Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Bear Lake Crossing (19 miles)

Summary video:


My support crew:  Jacob Gridley (my feeding and safety crew), Josh Green (GPS Navigator, Log keeper, photographer, and pace swimmer) and Will Reeves (Pace swimmer, Navigator and safety crew)

With it being labor day and the recent onslaught of boat/swimmer accidents I thought it especially wise to enlist the support of my swimming friends.  For this swim there were two kayaks and an additional swimmer in the water next to me.  I took an early morning picture of the team by the water with my GoPro, but problem is, it doesn't have flash and so all you get is a silhouette.  We got in the water and started off at 6:35am  I started my stopwatch and Josh started the GPS.

The first 7 miles Will swam along with me.  He tried talking me into drafting off him so I could take advantage of the faster water, but I declined because to me this is a crossing and not necessarily a race.  I knew that I didn't have a chance to beat James Jonsson's record because to be honest, I had not trained for this swim nearly as well as I did my big GSL swim. So whenever he was in the water swimming it was either to the side of me, or dozens of yards up ahead with Josh kayaking next to him.

Will and I enjoying the nice weather
for the first 6 miles anyway
He simply was too fast for me to really keep up with.  But I didn't mind, it actually kept me from loafing too much.  I still had Jacob right next to me.  Josh kept the log for me and the temperature readings that he took throughout the course of today's swim ranged from 68 to 70° F.

The first three miles were calm with a slight breeze from the south.  But at mile 4 it got a little choppy with a breeze coming from the NE.  But at mile 5 the wind changed again and we had a slight breeze from the south and the chop was gone.  At mile 7 Will got out and let Josh get in for a swim.  For me this is where I was able to get a second wind.  Josh and I just have a good synchronized pace.  We swam side by side the whole time he was in.  At mile 10 the wind shifted again and we had some pretty significant wind and chop coming from the NW.  Josh at one point was in a zone and ended up heading almost due east while I kept heading north with Jacob while Will went to get Josh realigned.  I took a feeding at 12 and let Josh catch up.  We did one more mile together in the wind and chop.  My shoulder up till this point was feeling fine, but now I needed some Ibuprofen.

At mile 13 Will got back in and Josh paddled.  At this point the blue sky and sun was gone and were were completely overshadowed with high clouds that didn't look threatening, but that wouldn't last long.  At this point I was averaging nearly 35 minute miles (including time lost for any feedings).  The water was fairly calm until we got to mile 16 where it started to get REALLY interesting.  I could see a microburst from the Northwest coming in.  The wind and rain came in and some serious 3-4 foot chop came in.  Will was really pulling ahead and every once in a while he would wait a little for us to catch up.  At mile 17 it got so bad that Jacob was about 200 yards behind me.  I whistled and yelled for him to catch up.  It was very difficult for him to hold a line in my direction as the waves were pushing him.  It reminded me of the failed Fremont swim I did earlier this summer.

When he caught up I was yelling at him to keep the bow pointed into the waves even though we were supposed to be heading northeast.  He was extremely frustrated, totally exhausted from already paddling 17 miles up to this point and he was crying.  My yelling got him angry which was exactly what I was hoping to get out of him.  I needed some extreme intensity out of him!  The situation was borderline dangerous now and while I was completely unconcerned for my own safety, I was worried about his.  I could still make progress, but he was almost getting blown backwards.  But with his newly found rage he was able to make some progress in the right direction.  I did breaststroke for a good 10-15 minutes while I helped him get going.  With the microburst coming towards us and the major chop it reminded me of the time when Jesus was asleep in the boat while all His disciples worried at their fate.  I then remembered that He was awakened and he stilled the storm and then chided his disciples for their lack of faith.  I said a prayer asking that for Jacob's sake we get a one hour "pause".  I was very happy to see that within a minute the chop dropped in half and was much more manageable for Jacob.  I told him to get going and that I wanted him no less than 100 yards AHEAD of me.

I saw him really digging deep into the water and getting his back into it.  At this point I could no longer see Josh and Will ahead.  Jacob took my orders to the extreme and I was unable to catch up.  The wind and chop had not only calmed down, but had shifted to a Southwesterly course which was perfect for the finish.  I could see the shore way ahead of me, but it was still a good couple miles away still.  Within 15 minutes Jacob was probably a half mile ahead of me.

Exiting the water - photo by Josh Green
My shoulder at this point was no longer strained.  The breaststroke I did while talking Jacob into finishing strong must have really helped.   I was worried that Jacob was so far up ahead that he wouldn't see me so I really started to pick it up.  The weather was really doing a good job at keeping jetskiers and boaters off the water.  I could see the van ahead on the north beach road.  That gave me another surge of energy and I finished strong with Jacob.  I could see Cathi, Josh, Sabrina and a few of the kids out on the beach with the wind and dark clouds overhead.  When I got out, I stopped my watch:  11:13:15  I was hoping for 10 hours, but was VERY happy for a successful finish regardless of time.  Considering the weather I would definitely count this swim as a success and don't have any regrets.

The team - photo by Josh Green 
I was SO thankful for my support team!  So thankful to God for answering my prayers so miraculously and allowing us all to finish safely.  Will had explained that he was really concerned about the chop and wind at mile 17 and that he told Josh to just stay with him and finish so they could go get help, for us.  But by the time they finished the wind had shifted in our favor and they could see Jacob way off in the distance heading in the right direction.  So they aborted the task of getting the State Parks Ranger to come out to rescue us.
Will had swam nearly 14 miles of the route and I'm sure could have very easily just done the whole thing, probably in record time.  That guy is so fast!  And Josh, he was keeping me going at a strong pace side by side for a good 6 miles.  Cathi asked me what my favorite part of the swim was.  I told her it was when Josh and I were swimming synchronously right in the middle of the lake.

Enjoying some well-deserved Pizza
in Garden City
My shoulders weren't hurting much at all at the finish and the water temperature for me was fine the whole time.Yet this swim was tougher than the GSL swim with the rough weather, but the GSL was a killer on my tongue and shoulder, and it was much colder!

On the way home we stopped in Garden City for some pizza for the whole crew:  Josh and his wife Sabrina and their two boys, Will and my family.  That was the best tasting pizza and I'm sure that the fact that I was STARVING had nothing to do with it.

Thanks again to Will, Josh and Jacob for their support!

Here's a little tribute to Jacob that I wrote up.

Total Distance: 19.8 miles
Time: 11:13:15
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