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Are you CRAZY? – The Columbia River Bar aka The Graveyard

November 8, 2013

A recent October weekend I believe that I finally put myself in the shoes of someone after they hear about my swimming. “Wait what, you swim marathons? Are you crazy?” When I get these questions, I’m sort of stumped on how to respond. Often I reply with “Yes and I’ve been tested so I know I’m certifiable.” But really deep down I don’t get the question.

The world is 70% water according to Google (thank goodness for Google). How could you NOT want to swim it? I mean really on a scale of crazy to not crazy. I’m thinking that it’s got to rate closer to the not crazy side. Plus really its practical. I think that Kevin Costner had it right in Waterworld, even with the bad acting. The ice caps are melting. The oceans are rising. Just look how far ahead of the learning curve I am on this one 🙂  (more…)

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This little piggy went to market.

June 25, 2013

Toes! Not something you’d probably expect from a MacySwim update. (Side Note: I bet some of you were thinking that I was the Piggy and I was going to market for more food for added weight. Shame on you! Now let’s get back to toes.)

What do toes have to do with marathon swimming? I’ll tell you. Absolutely nothing. Unless of course, you are me at which point toes or more precisely toe nail polish is very important. (more…)

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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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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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Life in my swimsuit. Got crabs?

May 29, 2013

One of the most common questions I get is “You wear a wetsuit right?” Perhaps it is the proliferation of triathlons that makes people assume I wear a wetsuit. Or maybe it is that they see the 10k professional swimmers in long black suits. Or maybe people think that nobody would be crazy enough to swim in just a “regular” swimsuit especially in cold water.

Well folks its true there is NO wetsuit on my body when I swim in cold water. In fact it is completely against the rules. Don’t believe me? Here is a picture of me starting my 2012 English Channel swim. And yes that blue boat is my escort boat. My back looks white because I use zinc oxide to try to protect my skin from hours in the water. There you have it. Photographic evidence that it is just a regular swimsuit. (SIDE NOTE: I’m the first picture. Also men cannot wear wetsuits for channel swimming either. They often have the option between a traditional “Speedo” and a suit cut to the knees called a “jammer.” See pictures below.) (more…)

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Safely home, but what day is it?

March 16, 2010

After 4 flights, I arrived safely home in Portland Oregon.  It was a lovely trip and I was sad to see it be over.  The trip home was uneventful, but how many breakfasts can one person take.  I left Wellington and was given breakfast.  I arrived in Sydney, still in the AM and was again provided breakfast.  Then I landed in LA and yep you guessed it BREAKFAST TIME!  I was never so thankful to arrive somewhere past 11am so that I could eat something besides slimy airport eggs.  Actually I didn't eat many of the breakfasts which I think caused some of my crazy behaviour later in the day and the lightheadedness.  I mean eggs from fast food restaurants just aren't that good, so I avoid them. 

I'm now back at work and I'm a little bit confused as to what day it really is.  Thankfully I have a calendar to keep me on track. 

Here are some fun facts from the swim:

  • Steve and I were the first successful swims this season.  #65 and 66 swimmers to cross for the 75th and 76th successful crossing.
  • 37th woman to make crossing, but 19th woman from North to South island
  • 5th American to make the crossing.
  • I swam 35 years after the first successful crossing by an American woman, Lynne Cox (Thanks Forrest for that fun fact!)
  • I negative split the swim, which will make my coach happy. 
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Vizzini says…

December 29, 2009

Ok so I’ve never really expunged about the fact that I love the movie The Princess Bride. I can pretty much recite all the lines from it. If I have the opportunity to work those into everyday conversation I consider it a good day (Hey it’s not like these lines really fit in everyday conversation). However, while swimming my 4th Pennock Island Challenge in Ketchikan Alaska the words of Inigo Montoya came rushing into my head.

I know you are probably thinking of the lines from the boat after Buttercup launches herself into the sea. No it wasn’t the following:
Inigo – I can’t swim.
Fezzik – I only dog paddle.

It was the point where Inigo is drunk in the village yelling at the Brute squad. Forgive me as these are rough quotes. “I’m waiting for Vizzini. Vizzini said if something went wrong to go back to the beginning. So I have.”

The Pennock Island Challenge is my beginning. In August 2006, I took my first leap into cold open water marathon swimming and I never looked back. I was the only out of state swimmer and everyone just took me in. Since I was a pretty lonely open water marathon swimmer in Oregon, I was beginning to believe my friends that maybe I was crazy. Then there was Alaska and a whole family of swimmers who just loved the water. No one was crazy or at least we weren’t crazy alone. It was fantastic. I still have that feeling 4 years later.

