- Cold showers daily for two years
- Ice baths lasting 10-15 minutes a few times a week
- Swim 4-5 days a week, two-mile intervals during the week, longer swims on weekends
Work, swim, sleep, repeat has been one man's routine for the last two years. All his hard work and dedication are about to pay off.
Jonathan Whiting, 60, of Kirkwood, MO., has been training to swim the English Channel since 2020. He swims in memory of his wife Lori and all those dealing with cholangiocarcinoma.
Jonathan explained, "While going through trials with Lori, I could not find much information about Cholangiocarcinoma. Therefore, it has become my personal mission to raise money and awareness about this cancer type."
In late April, Jonathan flew to Hawaii for a 10-mile training swim from Lana'i to Maui. The swim was to test Jonathan's ability to be in open water, with large waves and active sea life, and if he could withstand seasickness.
"My one hesitation was to be with sharks," Jonathan said. "After a few practices swims, my confidence went up. I put all my faith in my coaches and training and just swam."
Jonathan is training with Carol Breiter of Northern California. Carol is a Channel Swimming Association (CSA) approved coach, a retired marathon swimmer, and a past USA National Team Coach and swimmer. She has coached numerous successful English Channel crossings since 1985.
Carol has a well-established training plan. She counts Jonathan's strokes per minute, teaches him how to consume drinks and food from a pole while in the water, and monitors his health and mental state.
"Jonathan must learn to consume his drink within 30 seconds. During practice, it may take one or two minutes, but in the Channel, that amount of time can take a swimmer 60-120 yards off course," she said.
Carol makes sure Jonathan feeds every 30 minutes. He consumes a drink of Carol's own making. It is a mixture of caffeine, sometimes fruit, and ingredients that combat seasickness and allows him to tolerate sea salt. The drink is served hot, about 101 degrees, and is in a water bottle attached to a rope or pole outstretched to Jonathan. One of the Channel's rules is that no one can touch or assist Jonathan while swimming.
On Saturday, June 25th, Jonathan swam 10.5 miles across Lake Tahoe. The feat was the last major training milestone and required certification before the English Channel swim. Jonathan proved he could swim for at least six hours in 55-60 degree water upon completing the swim.
Carol coached Jonathan while at Lake Tahoe. Her husband, Steve, served on the escort board driven by pilot Tom Linthicum. Jillian Savage, an observer from the Lake Tahoe Marathon Swim Federation, and her 15-year-old son, James Savage, were also part of the crew. James kayaked next to Jonathan, and Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation volunteer Dave Fleischer documented the swim by taking photos and video. Interestingly, James is a Tahoe Triple Crown swimmer, which means he swam three specific routes across Lake Tahoe. It's safe to say that Jonathan was in excellent hands.
Carol chose the Viking Route for Jonathan, which is a 10.5-mile swim from Cave Rock to Emerald Bay. (Tim Linthicum created this route.) The team met at the hotel at 3:15 a.m. By 4 a.m., the group arrived at Cave Rock. Jonathan applied grease to his body which helped him tolerate the initial shock of the cold water. The lubricant also contains sunblock and lanolin. The only other items Jonathan is allowed to wear are a swim cap, goggles, and a Speedo-type swimsuit.
By 4:36 a.m., Jonathan stepped into the water and began his swim. Jillian Savage, as the observer, recorded every detail from the time, the water temperature, the air temperature, and swim strokes per minute. She documented the required information every 30 minutes. The water cannot go above 60 degrees at any given point, or the swim is not a success.
For hours, Jonathan's swim strokes were 56 strokes per minute. At approximately 10 a.m., about 5 ½ hours into the swim, Jonathan began to cramp. His strokes slowed to 54 per minute. The crew was concerned, and Jonathan was unsure if he could make it. However, Carol knew what to do. She gave Jonathan a McDonald's salt packet, energy gel, and ibuprofen. Within minutes Jonathan felt better and picked up the pace.
By noon, Jonathan had made it to Emerald Bay. He slowly stood up, not knowing if he would be able to. He immediately felt great and decided to run up to an old castle called Vikingsholm. There is a tradition that you are to knock on the door to see if Odom is home. However, there were too many tourists, and Jonathan was in his suit, covered in grease.
Jonathan and the crew drove back to the hotel within the hour, showered, and gathered at Tahoe Hacienda Inn for a reception. A banner, fresh fruit, and swag bag from the Foundation greeted him.
"I am happy with my swim this morning and am looking forward to the English Channel," Jonathan said.
Jonathan leaves on July 12th for Dover, England. His swimming window is between July 17-23. Once conditions are deemed suitable, he will take the plunge and begin his swim.
Jonathan's website, 21milesofhope.org, and the Foundation Facebook page are providing updates on his English Channel swim along with tracking once Jonathan starts. Feel free to add comments of encouragement to let Jonathan know you are cheering for him.