Speedo helping a friend in his brand new Xterra wetsuit trying to get in and swim with LOST in 60 degree water...hey, some things a guy just doesn't forget.

All the Best...Continued Success.
Steve."

MARTY ZEMANCIK (AKA Mom # 2): Some people never travel alone - Steve roped Marty into this. Marty and Steve are childhood friends and they meet on Saturdays for coffee at Brett's LOCT. Thanks to Steve for bringing Marty into the team. Marty's son is a marine on a short service commission. Marty, like Steve, just started jumping into action when we required help. Together, they brought in a lot of value on the beach - they just managed to take control of all the pre and post swim setup. As it got colder, getting undressed would be a challenge. On Dec/27/2014, when we attempted the ICE MILE Marty was instrumental on my post swim recovery. I was in a bad shape and he made sure, I got dressed quickly and I got back to normal in a short time. Marty, Thanks for all the help and loved hanging out with you at LOCT. I'm sure you'll be a lot of help on the beach at LOST swims this summer (or maybe you should try swimming!!!). Marty, we have two more years to get back to Straits of Magellan and I'll need your help all over again. Thanks Pal!!

Here is Marty's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"In November 2014, I met a new group of people who are now friends. We met Saturday and Sunday mornings from November through January at Coronation Park to help Madhu - mornings before the sun came up and mornings when the waves were fairly high and temps extremely low. Equally important to me was getting together at Brett's afterward to discuss the day's swim and a variety of other topics.

One particular Saturday in December stands out. After finishing his longest swim in Lake Ontario, Madhu was in deep trouble and unable to get out of the water. We all jumped into action, got him out of the water and took the steps necessary to prevent serious consequences to his health.

This whole experience has meant a lot to me and I look forward to more mornings at Coronation Park and Brett's with all the members of the team. I'm confident that with all of us working together, Madhu will conquer the Strait of Magellan in 2017."

MIKE MORTON: FINALLY, Mike and Melanie have decided to move. I'm sure it has got to do with their neighbour's across the street (which has resulted in lack of weekend sleeps, early morning pre-coffee kayaking and sometimes stressful times on the beach). Mike and Melanie, congratulations on your new house. Mike has played a critical role on many different dimensions. Mike took care of all the administration, took care of all the blogs, compiled all the pictures and when he got a chance he would be on the kayak helping us out in the water. Mike also solely controlled all aspects of the travel, finance in Chile and so many things. He made sure that I could just focus on the swim and swim only (but, he doesn't know the fact that the swim was the last thing on my mind - he doesn't need to know that now). Mike - thanks for taking care of a lot of things on this venture, Thanks for traveling with me and your support was very critical to the overall success of this venture. I'm sure your kayaking days are just getting longer. Take care of that back and I'll publish your athletic goals so you can go after it. Yes, Mike did say it out loud that he will run a marathon (History Café, Punta Arenas Chile, Jan/29/2015). Good luck with your training Mike. Give a big hug to Melanie (Melanie does secretly love open water swimming).

ALAN "SPARKY" SWANKIE: As I'm writing this, Alan is in Little Rock Arkansas for his 45th marathon (http://www.marathonmaniacsdb.com/Maniacs/MyMarathons.asp?ManiacId=7309). Alan has been helping in managing all behind the scene finances and all the required paperwork. Alan played a critical role during our training swims in the lake. Alan brought an important gadget that kept us warm and helped us recover quickly (Celine, you might have seen the remnants of Coronation Beach sand in the massive magical and expensive gadget - thank you). Alan and Mike did all the planning for Chile trip. Alan gets the credit for another neat experience; for me to hang out at the famous Maple Leaf lounge at Pearson Airport. Alan also managed to get us in at the premier lounges in the Santiago airport (both the ways). Alan - thank you for the help from Hixon all the way to Santiago Diaz in Punta Arenas. Alan brought a great sense of humour to the team and in Chile. Alan is solely responsible for making sure Mike did not immigrate to Argentina with the Argentinian swimmers. So Melanie, you have a lot to thank Alan for, bringing Mike back home.