I’m sure that Willie Schulz didn’t think I would make it through after the safety meeting and his very strong precautions about hypothermia I walked up and asked “Um, so what are the signs of hypothermia?” He thought briefly that I was kidding and then this look of dread came over him. Nope not kidding. He gave me some high level overviews and then probably went to my kayaker and told him to watch me closely. I made it through and Willie was at the finish when I touched the buoy. “What did you think?” My reply “I’ve never hurt so much or been so happy in my entire life” Thus a cold open water marathon swimmer was born.

As you all know, these past 6 months have been a rough one. I’m still trying to navigate the waters, so it was time for me to “return to the beginning.” Every trip back to Alaska brings a renewed sense of purpose for me and cold water swimming. This year was no different. In a way it is like returning home to my first cold water swimming family (which has grown so much in 2 years 🙂 ). Per usual, I made the quick trip up and caught up with all my friends. The trip is never long enough and I never have enough time to talk with everyone, but each moment is cherished. 

Plus after 4 long years, I accomplished another goal.  I finally saw a black bear in the wild.  It was a magnificent creature, but much smaller than I anticipated.  I was watching it fish in a small stream when all of a sudden a saw a small dog bolt from a house barking.  I thought for sure I was in for a true Discovery channel moment, but alas no.  The black bear took one look at the dog and took off running.  I was a little disappointed.  First here was my first look at a black bear in Alaska and then just as soon as it started it was over.  Hmm…maybe more to look forward to in 2010.

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A bad case of the “Don’t Wannas”

March 19, 2009

Recently I’ve gone through a bad case of the “Don’t Wannas.”  I’ve gone through it before and I’m sure that I will go through it again.  It is the time in training where you just don’t want to do anything.  This was a very bad case as it progressed much further than normal.   A typical day would go like the following:

– I don’t wanna get out of bed.

– I don’t wanna go training.

– I don’t wanna put on my swimsuit and I definitely don’t wanna get wet.

– I don’t wanna go to work.

– I don’t wanna go train again.

– I don’t wanna go home.

– I don’t wanna do laundry, cook dinner, watch TV, read a book, etc.

I pretty much didn’t want to do anything.  I have to believe that I’m not alone in this type of episode.  I imagine that there are times when everyone wonders just exactly why they are doing something.  And there are times when we really don’t want to do the thing that we love most in the world. 

Thankfully these times past.  This particular episode lasted about a week and a half and then all of a sudden it was gone.  I noticed that the familiar feeling of being content in the water.  I was in the middle of a 1500 and then I got to thinking that the heavy weight that had been with me for the last week was gone.  I was thankful for that and got back to the “Wannas”.  I wanna be in the water and I feel most at home when I’m there.

So if you ever get a bad case of the “Don’t Wannas”.  Give yourself a break as they will pass.  I find that good friends and a bottle of good wine also helps.

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Things that you always wanted to know…

September 21, 2008

But may have been afraid to ask.

How do you get used to the cold water?

  • There are many ways to do this.  My usuals are by taking ice baths, cold showers, training in cold water, wearing lighter clothes in cooler weather, and avoiding using the heat in my home.
  • Acclimation takes time so don’t just jump in to all the above techniques.  Take time to gradually get your self used to the cold and to determine how your body reacts.

Do you get wrinkled from the long hours in the water?

  • Yes, but not nearly as much as I thought or as others may think.  It isn’t like being in a bath for 20 minutes.  The skin does get soft and a little wrinkled. 

What do you do if nature calls?

  • The rules of most marathon swims is that you can’t touch the boat and they can’t touch you once the swim starts.  If we all think about these rules I’m sure we can all imagine what swimmers do when nature calls. 

What is the worst thing about swimming in salt water?

  • I think that this will vary for every swimmer.  Obviously the chaffing seems to be worse for me in salt water.  However, the thing that really bothers me is the affect on my mouth.  Salt water makes my tongue swell and it starts to peel.  Not real cool and it makes food taste funky for a little while.  And I don’t even think about drinking alcohol afterwards.  The burn is awful.

Why don’t you wear a wetsuit?

  • Mainly because they aren’t allowed.  On a side note, I do find them very restricting and seem claustrophobic.

Not that I personally know this, but people do ask about men and the cold water.

  • According to my friends, this is also true.

How do you eat while swimming?

  • This again is very individual to the swimmer.  I have a basket that is extended on a boat hook.  My feedings are then in the basket.

What do you eat?

  • I eat CarboPro mixed in some liquid.  And then occasionally I add in some soft food that is really easy to eat like canned peaches.

