Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Great Salt Lake- Antelope Island to Black Rock

Every year the USA swimming age group team I coach hosts a summer long course swim meet. This always falls on the same weekend as the 8 mile Great Salt Lake Swim from Antelope Island to Black Rock. If I wanted the Utah Triple Crown this summer I needed to do the swim, so once more I roped my mom into kayaking for me so I could do the swim on my own. Figuring the logistics of it were a bit difficult, but we ended up kayaking from The Great Salt Lake Marina out by black rock to Antelope Island and then swimming back.

It was sunny and very warm for this time of year. The water was flat, like glass and there was not hint of a breeze, very different conditions from my last big swim a few weeks ago.

I had never swum in this lake before, even though I live so close to it. I must say, it is way too salty for my liking; the ocean is fine, but this is a step or two beyond. As I first stepped in the water I was almost expecting the water to sting my skin, however, it did not. I knew that I would float incredibly easily, but I couldn't quite imagine just how much that would be. I could lift my head, my arms, and my legs out of the water and stay up because the buoyancy was so much. The water felt thick, almost like syrup.

Once I had played around for a few minutes figuring out the water, I took a deep breath and put my head in the water. I was careful to keep my mouth tightly shut to try and prevent the salt water from entering my mouth. I kept pulling strong and hard through the water. I felt like I was making good time, and my stroke felt good. However, I was incredibly thirsty. Normally, the water enters my mouth every once in a while, just enough to get my lips and tongue wet. I didn't want any of this water in my mouth, plus being in the salty water was really drying me out. I had to stop for a drink more often than I normally do. Each time I would stop, my mom would use one water bottle to squirt off my face before I would drink, she would then hand me the other water bottle to actually drink from. As I would stop, I didn't need to tread, I would lift my knees up into a sitting position and my body would just bob there in the water.

At one point in the middle of the lake I freaked myself out. I stopped to get a drink and my foot hit something solid. I tentatively put my foot down and felt solid ground. The lake was so shallow that I could stand knee deep in the middle of the lake. It was hard like a rock due to all of the salt. I gulped down some Gatorade and kept going. I while later my hand hit something hard. This time I knew what it was; I had hit the bottom again. I kept going as it got more and more shallow. Finally it was so shallow that even with adjusting my pull I could not continue to swim. I climbed in the kayak and helped my mom paddle the last mile or so. I was not able to swim the last mile, but I went as far as the lake would allow so my swim was counted.

I was making forward movement, but the end never seemed to get any closer. I just kept swimming and pushing forward. I love swimming and I love open water. I could not have asked for better conditions, but I did not love this swim. The swampy smell was strong the whole time, my body was covered in brine shrimp, the salt was too much, and the water was so thick it was harder to pull through. I know many people who love swimming in this lake, but it was not for me. Once was enough for me. I think I will stick to the fresh water mountain lakes.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Swamping in Deer Creek

What could be better than to get the International Open Water Triple Crown and the Utah Triple Crown in the same year. Unfortunately there was one small problem; I was going to be out of town on the day of both the Deer Creek 10  mile. No worries, I would do it on my own.

It was a warm September day and I was off work. My mom could help paddle. What else did we need? We packed the food and swimming items that would be needed, tossed the small Walmart kayak in the back of the truck and headed up to the reservoir. It never crossed my mind to check and see how breezy or windy it was. For the Deer Creek swim you swim 5 miles along the shore from one marina to the next. As you start the swim your turn right and swim up this branch off the main reservoir. I am used to swimming from point A to point B for any swim that is not training. I hated this detour up a side branch that made it feel like I was adding all this pointless extra distance onto the swim. Despite feeling like it was just going out of my way, we made it through the side branch fairly quickly. However, once we got back out to the main part of the reservoir the chop started. It was a little annoying, but at least it was pushing me in the right direction, making my time good. After turning into and swimming past several little bays along the edge, we rounded a point and I could see the marina in  the distance. We were almost to the halfway point! I sprinted to the marina, a bit frustrated at my mom for staying just ahead of me rather than next to me. She was trying to push me along.

I grabbed a quick drink of Gatorade with an addition of several table spoons of honey and then turned around for the return trip. The chop was not as bad as I had thought it would be.
I was afraid that once we turned around the chop that would be going against us would be pushing us back. This is okay I thought. Wrong. Once we rounded the point to follow the main shore, the wind was absolutely horrible. For every two strokes I took forward, I was pushed back one. Almost every other breath filled my mouth with water. This is going to be a long swim back, I thought! It seemed as if each time I would look at my mom in the kayak next to me, the kayak would be vertical, it was getting pushed by the waves so badly. My mom was paddling as hard as she could and still could not keep up with my slow forward progression. The kayak was riding lower and lower in the water with each passing minute. I wondered how long until it would just sink or flip over.

