Yesterday I flew to Charleston, South Carolina to compete in the 1st ever Swim Around Charleston. I first heard about the Swim Around Charleston a few months ago and was intrigued. It’s a 12 mile swim around peninsular Charleston, swimming clockwise along the shore line, at some points as close as 30-50 feet from shore. The idea of a race in Charleston appealed to me for a number of reasons, not least of all, I’ve heard nothing but good things about that part of the country. In addition, my friend and fellow WKU Swimming alumn Tate Nation, an incredible artist, resides in Charleston and has been trying to convince me to come visit for a awhile now. I was first introduced to Tate via email in 2008 by Coach Powell, as I was preparing for my English Channel crossing. In addition to generously sponsoring me, he introduced me to Kathleen Wilson, a Triple Crown swimmer that also resides in Charleston, and who incidentally is also the Race Director of the Swim Around Charleston. The three of us swapped a few emails, I received a bit of advice, and the rest of that story is (channel swimming) history.
Last October, I traveled to Bowling Green to attend Coach Powell’s WKU Athletic Hall of Fame induction. Arriving at the ceremony fashionably late after an incredibly cold Kentucky lake photo shoot, I hurried to grab a spot at the nearest table with an empty seat. Just as I was getting settled a man sitting at the table leaned over and whispered “Are you Mallory Mead? I recognize you from your photos!” It was Tate, and for the rest of the day, him, another WKU Swim Alumn Tom Selinger and I spent the day laughing, joking, and attending the day’s festivities.
Fast forward again to present times and I decided to give Charleston a go. I had a place to stay, a friend to paddle for me, and Gary Kerns and Clara Bennett were generous enough to sponsor my participation. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Folbot office and meeting the Folbot crew, which is headquartered in Charleston. Tate has been really great helping me work out the logistics of my stay. He has helped me find a boat and captain to take a boat tour of the course today, and Friday we will have the opportunity to go over the basics of support paddling, the mechanics of feeds, and hand signals, and get a little side-by-side practice in. Saturday there is a pre-race meeting and Sunday is the event. In between all of this he will be playing the role of tour guide, something he seems more than willing to do. He’s been great, and will sure make this a memorable visit!
On a more sober note, I will be dedicating this swim to Fran Crippen, the USA National team member who passed away during a World Cup Event in Dubai last year. The race takes place on the one-year anniversary of his death, and I will be swimming with the letters “FC” marked on my body in his memory. Even now, one year after his death, the sport still has a long way to go in the way of improvements in safety regulations and precautions, so please take a few minutes to visit The Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation website to learn more about Fran and the Foundation created in his memory and consider making a donation.