“Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality.” Malala Yousafazi
Today, the dream started becoming a reality. We drove up to the source of the River Shannon. It is natural spring called the Shannon Pot where, as legend has it, Sionnan, the granddaughter and princess of the Celtic god of the sea, came to this pool to eat from the tree of knowledge. This angered the Salmon of wisdom she was a maiden and came to steal wisdom. So, he caused the pool to flood and she drowned (This is really good news for me since I am not a maiden and I am not coming for wisdom!) I have dreamed of being here in this exact spot on earth for 3 years. Now it’s done.
Today, we found the exact starting point of this massive journey. We found a beach park at the very northern tip of Loch Allen called Corry Strand. Now, the starting place is not some fanciful dream. It is an actuality--A real place where my dream of swimming the River Shannon begins to become a reality tomorrow.
Today, I am ready. Today, I am eager to start. Today, my future is now. Today, I am making my dream tomorrow’s reality.
Success is never a solo act. The success of any relationship, every adventure and all accomplishments rest on the shoulders of the many who quietly stand in the wings and selflessly offer their support.
Success is most dependent on those with whom you are closest. Without their constant encouragement and unselfishness attitudes there simply isn’t the room, the time, the patience or the strength to move forward. Every impossible dream involves seemingly endless setbacks that require constant adjustments in order to recalibrate toward your final goal.
When I succeed, my parents will get a lot of the credit. They have taught me all of my life how to set a goal and pursue it fearlessly. They taught me to embrace adventure, to thirst for wild, outdoor spaces and to never, ever quit. While all my friends were bored watching Scooby Doo weekend marathons, I was learning to push myself past my preconceived limits in the wildest places on the planet. How many parents take their kids out to climb mountains, swim across lakes or raft rivers for weekend fun?
When I reach Limerick, I will be very, very thankful to my wife, Bobbi. While still a newlywed, she has made the room for my dream. She has cheered me on when success looks sure and been a soft shoulder when failure seems imminent. How many wives would drive all the way back to Dublin (2 hours one way) on the wrong side of the road in a 5-speed stick shift just to pick up our sponsored kayak and not complain…once?
When I arrive each and every day at my desired destination (which will be 20 days…at least). I will owe Bre all of the accolades. I have always felt that I am the luckiest Dad alive. Now, however, I am quite convinced of this fact. As my safety boater, she has made the commitment to kayak in front of me for this month-long journey and lead me through wind, weather and a river of unexpected opportunities and necessary hardships. So much of her life has been in my hands, now my life is in hers. Do you know another 24-year-old woman strong enough to warrant their father would putting his life in her hands…without flinching?
And then, there is the kindness of strangers. Every great achievement relies on the generosity of people you’ve never met.
We met some kind strangers today at Canoe Centre of Ireland, Dublin’s premier river suppliers and guides. These good men are letting us borrow everything Bre will require to kayak in front of me for 150 miles. Not only were they helpful, but they were so friendly that it made the 4-hour round trip worth the effort. In just one short hour, and many fun stories later (using local phrases like “brilliant!” and “fair play!” to describe something done wonderfully and our personal favorite of the day “jiggery-pokery” to describe putting something together on a whim) these nice strangers became new friends. It’s often been said that the Irish are the friendliest people on earth. We are finding that this isn’t some overused adage. It is solid truth.
Another solid truth? My big adventure begins the day after tomorrow!
“It’s never too late in life to have a genuine adventure.” Robert Kurson
Only 3 days until my adventure begins. We arrived safely in Ireland, put all pedestrians and other motorists in peril as I attempted to become accustomed to driving on “the wrong side of the road and operate a stick shift in the wrong side of the car,” said my first “hello” to the River Shannon and finally collapsed in perhaps one of the sweetest farm cottages in all of Ireland up in in the quaint town of Carrick -On-Shannon.
Please understand, that while I am very thankful for a safe journey, the nine-hour flight from Portland airport to Amsterdam, Holland with a seatback that reclined only far enough to satisfy the promise of “reclining seats,” but not far enough to offer the comfort of sleep, made me feel my age.
