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Fake it ’til you make it

May 5, 2016

How many of us have heard the phrase “Fake it ‘til you make it?” Raise your hands. Ok so a LOT of us. I have a love/extreme dislike relationship with this phrase. The extreme dislike comes from it hitting the same nerve as someone telling me to “Just be happy!” when I’m in deep mental funk. Again I think this can go to the societal misunderstanding about mental illness. Anyways, I’ve been on this soap box in the last emails so I’ll step down…for now.

Why do I love this statement? Mainly because it reminds me that when I’m in my mental funk and wanting to take up permanent residence in my blanket fort, this is not necessarily the best action to help me heal. There is the balance of blanket fort time and “faking it” in the real world. It’s a good thing that in my real world there are friends, chosen family and blood family who are almost as good as a blanket fort. Maybe they are human forts. People to be with who you can occupy space with without needing to act or be a certain way. They offer a hug, a smile, maybe hold my hand. You know these people, the ones who you talk to in your head while hiding out. Man, I hope your shaking your head in agreement here otherwise my therapist and I need to add this to my list to discuss. I’m going to go with that you totally know what I’m talking about here. See “fakin’ it ‘til I make it!”

Another way that I use this phrase to my advantage is to think of something bigger outside my immediate world that I can focus some energy on. It takes the focus off my broken mind and allows me to get shit done and maybe help someone else along the way. Lately my energy and thoughts have been occupied by the crisis occurring in the Mediterranean sea. This location holds so many amazingly beautiful memories for me.

Greece, Italy and Turkey were where I study abroad when in college (Yes, I can remember that far back). The Greek islands that I hear about daily in the news are where I fell in love with travel and living in a new culture. The sunsets were amazing setting over the white marble ruins. And oh my gosh the food. There is a reason that the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best. Frankly I liked sitting for hours over amazing meals just watching life go by and this was totally acceptable. No rushing from place to place. I also really like siesta time. I’m a great proponent of naps.

Then more recently the Strait of Gibraltar was where I had an amazing swim. It was my first time in Africa, even if it was just for a minute before swimming back to the boat. It was where I was attacked by a pod of pilot whales. Ok attacked is an extreme exaggeration, but they did get really really close. Let’s just say my crew yelled to me “Don’t worry they won’t eat you.” One of the scariest and most comforting things to hear on a swim.

The daily tragedy that is occurring in these places created such a dilemma for me, especially since my plan in the next few years is to swim the Bosporus Strait between Turkey and Greece. How can these places where I spend money to go play and have fun, be the same places where money and people are exploited to reach safety? I can’t necessarily reconcile these two feelings. Just recently I was introduced to Circle of Health International (COH Intl.) by two colleagues. This non-profit is focused on aiding women and children in crisis situations. And they were beginning to launch their Go the Distance Campaign, with the goal to mimic the most dangerous part of a woman’s journey as they flee towards safety. Imagine my surprise that one of the journeys was to mimic swimming the Bosporus strait. I don’t know if it was the world giving me a sign to crawl out of my fort, but I latched on.

I contacted the COH Intl and offered my support and contacts in the marathon swimming community. I figured that I couldn’t be the only marathon swimmer struggling with the same ideas about Mediterranean and our own personal swimming passions. Thankfully the non-profit has allowed me to barge my way in. (I wish I was kidding about the barging. I’m not.) While we were hoping to go to Greece/Turkey to swim the Bosporus Strait on May 8th – Mother’s Day, the travel restrictions and crisis situation over there is not cooperating. Is this a case of irony? I don’t really know as Alanis Morsette kind of ruined my understanding of irony. Dang that catchy song. I’m getting off track here, sorry.

Regardless, I have taken the reigns of Go the Distance to help me fake it ‘til I make it. Instead of the campaign culminating in an event on Mother’s Day, COH Intl. and I are going to work to have a Go the Distance event every month up until at least the new year. The kick-off is going to be Mother’s Day in Austin TX, COH Intl headquarters. I’m really looking forward to heading down there in the next few weeks and getting in some good time in the water in an amazing city and for a good cause.

The good karma from this event is spreading beyond the Mother’s Day Austin event mainly from the great work of COH Intl and a little publicity from the Daily News of Open Water Swimming. In June, Go the Distance will head to Northern California. Then in July, I’ll take the banner and campaign with me to Northern Ireland, as I await for the weather window to swim the North Channel. August leads the campaign to Massachusetts for a swim there with Elaine Howley.