BRETT TITUS (AKA Brave Heart, LOCT President): The cool thing about Brett is, He runs a sub-3hr marathon (never talks about), Qualified to the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii (after 3 crashes, 2 flat tires - he went back and got it done). We get to watch him in the world championships this year in October. Brett is a hard-core athlete and has always managed to ask me all the hard questions behind the training, very important when you are training for a crazy thing like this. Brett has a subtle way to transfer a lot of positive energy and doesn't make any big deal about it. And most important, Brett is the owner of BEAN THERE - all the coolest people in Oakville hang out here. There are several small groups of people visit that shop for coffee, tea, sandwich, toast, protein shake and it is neat to watch people engrossed in a non-serious conversation. This is an important place for me, as we get to enjoy our post swim coffee, talk and laugh about our swims, races and sometimes life. NOTE: Marilyn Bell wants to visit LOCT Bean There. Joe Cleary (550 marathons) made an important comment to me the other day "I'll see you at your Coffee Shop". Brett - thank you for all the support and kayaking - and Brett also invested in a heavy duty hip waders to take care of us.

Here is Brett's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"Because I perform so poorly in cold water I just had to be there to see someone doing something so far from my realm of possibilities."

DAVID BREZER (AKA David Courage Bee): Another hard core athlete, Boston marathoner, Ironman, Death Race, And in the last 2 months he learned to ski and then completed a winter triathlon (ski, skate and run), and also completed another long distance cross skiing competition. David brought a lot of energy to the beach, very subtle but high impact messages and I enjoy every one of my conversations with him. He brought in Courage to our team - He sent me a wonderful email about the importance of courage in anything we do one day before my swim in the Straits. He brought a new dimension to it (the C in LOCT is only growing). I want to share this with you all. David - thank you for all the support, motivation and most of all your friendship.

COURAGE by DAVID BREZER (on Jan/27/2015):

"In my view, courage is the most important ingredient to success.

Courage to choose a goal. 
Courage to craft a plan to achieve it. 
Courage to rise above adversity as you execute the plan.
Courage to remain focused, calm, professional. 
Courage to look beyond the "task" and seek a deeper meaning.
Courage to act as a role model for family, friends and strangers 
- not just for the "task", but how one achieves it. 
Courage to allow others to support you, and celebrate in your success.

Madhu, you are the most courageous man I know, and you have already succeeded in reaching your goal."

BRIAN GRAHAM: Another neighbour quitting on us. Brian is a crazy long distance cyclist. What this means is he has 0% body fat. Brian was critical in helping me test the ice-cold waters of Lake Ontario. Not sure, how he does it - walks into the lake with no fear. I followed him in 2013 until it got too cold and there was a mountain of ice on Coronation Beach. Brian came back in 2014 as a kayak support brings a neat form of subtle energy that helped us push the barriers. Brian - thank you for your support, help and kayak push. I'm sure there is more mileage written in the future for your kayaks in the ice-cold lake, is it true that Sarah wants to help us?

Here is Brian's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"For me it all started with wanting to learn how to swim. Open water seemed much more appealing than swimming in a public pool. I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to start this in October 2013---the water was already in declining temperatures! I did realize that it was 'easier' for me to get into the water than Madhu---and thus I was able to be helpful in assisting Madhu with this great quest and challenge-The Straits of Magellan.

I love to surround myself with positive people. People that are like minded and people that easily pull together to help others. We have a very gifted group of folks here. I am also inspired by Madhu for his gentle ways, his determination, and his powerful strength both physical and mental. His humble demeanour would always deflect his own great accomplishments."