I was, again, forced to admit my advancing years when I read these sentences from a press release written by the Childhood Cancer Foundation of Ireland:
"Hall will be swimming, what is considered by Ironman triathletes as 2-3 marathon distances a day to complete this 150-mile swim. At age 57, he believes that cancer recovery and life are much like marathon swimming. 'They are only restricted by the limitations we impose upon
Either I am totally crazy to attempt this impossible dream at my age or I will offer hope to those who have started to believe that life is passing them by. I will do everything in my power to prove that it is truly never too late in life to have a genuine adventure!
A peace has settled in on me. For months now, it seems as if I have been racing and chasing my tail to frantically check things off of a never-ending “to do” list.
· My bags are packed.
· They have been checked and double-checked and then checked again.
· All of my office paperwork is done.
· All necessary calls made.
· All important bills paid.
· All reservations confirmed.
· All details that have the potential to make or break our chances of success, no matter how miniscule, have been scrutinized, analyzed and thoroughly pondered.
After all of this, I leaned over and sighed a breath of relief.
This is what happened next-
Dean: “All the hard work is finally done. Now it’s time to go have fun!”
Bobbi: “That seems a little funny coming from a man who is about to swim 150 miles.”
The great adventure awaits! We are swimming in miracles!
It's time for the press release:
The Man Who Swam the Entire Length of the Willamette Says, “That’s Not Enough!”
Dean Hall, the only person to have swum the entire length 184 miles of the Willamette River, is at it again. He is not satisfied with holding the title of only one record-setting swim. He is dedicated to setting another record and fulfilling the seemingly impossible dream of going to Ireland and becoming the first person to swim the entire length of the River Shannon.
The River Shannon is the United Kingdom’s longest river and is very much in length and character like the Willamette.
When Hall completed his historic swim in 2014, he was battling two forms of cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. Merely weeks after setting the Willamette river record doctors were stunned when they found the leukemia was gone.
Hall plans to swim the River Shannon as a way to continue to prove to the cancer patients around the world that you don’t have to give up your dreams or your drive simply because you have received a diagnosis. He will also be raising money for the Childhood Cancer Foundation of Ireland during this 20-stage swim which starts on June 5th at the northernmost tip of Loch Allen (the first swimmable portion of the Shannon) and finishes on June 27th at Bishops Quay in Limerick (where the river officially ends and becomes a sea estuary). Hall will be swimming what is considered by Ironman triathletes as 2-3 marathon distances a day to complete this 150-mile swim. At age 57, he believes that cancer recovery and life are much like marathon swimming. They are only restricted by the limitations we impose upon them.
Hall reports the key to his success is in accepting as fact that everything is a miracle. “During every swim, each day, and every single moment in life we experience many miracles. All we have to do is make the commitment to open our eyes and see them all around us. There are so many that we can’t count them all. We are virtually swimming in miracles.”
To follow Dean Hall’s journey on the River Shannon his blog can be found at “Swimming In Miracles” on Facebook or at his website- www.swimminginmiracles.com.
• Weather- Clear skies, sunny, light breeze, outdoor temperature- 80 degrees
• Water temperature- A warm 58 degrees (the first two weeks of the 2014 Willamette River swim the water temp was in the 40’s).
• Left Boones Ferry Landing, Wilsonville, OR and officially began my Willamette River practice swim at 9:45 a.m. with safety boaters Dick Hall and Bre Hall leading the way.
• First break at a riverside private dock at 10:18. Didn’t feel the need to stop. Noticed how differently it feels to swim out of the pool and in a river and with a wetsuit. Couldn’t stop smiling. Felt free. Like a dog off the chain. Forced myself to refuel-
o Drank half a bottle of water
o Drank half a bottle of Poweraide
o Ate one Lunchable (I know…I know…not exactly the fuel of champions, but after trying all sorts of exotic and expensive foods/fuels designed for triathletes and marathoners, this is the one I found does the trick without coming back up and turning into fish food…weird, huh!)
• Left private dock at 10:30 a.m.
• Swam until 11:05 a.m.
• Second stop at mouth of Molalla River on riverbank- Feeling good in the water. Had adjusted my stroke by now. Stopped to rehydrate and help Bre practice a beach stop as opposed to a dock rest.
• Left at 11:20 a.m.
• Passed by Canby ferry at 11:50 a.m- Always fun to try and time it so you don’t get hit by the ferry or even have a close call.
