00:00 You’re listening to the live happier, longer podcast, episode 40.
00:15 Welcome to the live happier longer podcast. We’re your hosts, Molly watts and Angela McDade. We are here to help you build the habits of happier, longer life starting now.
00:28 Hey Angela. Hey Molly, how are ya? I am doing well, yourself? I am excellent. I’m excellent. It’s right before memorial day weekend, so that’s kind of fun. All right. Before my entire family, just about, lands in town.. I know, I know. Things are getting pretty, uh, exciting here at the McDade household as you are. And all of us are getting ready for upcoming nuptials. Yes, I know! You’re the mother of the Bride Angela, did anyone tell you? Somebody told me that and we shocked. I know. Yes.
01:03 So are you much of a swimmer? I am not a swimmer. You are the swimmer in this pair. I was a swimmer. I swam my entire childhood and high school, uh, was a lifeguard, did all of that. I can swim, but I would not say I was a swimmer. But yeah. Yeah. I even know, see was my husband’s not a swimmer. He’s a sinker. I like have to hold on to him. When are we go. I do at least stay afloat. Yes. But even as much of a swimmer as I am, I’m not a huge like fan of the ocean. It’s a whole different beast. It is. And today on the podcast we are talking to someone who not only overcame a fear of things in the ocean, um, but she started down a path of open water swimming at the age. Well, it really didn’t get serious about it until she was 58 years old. And when I say serious, serious, serious. No joking around. Up until last year, she was the oldest recorded a woman’s swimming the English Channel. So that’s English Channel. That small leap from one country to another. Yes. Um, and she has recently been inducted into the international marathon swimming hall of fame and really just, I mean, so she didn’t start until it really get serious until she was 58. She’s 68 now and she just tried to complete the ocean seven, is that what’s called think it’s called the ocean seven. Yeah. And there’s only 12 people that have actually done it. She wasn’t able to complete this last when she’s done six out of the seven. Yeah. And she was so close but conditions just became so bad that she was unable to finish. Such a great attitude about that. Yeah. I’m not seeing it as like, you know, the end of the story. She didn’t just fail. She just didn’t complete it. Yeah. And so it’s incredible. I think people are really going to enjoy our conversation with Pat Gallant-Charette.
03:07 Hi Pat. Hi Pat.
03:10 We are so excited to finally get to talk to you. This has been a little while, um, coming together. Yes, I know because like I said, you were busy out just swimming across the New Zealand. What is the channel there?
03:24 It’s called Cook, cooked straight from the, from the North Island. Ugh. New Zealand to the South Island of New Zealand.
03:30 Okay. All right. And that was in the end of February and that’s just, that’s just like the latest of the, um, the open water swims that you have accomplished. And of course the reason that we were so eager to speak with you because you are recognized in the international hall of marathon swimmers as an had been inaugurated into that hall of fame, which is pretty incredible and really why it is such a great story for us and our living happier longer and our focus on longevity and doing things as you head into the later parts of your life. Aging with optimism. You didn’t start this whole, this whole open water swimming adventure until you were 58
04:27 Correct. Um, when I was in my mid-forties, I was very busy with family life. I’m a nurse, I have two children, husband and I just never had enough time in the day, um, to do any exercise. Um, anything significant. I mean, I’d go for an occasional walk in the neighborhood was the other moms, but as far as swimming, uh, that was not on my agenda at all. But what happened? Um, AH, yeah. As you know, I come from a large family and my youngest brother at the age of 34, died suddenly of a heart attack and shortly after he passed, it was about three weeks. And my son Tom, who was 16 years old at the time, uh, he was on the Westbrook high school swim team and he said he wanted to swim the peaks to Portland as a tribute to his uncle. Robbie.