Want to join the campaign? Well, you can. You don’t even have to be a swimmer. They are even accepting you land sport people – crazy as you all are. See Go the Distance is very accepting. In fact, one of our my colleagues has created a team called the “Sneaker Flippers” Come on, join the fun! Want to help keep the campaign running throughout the year – let me know and I’ll get you the banner and instructions. It wouldn’t take more than 1-2 hours of your time mostly Facebook, Twitter posts and getting the word out. I’m trying to leverage the groups that we already have created that we swim/run/bike/skateboard/etc. with rather than creating an “official” event. We want this easy to participate in and for those feel- good endorphins to kick in quickly.

4 months planned for Go the Distance and I haven’t retreated yet to my fort. Maybe this faking it isn’t quite so bad.

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Daily News – Michelle Macy humbly heroic

November 7, 2013

I subscribe to Daily News of Open Water Swimming to see and hear about all the amazing things that are occurring around the world in open water swimming.  Sometimes I’ll get some new tips for a future swim or I’ll even get an idea for a future swim.  I don’t go to the Daily News to see my name in print so I’m often surprised when an article with my name mentioned gets printed.  Usually it is a friend that points out that my name is listed at all, mainly because I’m a little behind in my Daily News reading – seriously this website puts out a ton of amazing content from week to week.  It is hard to keep up!  I don’t know how the reporters keep up. Frankly there has to be like a thousand people writing for Daily News.  

Recently the Daily News wrote the following about me as a profile for the World Open Water Swimming Association nomination.  For their kind and thoughtful words, I’m thankful.  Read the article below or go to Daily News to see the article with links:

Also on Daily News you can see profiles of the other WOWSA award nominees.  There is just so many incredibly talented and tenacious women in the sport!  You can subscribe to receive updates from the Daily News but be forewarned there is a LOT of news!

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2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year – Nominees

November 6, 2013

So honored to be included in this small sampling of the amazing women in open water swimming. This award is voted on by the public so please consider sharing and voting. I don’t really anticipate winning the award with so many talented women and those with a more public persona, so it really is an honor to be nominated.

Here is the link to vote and that you can use to post wherever you would like: .

The Daily News of Open Water Swimming Post copied in it’s entirety below. To read the posting with links active please go here:  (more…)

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H2Open Magazine Recognizing Accomplishments

August 16, 2013

A fellow swimmer forwarded on this lovely article in H2Open Magazine.   It’s fun to see the news spreading.

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In the mad mind of the marathon swimmer

August 8, 2013

I’ve been contemplating what to tell you about the North Channel swim and have been drawing a blank.  Maureen McCoy already wrote such a beautiful account from the boat perspective.  In case you missed it, here it is again    And just this week the Beaverton Leader has this article:

Then I thought of some questions my crew member and friend Erin asked me after the swim.  She asked “How do you get into the water knowing that you are going to be stung by jellyfish?  What keeps you going?”  When she asked me this question, I was stumped for an answer.  It isn’t something that I even really thought about as being a choice.   Now I’ve had the time and I think that is as good a place to start as any to tell you about my perspective of swimming the North Channel known for its extremely cold temperatures and loads of jellies.

Jellyfish are some of the oldest organisms in the world dating to 500 to 700 million years old.  And according to Wikipedia the Lion’s Mane jelly (pictured below – and yes that is me flirting with danger.  This was taken after the swim, so you’d think I know better.) “Although capable of attaining a bell diameter of 2.5 metres (8.2 ft), these jellyfish can vary greatly in size; those found in lower latitudes are much smaller than their far northern counterparts with bell about 50 centimetres (20 in) in diameter. The tentacles of larger specimens may trail as long as 30 metres (98 ft) or more. These extremely sticky tentacles are grouped into eight clusters, each cluster containing over 100 tentacles,[4] arranged in a series of rows.”  ( )

Ok not sure if you digested that information, so it bears repeating – the tentacles can reach up to 98 feet long and are EXTREMELY sticky grouped into EIGHT clusters each containing OVER 100 tentacles.  Just wanted that to be crystal clear. 


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Now on arriving in Northern Ireland, I did do some practice training to get ready for the ultimate swim of the North Channel.  Unfortunately during two of these training swims I was stung by a Lion’s Mane jelly.  Probably not the same one, but cousins I’m sure 😉 I got a lot of first hand knowledge of what the stings felt like and how my body would react.  My friends and I had hoped that this welcoming to the North Sea by the jellies would be my only encounter and that my actual swim would be jelly free. 