• Arrived at Hebb Park at noon- Was surprised to see not only our “shuttle-bunny” Alice Hall, there waiting on the dock, but my sister, Lisa, my brother-in-law ,Steve, and my niece, McKenzie cheering us on.
• Exactly 5 miles swum in 1 hour and 47 minutes.
Such a great reward after months and months of lap after lap. How good it is to be living while I am alive!
“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.” Heraclitus
Yesterday, as I enjoyed a practice swim in the Willamette River, I was free to be totally myself.
I laughed with my family as we told stories and teased each other like only family can.
I witnessed with pride while a sweet and personal version of the circle of life played out before my eyes as I watched my daughter learn from my father how to lead.
I jumped into Mama River’s arms, once again her child, and played in the sun, splashed past riverbanks filled with trees who waved and cheered me on and celebrated life in my own unique way…without cake, or candles, or songs or silly hats.
Well…maybe I celebrated wearing a silly hat. My party hat just happens to come with goggles and a wetsuit.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Confucius
I am exhausted. The endless preparations that must happen to make an expedition like swimming the entire River Shannon seem insurmountable. Piled on top of this is the stress of maintaining a full-time job. And…there are the never-ending laps…always the never-ending laps.
There is always grace and beauty to be found in following an impossible dream, however. The grace and beauty in mine is that I don’t have to swim fast or even swim strong. The only requirement my dream demands of me is to stubbornly refuse to stop.
This is the key to accomplishing almost any dream. Most great achievements aren’t the product of great talent, superior intellect or even being in the right place at the right time. If you want to realize your dreams you must become committed to slowly inching along well after “good sense” encourages you to stop.
Tomorrow, I get to practice this fact in my beloved Willamette River. No matter how tired I am tonight, tomorrow I am committed to coming back to life for an early morning practice swim. Hopefully, “Mama River” will once again cradle me in her arms and sing me sweet songs of success.
“Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
A person with the facts would tell you that it is silly for a grown man to take time off work and swim a river in a land he has never seen.
A person with the facts would tell that it is irresponsible for this same grown man to spend a lot of money just for the satisfaction of achieving a goal.
A person with the facts would tell you that it is impossible for a 57-year-old man to think he can swim 2-4 marathons a day for 20 days in a row.
A person with the facts would say it is ridiculous for a man who is nearing retirement age and who has never won a swim race in his life to think he still has even the slightest chance of accomplishing his lifelong dream of becoming a sponsored athlete.
Well…sometimes dreams ARE more powerful than facts. Today, I received my brand new, high-performance wetsuit from the Blueseventy corporation.
Can you believe it? Old Dean Hall, two-time cancer survivor, is now experiencing the dream he has had all his life of being a sponsored athlete!
The fact is it is NEVER too late for dreams to come true.
Thank you, Blueseventy!
“Let perseverance be your engine and hope be your fuel.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
I have now logged over 100 miles in the pool this year. What has kept me going during lap after lap after lap after lap of long hours of boredom to continue to plod through a virtual sea of chlorine? What has prompted me to find the discipline to get up early, run to the pool for a quick break at mid-day or schlep over after a full day of work? Whatever could have made trading a beautiful spring morning off work for 108 laps in an indoor pool seem like a reasonable trade?
A big, shiny, audacious, hope that swaggers across my mind. A hope that has the guts to scream “You can do this!” A hope that whispers “Won’t it be fun?” A hope that grabs me in its tight grip and squeezes all fear and doubt out of my mind. A hope that gently sings me to sleep with the sweet lullaby tunes of having tried my best.
I hope to become the first person to swim the entire length of the River Shannon.
If you are ready to drive your life in the direction of your dreams, make sure to fill your tank with hope.
FOURTEEN DAYS BEFORE I STEP INTO THE RIVER SHANNON!
Many of you don’t know my story or why I have decided to call my blog “Swimming In Miracles.”
Here is my backstory:
In August of 2013, I was dying of cancer. And I didn’t care.
Leukemia returned with a vengeance after my wife, Mary, died of an inoperable brain tumor and brought with it lymphoma. Years of grief and hating myself for my failure to cope with “life after Mary” had ground me down. I stood in front of the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. Down to 159 lbs., I was a skeleton who stared blankly back at myself through red-rimmed eyes and past swollen lymph nodes. I was ready to let nature take its course.
