Swimmer: training hardest part of crossing
OAKVILLE BEAVER — Madhu Nagaraja swam for more than 24 consecutive hours, braving strong winds and currents during his 41-kilometre journey, to become just the 50th person to successfully swim across...
Madhu Nagaraja reached Coronation Park at 9:37 pm Sunday after more than 24 hours in Lake Ontario. After crossing the lake from Port Dalhousie, he was greeted by his wife Suman Joseph, daughter Meghna (3) and son Vivek (8), and many well wishers.
Madhu Nagaraja swam for more than 24 consecutive hours, braving strong winds and currents during his 41-kilometre journey, to become just the 50 person to successfully swim across Lake Ontario.
And he says that wasn’t even the most difficult part.
“I think the training was much harder than the swim,” said the 42-year-old Oakville resident. “When I put all these people, the crew, together, it wasn’t hard. We all pulled together, that’s how I look at it.”
That doesn’t mean Nagaraja’s feat was easy to achieve.
“The first 45 minutes of the swim were fantastic, like swimming on glass,” said Nagaraja, who departed Port Dalhousie Saturday at 9:08 p.m.
“Then the washing machine started.”
In fact, after swimming futilely for about a five-hour span in the middle of the night, Nagaraja admits he was very close to calling the swim off.
“At that point, I’d only crossed 13 kilometres,” said Nagaraja, who estimated it might have taken him three days to cross the lake at that pace.
But, helped by a supportive crew of a coach, navigator, doctor and three pacers, Nagaraja persisted until sunrise. The rest of the swim was much better, although the native of India didn’t reach Coronation Park until 9:37 p.m. Sunday — roughly eight hours later than he initially anticipated.
Nagaraja, a senior business analyst in technology services for an insurance company, said the experience of working with his crew was even more rewarding than the feel of the Coronation Park shore on his feet.
“It’s an incredible feeling to learn about people’s skills. The good human nature of people is such a nice thing. I think that’s what it is all about,” he said.
“It’s not about getting from Point A to Point B. The Point A to Point B is a bonus, but being part of this whole new human dimension where they’re not scared to break barriers to help others and they’re not scared to push limits, it’s mind-blowing. I wish we could all have that kind of feeling as often as possible.”
Crossing Lake Ontario is just the latest swimming accomplishment for Nagaraja. He’s also crossed the English Channel and swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, where he trained by routinely swimming from the island of Alcatraz to the mainland.
Nagaraja said it is impossible to compare the different experiences.
“They are all monsters with their own characters,” he said.
The biggest challenge of Lake Ontario, according to Nagaraja, is the unpredictability factor.
“There are not enough resources in terms of navigation and crew,” he said. “All other parts of the world have their own localized experts. Lake Ontario doesn’t have that. I think we as a community should work in building that.
“Ignorance is one of the challenges. We don’t know what happens (in the middle of Lake Ontario) and, even if something happens, what to do.”
Nagaraja and his Lake Ontario Swim Team (L.O.S.T.) teammates are working on changing that, however.
Nagaraja was the second L.O.S.T. swimmer to attempt a crossing this summer (Francois Hamel had to abandon his swim Sunday after injuring his left shoulder), and teammates Rob Kent, Michele Benoit, Amanda Kelessi, Annaleise Carr and Colleen Shields are scheduled to make the swim in August.
Nagaraja dedicated last weekend’s swim to the memory of his aunt, Valli, and friend, John Hathaway. Both were victims of cancer.
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