 If you have any other questions that you are interested in knowing please drop me a line and I will do my best to answer them.

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Back to the Oregon Training

July 29, 2008

Manhattan is over and the Boston Light Marathon swim is coming up this weekend.  What did I do with my down time?  Well there wasn’t much down time.  I think I have taken 1 or 2 days off from training, but definitely not on the weekends.

The weekend of July 19-20 Tim and I just hit our old stomping ground of Hagg Lake.  Neither of us really felt like making the trek down to the Oregon Coast to hit Nehalem Bay.  Saturday’s swim was warm and beautiful.  Now we try to get out to the lake early so that we aren’t out when all the boat and fishermen come out.  Saturday was no exception.  We were out at the lake at 6:30am.  There was a beautiful fog over the late and the water was steaming as the air temperature was high 50’s – low 60’s.  We got started in this sort of dream land state.  Again it was the normal loop with a pier to pier.  As we were coming back past from the “pier to pier” we noticed some fishermen near “The Kids”.  Tim and I sort of stopped and bobbed and talked about superheros.  Had we been in Dover, I’m sure that someone would have told us to get on with the swimming task at hand, but we were enjoying the sunshine and determining the best path around the fishermen.  It appeared to us that they were moving more towards the middle of the lake, so Tim and I took the shoreline.  And when I say we took the shoreline…we were super close to the shoreline, perhaps 4 feet of water.  As we got by the fishermen, we (OK I) stopped for some more bobbing.  As we were about 100 feet away we hear “HEY BUDDY Nice going, way to swim right where we were fishing!  THERE IS A WHOLE LAKE TO SWIM IN!”  Now being that I’m a very delicate flower, this upset me.  Of course my immediate reply was to turn around and state that “Yes and there is a whole lake to fish in too.”  And then I proceeded to laugh.  Some might not think this the best reaction to 3 arrogant A-holes in a boat while Tim and I are just swimming, but again this delicate flower perhaps wasn’t thinking straight.  The rest of my swim was spent planning alternate rebuttals to this fisherman.

Option 2 – was to swim over to their tin can of a fishing boat and do a quick manuever to tip it over sending them, their gear and beer into the lake…somehow I managed to hold back. 

Option 3 – was to swim over and introduce myself.  “Hi I’m Michelle and I’ve been swimming out here since 6:30am.  I was curious if you were a safety person, where would you advise two swimmers who have been in the water for 2 hours to stay…close to shore and an exit path or in the middle of the lake where our tiny yellow caps may or may not been seen by the likes of fishermen who have started drinking at 8:30am in the morning?”  Somehow this didn’t seem like a good plan either.

For the record for all those fisherman/boaters/etc that may read this blog, without a safety boat, safety people on shore, or dragging a safety buoy/balloon swimmers will stay close to shore.  Now I thought this would be for obvious reasons, but apparently not.

Sunday Tim and I just did another quick pier to pier swim and called it a day. 

This past weekend (July 26-27) my good friends allowed Tim and I the use of their little house down in Manzanita Oregon.  Without the dreaded drive back from the coast on Saturday, Tim and I headed to Nehalem for training.  (Note: It is about a 2 hour drive to the coast, so you can see why a round trip in a day would be difficult).  We left early per my usual insane need to be in the water first thing in the morning.  Now I thought for sure that Nehalem Bay would be back at its “regular” 60 degree temp which would be a nice change from Hagg’s sweltering 76.   As we arrived at the State park, I decided perhaps in bad judgement to check the water temperature before we actually got in.  In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman “Big Mistake…Huge!”  From the boat launch the water registered 50.  Which I have found that non-cold water swimmers don’t understand.  They usually look at me and say “Well that’s not so bad.”  Somehow I believe that they are judging it from a 50 degree day.  50 degree water does not feel like a 50 degree sunny day.  It grips your lungs and squeezes them like the Incredible Hulk and in your head you are crying out “Uncle”, but your jaws are tensed shut and locked because of the cold.  And when they aren’t locked shut, you are chattering like those wind up teeth.  In fact, it is so bad sometimes that you think that all your teeth will break and fall out of your mouth.  Plus you have the mother of all ice cream headaches that no amount of grabbing your head and screaming will alleviate.  Not to mention all your bits that hang off your body have decided to go “Turtle” on you and try to grow back inside your body.   Now imagine this for men and their little friends.  (Special Assignment:  For the really daring, take your bathtub and only turn on the cold water.  Fill bathtub.  Strip down to your skiives and jump in.  No not just your feet, your whole body.  Now if your cold water is anything like mine, that is 74 or maybe 72 degrees.  Dang cold right?)