If it wasn’t for Bre, my beautiful, 21-year-old daughter, I wouldn’t be here. How could I let her lose her second parent in only 3 years…and just at the most difficult time in life? I was desperate to find a way back. I had to live for her.
What happened next?
And then...I ran across this quote by Albert Einstein, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
Being the incredibly sensitive human-being that I am, I promptly dismissed Einstein’s opinion as something you should use to fertilize your garden. However, it was what I have come to call a “velcro quote.” It stuck to me.
Finally, after days of being pestered by the ghost of a frumpy, white-haired genius, I waved the white flag and mustered the courage to give Albert’s way of life a test-run. Viewing everything as a miracle is more than simple positive thinking. It requires a bold leap of faith way over the edge of what most would believe is rational.
By leaping I chose to see everything event (even the guy texting in front of me and making me miss a green light…ugh!) as a miracle. I gambled my life on it. In days, I saw it wasn’t a gamble or really even an act of faith. Wait a minute? Could Albert Einstein be smarter than me?
What allowed me to assume I knew how life worked so completely I had failed to open my eyes to the miraculous?
Why had I never considered how many hundreds of events had to happen simultaneously and in just the right order for something as simple and mundane as my daily grind of getting to work and back home safely? How many decisions had to be made in how many lives for how many generations for me to meet my best-friend in fourth grade? Do you ever make the same mistake and overlook our
“every day” miracles?
Did you know that we remain blissfully unaware of the billions of automatic responses and interactions that our bodies produce just to remain conscious for even an hour of “normal” life?
After only two weeks of focusing on the miracles surrounding me, I realized there were so many I could never notice or name them all.
I threw caution to the wind, dove in headfirst and watched grief, sickness and total despair sink away. My ordinary, painful existence has been transformed into an exciting and extraordinary life. It’s better than perfect. Perfect is boring. Life is now a wonderfully colorful and often messy kaleidoscope of ups and downs, checks and balances, stumbles and recoveries that give me the opportunity to appreciate we all are SWIMMING IN MIRACLES.
Come on. Jump in. Start swimming
FIFTEEN DAYS UNTIL I START TO SWIM THE RIVER SHANNON!
On June 27, 2014, I became the first (and still only) person to swim the entire length of the Willamette River in Oregon (184 miles). Finding the courage to accomplish an impossible dream is always the perfect way to open your eyes to the miracles that surround each of us every day. All we must do to make the leap from an ordinary, mundane march through life to an extraordinary and incredible adventure is train ourselves to see that we are swimming in miracles.
Since I finished swimming the Willamette I have been blessed to swim in these miracles:
• I regained perfect health without chemo or radiation. I am now cancer-free!
• I have enjoyed the steady grace of gainful employment by being a staff-therapist for Western Psychological and Counseling Services (one of the largest “for profit” mental health agencies in the U.S). The structure of a routine and the comradery and collegiality I have found with my fellow staff members here have been primary in my return to health.
• I have enjoyed one full night a week out in the Mt. Hood Wilderness year-round with a book and a backpacking hammock breathing in some of the freshest air on planet earth.
• My daughter Bre has graduated from Pacific University with a B.A. in Creative Writing and has since finished writing three novels. She has recently been accepted to American College Dublin and will be pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing this fall.
• Most recently, I have fallen in love and married Bobbi, a beautiful yoga instructor, personal trainer, and fitness competitor. My family would be the first to tell you that she is perfect for me. She is kind, sensitive, loves nature, and is ready for any crazy adventure I dream up.
Now, I am about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life—becoming the first person to swim the entire length of the River Shannon in Ireland.
In only 15 days, I will step into Lough Allen (the northernmost swimmable portion of the River Shannon) and swim all the way down Limerick in the southern part of Ireland. I will be swimming through 3 massive lakes (called Loughs—pronounced locks—in Ireland) Lough Allen, Lough Ree and Lough Derg. This swim will take 20 days. I hope to finish on 27th of June, taking every Sunday off to rest and recuperate.
I am swimming the River Shannon to remind cancer patients all around the world to never give up your dreams and your drive simply because you have received a diagnosis.
All of my efforts will be dedicated to raising money for the Childhood Cancer Foundation of Ireland.
Let’s swim in miracles together as we watch this incredible adventure unfold.