FRANCE JOLICOEUR: Everybody knows France!! A superfast runner and mother of 5 beautiful girls, from the Connors Running group. I believe France started swimming with LOST in summer of 2014. It was the magical world of emails, Facebook or some other form that was how France joined us for a swim in October and since then became an avid supporter. She had more energy on the beach after her 20 km runs than me trying to get in the water. It was nice of France to support me on a couple of important swims as I was trying to ramp up my swim time in the cold water and everybody else was away. France (with her girls) showed up to support me on my swim. That was awesome France. France has qualified for Boston along with her husband Pascale. Good luck to you both. Thanks for helping us push the barrier France. I'm sure there is more swimming and adventure written here for all us.

Here is France's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"Dear Madhu

I wasn't part of the team when I first got the invite to go for a swim in October.

I went in the water with a wetsuit on Thanksgiving weekend and felt great after.

Of course Madhu went in without with Mark and Loren. I started understanding what your journey was about. It's not about swimming!

Being around your friends gave me more then I feel I participated.

The positive energy, the courage, determination and camaraderie between everyone is incredible.

As I got to know you I understand why so many volunteer to help you.

I personally got a lot out of this experience and I am looking forward to many more swims together or helping out on the shore.

It has helped me in my own training and life.

You are a very unique ray of sunshine Madhu and you make others shine too.

Thank you Madhu for taking us on these adventures with you."

MARK BINTLEY (a real swimmer, an OK runner and a poor Beer drinker): you'll love this man. Mark and his family immigrated to Canada in May of last year and the first thing he does is to find open water swimming group. I noticed Mark on his very first swim with us, he was always in the back of the crowd and I went up to him and we immediately connected (I'm sure both of us are regretting it now - as we both have pushed each other's swimming limits). FYI: after we moved to Canada, it took me 7 years to get back into swimming. Mark does it in less than 6 weeks. I think Jayne gets all the credit for this. Mark and Loren brought fantastic in-water support; in fact these two guys were stronger than me in the cold water. The initial plan was for the 3 of us to go to Chile. I think the plan will come true in 2017. Mark and Loren gave me a lesson in commitment (the C is only growing in LOCT). Thanks for being there for me in the water. Everybody loved you magical tent. Mark and Jayne, love you guys. I'm sure there are a lot of fun times written in our books.

Here is Mark's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"Hi Madhu

Being part of your team has been an honour and has made me feel proud to be part of something special. I feel lucky to have met and built a bond with such a special group of people, who are so motivated to do crazy things... (Although sometimes when I was getting in that freezing water, I wish I'd never met any of you!!!!) I feel proud of what we have all achieved together and can't wait to get in the water with you all again. Bring on 2017!

let's meet for coffee soon !"

LOREN KING (Smartest Open Water swimmer, I've ever met): I got a Facebook invite from Loren and from his security settings I couldn't find anything about him other than the picture of a frozen forest. Then I noticed him jumping in naked (open water swimming term: in speedos) in low 50s and I remember he also helped a young girl who was training for a 10K open water race. Since then our friendship just gone crazier - I mean, we have managed to disclose some of the crazy things we have done in our lives. Loren and Kim are avid rock climbers (Loren has survived some crazy accidents). He always brings in an interesting dimension to the swim. When I was struggling to push my cold swims Loren sent me a neat email on COMMITMENT and it made a significant impact on me(C is only growing in LOCT), and I was able to push the swim from 5 mins to 15 mins. (This is a mind over matter game). I think about that all the time. I think Me, Loren and Mark make a fantastic swimming partners (I'm sure we'll regret it as we are all crazy). Loren - thanks for all the support, all the shakes, shivers, coffees and most of all your friendship. Thank you.

Here is Loren's email on Commitment. A Modest Proposal:

"So, in climbing, there are various rating systems that try to capture both the difficulty of the route, and also it's objective risk with respect to protection.

Thus, for instance, a moderate route might have a rating in North America (the British and French systems differ somewhat) of 5.7R, where the 7 (the decimal isn't mathematically meaningful) indicates the technical difficulty (usually of the crux, or most difficult move), and the "R" stands for "runout", meaning that there are long stretches on the climb where protection is difficult or marginal at best. An "X" rating would basically mean "don't fall ..."

