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


Binza said...

Congratulations Gordon! Very very inspiring and a great accomplishment. Awesome job.

Unknown said...

Great job Gords. Wish I could have been there. Sounded amazing. Congrats!!!

Josh said...

Dude, you are a machine! Not only did you finish, but you finished under some really tough conditions.

I decided to get out after 6 miles because you were kicking my butt on that last mile and I wasn't doing you any good as a pacer.

It really was a miracle that the wind stopped. I couldn't believe when I read that you said a prayer for the wind to stop for an hour. That is the exact same prayer that I offered at probably right about the same time, I asked for just one hour of no wind so we could finish.

Jake was amazing! Like you said at the finish, how many other kids his age would even THINK about paddling 19+ miles let alone actually be able to do it?

I told Will afterwards that he should have just swam the whole thing...that guy is incredible. His stroke is so smooth that it doesn't even look like he is putting any effort into it, and yet he is super fast.

As always, your determination and endurance inspires me. Thank you for a great weekend!

Stacey said...

Wow, good job are incredible! I am so glad your prayers were answered and both you and Jacob were safe!

Will said...

As is the norm, Gord is understated
in the account of his swim. I'm referring to the storm near the end. Sure earlier in the day when headwinds from the north severly hampered progress for over an hour; I had thoughts and spoke to Josh about adandoning the swim. We did not mention it to Gordon. Josh knows Gordon and his fortitude. But when the storm came up and we were literaly being pushed back into the lake, I became concerned. I concern became more of a mad when I realized the effect it was having on Gordon and Jake. If it sustained or grew worse, I knew we had to get to shore and get them help. Both Josh and I struggled to hold our own against the winds and waves. Thank goodeness conditions abated. By then we were about 1 mile from shore and I I was spent. Gordon and Josh were back a ways, but appearred safe. I limped to shore and was left with a touch of hypothermia. Gordon later said if the ranger had come, he would have refused to get in the boat. He has some strength. I'm a believer in Gordon's English Channel Crossing.

John R. Kormanik said...

Well done, Gords! That is an epic tale of an epic swim!

Evan said...

Way to go, Gords! Sounds like you're ready.

Ballplayer said...

Great Job Gordon! I've only recently taken up long swims (Just did the 5K at Deer Creek so I guess "long swim" is relative). I initially started doing it to prepare for an Ironman I hope to next year but the more I train for the swim the more I enjoy it. I've enjoyed following your blog as part of that. I'm glad you shared your experience with the the storm and the prayer. I'm constantly amazed that the all-powerful creator of everything there is still cares enough to help each of us as individuals when we ask. Thanks for sharing that part. Keep up the good work, you are inspiring.

Stacey said...

Way to go Gordon! I was waiting to hear...sooo wish I could have swum it with you!! That Bear Lake weather can be crazy...way to stick it out, just what you need to get you ready for what the channel will throw at you. You are awesome! Keep it up and congrats!

Kevin Vigor said...

Nice work, sir! I thought you intended to swim the width, not the length, and that seemed imposing enough...

And you owe your boy a *lot* of ice cream.