The sun peeked out from behind the clouds just as Annaleise Carr stepped out of the water and onto the Walker Street beach after a 30 kilometer swim from Long Point to Port Dover September 1.
Carr successfully completed the crossing in 12 hours and 12 minutes, finishing around noon on Monday, swim master and Lake Ontario Crossing Organization official Rob Kent announced as the 16-year-old made land to cheers and applause for a hometown hero from the gathered crowd of supporters.
“This means more than you can ever know,” Carr said after being wrapped in blankets by EMS personnel and escorted to a podium on the beach. “I’d like to thank everyone for all your support the last couple of years. I’m feeling really good right now, I guess.”
The swim marks the final leg of Carr’s Radical Crossing 2.0, her second Great Lake crossing to raise money for Camp Trillium, a Waterford-area camp for children with cancer.
In July, Carr swam 42 kilometers across Lake Erie from Erie, Pennsylvania to Long Point. Rough water conditions and inadequate nutrition forced the Walsh, Ont. native to end the swim at Long Point, 33 kilometers short of her goal to finish in Port Dover.
This time around, the swim couldn’t have gone better, said Kent. As governing body LOCO’s official, it would be Kent’s call to end the swim if weather conditions or Carr’s health took a turn for the worse.
“It was the best case scenario – it was entirely uneventful, which is the best you could hope for,” he said. “She’s finishing with big smiles.”
That still doesn’t mean the swim was easy, Kent added.
“It’s still ugly hard work going all night and that was her low point,” he said. “When dawn came and we could put a pacer in there with her, her mood picked up and there were lots of giggles and smiles.”
Carr struggled with some stomach issues but “just kept plugging along,” Kent said.
Dr. Mark Ghesquiere is a Simcoe physician and a volunteer on the water crew. He said the conditions out on the lake were markedly different from Carr’s previous crossing.
“There were south-westerly winds about 10 knots, the water was warm, it was just ideal all around,” he said.
With a water temperature of 75 degrees, there was no need to do an internal body temperature check on Carr, Ghesquiere added.
“If anything, she’ll be complaining the water was too warm,” he said.
Along with Carr’s family physician, Ghesquiere monitored the teen’s progress throughout the night, watching for warning signs including a slowing stroke rate and loss of cerebral function.
“There was nothing to be concerned about,” he said. “Annaleise put her nose down and kept a positive attitude. When she found out she was actually two-thirds of the way done instead of halfway like she thought, that really gave her an added boost.”
Another boost came from hearing about the crowd of volunteers and supporters waiting for Carr on the beach. Norfolk musician Duane Rutter continued his guitar-a-thon throughout the night, taking a break to tell listeners that Carr had changed his life.
“Take her message with you this weekend and beyond – never give up. It’s a hell of a way to live,” he said.
That message of perseverance was echoed by Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett in a short speech to Carr after she arrived on the beach.
“To quote Winston Churchill, never, never, never give up,” Barrett said. “Annaleise, you never cease to amaze.”
Also on hand to offer congratulations to Carr were Mayor Dennis Travale and MP Diane Finley, who brought a message from Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling the teen an inspiration to Canadians.
Finley added that the flag flying from the Peace Tower in Ottawa Monday would be sent to Carr.
To date, Carr has raised over $193,000 for Camp Trillium with this summer’s two marathon swims.