05:20 And Robbie had won at twice. Robbie was an outstanding athlete. He just loved all types of sports. And I remember being very touched by my son’s comments about how we wanted to swim as a tribute to Robbie. And I just remember saying to Tom, I said, that’s so sweet. I wish I could do the same. And he looked at me and he says, Ma, you can if you try. And, and the thing is I wasn’t expecting him to say that, uh, because I considered myself at that time a spectator mom. You know, I was the mom that, you know, brought him to his, uh, you know, track practice and swim practice, soccer games, you know, and, you know, work behind the food tables.
06:04 Did the mom thing. We all know that thing.
06:06 Yes. Yeah. And, and plus at the age of 46, I thought it was a little bit too old at that time to get into anything new, um, because, you know, just, um, you know, to try open water swimming, you know, that that was foreign to me. And even though I was a swimmer when I was a teenager, I was a strong swimmer, but I got married at the age of 21 and started having family and all of a sudden, you know, 30 years goes by. Uh, but I decided to give it a try. And, um, I found that I really enjoyed it. Uh, but I remember feeling overwhelmed, uh, when I stood there with all these younger athletes and, uh, and I, I remember saying to myself, you know, camp, what did you get yourself into that? And that was the very first time. And, and the thing is, I did swim across and it was a successful swim and something special happened that day. I just fell in love with the sport. And even at that time, I never thought of marathon swimming, you know, swimming and you know, 20 some odd, 30 some odd miles. Um, that just never entered my mind. But I noticed that when I turned like 52 I noticed that my endurance has significantly increased, that I could swim for a very long time. And I was really surprised by that because as a nurse, I knew that let’s say if someone got injured that they could strengthen and get their endurance back to baseline, but to get stronger, you know, significantly stronger in my fifties. I was very surprised by that. And even now I’m 68 and this is my strongest year ever in swimming and you know, and, and, but back then, you know, society and even at nursing school, they never spoke about, you know, uh, the positive parts of aging, you know, made it sound like everything was downhill and just not, you know, if you stay busy, active and you have the healthy lifestyle, um, anything is possible.
08:17 Yeah. That is one of the things that, and we’ve spoken to marathon runners, triathletes, and a lot of them has said that, you know, and they’re all in their sixties and seventies and the 80s and they have, they have said, you know, as, as women runners, the, you know, initially were discouraged, was probably the right word. Well, you know, that it was going to be as a runners, they were going to potentially hurt themselves. Yeah. That there, that the uterus was going to fall out, that they were there. There was a lot of reasons that they shouldn’t be long distance runners. Moreover, they just would not have the endurance. Right. But they have found and, and science has proven since then, that in actual fact, women have probably better endurance talent than men just because of their make up so physically, surprisingly, it’s actually women who have the longer endurance.
09:18 Yeah. What finding that in marathon swimming too. Yeah. And it makes sense. Yeah. And, and years back, you know, I just, um, you know, I really thought, I mean, I listened to what society said years ago that you have to act a certain way at a certain age. And I discovered for myself that they were wrong, flat out wrong. Right. Yeah. Right. You know that if you stay busy and you slowly increase on your endurance, you know, that it is possible to be able to swim or run or do anything in life, then one enjoys much longer, you know. Uh, but, but the thing is I’d recommend for anyone who’s starting off not to start off doing a marathon. Yeah. You know, just very gradual increases in their endurance and all of a sudden you find that you’re able to do these incredible distances.
10:17 Yeah. Well, let’s, let’s talk about that, because when you first started, you were training in a pool and you didn’t, you could just like when you first started, it was just a few laps at a time, right? Your endurance was, I mean.
10:28 Well, my very, my very first time at the Davan pool in Westbrook, I remember walking on the deck, and I told the Life guard that I was going to train to the Peaks to Portland. And I remember looking at her and I said that I keep an eye on me. I don’t know if I can two lengths of the pool. Uh, but what I did, I just slowly increased. And I got to the point where I could swim 30 minutes nonstop. And I remember that day when I even swim an hour nonstop, I mean, I got out of that pool as though I had just won an Olympic gold, like Michael Phelps, you know, just, it was so exciting. And I remember going home and saying to my husband, I said, my heavens, I just finished swimming one hour nonstop freestyle, you know. Uh, but that was, um, in my, in my forties, and, and then, and, but even then, I never ever thought that I was capable of doing these incredibly long distance, you know, 34, 34 miles. It never even entered my mind.
