Ninth Annual 13-km Swim

The summer leading up to the Swim for the Cure 2009 was notably cold and rainy, playing havoc with the Severn River water temperature. This year 27 swimmers participated, the most swimmers to date – and we also experienced the coldest water temperature to date! There were a few warmer patches along the route, probably coinciding with the brief glimpses of the sun, and the majority of the water was 71.5F / 22C.

The overcast morning began for many swimmers and crew at 0430 hours. The first boats, Jim Shaw and Don Popplow, headed to Severn Falls at 0530 hours to bring swimmers and crew to the start at Swift Rapids, with Al Scott, Bob Nelles and Steve Bang helping transport swimmers that arrived in Severn Falls an hour later.

The first swimmers were in the water just before 0600 hours and like the others experienced the chilly water with the first few strokes. I must admit that I found most of the swim coolish and really didn’t warm up. As a result breaks were shorter and this helped to contribute to the fast times recorded by all the swimmers.

Ruth Gray-Beauchamp accompanied by her sister Gwynn Norman and husband Mike Beauchamp headed into the water at 0558 hours in a “new skin” to help with the coolish water and finished 6 hours and 5 minutes later; 19 minutes faster than last year. Ruth swam the entire distance doing breaststroke with only a few objections from sore knees.

Colleen Shields, accompanied by Al Cox, had an outstanding swim – our fastest swimmer, completing in 3 hours and 39 minutes, a full 30 minutes faster than her 2007 record. She was planning her third Lake Ontario crossing on August 7/8th, 2009, thus this was great warm-up swim.

Marilyn Korzekwa, returning swimmer and another Lake Ontario swimmers, accompanied by her middle son, finished in 4 hours 39 minutes, essentially the same time as last year. She and Debbie Bang were planning a Lake Rosseau swim in mid August to kick off training for the 10th anniversary of the Swim for the Cure in 2010; they finished within minutes of each other again this year.

New swimmers Siobbhan Boyter, accompanied by Jason and Jeremy Boyter, and sister-in-law Brenda Boyter crewed by Joe Boyte, each had fabulous first time swims. They finished in 6 hours 51 minutes and 6 hours 52 minutes respectively. Both were pleased with their wetsuits (even with the “bite marks”) as the temperature was much more pleasant as a result. Siobbhan stated that around the 10 km point she had her doubts about finishing until she realized that she had 3 children and if others could finish . . . so could she!

Adam Popplow, Nikka Moores, Craig Moores and Chad Barrett were the first relay team to hit the water. They had a great swim of 5 hours 58 minutes and swam in together to celebrate their finish. Nikka and Craig’s parents traveled with them along the route to assist with the transition of swimmers.

The second and largest relay team was captained by Mark Bang. Several of the swimmers have assisted in past swims as crew and were interested in participating as swimmers — not the best year to start as the water temperature was not great — perhaps contributing to their short-ish time in the water. The team was made up of Mark Bang, Bailey Scott, Dustin Scott, Jordan Adamson, Emily Metheral, Cassie Quinlan, Emilie Hausler and Leah Atkinson. They completed a strong 8.5 kms and though cold had some fun along the way.

Eric Bang was the second fast swimmer accompanied again this year by Paul Blackwell. Eric competed in his first triathlon this year thus has been training quite seriously. This was reflected in his swim time, shaving 13 minutes off last year’s time and finishing in 3 hours 50 minutes.

First time swimmer Eden Cantkier accompanied by Jasmine Chabot and Scott Gibson was in for a practice swim the weekend before to acclimatize to the water. This practice swim served her well and she completed her first solo swim in an outstanding 4 hours 56 minutes.

New swimmer Robin Roys crewed by Sandra Pritchard also had an outstanding first time swim. He completed in 4 hours 39 minutes.

Returning and local swimmer Christine Mitchell was accompanied by Dave Wareing, Rick Morris and two great supporters, Alex and Shannon Morris. Christine had another great “back stroke” swim shaving 5 minutes off last year’s time, completing in 5 hours 16 minutes. She, Ruth and Debbie were the only swimmers left when the last reporter arrived, and thus braved the cold for a photo-op and story which made the front page of the Orillia Packet and Times. Thanks for that Christine and Ruth!!

Ibrahim Attieh accompanied by Dale Morris stated that he really enjoyed this outdoor swim and was quite warm when he finished. He had an outstanding first time swim completing in 5 hours 15 minutes. He wrote, “Thank you for organizing the swim. I had very good time. The physical challenge of the swim is rewarding. Hope that all your effort is helping in getting the world closer to eradicating cancer.”

Returning swimmer Jay Serdula missed the 2008 swim as he was preparing for his successful Lake Ontario 2008 crossing. Jay was accompanied by his mom Ann Serdula and was 52 minutes faster than his 2007 swim, completing in 5 hours 1 minute. After training four or five times a week for two years, Jay reported that he cut back on the training after crossing Lake Ontario. “With less training, I thought I would be slower this year. Apparently I had learned how to swim more efficiently as well as swim long distances with fewer and shorter feeding breaks.”

Norma Jack accompanied by Barry Bender and supported by Howard and Becky Katz entered at Severn Falls and completed the 7.8 km swim in 3 hours. Norma has been part of the large Katz relay teams and therefore this was her longest solo swim. A great swim and strong finish – perhaps the full swim in 2010 Norma? “Despite the less than cheerful weather, it was a great day,” she said. “Having only trained in my cozy, warm, local pool, I was intimidated by the weather and temperature conditions. My decision to start at the Severn Falls ‘short cut’ allowed me some respite from the cold, and most importantly, I was able to make it to the finish to your (Debbie Bang’s) warm hug and the sight of my fine Katz friends! I am honoured to part of the ‘Severn story’. Next year, I will be ready for the whole distance, even if it means wearing a winter coat to do it!”