Then, one time I turned my head just in time to see my mom tilt sideways and roll right into the water as the kayak sunk and rolled upside-down. My mom is a great swimmer and can hold her own, but I don't think she could have gotten both herself and the kayak to the edge by herself. We were crossing a small bay and were between 100 to 150 yards from the edge. So, 7 miles into the swim, I stopped and pulled the kayak to shore with my mom swimming next to me. As we got to the edge, we dumped all the water out and and then, I kept swimming, while my mom walked along the edge of the shore pulling the kayak by a rope until the waves calmed down a little bit.
I don't have any pictures of the bad chop,
because we were so focused on what we were doing. 

Both of us were frustrated and tired and just wanted to be done. When I saw the marina where the swim would finish, I very badly wanted to just swim to the end and be done. I was frustrated enough that I didn't care if I didn't quite finish the official swim. It was only at my mom's encouragement that I turned down the side branch and kept swimming. This time the side branch seemed to go on forever. Each time I felt I should be to the end, I would find out I still hand quite a bit more before I could turn around. Finally I told myself I would just swim without thinking and I would not dwell on how long it felt or on how miserable this swim had been. I was so focused that I didn't realize when I finally was done with the swim. I was pushing hard just focused when I saw the bottom of the the boat ramp. Once the swim was done, I realized that although I was frustrated, it was a good challenge for me to have to swim through waves and chop like that. My mom was such a champ for paddling through the storm.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goody's 19 mile Bear Lake Length Swim

A month or so before Goody's swim date he asked me if I would be on his crew for his 19 mile length crossing of Bear Lake. I said yes of course, I would love to support another ultra-marathon swimmer. I put it on my calendar. Unfortunately weather did not cooperate and the swim was postponed and several crew members changed, but on Friday, August 29th it was finally a go.

The crew which consisted of me, Jim Hubbard, Goody's wife, brother-in-law (Josh), and father-in-law headed out of the marina and to the south end of the lake. Goody went over the details of the feeds and the what he did and did not want done or said while to him while he was swimming. At 8:00 p.m., all greased up and ready to go with his wife paddling, Goody started his swim.

He started out a little slower, before getting into his pace and picking it up. He was doing really well and pushing forward. I the overall in charge of overseeing everything and making sure that everyone was doing what they were supposed too, because I have had a lot of experience with long distance open water swimming. I helped Goody's father-in-law mix the feeds, I threw the feeds out, took stroke count, and wrote down things in the log. When we crossed the Utah/Idaho state border we stopped Goody, gave him a treat, and blared the music to have a party; he was a little over half at this point.

Around 4:00 in the morning we had a major scare! We had just thrown a feed out and were planning on changing paddlers on the next feed. We were helping Goody's wife get bundled up and let Goody and Jim get ahead for a minute and would catch up later. When we looked up we didn't see them. Josh took off to catch up. I thought we were going the wrong way, but no one else seemed to notice. Finally they realized and stopped. We turned around to head back the right direction, but they were nowhere to be seen. We kept going up and down looking for them. Each time we would see a little light we would head for it, thinking it might be them, but it would turn out to be a light on the shore. We were all panicked! Jim and Goody were stuck in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night with a swimmer in the water and just a kayak by his side. We had to find them! Finally we saw a blue light just for a second. We knew it was them and raced that direction. We would see the light for a second, then lose it as soon as Jim would turn his head. Finally we reached them. We had been getting tired, but we were all wide awake now. Surprisingly both Jim and Goody seemed pretty calm. Goody was tired because we had missed a feed. We traded out kayakers and gave Goody a feed every 15 instead of every 30 minutes for the next while, so he could get his energy back up.

Around 7:00 Goody asked me if I would get in. I was freezing from the breeze hitting me all night, so I sat by the heater for a few minutes and then got ready and got in around 7:30. Goody thought we were closer to the end than we were. I think we were about 2 and half miles out, but someone told him 2 to 1 and a half miles left. I was already cold, so the water didn't help that at all. I swam with Goody for the last 2 hours. Once we got close I got the GoPro so I could video his finish. There was not a lot of battery left, so I don't know if it worked. When I could touch I stood up, but Goody kept swimming a bit further. He walked out like a champ. At the end a lady asked how far he had just gone. He looked tired, so I answered for him. I was so happy for him and impressed. I had never been on the crew side of things; it is impressive witnessing someone do a swim like that. I gave him a big hug. He then made his way out to his wife in the kayak to thank her too. As Goody swam back to the boat, he didn't even look tired.
Finished like a Champ!

Way to go Goody! You slayed the Bear Lake Monster!

Read Goody's account of the Slaying the Bear Lake Monster