11:33 It wouldn’t, it wouldn’t have entered mine either. I would have had like not a, you know, but that’s, so that’s, I mean, this is, so let’s, let’s dive into that because that, I mean to that that’s a little symbol role for me. Dive in and get it anyway. Um, that, um, because you, I mean the, the whole long distance swimming. Okay. That’s one thing. Going long distance and having the endurance to go long distance, but we’re talking about open water, long distance. Yeah. And that presents a whole nother, um, challenging. Yeah, exactly. That’s not just swimming. No, that is certainly not just swimming and, and open water versus even lakes. And I know you’ve got, you’ve, you’re doing kind of that open lake versus open ocean to, um, that to me is a whole nother level of challenge that you really decided to take on that I think is incredible. You are the at, at present the oldest woman to have swum, swam the English Channel.
12:45 That record was broken last year. Oh yeah. By Linda Ashmore and she’s 71. I congratulated her, but I, I did, uh, have nine a world records, uh, if for age group, uh, for uh, the oldest woman. Nice. And uh, yeah. And I’m very proud of that, but I, but I did in 2017 set the record for the oldest woman for the English Channel.
13:13 Yeah. Amazing. Wow. I mean still, you swam the English Channel? Yes. Yes. Come on, I’ll be back at 72. So swimmer, I swam my entire, my entire childhood, my entire high school career. I swam on swim team. So I was a lifeguard swimmer, um, grew up in on an island in the middle of a lake, freshwater lake, so used to fresh water swimming too. We used to train in the freshwater, you know, open water swimming just for, but I gotta tell you, me and swimming in a deep ocean, I just don’t know if I could do it. I have, I have, I have a total fear of really deep water and I’m a, I’m a competent swimmer.
14:05 Yes, yes. Well I had that. Um, when I was 13 years old, I went down to the beach here in Maine and my mom had said, you know, be careful of that incoming tide. And my brothers and I were going down and do some clam digging and we went a ways out on this sandbar. We’re very busy, you know, collecting clams and all of a sudden we turn around to leave and now we’re on an island because the tide came in and we had to swim for it. And what happened when we got about halfway and I didn’t have any concerns, it was just a few hundred yards off shore. I was, you know, 13, 14 years old, you know, no fear at all. And all of a sudden one of my brother’s screamed shark. Well, I went from being in a strong swimmer to panicking and I thought it was going to drown.
15:01 And my brother’s and their two friends, they took off swimming to shore as fast as they could. They never looked back because they thought I was right behind them. And what was happening, I was floundering in the water. I couldn’t swim, and I thought it was going to drown. And all of a sudden I see something in the corner of my eye was a dark object. I knew it had to be shark. I mean, that’s, you know, as a teenager, that’s what I was thinking. And all of a sudden it popped in front of me and it was a seal. And all of the sudden I was able to swim because I’m cussing, you know my word. I almost drowned over a seal. Uh, but that stayed with me all these years. And, and even though, uh, you train in the ocean, but people are shocked to hear this. I never, ever train deeper than my waist. That is not, that is I swim parallel to shore and I might swim five, six hours, but I’m never over my head. And I know that a shark could come in to waste depth water, but I just feel more comfortable. And the only time I go in deep water is the day of the event. Like the English Channel, the North Channel. That’s the only time I swim in deep water. But you do it. And I, and I do it and I’ve got some, you know, interesting encounters, you know, with marine life. But, uh, but it hasn’t held me back at all. Um, I decided, you know, I, I don’t want to one day turn a hundred and have all these regrets that I didn’t try, you know, one certain swim because of fear. I want to, you know, uh, tackle all the, you know, the iconic swims in the world.