First time swimmer Shaun Chisholm was accompanied by Alison Chisholm and was another of the Lake Ontario swimmers, completing in 2008. Debbie Bang was honoured to be part of his team for the crossing and delighted to have him join the 2009 swim this year. Shaun had an outstanding swim completing in 3 hours 55 minutes.

First time swimmer Fernando Camacho accompanied by Hans Winter also had an outstanding swim completing in 4 hours 10 minutes.

I was first in the water this year at 0553 hours and was accompanied by my brother Jamie Myles from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even though I had been training in the Severn since May starting in 64F water I must admit that I found the water cold. This shortened our fuel breaks and I started swimming again each time with goosebumps. It was a funny swim for me this year as I was sick for the first time during the swim. This year’s baseball injury was a baseball to my left cheek – pretty impressive, and the remaining hematoma affected the seal on my mask – and though this certainly didn’t slow me down, I had red eyes at the end. My mom, Mary Lyn Myles, who is instrumental in totaling our donations and completing the receipts, has suggested that “I might be getting past my prime in baseball!” I missed swimming with Marilyn this year and finished within 6 minutes of last year’s time in 4 hours 40 minutes. A very sincere thank you to Jamie who takes us on the shortest route each year and has my fuel ready every 30 minutes, expediting the stops, so I didn’t cool down too much.

This was another awe-inspiring year with 14 new swimmers bringing our total over the 9 years to 97 swimmers. It is always wonderful to get a chance to visit in person with the returning swimmers and I thank you for your commitment to the Swim for the Cure each year. There are some key people that we would not be able to manage without, some more visible than others – all of great importance. My parents Mary Lyn and Herb Myles picked up our wonderful donation from Tim Horton’s this year and they bring the receipt books, completing the receipts with the team before the swimmers make it to Big Chute. Even with the on-line donations, almost half the funds raised this year came via pledge sheets. Mom and Dad, Cathy Myles, Caroline Burns and Brenda German completed all the receipts, had them ready for the swimmers at the end and totalled our pledges as well as cheering when each swimmer finished, making sure that the swimmers and crew were fed at the end. Caroline also recorded each finish time as we arrived. Thank you to each of you for your organizational skills and taking care of the details while we swim and paddle.

Jim Shaw, Al Scott, Don Popplow, Bob Nelles and Steve Bang get the swimmers and crew from Severn Falls to Swift Rapids to start their swim, accompany us along the way and get people back to their cars, and the canoes/kayaks, coolers etc back to the cottages. This helps to ensure a safe swim for all of us and helps (a little) to slow the boats down when they pass the swimmers. Al Scott had the pontoon boat and helped the relay teams make their transitions and received some donations along the way. Don and Laura Popplow captured wonderful pictures of the 2009 swim from start to finish. Don has taken pictures from the very first swim in 2001 and this gift of memory is so appreciated. Bob Snider donated the multiple bags of ice this year to keep all the food and drinks cold at Big Chute, thank you very much to him.

A special thank you goes out to our nephews Brock Bilous, Dustin Scott and friend Jordan Adamson for helping lay out the km markers for the swimmers and crew on Friday morning before the swim. A thank you to Mark and Eric Bang and Brock Bilous for helping making the wraps for the swimmers and crew and to Caroline Burns for the “over the top” delicious homemade cookies. The carrot bread was pretty amazing as well! Brock Bilous accompanied Debbie and Steve to the cottage on Thursday night before the swim and was a great help with “what ever” needed doing before and after the swim – so thank you Brock!

The swim would not be possible each year without all the behind the scenes help from my husband and best friend Steve Bang. He sets up and takes down the km markers, runs people and canoes/kayaks up river before and after the swim, organizes the set-up and take-down of the tents at Big Chute, makes sure everyone is accounted for during the day, helps at the receipt table and generally can be counted on to look after everything that gets forgotten by the other people AND encourages me along the way and is waiting at the end when I finish with a genuine congratulations and hug. My bathing cap is off to you Steve!

Fourteen swimmers joined the returning swimmers this year and collectively we raised over $10,000 to help fund research to find a cure for breast cancer. We also help reduce our own risk of breast cancer by training for the swim. Since the first swim in 2001 there have been 97 swimmers, more than double that in crew and we have contributed over $95,000 for breast cancer research.

If you are reading this story and have not yet swum with us, please consider swimming with us for our 10th anniversary. Come as either as a solo swimmer, completing at Big Chute, or as part of a relay team completing at Big Chute. We will need many helpers in 2010 as a few swimmers will continue past Big Chute to finish in Port Severn. Helpers are needed to: 1. pick up swimmers at Severn Falls in the morning; 2. help move canoes/kayaks from the top of Big Chute to the bottom for the swimmers who will carry on to Port Severn; 3. staff the food table; 4. help complete receipts; 5. accompany either in a motor boat or canoe/kayak the swimmers from Big Chute to Port Severn; 6. drive people from Big Chute to Port Severn to watch the 16 mile / 25.6 km swimmers complete their swim. Please consider either swimming with us or helping in 2010. I can be reached by email at dbang at

Until next year . . . thank you to all our crew and swimmers for another wonderful year!