Since I was there to train, I stripped down to my swim suit and got ready to start.  Tim didn’t seem as enthusiastic and I believe he was using stall tactics.  Finally after the last stall, I told Tim I would meet him in the water or he could just wait on the beach.  Personally I would have been happy with whatever his decision.  Again somehow I think the cold water might overshadow his love for swimming outdoors. 

I was planning on a 4 hour swim.  However, with that temperature I would really have to be concerned with adverse affects.   Tim and I decided to assess the situation after one lap which usually takes just over an hour.  Like last year, I swim between the green buoys and the shoreline, passing the buoys first with 11, then 11 again, then 5, then 3.  At 3, I turn around and head back.  The water was especially clear this day and we saw plenty of dancing crabs.  At buoy 3, I stopped and got ready to turn around way before this Tim had decided to jump in and swim and had caught up to me.  We did the quick cold water assessments, which equals “Are you ok? Yeah are you? Yeah.”  Yes it is very scientific and took years of research to learn.  We headed back to the boat ramp.  Honestly the swim back was tough as we were against the current and the cold was beginning to take its toll.

We made it back though and it took just over one hour.  Tim decided to call it good and I don’t blame him.  I managed to make it back out to buoy 5 and back in (which back in seems more important sometimes).  Another 40 minutes to the tally.  1 hour and 40 minutes didn’t seem all that bad in 50 degree water.  I was happy and called it good.

Tim and I spent the day relaxing and lounging around Manzanita, which was so nice rather than the 2 hour drive back to Portland.  YEA FRIENDS and their generosity!  The next morning I was so relieved not to have to get up early and get in the car.  I finally was able to sleep in a little and finally got out of bed at 8:30am.  I can’t remember the last time I slept that late.  Then it was back out to the bay.

This time I didn’t check the water temp and Tim didn’t stall.  I was only planning for one “lap” of the bay.  On our way back we picked up some spectators.  I stopped and said good morning.  And then came the question “What are you doing?”  Now being that Tim and I are in swimsuits, caps and goggles and happen to be swimming I thought it was pretty obvious…so I replied “We’re out for a run.”  Now some of the people in the group thought that was a little amusing.  She however did not.  So I quickly adjusted and said “Well we’re swimming.”  The next question “How cold is it?”  I had been checking the temperature at every buoy and like a good training partner had not been telling Tim.  So I pulled the thermometer out of it’s super secret hiding spot and read it “50 degrees” (Note:  I’m too cheap to buy a watch that tells me the water temp, so I carry a water thermometer with me.  Plus I don’t like wearing a watch while I swim.  Some might argue that it is more comfortable than a water thermometer shoved down the front of your suit.  Dang it there went my super secret hiding spot 🙂 )  “Isn’t that cold?”  “Yes it is.  Have a great morning.” 

Swim 2 finished and we jetted over to the campground to take our normal warm up shower.  Overall a great weekend.

Until Monday morning.  I noticed on Saturday afternoon that I was getting some sores on my finger joints.  And then on Sunday afternoon, I had even more.  And then Monday these sores were especially p***d off and frankly were double in size and seemed to be taking on their own personalities.  Now I’ve had these before and the doctor years ago told me to come back when they were bad.  Well I never considered them “Bad” enough to ever go back to the doctor…that’s right you guessed it “Until now”.  I called up the doctor and went in.  She took one look and said “Those are chilblains.”  I was relieved that she actually knew what they were, as I think my last doc just thought I was crazy.  She mentioned that it is caused by getting too cold.  Hmm, 50 degree water wouldn’t have anything to do with that.  Unfortunately there really isn’t anything to do, but to keep the extremities warm.  I think the Channel rules would frown on warm woolen mittens. 

According to a Chilblain is “A cold injury which, while painful, causes little or no permanent impairment. It appears as red, swollen skin which is tender, hot to the touch, and may itch. This can worsen to an aching, prickly (“pins and needles”) sensation, and then numbness. It can develop in only a few hours in skin exposed to cold.

The first aid treatment of chilblains is to stop exposure to cold, remove any wet or constrictive clothing, gently wash and dry the injured area, elevate it, cover it with layers of loose warm clothes and allow to rewarm. ” 

According to some websites, they apparently can become worse from rapid re-warming, which I can confirm I did in the shower after the swims. 

Good news is that my fingers will be fine.  Bad news is these things hurt while they are here.  I will just be more careful in my warming procedures from now on.  Can’t really do much about the cold.  My doctor assures me that it is all ok and my cold water swimming career is safe.  Whew, that’s a relief!

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