A mighty swim and The Beat Goes On

September 27, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News
Tim McDonnell finishes the Mighty Mac Swim last month.

On Sunday, Aug. 11, Tim McDonnell made his second successful swim across the Straits of Mackinac in the 2019 Mighty Mac Swim. 

McDonnell completed the swim the last time it was held in 2016 as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity and finished with a time of 2:57:47. He also raised $7,500 for Habitat for Humanity.

This year, McDonnell decided to raise funds in memory of his nephew, Chris Warnez, who lost his battle with heart disease in late 2018. Chris was the recipient of a heart transplant at Michigan Medicine in 2016 and he was always impressed with the care that he received at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center. 

McDonnell decided to establish a fund at the CVC to assist adult cardiac surgery transplant patients. 

“When I set up the fund, they asked me if there was a way we could reference Chris,” McDonnell said. “Chris was a music lover and after some thought we arrived at the name The Beat Goes On.’”

McDonnell holds up a picture of Chris Warnez.

McDonnell had two goals in mind for the swim: Raise at least $5,000 for The Beat Goes On, and beat his 2016 time and finish the swim in under two hours and 30 minutes.

McDonnell logged more than 80 miles of training swims which included about 4,300 lengths of a standard pool as well as another roughly 24 miles of open water training. 

On the morning of the swim, the swimmers were informed that conditions were about as good as you can expect in the Straits of Mackinac. Low waves, low current and a mild wind out of the southwest.  The 4.1-mile swim would be on the east side of the bridge from Mackinaw City on the south side to Bridgeview Park in St. Ignace on the north side.

It was a swim of two halves with the first half being easy for swimming in the Straits.

“I was quite surprised to see my time when I got to the South bridge tower as I was ahead of where I thought I would be,” McDonnell said.

Based on that boost of confidence, McDonnell put his head down and decided to swim hard until he reached the North Tower.

By the time he arrived at the North Tower, McDonnell was nearing the outside of the swim lane and the waves had increased to a height of almost four feet. The rest of the swim until he reached the cover of the bridge causeway was a constant battle to stay within the swim lane while attempting to make forward progress. 

There was one more difficult spot and that was getting under the causeway bridge because the force of the water was pushing against the swimmers. 

“It pretty much took all that I had left to get under the causeway to the West side of the bridge but somehow I made it!” McDonnell said.

A total of 349 swimmers started the race with 312 making it to the other side and 37 being pulled safely from the water.

McDonnell finished with a time of 2:34:58 — not quite under his goal but still 23 minutes faster than his crossing in 2016.

The fundraiser raised $6,575 for the Adult Cardiac Surgery Transplant Fund, exceeding the goal of $5,000. 

“I am very happy with my time and what we accomplished through the fundraiser,” McDonnell said. 

The donation link is still open and contributions of any amount will be greatly appreciated, ensuring that the memory of Chris Warnez and The Beat Goes On!

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