YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – In early August, Youngstown native Mike Miller, 55, a 1977 graduate of Ursuline High School, swam the English Channel.
He is believed to be the first person from the Youngstown area to complete the feat.
Miller and his family gathered last week in the dining room of his parent’s North Side Youngstown home to hear him describe the swim.
“For months in advance I was visualizing, going through the steps,” Miller said.
It’s 22 miles from Dover, England to Calais, France. Miller started at 3:30 a.m., though the first video was as the sun was rising. The day would end up sunny.
On board the boat accompanying Miller was his sister, Maureen Kafkis.
She said the swells were huge and Miller was going up and down with the waves.
“When we were on the boat we were going up and down and he’s going up and down in the water,” Kafkis said. “Alan who was on the crew was throwing up overboard. It is very intense.”
Miller started with triathlons and moved into marathon swimming 10 years ago. To prepare for the English Channel, he did night swims, gained 30 pounds for warmth and took ice baths to get used to the 63-degree water. All he had on was a Speedo, a cap and goggles. He stopped every 30 minutes for a high-carbohydrate drink. Mentally, he divided the swim into half hours.
“Each time you have different things going through your head. I go through different strategies of each year. I’m going to think of a different year in my life or a different person each 30 minutes,” Miller said. “Just little mind games that you play.”
There are no shots of Miller finishing, but 15 hours and 15 minutes after starting, he stood for a couple of minutes on the beach in France. He then swam back to the dinghy for the trip back to the boat and the two hours back to England.
“That was the hardest thing that I ever did in my life,” Miller said.
Back in Youngstown, Miller’s father, Dutch Miller, called his son the greatest athlete he’s ever met.
“I’m extremely proud of what he has done,” said Dutch Miller. “I’m in awe of his strength and perseverance.”
On the day after the swim, Miller signed his name on the wall at a pub in Dover, England, for those who have completed the English Channel swim, but he was still so tired that he forgot the “r” at the end of Miller.
Miller lives in Charlotte, N.C., where he is an occupational therapist. He already swam the Catalina Channel and now that he has completed the English Channel, he wants to try swimming around Manhattan Island. That would give him marathon swimming’s Triple Crown.