Pat Gallant-Charette and Jamie Tout Appreciate the Beauty and Challenge of the Open Water
Over the course of her channel and marathon swimming career that began in her mid-50’s, Gallant-Charette has set the following records as the oldest swimmer across the Catalina Channel, Tsugaru Channel, North Channel, Molokai Channel, English Channel, Lake Ontario, Lake Tahoe, Loch Ness, Lake Memphremagog, and Santa Barbara Channel, completing the 20 Bridges Swim in addition to achieving the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims, and California Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.
Similarly, marathon swimmer, Ironman triathlete, and marathon runner Jamie Tout also seems to have no plans of slowing down. This summer on August 27th, 28th and 29th, he became the oldest person in history to complete the ʻAu I Nā Mokupuni ʻEkolu Swim Challenge, a 3-day, 3-channel crossing among the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai in Hawaii, together with Mark Spratt, Edie Markovich, Lauren Grous, Dr. Steven Minaglia, and Dan Worden.
Despite facing a hip replacement in December, the 68-year-old from Austin, Texas is increasingly appreciating the opportunities that he trains for and accomplishes.
Similar to Gallant-Charette, he set a number of oldest swims for men: 57.9 km END-WET in North Dakota, the SCAR Swim Challenge in Arizona in 2018 and again in 2021, 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim in New York in 2017 (including Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 5 and Stage 7), ‘Au I Na Mokupuni Ekola Endurance Challenge Invitational in Hawaii in 2021, Triple Crown of Stage Swims, the Kalohi Channel between Molokai and Lanai in Hawaii, and the Pailolo Channel between Maui and Molokai in Hawaii: a record of achievement for the oldest swimmer to complete river swims, channel crossings, and lake marathons.
He says, “The older I get, the more those old age records mean to me.”
He recalls, “One of my doctors told me that there was nothing but a thin red line that separated me from death. My diagnosis of congestive heart failure on July 21st 2011 took everything away from me. I had been symptomatic for years, but the diagnosis was something different. It devastated me. I couldn’t lift anymore and running or riding was out of the question.”
The nominee for the 2015 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year could not even do a flip turn in a pool because he couldn’t hold his breath long enough to streamline off the wall. His endurance athletic past – or even a 50-yard freestyle – seemed to be over. Until one day when he saw the news on television and his life was turned around unexpectedly.
“I saw a news program that covered President George Bush who jumped out of a plane to celebrate his 90th birthday. He also jumped when he was 75, 80, and 85 years old. A smile crossed my face; I thought, ‘That is simply amazing.’ And to be have a disability and still do it put President Bush’s accomplishment on a different level.”
He spoke about President Bush with his wife. They talked about his own history at the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. “I did MIMS for the first time in 1985. I was also there in 1995 and in 2005. The 2015 race was my 30-year anniversary.”
But he was realistic with his physical – and mental – limitations. “Even though my doctors told me my congestive heart failure was controlled with medication, mentally I was lost.”
But he started to swim – slowly – and then got motivated to swim and give hope to others with congestive heart failure. “A diagnosis of heart failure can be a death sentence to some, but to others it can be an opportunity.”
Tout ended up attempting his 10th swim around Manhattan Island only three days after his attempt of the Catalina Channel. Not only did he have to swim 45.9 km after a 32.2 km channel crossing, but he also had to travel cross-country to achieve his goal – not an easy task for anyone and certainly not for the then 62-year-old with heart disease.
But two major successes within four days was what resulted. “I wish I hadn’t held back at Catalina, but a successful crossing is good even if my 11 hour 18 minute time is kinda slow. I had thought that I could get under 10 hours or at least breath my 10 hour 33 minute English Channel time, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the effect a hard Catalina Channel crossing would have on [my] New York [swim]. I kept hearing Morty Berger’s words ringing in my ears, ‘Once it looks like you’re going to make it, take it easy or you will pay for it later doing Manhattan.’
He not only achieved the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, but also almost unbelievably swam his fastest Manhattan Island marathon time in 11 attempts over a 30-year period. “I did MIMS at age 32, the English Channel at age 34, and the Catalina Channel at the age of 62. I managed a personal record at MIMS on September 23rd in a time of 7 hours 31 minutes. Of the 11 starts and 10 finishes, my previous fastest was 7 hours 44 minutes that I did back in 1991. The swim in 2015 was also a big improvement from my last place finish of 9 hours 23 minutes that I did in 2006 when I was in end stage heart failure.”
Tout eventually erased the thin red line as his doctor predicted. His life began in earnest – it did not end.
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