July 15th rolled around and it was time to get into the water for the North Channel swim.   As I was working my way to shore to start on the actual land, I managed to beach myself like a whale on a barnacle covered rock.   In the process of trying to remove myself through some amazingly graceful flopping around, I ended up bloodied and bruised.  Not exactly how I wanted to start a swim, but at least I was pretty confident that there weren’t sharks in the North Channel.  Or at least I was pretty sure.  (Side note:  3 weeks later and the leg cuts are almost healed.)

I was also hoping for a good jelly forecast – meaning no jellies or jellies way below water surface level.  It became clear very very early in the swim that this was not going to be the case.    Shortly after starting the swim I ran into a large group of jellyfish, which is called a “bloom, swarm or a smack.”  Smack seemed appropriate at this time.  Here is the sequence of events when encountering a smack of jellies – this sequence occurred multiple times during the swim:

  • Shoot there is a jelly – let’s swim around it.  YAY you!  You missed it!   Be Dori and Nemo – you can do it.  Thread the needle!  Dance and slither around the jellies!  Happy times swimming.  You are so going to make it through this!
  • Dang! Shoot! Plus some other larger non-appropriate expletives as I felt myself swim into threads on my arms.  The best way that I can explain it is that it is like when you walk into a spider web that you didn’t see.  You can feel the threads and they are stuck to you, but you can’t exactly find them to get them off so you do the spider web dance as you flail your arms, wiggle your body side to side all while saying ACCCKKK FLLLLFFFF.   Now a jelly encounter is somewhat similar.  If you are lucky, you catch the bell of the jelly and really only end up with a stung forearm because you grab the bell and push it under you while trying as much as possible to levitate over the rest of the jelly.   Heck if you can manage to levitate out of the water you’d do it.  Unlucky and you get to have the jelly slide all along your body creating havoc as it goes.   Instead of ACCKKK FLLLLFFF you either decide to keep your mouth closed so you don’t swallow any tentacles or lift your head up and bellow.  Most often I go with the mouth closed approach. 
  • I did raise my head up to inform my crew that the jellies were going to be paying a visit and that I had been stung.  I also warned my kayaker to be careful as I didn’t want them to have a jelly slide up their kayak paddle and sting them.
  • Then I get to wait a very brief second before the burning starts.  In addition to burning, you also feel as if you have an extremely bad case of the painful pin pricks that occur when a body part has fallen asleep or more accurately has started to wake up.

At this point I decided that I needed to add another mantra to my repetorie.   Prior to the start of the swim they were:

  • We are going to have a safe, relaxed and successful swim.
  • You are made for cold water and excel there.
  • You have prepared for this swim and are focused.
  • Control what you can control and let go of everything else.

I quickly added:  The jellies should not kill you. 

I didn’t go so far as say won’t because at this point I wasn’t really sure and I knew plenty of swimmers that had ended up in the hospital due to jelly stings.  Then I started to think about counting how many jelly stings I got as this is often a question.   Then I began a debate with myself – does it count as one if a jelly rolls down your body stinging as it goes or does each separate point that it hits count as one?  Does being stung in the face count as more than the forearm?  What constitutes a lot of jellyfish?  Because to me this seems like a lot of jellies, but I don’t have a lot of reference points so maybe this is just a little and a lot is way more.  If this is a little, then I should be thankful that it isn’t a lot!  This thinking killed quite a bit of time during the swim.  I never settled on what counted as one sting so I don’t have a count of stings.  I know that I ran through many groups of jellies and was stung from tip to toes.  One even managed to sting through my swimsuit.  At this point counting seemed futile.

I also spent time thinking about the seal.  Why was it following me?  What did it want?  I wan’t super concerned as it was maintaining its distance and I only really saw it during the feedings.  (Side note:  Yes they are called feedings when my crew gives me food.  They occur every 30 minutes.)  Then there was the Nike futbol (or soccer) ball.  After the ball was pulled from the water, the seal disappeared.  We later joked that because we took the seal’s ball it decided there was no reason to hang around with the crazy swimmer.

Most of my time is spent trying to be meditative.  I count my strokes in a pattern – “One, two, three, breathe.  One, two, three, breathe.”  Yes after many hours this can get boring. 