That Dan Osman video I posted last week? That's by default a 5.7X, since he's free-soloing sans rope, and thus is placing no protection whatsoever!

In alpine and mixed climbing, there is a further, usually less formal designation, which attempts to convey the degree of commitment required for the route.

This is the rough sense that, even on an easy, well-protected route, you may simply find yourself in situations where there is realistically only one way to proceed, with retreat or rerouting being difficult, often more dangerous than simply continuing the line, or outright impossible. (Routes far in the backcountry typically involve commitment in the related sense of demanding considerable preparation, planning, and a long, sometimes complicated and dangerous approach, before anyone even gets to do any technical climbing.)

Commitment is a funny thing, because even when you're on an easy line that you've climbed many, many times before, you notice even slight differences in degrees of commitment. It's often a subtle thing, but it's there: there's a different kind of focus and resolve that you adopt, or you simply don't do the route, even if it's technically very easy and intimately familiar.

So, Coronation.

This is basically your beach. You logged countless laps of this segment of shoreline, training for your Lake O crossing. It is, by any measure, an intimately familiar piece of water for you.

Tomorrow I propose (conditions permitting, as always): that we walk in up to chest depth, make a southerly line for the first rock breakwall, and then we don't stop until we get there.

Then, we turn around and swim our haggard butts back to the other, northern breakwall, and see how we feel.

Maybe we get out after this, maybe we swim a bit more.

This shouldn't take more than ten minutes, maybe twelve at the outside. It should bag us between 400m and 500m of solid swimming in 2C water.

It will, however, involve a very modest, but still significant degree of commitment.

We can try to stick together in formation, or split up a bit, but that's less important than committing to the line. The shore team can walk along the beach with us if we want, but I'd almost prefer they didn't, at least for this particular exercise (because: commitment)."

LYNN RODGERS: One of my favourite open water swimmers. Very fast and loves cold water!!! I started with BMSC in 2006 for a short stint. Although, I had met Lynn back then we only connected during the LOST swims, and she became a great training partner and also my crew for our swim across Lake Ontario (That was a magical experience - It was fantastic team that took care of me in the water - loved it). Lynn swam with me in the lake and she in fact ditched her wetsuit, just because she can!! Lynn - thanks for all the support. Lynn has been on several training swims and has always sent me messages that made me push the barrier. Thanks for all the lovely swimming Lynn - you still owe me a coffee.

Here is Lynn's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"According to my son Cameron, the chilly waters at Coronation Park are called, "Madhu's Lake." Ok, well sometimes he calls it Marmaduke's Lake... but we all know what he means! And that is the important thing.

For months, Madhu has been swimming in this portion of Lake O that has never really warmed up since the Polar Vortex of 2014. I was in awe of him swimming there in September, and just astounded to see him swimming in the lake in December and January. But that is Madhu. He sets a goal and is determined to complete it... even if it means recruiting haphazard bystanders along the way. I am seemingly one of those bystanders. Cheering him on and wishing I could take part in such an amazing adventure.

We came to "Madhu's Lake" to see some of those swims in person - but mostly read the reports and saw the pictures online of each training session in preparation for the crossing. I was of course happier to be there on the beach to support him and cheer for him, tell him about how great his kick is and how his arm tempo is super-consistent even though the water is ridiculously cold. And Madhu just kept pushing, ready again for the next training session. Pulling us all in together to root for him on this new mission, Magellan Straits Crossing 2015.

In the end, although the swim didn't go as planned, most everything else did. He inspired and cheered many of us with his courage and optimism. He brought people together, who might possibly have preferred to hibernate this winter. And we all did take part in this adventure, together. Thanks, Madhu."

