As I consult my appointment book for the day of June 18th, I see I did the following: Drove to Knoxville to see the in-laws. Played 18 holes of golf in brutally hot weather (riding in a cart, of course). Drank three beers. Watched the U.S. Open.
Meanwhile, Nashvillians Randy Raggio and Doug Hellerson swam around Key West.
Raggio, in fact, came in second place in the 24th annual “Swim Around Key West” race, finishing the grueling, 12.5-mile swim in 4 hours, 55 minutes. “I had the leader in my sites,” Raggio says, “but just couldn’t close.”
Meanwhile, his buddy Hellerson attempted the swim but did not complete it. Unfortunately, the kayaker accompanying him capsized his boat. In the interest of safety, Hellerson pulled out.
He was as disappointed about withdrawing from the race as Raggio was for not winning. But the swim was, as it turned out, an unofficial running. Race organizers canceled it at the last minute given high bacteria levels in the waters around the island. For years now, untreated sewage has been spewing into the local surf. The whole system is undergoing an upgrade, but in the meantime, organizers couldn’t find a safe alternate route for the swim.
Despite warnings, Raggio and Hellerson, along with 15 other diehards, decided to brave the course anyway. Along with the bacteria count, conditions were also the worst they’d been in years: 15-mph winds with waves as high as 3 feet.
Ask Hellerson, a 54-year-old manufacturing rep, and Raggio, 31, director of the graduate business school at Belmont University, why they’d want to submerge themselves in rough, skanky water for five torturous hours on a sunny weekend and they pause, look at each other, and shrug.
Actually, Hellerson got into distance swimming out of guilt. He swam competitively in college but always felt he didn’t swim hard enough. After a shoulder injury a couple of years ago, he built himself back into competitive shape doing distance swimming, then worked up to distance races. Like many extreme endurance sports, distance swims are becoming wildly popular around the country.
Hellerson and Raggio met at the Maryland Farms Y pool where they train. And train. And train. For the Key West race, Raggio and Hellerson met three times a week, swimming 6,000 yards on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then swimming anywhere from four to eight hours on Saturday mornings.
“For months now,” says Raggio, “Saturday mornings haven’t existed for me, because I know Doug and I are going to be swimming from 7 until noon.”
Unlike Hellerson, Raggio didn’t swim in college. Confessedly, he was a swimmer without any real talent. He started as a child to help with his asthma. He recalls that the first time in a pool he could “barely swim a lap.” Interestingly, he grew up in Mandeville, La., directly across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, and last year, he swam across that famous body of water.
“I jumped in at the base of the causeway and then swam along it for the whole distance. My mom, dad, sister, high school swim coach, brother-in-law, and nephew escorted me in a motor boat.” Raggio says. “It took me 13 hours, 44 minutes, and 22 seconds.”
When asked why he decided to swim across Lake Pontchartrain, Raggio says matter of factly, “About eight years ago, I made a list of 13 things I wanted to do before I died. I had driven across that lake a million times growing up and thought it would be a cool thing to accomplish, so I put it down as number one.”
Mondo, from Italian: World. Are you Mondo? Know someone who is? Call Adam at 244-7989, ext. 405.
oh please greta, that its the most common sentence of trolls, please, go and choke…
Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White. Nothing more, nothing less.
@Donna Locke: You taught hatha yoga? What a coincidence, I learned a lot from Yogi…
but gast aint brave i challenged him to go to nolesville road and start his…
>>affordable events like Rollergirls<<
I wonder what their average attendance is?