During the feedings, my crew would cheer me on and keep me entertained.  They also asked questions to ensure that I was still functioning and not hypothermic.   One of the rules that I have with my crew is please don’t tell me how far I’ve gone, how many hours, or what I have left.    I have the crew tell me one bit of information – when I’ve reached OVER halfway.  Now it is up to my crew if they tell me this close to the actual halfway point or wait until much later into the swim.  Up until I hear this I try my best to keep track of exactly how many feedings I’ve had which in turn tells me how long I’ve been swimming.

As we reached what I calculated as the 6 hour mark, I realized that either I was getting cold or the stings were causing me to feel cold.  I couldn’t exactly determine which.  This led to a bit of time debating that fact.  Ultimately I decided it was an effect from all the jelly stings.  Then I also started to calculate that I was in for potentially another 6-8 hours of swimming.  Could I do that?  Would my body hold up?  Just how much more jelly venom could I withstand before I had problems?  At the 6.5 hour feeding, my crew announced that I was more than halfway.  For the next 30 minutes, I did some bargaining with my body.    “Ok body,  if you keep pushing forward, doing your job, and handling the jelly stings… I will never make you swim this body of water solo again.”  Some of you may have caught the key word in that sentence “SOLO.”  Yep, I was already talking with some of my crew about how fun it would be to do a relay 2-3 days after this swim was over. 

At the 7 hour feeding, the crew told me that if I pushed harder they thought the swim would be over in 2 hours.  I asked “and if I don’t?”  They replied that the swim would be maybe 3-4 hours more.    I decided I’d try to push.   One of my crew members also suited up to swim with me for an hour which was a nice distraction.  At 9 hours, my crew asked me to keep pushing.  I told them that I could push for 1 more hour and then I’d have to scale back to something more manageable.  It was around this time that I just decided to put my head down and swim forgetting that looking for jellies may still be a good idea.  Shortly after this I ran directly into a large Lion’s Mane and ended up wearing it as a shawl wrapped around my neck and upper body.   Needless to say this caused some bellowing and slapping of the water as I pealed the jelly off my body.  Thankfully that was the last major jelly encounter for the swim.   I ended up finishing 34 minutes and 39 seconds after that last feeding. 

That’s a bit of what I was thinking during the North Channel swim.

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North Channel Swim – An account from the boat

July 17, 2013

Please take time to read this beautiful account of the swim from the perspective of the official Irish Long Distance Association observer, Maureen McCoy, with photos by Paul McCambridge. 

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Willamette River Lap Swim a smashing success

June 18, 2013

The day started off really EARLY.  We met Drew Carney from News Channel 8 at Sunrise for Out and About with Drew.  It was pretty crazy, but a good start to getting what ended up being a lot of good press for the Willamette River.  I think people really got to see and engage with the river in such a different way.  Most of the time people are either driving the bridges or walking, running or biking the paths next to the river.  I’m sure many never consider getting in the river unless they are in a boat.

I think our little river swim did a lot to help change people’s minds.  Yes, 15 years ago swimming in the Willamette would have been ill advised.  Local non-profits and other organizations have been doing oodles to change that.  Unfortunately people’s perceptions are still 15 years old.  Funny how the brain works and what sticks with us.   The Human Access Project are working to change that.  That is what this 12 hour swim was about.  Get people to own their waterway.  It is the lifeline to the city.  By improving the Willamette’s health and prosperity, we in turn increase our own.  

What was great about this swim for me was to have an endless changing landscape to watch while swimming.  I was able to talk to and engage with the people thank them for coming and answer their questions.    Can’t say that has ever happened on any of my other swims.  I even had a classroom of school children throwing flowers down into the water to cheer me on.  My very own Ice Castles moment.  

Besides the great press, I think some of my friends were really able to comprehend what my sport actually is.  Some came down to cheer me on and said “Oh, you really just swim for 12 hours without stopping.”  Yep that’s what I do.  I guess seeing it in actual time is different than understanding the sport conceptually.  

Take a moment to read some of the great articles that resulted for the Willamette. 

KGW News Channel 8 at Sunrise – Out and About with Drew Carney:

KOIN News 6: 

The Oregonian:

Fox 12 News and a few radio stations came as well, but I can’t find their postings.  If you find them please pass them along.  

Oh and if you are looking for something fun to do in the Willamette this summer consider the following:

The Big Float: – sponsored by the Human Access Project –

The Portland Bridge Swim – – 11 miles, 11 bridges and countless memories – relays are accepted!


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Atlantic News – Shark in the Water.

June 11, 2013

A fun post in The Atlantic about my lovely Hawaiian friend.  I’d swim anywhere in the world with you Michael…mostly because the odds would now be in our favor! 