16:49 Yeah. And I think that’s the great thing you have figured out a way to, um, you know, for most people who would say, oh, I have a fear of deep water swimming. I just can’t do it. But for you. You’ve, you figured out we to train and work around it and yes. So now the only deep water swimming you do is the day of. That’s genius. That’s, yeah.
17:13 Yeah, but again, a lot of people think that I train all swim two miles out in the ocean is like had no, yeah, just up to my waist. That’s it. And it’s more challenging, especially on a hot summer day to, you know, kind of swim between the tourists here in Maine, you know, go around them, you know. But it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy open water swimming.
17:41 So your latest, the latest open water swim, I know you didn’t get to finish, but you had a successful swim, just mother nature didn’t, didn’t participate. Comply. Yes, exactly. Didn’t, didn’t help out that particular swim I read you have to get scheduled and you have to apply just because of, because of all those time windows and because of other people trying to do the same thing or you know, or swim as well. Tell us a little bit about that whole, at how long were you in the water? I mean, how long does this take you when you go in for a swim like that?
18:13 Okay, well first of all, it’s the ocean sevens. It’s the seven very challenging swims throughout the world. And I’ve done six of the seven and I was in New Zealand to swim, Cook Strait and, and that’s number seven. That’s number seven. Yes. And when I started I had perfect conditions and then towards the end, the currents got extremely strong and I’m not a fast swimmer. And then the winds picked up and I started to go backwards and they stopped the swim. But I had been swimming for 12 hours and 43 minutes. I felt strong the whole way. I had no doubt I was going to finish. But Mother Nature proved otherwise. But in marathon swimming you have to, accept that mother nature will prevail. You know, it wasn’t my day and what I’m doing now, I am training to, to go faster. Um, you know, I’m just looking at different ways that will help me for my next attempt. And I will be going back, I’m not sure when, because marathon’s swimming has gotten so popular and there’s such a short window of opportunity to swim in New Zealand that there is, you know, quite a few swimmers that are signing up. So right now the wait is like three to four years. And so, so we’ll see, you know, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue with the Still Water Eight. Those are eight challenging lake swims and I have four done. And, um, at the end of July I’ll be swimming in Vermont Lake Memphremagog . It’s called the triple crown of monster swims. And that’ll be my final swim of the monster swims because I’ve already done Loch Ness in Scotland, Lake Tahoe in California.
20:04 So this is there a monster in Lake Tahoe.
20:08 Yep there’s Tessie?
20:10 Yeah, wow, I didn’t know that. I didn’t either.
20:12 Yeah. Each lake has their mythical creature, you know, uh, in Scotland, Nessie, a Lake Tahoe. It’s Tessie and in Vermont it’s Memphor and they all have the very similar, uh, backgrounds. You know, the centuries, uh, you know, the, the local said there was a, you know, a creature, you know, the water, you know, so, so anyway, it’ll be fun just to swim up there and I’m sure I will not see Memphor. But it will be fun.
20:41 So what’s the longest marathons swim you’ve done? I mean, the longest open water. How long were you in the water?
20:50 Okay. Uh, that was Lake Ontario. I started at the mouth of the Niagara River and it took me 24 hours and 23 minutes to reach, uh, Toronto. And, uh, and that was a brutal swim. Uh, the water temperature was very, very cold. Um, I you know, people will say, oh, this is not much as far as marine life while I had lampreys trying to wrap themselves around my feet, it felt then they feel like little snakes. And I’ll tell Ya, I’m not a, I’m not a kicker, but I was kicking that day just to try to get away from them. Uh, but that was only for five or 10 minutes. But, but that, uh, Lake Ontario was one of the most challenging swims I’ve ever done any place in the world. It was much harder than the English Channel. Um, you know, it was just a very, very difficult swim. But I made, I made it and I got the record for the oldest person.