BRYAN FINLAY (The Yoda of the open water swimming world): I'm very fortunate to be associated with Bryan. Today (Feb/28/2015) is his birthday. After we moved to Toronto in 2004, I got in touch with Bryan Finlay through Solo swims. We exchanged a few emails, spoke on the phone and then met him when Lynne Cox visited us. Loved him right away. It was neat that Bryan chose to be my swim master for our swim across the lake. Bryan is a scientist by trade and very professional. Together we analysed a lot of variables. My entire team loved him, respected his knowledge, and there is so many other cool things to say about Bryan. Bryan being my swim master on my Lake Ontario swim was very neat. The connection that we have established there is very neat. Bryan - thanks for all the support. Bryan took an interesting position during our training. He was online from home in London. Bryan was very keen on looking at all our training blogs, journals, emails and always analysed every little detail, data and gave valuable feedback. It was like he was on the beach with us. Bryan - thank you.

Here is Bryan's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"I don't like use of the term "Extreme  Sport" to describe marathon or cold-water swimming, since I believe it implies a lack of control (or no control) over what may suddenly happen. For example, I prefer it to be used for truly dangerous (reckless) sports like Heli-skiing in areas where there may be avalanches; however, there is no doubt that such a Cold Water challenge is a journey to Death if it goes far enough! "Far Enough" is determined by so many factors that we understand poorly, that vary between individuals and, in most cases, do not involve adequate ongoing measurements of critical parameters such as Core Temperature or ECG - so maybe our approach does deserve the word "extreme". We need to be challenged as to why our actions are "not reckless" in failing to test or control potentially fatal outcomes.

  • You can only survive the experience "With a Team"
  • You can only be successful "With a Team".
  • And... you attracted "A Grand Team" that was concerned for both your success and ensuring your wellbeing - as much as they could.

I was so impressed by the regular (Weekly and sometimes daily) Blogs on your progress and support by so many (Both in and out of the water) with their tremendous care to details.
However, it's a long way from Hixon Street to Punta Delgado (Google Earth says 10, 670 km !) and, for a variety of reasons, the GPS (SPOT) and communications satellites don't seem to work so readily in those remote areas. Similarly, verbal communications can be complicated by both language and culture with which we may not be fully conversant.

While us arm-chair quarterbacks in Ontario have little idea of what transpired in the real event, it is those sudden changes in communications (From comprehensive regular Blogs about the swimmer to limited tourist tidbits - and far less during the swim) that can be particularly frustrating for Team Members who have been so close to your training and wellbeing on the shoreline of Coronation Park.

There is definitely no doubt that you did your part "to the ultimate" as the swimmer . . . and so much more as the planner. 

It's tempting to think of the planning for Annaleise Carr, Ashleigh Beacham or Trinity Arsenault with all of the arrangements being on the shoulders of parents . . ."

WENDY TURNER AND SUSAN MANN (True Loctians): Wendy and Susan have the true spirit of LOCT. Brett's Coffee shop has several groups of regulars who are there to enjoy coffee after their run, yoga or walking. The neat thing is these groups extend support to the other groups. Wendy and Susan stayed in the loop with us with words of encouragement, help etc. Susan noticed our shakes and shivers at Brett's and decided to give her RED PARKA that she was getting rid of. It has become quite popular and I have got quite a few stares in Oakville downtown. Thank you Susan. In fact the parka has kept me warm and has helped recover fast - its fundamental job. Both Susan and Wendy have extended the support from their community to our crazy community, these adventures have no boundaries or barriers - just amazing to be associated with them. I also remember, Wendy had taken some pictures of my finish of Lake Ontario swim and made sure all those pictures were printed and had dropped off in our mailbox (this was in 2012). Another neat story is, Wendy and Susan gave me a hip flask and bottle of whiskey for our trip to Punta Arenas. Thank you Susan and Wendy. The parka and the hip flask will be well used for the next phase of our training.

