UTOPIA – Two years ago, Krisana MacLeod swam three kilometres across Lake Utopia for The Lake Utopia Monster Swim to raise funds for the St. George Animal Shelter. Almost immediately after finishing that swim, she told her mother she would like to do it again, but the next time it would be the seven and a half kilometre length of the lake rather than the width. Her mother, Chanda MacLeod, just chuckled at the time. But, true to her word, the 14-year-old did swim the length of Lake Utopia last Wednesday, Aug. 26, and has raised just over $5,000 for the animal shelter by completing The Lake Utopia Swim – The Sequel.

MacLeod said she didn’t realize until a couple of years ago there was a shelter in St. George. A huge animal lover, MacLeod said she was in a Pet Value one day and noticed a cat up for adoption was from the St. George Animal Shelter. She had wanted to swim Lake Utopia for some time, and decided that she would do it as a fundraiser for the shelter. She set-up a fundraiser page on Facebook, and the shelter also accepted donations.

“I thought, ‘what better way to do it than for a fundraiser or something’. I also love animals, so I thought that was the perfect pick to help the local animal shelter,” said MacLeod.

After that first three kilometre swim, MacLeod said she really wanted to challenge herself. She knew it would be a lot more than she was used to doing, but she was up for it. This swim was more than twice the length of her previous one.

“I knew I could do it, but I knew it was going to be a challenge,” said MacLeod.

MacLeod completed her swim in three hours, 11 minutes. During that time, she took five four-minute breaks to have a drink and a little bit of food. The reason for the short breaks was to keep her heart rate from going down, which would happen if she stopped moving for too long. Her mother and grandfather were in the lead boat, while her grandmother, uncle, and other relatives were in another boat behind the young swimmer. Her uncle would let her know when it was time to take a break, and her grandmother would hand her water and snacks.

MacLeod didn’t take any breaks until she was told it was time. If no one had said anything, it is likely she would have not had the breaks she needed to keep her strength up. She was so focused on swimming she didn’t have time to think about anything else.

How much training is involved for a swim of this length and intensity? MacLeod said she did a lot of dry-land training, as well as swimming practices throughout the year, and a few visits to the Canada Games Aquatic Centre in Saint John.

Originally, the swim was supposed to take place on Tuesday, but for safety reasons, it was postponed until the following day. MacLeod said there was too much wind, which made the water too rough, so she and her parents decided it was best to wait until the weather was more cooperative.

“The weather wasn’t good,” said MacLeod. “It wasn’t as sunny, and it was really cold. It was really rough, and I haven’t swam in rough water. Once I start, I can’t really stop. If you get out there and it starts to get too wavy, what do you do?”

A swim of this length is bound to wear out the best of swimmers, and towards the end, MacLeod began to get cold. She thinks it may be due to having an adrenaline rush, or that she might have stopped too long on her last break. Once she got swimming again, she started to warm-up.

By the time she reached the shore, MacLeod was tired and weak, but she finished her swim. She got to the edge of the shore, and had to just sit in the water for a few minutes until she could get enough strength to stand on her own. Once she was able to stand, she was gifted with a specially-made tee shirt to commemorate The Lake Utopia Monster Swim – The Sequel.

Chanda said she and husband Marc are extremely proud of their daughter for what she has accomplished. Not only has she proven herself to be a serious athlete, but also raised money for a great cause.

“She has a lot of drive,” said Chanda.

Marc said when his daughter sets her mind to something, she sees it through to the end. He said what she accomplished last week was “awesome”.

Frances Shanahan, secretary-treasurer for the shelter, said MacLeod is “just an amazing person”. She said the summer months into September are the most expensive months for the shelter. In an average month, the cost to care for the cats and kittens is roughly $6,000. Between July and September, that cost increases to about $8,000. There are a lot of kittens being spayed and neutered, and on top of that, there are other costs related to the care of the roughly 40 cats and kittens at the shelter. Spring and summer are the busiest times when it comes to kittens. Shanahan said not only does MacLeod’s swim bring a lot of awareness to the shelter, it also brings a lot of much-needed funding.

“God love them,” said Shanahan. “They are really cute, but it does rack up the bills when it comes to medical. And, they’re fragile so they can get sick easily.

“The St. George Animal Shelter is very honored and grateful that Krisana chose us to swim for, as well as the many other individuals and organizations that have chosen to do Facebook fundraisers for us. They make a difference so we can make a difference.”

Not only is MacLeod’s family proud of her, Shanahan said the St. George Animal Shelter, and the whole town, are also proud of what she was able to achieve. She said she loved that the family put safety first and decided to postpone the event, adding that the following day was a “perfect” day for The Lake Utopia Monster Swim – The Sequel.

“She’s very inspiring as a person,” said Shanahan. “Not only because of being athletic, but using her talents to help the community and to help animals, those who don’t have the power to help themselves. I think that just says something incredible about who she is as a person now, and who she will be as she continues to grow. I don’t know if we could say enough how much it means to us, and how much it means when people in the community, on their own, decide that they’re going to do something like this to help us. It’s just incredible.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca