Releasing balloons at last year’s event/ Photo by Lauren Lesley Photography

 

It was early Spring 2010, when triathlete Alissa Magrum lay on her couch recuperating from a hip scope surgery to repair a torn labrum in her left leg. Her doctor instructed her not to run or bike for at least 12 weeks, so she decided she would swim … and swim and swim. While watching her leg move back and forth in an automatic CPM machine, Magrum conceived a plan to swim four miles for a local charity, Colin’s Hope. Until that moment, a four mile swim in Lake Austin seemed pretty far-fetched. She had completed a half-Ironman in the past, but had never swam more than two miles in training. She initially envisioned embarking on this journey alone, but after mentioning her idea to a few friends and fellow triathletes, her crazy idea of swimming four miles was quickly becoming a full-fledged charity event.  

Two Ironman finishes couldn’t shake the butterflies in my stomach as I set out to do something I never thought possible.

Colin Holst was just 4 years old when he drowned at a public pool in 2008, under the watchful eye of several parents and lifeguards. The unthinkable happened to this innocent family and they started Colin’s Hope to prevent a tragedy like this from occurring again. Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children under the age of 5, and the number two cause for children ages 1 to 14? They certainly didn’t know, but the group was on a mission to teach others.

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Swimmers at last year’s event/Photo by Lauren Lesley Photography

Emotions were on the surface last September 2, 2010, the day of the inaugural event. Colin’s father said a blessing and a few inspirational words, and then 20 swimmers and their personal water guardians started their four mile journey on Lake Austin. I, too, was completely overwhelmed with emotion and nerves that morning (on what would’ve been Colin’s seventh birthday) because I was one of the fortunate swimmers raising money and awareness for this cause. Two Ironman finishes couldn’t shake the butterflies in my stomach as I set out to do something I never thought possible for such a personal cause. When all was said and done, over $20,000 was raised that morning and it’s no surprise that, upon completion of the inaugural Got2Swim event for Colin’s Hope, Magrum vowed to make it bigger and better in 2011.

This Friday, September 2, 2011, 50 swimmers and their personal water guardians are now hitting Lake Austin for the second-annual Got2Swim event benefiting Colin’s Hope. Many are doing the four mile swim, but several swimmers from last year have raised the bar and are swimming eight miles to commemorate what would’ve been Colin’s eighth birthday. One of the swimmers, Katy Dooley, is actually doing the 21 mile Catalina Channel crossing this Friday. If all goes well, she’ll finish around the same time as her Austin teammates. In addition to CPR and water safety certified water guardians, the swimmers (also certified) will be surrounded by support crews, boats and SUPs from the Expedition School and Lake Police to ensure safety during the event. Mandatory hydration and nutrition rest breaks are also scheduled during the swim.

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Strong swimmers/Photo by Lauren Lesley Photography

Like last year, I am honored to be one of the swimmers for Colin’s Hope. This year, I’m attempting the eight mile swim with my water guardian, Maggie Dolch, by my side in her kayak. What makes this event so special and unique is that it is not a race. It’s truly a team event. Our competitive spirits are channeled directly into raising money for the mission. As a team, we take breaks together, we support each other, we swim together, and we will all finish together this Friday around noon. The real winner of this event is the Holst family who can take pride and consolation in knowing that their mission to raise awareness of and prevent childhood drowning is being achieved one stroke at a time. So far, the 2011 event has brought in close to $50,000, already doubling what the swimmers raised in 2010. Each dollar raised goes directly to help Colin’s Hope prevent drowning and educate about simple steps that will keep children safe in and around the water. They also support providing swim lessons to children who need but cannot afford them through partnerships with the YMCA and the City of Austin.

For more information on Colin’s Hope, visit www.colinshope.org. To make a donation to the swim on the author’s pledge page, visit http://tinyurl.com/4x62pt7.

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Carrie Barrett is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Her articles have appeared on Livestrong.com, Runner Triathlete News, Inside Texas Running, and the recent triathlon anthology, “The Meaning of Tri.” Barrett is also a member of Erin Baker’s National Triathlon Team. For more information on her coaching, speaking and writing, visit fomotraining.com