Here is a note from Wendy on her experience with 2015 Straits of Magellan training:

"Oh Madhu. My part was soooooooo minimal, actually I had nothing to do with any of this.

However I will say that emotionally I felt like I was with you on your journey. I was checking my computer constantly for updates.

Madhu, your ability to pull together a group of individuals and create the camaraderie that came from this journey is remarkable. Together as a team you went places, both physically and emotionally that you all probably never imagined. Watching you group together and jump in that freezing lake was awe inspiring even if I thought you were crazy! Your inclusiveness and kindness is something everyone should note and learn from. This was YOUR challenge, yet you created a community. Thank you for all you do for each of us."

Here is a note from Susan on her experience with 2015 Straits of Magellan training:

"Some stay safely on the shores of life others like you go out and swim the straits of Magellan!
Your courage inspires me!"

TRACEY EHL HARRISON (Main Communication Link): Tracey is our neighbour and is famous. She was recently elected the HDSB School Board Councillor. Tracey did the exact same job during our swim across the Lake and she was a pro at this and she managed this very well. Also, Tracey and Doug are very helpful to us, and always an arms length away. Thanks for all the help and taking care of my family when I was away.

Here is Tracey's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"I laughed; I cried; I was upset; I was excited beyond belief; I needed information; I was thankful.

The swim reminded me of when my parents used to say, "you can do it!" no matter what I was trying to do. My Mom still says it. Although this brought comfort, it also frustrated me to no end. I always wondered if they knew the enormity of a given task? But they did. They knew the enormity was in the studying, strategizing, training, getting started and continuing, no matter the outcome. I realized that I assumed you could do it, and you did. Madhu, you bring people together for good. That is special. When I sent out snippits of information to people, they reciprocated with unequivocal support and love for the team. All of us were in nervous anticipation about whether the swim would go forward, and then when it did go forward, it was painful to be here behind a computer rather than with you guys. The point is that we were all behind our computers together. I appreciated the opportunity to be one of the links in this long chain of adventurers that extended virtually around the world."

PAM DAMOFF (Local Councillor and Superhero): Pam has been a fantastic supporter of me since the day we first met. She was our "Community Liaison" and helped out in many aspects of the swim, including being the driving motivator in our choosing The Courage Brothers Polar Bear Swim (http://www.polarbeardip.ca) as our charity to support. Pam is a very positive force in our neighbourhood and always brought great energy to the team. Pam - thanks for all your support!

CHRIS MASSON: Chris donated his time to help setup the website that you are reading this on. It was a fantastic donation, as we offered him money to do it, but he decided he would rather donate that back to the swim! Chris - thanks for your generosity and for creating a great website for us to stay in touch with everyone!

STEPHEN CONNOR (Connor's Runners, aka Orange army): I'm sure Steve knows all my weak points. In 2013, I injured my lower back. I had a conversation with Dominique about Steve and his awesome running group, and the very next day, I hurt my lower back. When I went to see Steve, I told him about how I was talking about him and which lead me to go see him. So, I had made a pact with him that I would never think about him. But Steve never forgot me. In Dec/2014, he sent me a wonderful email asking if he could bring his running group to one of our training swims. It was wonderful to meet the Orange army - sorry I did not get to speak to anybody that day, as I had my earplugs on and we were just about to enter the water. Since that time, I have come across some wonderful friends from his group who have inspired me, and sent me wonderful messages. Thank you Steve and Connor's running group for all the support and messages.

ROB KENT (LOST FOUNDER): The reason we live in Oakville is because of Rob Kent. I met Rob online in the original Channel Swimming group syndication in 2003. We had debated on a couple of interesting training topics, hypothermia etc. I got in touch with Rob when I made a day trip for my interview, and Rob immediately sold me the idea of living in Oakville. Not sure if it was the wisest decision to listen to him, but it was the right one. Settling in Oakville, and his friendship, gave me an opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and together we have formed LOCT and LOST. Buddy Rob - thanks for all the crazy stories. Love your wonderful kids. I'll have to keep the Canadian Flag until I get across the Straits of Magellan (let me know if you are planning to make a trip to England before then?). Thanks for all the support and help to document our Ice Mile on Dec/27/2014. I'm sure there are more crazy things to be done on this planet.

