Never Give Up. That what 16-year-old Annaleise Carr keeps in mind when swimming across a treacherous body of water known as Lake Erie, determined to raise money for Camp Trillium, a resource center that cares for children with cancer.
In 2012, Annaleise Rebekah Carr was named World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year at only 14 years old. Teenage channel swimmer Mackenzie Miller had the honor of interviewing the young marathon swimmer, author and inspirational speaker.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What initially got you involved in marathon swimming? How old were you when you started long distance swimming?
Annaleise Carr: When I was 13 years old, I did a 10 km swim with a group from Port Dover, Ontario and we did it for Camp Trillium. Before we did the swim we got to have a tour of the camp and just seeing all the kids being so happy, despite what they were going through, made me want to do something more to help. I asked if I could volunteer at the camp, but they said not until I was 18. I remembered that one of the guys I swam the 10 km with had jokingly said he expected “big things” from me and that I should swim across a lake, so I talked to my sister, Larissa, about it and she said I could do it.
At 7, I went to a swim camp in Ontario and it was in the lake and I hated it. Everything from fish to seaweed. I couldn’t put my head under. Then when I was 9, my sibling and I were competing all over in kids triathlons and after a race in Leamington, Ontario I saw that there was a 1.5 km open water race the next day and I asked my parents if I could do it. They said you don’t like the lake remember. But I convinced them and I actually competed in the 1.5 at 9 years old and have LOVED it ever since.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What drove you to do such insane swims like Lake Erie?
Annaleise Carr: Camp Trillium. I want to raise as much money and awareness as I can for them. Camp Trillium is a cancer resource centre for kids with cancer and their families. It’s a sort of haven away from what they are going through, and I believe that EVERY kid deserves to be a kid no matter what. I love open water swimming, but I could never imagine doing something like swimming across lakes unless I’m doing it for them.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What keeps you going during the swims?
Annaleise Carr: The kids at Camp Trillium keep me going. Before swimming across Lake Ontario my coach and I made up 2 movies that I have in my head. One is of getting to the other side and seeing my family and friends, and the other is of going through the gates of Camp Trillium and seeing all the kids there having such a great time. When it gets really tough in the lake, I think that some of these kids battle their entire lives against cancer and all I have to do is get to the other side.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: I see that while you are marathon swimming, you are also raising money for Camp Trillium. What is Camp Trillium and what inspired you to do this?
Annaleise Carr: It’s a camp for kids with cancer and their families and it is so amazing to see them laughing and having fun and actually forgetting what they are going through.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Now, I saw that you had attempted one of your crossings, Long Point, and you were forced to end your swim early due to the weather. How did you feel when the swim was forcibly over?
Annaleise Carr: I wasn’t forced to stop. I had swam past Long Point through the “washing machine” at the end of the point, and was a little ways past, but I knew it would be difficult to swim the rest of the 30 km left to Port Dover. I knew I could go further, but wasn’t sure I could make it to Dover. So, I talked to my swim master and coach, and because to touch land at Long Point would be an official lake crossing, I decided to stop and go back to Long Point, just so my team had something out of the swim. The weather was bad and I had waves in my face the entire time, so I battled that. I felt VERY good about the decision and wasn’t disappointed at all. Stopping at the Point was always a possibility in our plans if this got bad. Right away though I told my mom I was going back to finish from Long Point to Port Dover later in the summer though.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: I saw your motto, Never Give Up! What moved you to choose this?
Annaleise Carr: Actually, my motto for the first leg of the swim was “One Drop, Many Ripples.” I chose that because along with supporting Camp Trillium, I also wanted to spark social change and encourage people to just help others for no other reason but to be good people. I think we really saw that happen.
The “Never Give Up” motto came about for the second leg of the swim. I always sign my book,“Annaleise Carr: How I Conquered Lake Ontario for Kids Battling Cancer”, with “Pick something you love, and NEVER give up” and this swim gave me a chance to put those words into action. I wanted to encourage the kids at camp Trillium that even when life is bumped off track, to keep going and to NEVER give up. It was so awesome that I got to walk my talk.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: You’re an author, marathon swimmer and motivational speaker, all at the young age of 16. How do you juggle all the above, as well as school and studies?
Annaleise Carr: I have an amazing school that supports me and makes sure I stay up with my studies. I’m even an honour roll student, despite missing over 50 days of school in each of my first two years of high school for speaking engagements and other events. My favourite story to share is when we were invited to visit the Prime Minister of Canada so he could present me with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award after my Lake Ontario crossing. On one of the afternoons in Ottawa when we had some free time that we weren’t meeting any dignitaries, my family went to the market and I stayed alone to do homework in the hotel room! I’m kind of determined to keep my marks up too. I’m also working as a lifeguard for Norfolk County, swim on my county swim team, and am also on the cross-country team, swim team, and run track at my school too! I also get time to hang out with friends and attend church. I stay pretty busy, but I like it that way.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Does anyone else in your family swim or also do marathon swimming?
Annaleise Carr: My sisters (Larissa 15, McKenna 11) and my brother (Ayden 9) all swim, but they like the pool swimming, not the lakes.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What is your next goal as a marathon swimmer? Plan to do any other swims in Canada or another country?
Annaleise Carr: Not sure, yet, though I have some ideas. I’d swim in any country actually. When I went to Cork, Ireland to receive the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Association Woman of the Year Award last year I got to swim at Sandycove. I also competed in the 36-mile Extreme North Dakota Water Endurance Test in Grand Forks this June and loved it. Next marathon swim…we’ll have to see.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do your parents deal with all of these adventures? Do they get nervous?
Annaleise Carr: They are very supportive and worry most about keeping me safe. That’s why we get such an amazing group of people together for my crew.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What kind of training do you do and where do you do it?
Annaleise Carr: Swimming everyday. Either at our county pool (which was renamed the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre if you can imagine) and in our local beaches in Norfolk county. I also cross train by running and biking and I spend some time in the gym.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Do you have any friends who join you on your swims either in the boat or at your finishes?
Annaleise Carr: Well, they are all my friends…actually, more like family. I do have one boy from my swim team who is one of my pacers and a lot of my school friends come to the ends of my swims.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Who do you have on your boat?
Annaleise Carr: My only family is my Aunt Lisa who prepares the food. I won’t let my parents come because I think it would be too hard on them to see what I need to go through in order to complete a swim. I have a swim master, coach, doctors, boat captains and crews, pacers, over 25 people on the water with me.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Who is a part of your support crew? Kayakers, support swimmer(s)?
Annaleise Carr: They are people we (my family and I) trust the most to keep me safe, yet help me to my goals. They are mainly people from my community who have specific skills that we need for the crew. The kayakers and support swimmers are people I spent the entire summer bonding with and it really helped out in the lake.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What kind of food do you intake on your swims? What food are you craving when your swim is over?
Annaleise Carr: Well, I think I am a little weird when it comes to open water swimmers, because I have an entire smorgasboard? I have a sandwich with peanut butter, nutella, coconut oil and honey. Pancakes with chia seeds. Chocolate. Jello with yogurt and jello with cottage cheese. A drink called RE7 for hydration along with water.
It’s funny, but I always crave perch from a local Port Dover restaurant called the Erie Beach Hotel when I finish my swims…strange, eh?!
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