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Chicago Skyline Swim

Imagine starting out on a 23.4 mile swim at seven o’clock at night, knowing you’ll be swimming for  a minimum of 12 hours through the night, the dark, the unseen and the unknown. On Wednesday evening, July 30, David Blanke, Austin, Texas, age 48; Marcia Cleveland, Winnetka, Ill., age 44; and Chris Layton, Chicago, Ill., age 49, set out on this adventure, a tandem swim from one end of Chicago to the other, north to south.

All three are seasoned open water veterans, with accomplishments such as the English Channel, Catalina Island, Strait of Gibraltar, Manhattan Island, Big Shoulders and similar events to their credit.  The swim was three years in the making. For the past six months, each has been training about 30,000 to 35,000 yards a week.

Their support crew consisted of two motorized escort boats, two highly experienced kayakers and three experienced crew volunteers on each boat. Each escort boat was fully equipped with Coast Guard radios, GPS and all required emergency equipment.

The three swimmers swam together, stroke for stroke, with the slowest person setting the pace. They had regular feeding stops every 30 to 40 minutes; they were handed carbohydrate and protein drinks along with solid food and then it was back to work. They observed “Channel Rules,” meaning one suit, one cap, goggles, plus they couldn’t hold on to the boats at any time.

All three swimmers completed the swim shortly before 8:00 a.m. CDT in a time of 12 hours, 49 minutes. Marcia had these comments afterwards: “Man-o-man. I'm still alive. I'm tired, my left shoulder is aching, I have some major suit rubs, which I've covered with Balmex, but I'm very very happy that it worked out so well and we were successful. We had perfect 74 degree F water, aside from some 2-foot chop for a few hours. We saw fireworks from Navy Pier, the gigantic Water Intake Plant up close (probably a little too close!), and finally passed the “Swim Area” buoys at Calumet Beach, and knew that we would make it. Seeing the skyline lit up all night, viewing the stars overhead, then watching the sun come up made me so conscious of the natural beauty involved. We had supportive friends, some of whom were present, and others who sent their best wishes, who helped sustain us and let us know that we weren’t alone. We even made the 10:00 p.m. news on ABC-7 in Chicago, followed up by a shot from the AM traffic helicopter. A swim like this is such a team effort and all three of us are grateful for the support we received.”

Congratulations David, Chris,and Marcia!

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