"It takes you a lifetime to do this. This has been my lifetime to get here today," said Nial Funchion.
His Friday swim is warm-up for what comes next week, when Nial will swim from Catalina Island off the California Coast to LA. The swim is about 24 miles, at night. It is the third leg of marathon swimming's triple crown.
Nial has already done the other two: the English Channel, and the Island of Manhattan. A couple years ago, for good measure, he added the Straits of Gibraltar where he was trailed by a group of curious killer whales.
"You're bumping yourself up, you're sprinkling a little passion in your life. You're wondering if you can get to the other side of something, and somewhere, between those two shores, your life will change," said Funchion.
It fits, of course, that Nial's day job is as a Chicago Police Department marine unit officer, so he's seemingly never far from where he sprinkles passion into his life. His passion for the Catalina Island swim is to raise funds for the Brotherhood for the Fallen, which helps fellow Chicago cops, like Pat McGrath, who travel the country to assist families of police officers killed in the line of duty.
"He sought us out and I think that I've always respected and loved him, but it's amazing to us and our organization that he's championing us. He's our champion," said Pat McGrath, Brotherhood for the Fallen.
"You're that guy that kind of reaches back and says 'C'mon, I know what you're goin' through. As long as it takes, we're gonna hold you up a little bit,'" said Funchion.
Nial is a team player, but he swims alone - for hours on end - which compels a Zen like rhtyhmn. And what does he think about all that time?
"Nothing. Clear. Only thing you hear is your bubbles. It's absolutely peaceful . . . And next thing you know the time is, I have no idea where that time went. Like what did you think about during that 12 hours, I said, Man I can't even remember it," said Funchion.
So what if the mind is a blank slate during the swim? The remembering part is when you finish. There will be no brass bands next Tuesday, but for Nial there is a cause and a challenge and a yet another chance to sprinkle some more passion into life. Hopefully, there are no killer whales.
Brotherhood for the Fallen