“You ever heard of the cookiecutter shark, Isistius brasiliensis? I hadn’t either until Phenomena’s Ed Yong told me about it today. “It’s a small cat-sized animal with chocolate-coloured skin, a rounded snout, and large green eyes. Beneath the bizarre head, its lower jaw contains what looks like a saw–a row of huge, serrated teeth, all connected at their bases,” Yong wrote earlier this year. “When the cookie-cutter finds a victim, it latches on with its large fleshy lips and bites down with its saw blade. With twisting motions, it scoops out a chunk of flesh, leaving behind circular craters.”

They have been known to attack great white sharks and killer whales and even nuclear submarines (the last of which suggests to me that they may not have the most developed nervous systems).

And in one case, and one case only, a human.”  Read the full story here:

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Willamette River Lap Swim stretches imagination – Macy partners with Human Access Project

June 6, 2013

The press release for tomorrow’s crazy swim.  

If you thought lap swims were just for pools, think larger. Think Willamette River. That’s where long-distance swimmer, Michelle Macy, will soon attempt to swim 75 laps (19 miles). Her Willamette River Lap Swim will take place Friday, June 7th beneath the north deck of the Hawthorne Bridge from 6:30am-6:30pm.

The “swim practice” is a public event sponsored by the Human Access Project (HAP), a new Portland not-for-profit organization formed to promote public access and recreational use of the Willamette River and to transform Portland’s relationship with it.

Macy joined with the Human Access Project to raise awareness of the Willamette’s recreational potential. Her goal is to swim for an amazing 10-12 hours and cross the river 75 times – she may even do flip turns on the seawall. In addition to awareness and training, she hopes people will join in her efforts to raise funds for HAP and her future training and travels. These tax deductible donations can be made at the Human Access Project site:

The public is invited to watch and cheer her on throughout the day on the Hawthorne Bridge’s north platform, or on either side of the Esplanade. For safety, she will have a kayak escort by her side the entire swim. As Michelle says, swimming in rivers and lakes should never be done alone, particularly long-distance swims.

The Human Access Project (HAP) is supporting three other Willamette River events this summer:

July 5th “World Float” Portland will try to break the Guinness Book World Record of 540 people to form the “Longest Floating Human Chain” – on the Willamette River.

July 21st Portland Bridge Swim – 80 solo swimmers and relay teams will swim almost 11 miles in the Willamette from Sellwood to St. Johns.

July 28th The Big Float III 2,000 participants will have a group inner-tube float in the Willamette River. There will be a barge with three bands (for an inner-tube concert on the water), free chair massages and a kids’ area.

For more information, go to 

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It all started with an email

September 12, 2011

This weekend I was just hanging out after my long training sessions making a plan of attack on how much of Mama Vera’s homemade spaghetti sauce when I received a few strange emails.  First was one that went like this “This looks so cool!  You must be so excited.”  I found this odd as I wasn’t exactly sure what it was referencing.  I hadn’t done anything particularly noteworthy to date except ordering that 9am post training burger.

SIDE NOTE: I spend most of the week working on the computer, so I try to spend my weekends away from technology.  I know I shouldn’t as this would be the prime time to update my blog, photos, etc.  But if I did that when would I get to Mama Vera’s sauce? or loads of training? 

Ok back to the email.  Then I noticed another email with the subject line “I will be very complimentary.” from one of my swimming mentors.  Now things seemed really odd.  I thought further investigation should be conducted.  I set aside the tomatoes and garlic and booted up my computer.  It suddenly became clear what all the fuss was about.  Open Water Source is doing a webinar regarding Women in the Water and low and behold my name was listed!  Weird, exciting, odd, humbling, etc all at the same time.  After reading about what looks to be an amazing webinar, I was up to speed.

Tune in Saturday 17th – 2pm PST/4pm CST/5pm EST/10pm London time. Here are the details:

Honestly based on the women that are listed from Penny Palfrey and Diana Nyad – LONG distance pioneers to 5k and 10k Olympians,  I think the hour will go very fast.   Also based on the listed company, I’m sure that any mention of me will be quick.  Don’t get me wrong any mention at all is pretty fricking amazing, so I’m very excited and honored to be included. 

I know that I’ll be tuning in to see what they say.  Heck it may even require another weekend boot of the computer to share my post webinar thoughts.  OH GEEZ, the pressure 🙂

By the way, Mama Vera’s sauce turned out very well and should help aid in my carbo loading obsessions.

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