DARREN OSBORNE  (A social butterfly and The first Canadian Bondi and Southender): Quick runner, Ironman and a crazy swimmer. Darren was one of the originals in 2013 fall. I remember him getting in the lake in his speedos to support (he would walk out as a pink popsicle). In 2014 he invested in a full body dry suit and came into the lake. His support in the lake was critical for me to push the 15-minute barrier in 1C. A great pal and I'm sure there are more crazy things written in his book.

LAMBRINA NIKOLAU (LOCT Vice President, Globe Trotter): Lamb has been to Punta Arenas. It's always comforting to hear from a friend to say, I've been there and it's a wonderful place. Lamb joined us on the beach when it was very cold. She always brought a flask of wonderful tasting tea (and stupid me, I only had it once and I loved it). She brought a large bag filled with blankets, towels, caps etc. The most popular one was the Chilean blanket - it was bloody warm. Thank you Lamb for all the help and support.

JULIA RUTLEDGE ALLEN: Julia showed up on her wedding day to support us on our Ice Mile attempt - It was neat to see her, get a warm hug before the jump and I did gain a lot of energy from her that day. Julia you made Dec/27/2014 a memorable day for me. Thanks for all the support and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of you in the water and on the beach. Hey, we also swam to the Buoy with Julia. That was a beautiful swim.

EILEEN AND MARK LUXTON (Les Ironman Couple): Eileen was one of the initial support team in 2013. Eileen brings a lot of focus to the team and calling it out when we slack. We need that energy when training involves walking into a 1C lake and the air temperature is -20. Eileen and Mark recently completed their first Ironman and are getting ready for their second one. Thanks for all the help and support on the beach Eileen. Buddy Mark, yes I did try to count to 100 several times. Thanks for all the support pal. Hope to do more swimming with you in the lake.

Here is Eileen's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

If I were to sum up what supporting you and your posse has been for me in one word, it would be "COLD"!

Nonetheless, it has been fun being part of this bad-ass group, right from the beginning, particularly because I'm not the greatest swimmer, and yet we've all been able to share all kinds of great early mornings, sunrises and swims together over these past 18 months or so. I don't know how you, Mark and Lorne got in the water some of those freakishly cold days (even though I bug you for being all chatty, chatty, chatty ;) ), but I watched you all get so much tougher in the process and it was great fun to be a part of it. It's a cool thing to take these crazy risks, and I wholeheartedly agree with you that it is the journey that is the thing, particularly a guy like you who just so clearly enjoys the ride, all in the company of his friends.

SUSEELA AND NAGARAJA (My Parents; Amma and Dada): My parents play a critical part in the ventures that we take up. I should also blame (or Thank) them for the streak of craziness that runs in me. My mom a social butterfly, my Dad is known for his perseverance. They both have worked hard to provide the best for me. I have to thank them for everything, I’m today. They currently live in Mysore, India and are big promoters/ambassadors of everything we do. They hang out with a cool group of people and have their own LOCT.  I get a lot of support and positive messages from them and their friends. I’m sure you have come across one of them Dr. Prasad, who works as a consultant for UNESCO and is an active supporter to our team. He was famously known as Uncle Prasad during our Lake O crossing and Some of you must have read his blog (http://drsnprasadmysoreindia.blogspot.ca/2012/08/marathon-man-from-mysore-and-his.html).

VIMALA AND DR. JOSEPH (Suman’s Parents): Suman’s parents are avid supporters of our team. They are constantly in touch about our misadventures in the lake. Always wishing us the best.  Thank you very much for everything.

