Lake Tahoe Solo Marathon Swim 21.3 Miles
August 13-14, 2020
RESET. Yes, that is the word I have chosen to describe the changes this year. After a successful 20 mile swim from Catalina to the Mainland last year in 10 hours and 16 minutes, I was ready to hang up my marathon swim goggles and jump back into pool training to attempt some record setting age-group pool swims. January 2020, I broke the Masters FINA World Record (Age Group) for the 1500. That was a good sign that I was ready to begin some pool racing again. However, as of March 16th we all know that access to pools and life as we knew it changed due to COVID-19. I found myself swimming in Aquatic Park 6 days a week and with continued limited pool time in the foreseeable future I had to think about putting all that open water training to use. RESET. My goal would be to swim the width of Lake Tahoe (12.3 miles) and then the following year the length of Lake Tahoe. Swimming the width would give me an idea of how I would react to the altitude and water temperature. By the end of May my boat pilots were not sure if Lake Tahoe would be opening the Lake to new boats (boats not already in the water in Lake Tahoe) in July, which was my scheduled Width swim. So, my pilots offered me a slot in August for the LENGTH of Tahoe—they felt that by the beginning of August restrictions might be relaxed. RESET. Gulp…big difference between a 5.5-hour swim (Width) and a 10.5 -11-hour swim. But I had 2.5 months to increase the yardage to a solid 55-60k a week for 4 weeks at the peak of training, so I thought…why not?
Five days a week I trained in open water 2.5 – 4 hours a day with a few 5 hour and one 6-hour training swim. One day a week I trained with my Terrapin buddies. This was much different training than I have done for any of my previous marathon swims—I like to do high yardage interval training in a pool and supplement with open water. This was the opposite of how I train, and I was not sure how this was going to work. RESET
My length swim was scheduled for 8/10 and jump at about 8:15 PM. I am not fond of swims where I see the sunset. I do not mind night swims, but for some reason seeing the sunset is depressing. RESET. I needed to be positive—change my thinking change my attitude. So, I had to look at watching the sun set as beautiful…and it truly was. Lake Tahoe is a night swim because of conditions …usually more calm conditions at night and the crazy boat traffic during the day that needs to be avoided. The afternoon of 8/10 there was a very warm and nasty thunderstorm. Oh my. I was assured that the water would flatten out once the sun set. Okay all systems go…feeds were organized, packed my warm gear, made sure I was hydrated before my swim and had a light meal as well. As we were motoring out to the start, I was watching the whitecaps on the lake…not a good sign. We pulled into a cove for shelter to wait out the wind for about 30 minutes. Then we motored to the start of the swim where the water was flat as a pancake…and warm! That thunderstorm was so warm the water at the start was 74 degrees and eventually dropped to 70 degrees about 3 miles offshore! YES…. They pointed to the start—Camp Richardson and I swam 25 yards to shore, cleared the water, waited for the green ‘go’ light that was raised on the boat and off I went!! The first 30 minutes were absolute bliss and I was on 2.3 mile an hour pace (honest 1760 yards not 1650 yards)! Then…. suddenly the wind came up…17 miles per hour and gusts to 25 miles per hour. Feeds were becoming more difficult with the boat getting pushed into me and it was difficult to see the boat even though it was lit up with light sticks as if in a Christmas parade. Bryan, the pilot suggested that we try another day and I told him I was willing to give him another 90 minutes (I had been in the water for 90 minutes already) of getting slammed by waves. The pilot made a command decision to stop the swim and a good thing because an hour later there were 35 mile an hour winds on Lake Tahoe—dangerous for sure. RESET.
Luckily, the Pilots had an opening for a length attempt on 8/13. So, same drill and even though I was disappointed that the swim was ‘called’ on 8/10, I have been through false starts before with my English Channel swims and actually I viewed it as an opportunity for a race rehearsal so was far more at ease for my upcoming attempt. Motoring out to the start the water was far calmer and I was relieved. Pilots pointed to the start again…I dog paddled the 25 yards to the start, cleared the water, raised my hand to show them I was ready, waited for the green ‘go’ light and off I went at about 8:15PM--again. Water temperature was a steady 67.6 degrees give or take a degree here and there the entire 21 miles. I was able to view a gorgeous sunset, moon rise, and sunrise. The swim itself was uneventful which is fine by me. About a third of the swim it was rough and nasty conditions, a third of the swim was similar to swimming with seven people in a lane with no lane lines…annoying but doable and a third of the swim…and at the very end, I was making my own wake it was so flat. During the night, it was calm, peaceful and yes, I did turn over on my back and looked at the stars and felt like I was swimming in space—it was so awesome. I was very relaxed on this swim, knowing that there were no critters in the water that could be bothersome…just altitude to think about. I was having a little difficulty with altitude and my pace was far slower than what I had anticipated. My feeds were going smoothly. I stop every 30 minutes for less than 30 seconds and while I had a lot of food choices, my go to foods were diced peaches and applesauce. For some reason I was really into apple sauce. Sylvia, my main crew/pilot remarked that, “Suz you ate more applesauce than a kindergarten class!”. I had a lot of positivity on the swim and during the 30 second feeds, Sylvia or my observer (have to have an official observer on board to have swim ratified), she would read off the comments that were coming in from my Terrapin teammates…Thank you!!! I cannot tell you how uplifting that encouragement was when in the middle of the night-- my swim buddies offering support…so thank you for your positivity as it was instrumental in my success. I finished at the Hyatt on the North Shore 10 hours and 51 minutes later…. not the time I was hoping (I wanted about 40 minutes faster). However, I am grateful for a finish. For the finish of the swim I waited until my hand hit the sand, stood up, cleared the water, raised my hand and then captain blew the horn from the boat! DONE! There is a saying in marathon swimming…there is nothing solo about a solo swim…and I had some awesome training buddies in the SF Bay as well as the encouragement from so many people to make this swim happen—my Terrapin team for sure was there to support me—thank you!!! So, RESET had me challenging and changing goals…. not what I would have predicted for this year, but funny how things work out! Project Granny!!!