Friday, May 16, 2014

Made My Qualifying Swim!

Last Saturday, I finally achieved the swim I failed to do in Florida and California. I swam 6 hours in water averaging 59f in my own backyard (not literally -- Branched Oak Lake is about a 45 minute drive NW of our home, but still, a lot closer than either coast.)

I was elated, ecstatic and ... exhausted.

Swimming to the finish!

Sloshing out of the lake.

Making it to dry land!

Me and my handsome kayaker

My wonderful friend and biggest swim fan, Cindy.

My buddy Bill, giving me 70 push-ups to celebrate my victory!

Bill and I both upright!

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of my kayaker and friend Tammy Walter. She was AMAZING! I will make sure to get a photo with Tammy to add to this post later. 

Tammy took the first 3 hour shift. The air temp was in the low 60s and I pulled the water temp thermometer after it dropped to 57.7f. I didn't even want to know if it was lower. The skies were cloudy but very little wind, so the conditions were pretty good for the start. Well, except that I forgot that Tammy said she didn't have her kayak and would need mine. Luckily, she came with her guy pal David, who brought his kayak to join in the fun. David kindly let Tammy use his kayak and headed back home to fetch his sailboard. I love having friends with great gear :-)

Tammy and set-off at 7:20 a.m. The water felt chilly, but as usual, after about 5 minutes, the circulatory system did it's lifesaving maneuver of rushing blood to the core and I didn't feel too cold. Things were going really well that first hour. I just had a drink of water at the first feed stop since I was chugging along just fine on my breakfast of steelcut oats and eggs. We rounded the point, swam along the dam and then took the dogleg turn to the right to the north part of the lake. We passed a few boats and I was wondering what those fisherman in their fleece jackets and caps must think of seeing someone swimming by.

Tammy was encouraging and a great support kayaker -- sticking close to me and checking to make sure I knew who I was and not letting me stop for a smoke or shot of Jack Daniels.

Getting into hour 2, I was getting cold. I tried not to think about it, but my neck and shoulders were tensing up. Fortunately, we had a hella headwind and monsterous chop to deal with on the way back to Area 1. I say that only because the extra work of plowing through that mess helped generate a little more heat. Tammy was having some trouble staying close, but not too close, and I felt like I wasn't making any progress. I remember thinking this was probably like stuff I'll run into in the Channel and as long as I'm getting one arm over the next, I'm still in the game. Just keep going.

Hour 2 to 3 was a mental hurdle. I was still in the first part of the swim, but already feeling cold and tired. This is where I concentrated on just being present -- trying not to think of the whole swim, just concentrating on my stroke form and getting to the next feed. Easier said than done.

We finally crossed the lake and I saw Paul in our kayak waiting near the beach. I was too cold to stop and tell Tammy "thank you" so just kept plodding along as they exchanged places. Paul is also an excellent support kayaker. He positioned himself where I could see him in the sunlight and was always within about 10 feet. This is important to a swimmer. It wastes precious energy to have to pull my head up to find my kayaker if he/she is too far up front and I am in no position to navigate, so it's useless to have my kayaker behind me. 

Hour 3 to 4 was also tough. I was glad to have made it to the "downhill" side of the swim, but I still had a long way to go. And the cold was really being obnoxious. It wouldn't be ignored. But, I remembered advice from other swimmers -- concentrate on your core being warm, even if you're cold and miserable - keep moving and you won't get any MORE cold, and just swim to the next feed.

The warm feeds were a wonderful help. I was really pleased with how the feeding and peeing were going. I know that's a bit gross, but if you're not peeing, you're not getting enough nutrition and will totally fail. I drank as much as I could every stop and the restroom activity was going OK. Believe me, it's not as easy as you think to urinate in cold water. Nothing wants to work. It takes intense concentration.

I kept swimming. I just refused to stop. The sun came out, which was a huge help, and I knew I had a ton of people cheering me on. The water was getting a bit warmer and I was able to distract myself with thoughts of great trips Paul and I have taken together, songs, visualizing the faces of my family and good friends and concentrating on getting one arm over the other.

My left shoulder was really bothering me that last hour, but it was the LAST hour! Nothing could have stopped me from finishing my qualifying swim. In fact, once we made the last turn to get back to the beach and I knew I was going to finish, it was the best feeling in the world! I loved that last half hour!

When we got close to the beach, I asked Paul if I could swim in and he informed me that he had me swim an extra 10 minutes just to make sure I made the full 6 hours. I actually appreciated that and headed into shore. I was so delighted and surprised to see Cindy and Bill and Sydney and one of her friends there at the picnic shelter. I didn't expect to have an audience! It was a moment I'll always cherish. I was tired, my shoulders were sore and I was cold, but I DID IT. 

Let the English Channel rumpus begin.


  1. hey,

    fun to read about this swim! great job!!!


  2. Congratulations! This was a biggie but YOU DID IT!
    --Carol Bauer