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A little late and a few bricks short, but “The Shark” reaches Detroit
August 9, 2013 - Morgan Ryan
By CARLOS OSORIO
DETROIT — Nearly 51 hours after jumping into a lake near the Michigan-Canada border, a long-distance swimmer who calls himself “The Shark” finished his 22-mile journey to Detroit while hauling hundreds of pounds of bricks.
Jim Dreyer had been pulling two dinghies bearing 334 bricks weighing more than 2,000 pounds behind him when he departed Monday for the swim across Lake St. Clair. But by Wednesday morning, after moving more slowly than expected, he was only hauling one during the swim’s final stretch.
“It is so good to be in Detroit,” the 49-year-old said after landing on the beach and kneeling. “Sorry I’m late.”
Dreyer’s swim near the Michigan-Canada border was to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, but he said it had other symbolic meaning given the situation in Detroit, which has filed for bankruptcy protection.
“What I really wanted to show is that even though there’s a lot of financial pain in the state of Michigan — and nobody’s felt more pain than the city of Detroit — we don’t have to sink with the weight of our burdens,” he said.
Dreyer ended his swim at Detroit’s Belle Isle, located on the Detroit River across from Canada. He had expected to finish Tuesday after about 30 hours, but he said waves along the way — 2-3 feet during the day and 3-4 feet at night — slowed him down.
“When you’re pulling a ton of bricks into the whitecaps that’s a big wave,” Dreyer said.
Besides the brick-filled dinghies, Dreyer hauled a small lead raft loaded with water, Gatorade, nutritional drinks and a crumbled cracker mixture for food.
Dreyer has made direct crossings of the five Great Lakes. He said coping with sleep deprivation has become a regular feature of his ultra-distance swims.
“The toughest thing for me is staying awake,” he said. “At night when it gets dark you want to sleep. I’ve actually learned to swim in my sleep. It’s not on purpose. Your turnover rate slows down and you can wander off course and it’s not want you want to do, but your body keeps going. It’s like muscle memory but your mind takes you to a happy place.”
His supporters took a boat out to check on his progress early Wednesday and to make sure he was OK.
Dreyer said he had a number of hallucinations, including one at night that he described as a vision of Jesus.
“I saw some ghost ships. I know they are not real so it’s almost entertaining. They come up to me and dissipate and I laugh,” he said. “And, I saw a guy in a white robe standing on the water right in front of me. I swam up to him and he disappeared. So I’m thinking he was the Big J.C.”
Dreyer, whose birthday falls next week, downplayed the role of age in his adventures.
“I didn’t plan on doing this because I’m turning 50,” he said. “If I can use it to show people that 50 is the new 40 or maybe the new 30 — or let’s go for the new 20 — why not? Age doesn’t really matter.”
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