SUMAN, VIVEK AND MEGHNA: The rock stars of this team. Suman is the rock of this famly, I'm sure everybody has noticed the pecking order. She brings in a neat support by keeping everything intact. It has been a tricky year for her and us as she is in school getting her Teacher's certificate (Note: she has a Ph.D from McGill), She will be a wonderful teacher and I know the kids will love her (she has that ability to connect with the kids of all level). As the saying goes picture is worth a 1000 words. This picture says it all 24-7 team members. I have to thank these guys the most, as at times I’m focused on work and training I'm sure I may have ignored them. Yet, these guys love me unconditionally and I did miss them a lot when I was in the straits of Magellan.

ALEX MCMILLIN (AKA BestMan): The first time I met Alex was in 2006 at the Oakville Yacht Club at around 5:00 am (Note: only crazy people congregate at crazy hours). We had planned a long swim for Rob's EC training. I immediately liked Alex, it was one of the best training swims that Rob could ever get (stealing Steve's phrase: Lake was angry that day). We managed to keep Rob in the water for about 4hrs and it was so rough that I got dizzy on the boat. Since then our friendship just blossomed, we have had some interesting conversations (mostly about things that are not important). When I decided to swim across the Lake, I reached out to Alex for help and I think we built a fantastic partnership, and Alex and the entire team managed to get me across with absolutely no glitches. On a 24hr swim across the lake, it is very important to keep the focus intact, As the swim got longer the team was getting stronger, especially towards the end of the swim, when we were fighting currents and winds. Alex, Billy and Bryan with support from Exhale managed to keep that focus and brought me in safely. Here's some more interesting stuff about Alex; He's an Ironman, He's run 19 Boston marathons, an ex-Canadian Navy, one of my best pals. Buddy Alex, thanks for all the help and messages. We will regroup and realign our strategy and plan of action for 2017. Alex is getting ready as well. I'm sure there are a lot of lunches/coffees/beers written in our books for the next couple of years.

Here is Alex's version of our training for the 2015 Straits of Magellan:

"As someone who loves and admires personal challenges, you, Loren, and Mark were the reason I wanted to be there. My participation was nothing compared to what the three of you were doing. I wanted to help in any capacity. I only wish I could have done more. I should have done more. I love a good challenge, whether personal or supporting one you respect and admire. It's addictive."

I also want to acknowledge all the support and tips from Scott Lautman, Cristian Vergara, Randy Perkins, Rachel Golub, Ryan Stramrood, Ram Barkai and Andrew Chin and all the Southenders who sent me wonderful messages during my training and during my time in Chile. Thank you all.

Big hugs to Claudia Nelyda Molkembuhr Sapunar and Roberto Carlos Ampuero Velasquez in Punta Arenas. Seargent Captain Victor Perkis Armada de Chile (http://www.esmeralda.cl/armada/noticias-navales/cambio-de-mando-de-la-capitania-de-puerto-de-punta-delgada/2014-01-07/125751.html)

Sorry everybody, If I have chewed up a lot of your time. It was pretty special for me to acknowledge and thank the team that built me. Hence the title "I DID NOT BUILD THE TEAM – THE TEAM BUILT ME"

Travelling to Punta Arenas was petty special, I don't travel for work, hence there is always that excitement and anxiousness walking into an airport. Usually, I take care of all the bookings and logistics for my family, but in this case I had no clue, as Mike and Alan had done all the work. So it was pretty strange, but it was pretty cool to hang out in the Maple leaf lounge.

The flight was pretty smooth to Santiago. The second flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas (after picking more passengers at Puerto Montt) was smooth as well. Claudia picked us up at the airport at 10:50 local time. The sun was just getting ready go down. While landing, I got a glimpse of the Straits and all the islands. It is a beautiful place. We ate Centolla for dinner and the next morning was medical checkup. Met 4 wonderful Argentinians - we immediately bonded and also got into trouble in the hospital. We right away knew that this would be a fun experience. We were all Amigos now.