21:45 Wow. Amazing. Wow. 24 hours in the, yes. Yes. Gosh, that is a long time, Pat.
21:56 And the rules of marathon swimming, we’re not allowed to wear wet suits. It’s just a traditional swimsuit.
22:05 Really, you’re not allowed. What is the rule? And there’s rules. So tell me what is the, because it’d be, would be add to your buoyancy or what’s the.
22:13 Yes, in triathlons, swimmers are allowed to wear wet suits, but in marathon swimming, that is not allowed. Not from marathon swimming. What they’ll do, like the English Channel or Molokai channel or north channel or even Lake Ontario, you have to wear a traditional swimsuit. No neoprene, no, uh, insulated swim cap and just wear your traditional goggles and um, wow. That’s why I found it so cold because the water temperature just dropped significantly in these upwellings in Ontario.
22:49 Yeah. My goodness. I would think that is really, really cold.
22:54 Oh yeah. Especially in Scotland, Loch Ness, that was brutal.
22:57 That was the first thing I said. The first thing Angela said, it was the cold.
23:01 It took me 13 hours, I think. 54 minutes.
23:04 Oh my gosh. Yeah. And it’s, that’s chilly wow. That brings a whole nother, a whole nother level. We were already impressed, you , have just gone up even further in our estimation. Wow. That just um, just is mind boggling to me, but okay. Then that’s, that’s a whole nother layer of success. So tell me a little bit about your plans. Your, I know you want to keep on swimming, you’ve set that in your ear. I mean, so we know you’re going to finish this deal. Are you going to try to finish the still water eight? Yes. You are going to do the other yes. And then yes. Potentially another open water swim it. Whether or not I don’t, it sounds like the Cook Strait might be a little challenging as far as scheduling goes. Are there any other open water that you, that you’re interested in doing?
24:00 I have a very long bucket list of swims. Really. And, uh, I plan to continue swimming until I cannot do it anymore. But right now this is a very strong year and, um, I can see myself doing this for several more years to come and, uh, even if I have to repeat some of them. Um, and I enjoyed the Catalina swim out in California, I may repeat that. That was 21 miles. And, um, you know, I’m going to try more of the lake swims and I mean, I enjoy it, so might as well continue doing it. Absolutely. And, and years back when I retired from nursing, um, I, I wrote two bucket list, one bucket list were just swims in the second bucket lists was just, you know, just a fun things to do. Um, uh, that, you know, I said, you know, I’m going to give these and, and uh, try and that’s what’s been happening. Um, my first few months I sent them to learn how to solve that Rubik’s cube. And I’m an I did, I nice. And I taught my grandchildren. And then living here in Maine, I had never tapped maple trees and I started tapping maple trees. And just this past season I tapped 20 maple trees and got all the sap and me homemade maple syrup. And so I have, you know, another life as far as you know, activities. You know, I love my swimming, but I’m finding this other things too that are very enjoyable.
25:33 And, and I think it’s just trying something new in life, you know? Exactly. It’s just that, you know, you just never know if, if that’s gonna be a thing. And I’m finding that when I tried open water swimming, I fell in love with it. And, uh, and now, I mean, I’m going to continue with it, but here in Maine, I, like I said, I’m tapping maple trees. You’re going to make, be that you’re going to be on the surf maker. And, and, and I tried snowshoeing for the first time and people were saying, my heavens, you lived in Maine for 68 years and you never went snowshoeing. And I said, no, it never interested me. I said, but now it’s like, you know, I’m 68 and it’s like, you know what, I’m gonna try that. And I loved it. And, and I, and my grandchildren, I will go snowshoeing and, and I just.
26:23 I’m sorry, they got to think you’re pretty much like the coolest grandma on the block.
26:27 We have some good times. Yeah. We do our little mystery trips and um, in a little while we’re going to go metal detecting at the beach and they all have their little inexpensive metal detectors. And, uh, and of course I’ll throw a few quarters in the sand, you know, some of them held them looking up can find something.
26:49 You really bring up a good point. As far as our five daily actions go, we told you a little bit about our daily action. Number one is move. Um, daily action number two is learn. And that’s, you know, you talked about learning the Rubik’s cube. There’s not only does the science back up that using our brains and challenging our and continuing to learn new things and learn new skills, even going out and tapping maple trees, learning, snowshoeing, all of that, um, helps, uh, increase the neural pathways and actually maintain brain health and increase your overall happiness. Our daily action number three is share. And that’s all about staying connected. And obviously, you know, when your big family and your, your grandchildren and Gosh, so fun that you’ve actually lived your whole life in, in Maine, that’s uh, an incredible thing right there. And I’m sure you’re very connected to your community and to people all around you, which just again, it not only does it help create that happier, longer life, but it just feels good while you’re doing it. You know.
27:56 And I can tell you at the age of 68, I mean, I’m enjoying so much, you know, compared to when I was in my forties. I mean, I enjoyed life when I was back in my forties, but thing is I was so busy, you know, with, with, uh, you know, being the spectator mom and working and you know, grocery shopping and cleaning the house and all of a sudden, you know, uh, even though I, I babysit my grandchildren full time, 60 hours a week, so it’s still like having a job. But now I’m looking at, you know, there’s so many more things in it I’ve never tried in life. I’m going to give it a try. I want to try all these different things that I’d never attempted and it just makes a person I think happier and more content.
28:41 For sure. Yeah. And you’re kind of again, the, the, the last thing that we talk about, we talk about giving, being grateful. And you sound like you’re a very grateful person for the life that you had to experiences that you’ve had and the opportunities. And, and I, I, you talked about the, just the realization when you being out in the water, how you know, the seagulls and that you just loved it. And that and being able to appreciate that moment. Yeah. That’s again a gift of people that are able to live that happier, longer life and yet kind of got the, the last one where you said letting is, is our last one is let go. And you talked about about that, about all the business and all the fear and all that. Anything else that holds you back from taking those challenges and making those decisions and trying new things and you know, it people take it at and we’ve talked, we’ve had the pleasure of being able to talk to um, some, some really outstanding people like you that have made decisions, made courageous decisions to go try new things in there when they were older and not just, you know, when they, as teenagers and young adults and something that they had not, uh, yeah, previously done.
29:56 And, and it does take courage, but every single person we’ve talked to kind of to echo what you said earlier, you know, they don’t want to have a life of regret and they let, they let it go and they move forward and they’re accomplishing fantastic things. Just like, yes. You mean you’re just such a brilliant example. You get 5 stars, check, check, check, check, check. You know. But you’re just a wonderful example of, of living happier longer. And I’m, I’m, you know, we told you a little bit about our um, episode with Jason Paige Smith and the oldest state, but I’m connecting you cause you’ve got yeah. Got It. He’s got to take some, I know he’s good. He wants to be, I know he’s going to want to take shots for that continuing projects. Yeah. Yeah.
30:45 All right. Thank you.
30:47 We just appreciate you taking the time today and telling us more about your path to being an open water swimming champion at the age of 68. It is fantastic and we just can’t wait to see when you set your next world record well yet. You know, come back and tell us all about it.
31:05 I sure will. Well thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.
31:09 Yeah, thanks so much. Thanks Pat. Have a great day. Thank you. You too. Bye now. Bye Bye.
31:15 Thanks for listening to the live happier, longer podcast. Now it’s time to move, learn, share, give and let go. Five daily actions to make the rest of your life the best of your life. See you next week.
31:31 Thanks so much for listening to the live happier, longer podcast. We have just wrapped up season one. Yeah. Ooh. Season one in the books. Look for season two coming soon and follow along for updates on our social media where we recently changed our usernames. So you can find us at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest @thehabitmindset. That’s @thehabitmindset, and we will see you all soon. Don’t you mean they’ll hear from us soon? They’ll hear from us.