22K Whitefish Adventure

SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
edited August 2014 in Swim Reports
So every year in August, my wife's family (we're talking extended family--like 30 people) vacations for 2 weeks "up north" in Minnesota. Kids are free to roam as they please (check!), wife likes to read on the beach (check!), which leaves me FREE to swim all I want! Needless to day, its my favorite vacation. I posted in What's your next swim that I hoped to get in a 20k this year, but 2014 was too complicated to get in any LSD work (only two swims over 3 miles), so I thought it unlikely. Since it was unlikely, I kept the idea to myself. I figured if I felt up to going for it, I would my family know.

Week 1 was strong: 2 mile warm-up swim the afternoon of our arrival, followed by 4, 3, 4, 6, and 7.5 miles for a total of 26.2 miles. "Okay, a definite maybe on the 20k."

Week 2 started out a bit dicey. Monday's swim was a dress rehearsal of the first half of the 20k (ending at our cabin, which would serve as my feed refill station for the 20k). Weather was bad. Head/cross-wind of 8-12 with huge chop. Had a hard time maintaining rhythm/balance. As I headed into my home bay, I was assessing how I felt to evaluate my readiness for 12 miles: "No way", I said to myself. I wasn't spent, but I didn't have 6 more miles were in me.

Tuesday, I did an easy 4 mile recovery swim and felt very strong. That night, I went to bed loosely fantasizing about pulling off the 20k, but it was not a serious thought. On the one hand, Wednesday was the only day my schedule would permit that long of a swim, but on the other hand, I hadn't done any of the logistical prep work (I wouldn't have an escort, so I would have to carry everything in my ISHOF buoy with a refill station at the half-way point).

Wednesday I drove out to the same ramp I swam from on Monday (which would have also served as my start location for the 20k, IF I was doing such a thing). Conditions were PERFECT. Lake was glass. No wind forecast. A majestic, peaceful mist covered the 67 degree water. I sent a text to my wife, notifying her of my start time and planned route(s). Instead of a defined finish location/time, I sent her three options: 6 miles, 10 miles and 12 miles with respective pick-up locations/times. I stared out at the water for a minute and sent a follow up text: "I feel an epic day is out there for the taking."

Time to grease up. But first, let me take a selfie:
Check out that beautiful glass!!

The Swim: By mile 1, I knew I was going the distance. My water/food would expire before 6 miles, so I'd have to improvise. I had 20 bucks in my buoy, and there was a restaurant at around 9 miles. Would I walk to the counter in my speedo right as the lunch crowd was arriving? I had other problems: I had a general picture of the second half route, but I hadn't ever swam (or even seen) the last 3 miles. Would I get lost? What's the boat traffic situation over there?

At mile 2, a boat pulled along side me. It was my wife's cousin out fishing. He'd seen my buoy and come to check on me. He asked how far I was going. Feeling confident, I boasted "12 miles!" Oops. That was it. The gauntlet was laid. No turning back now. Of course, the wheels started to come off immediately... As I swam away, I got a sharp pain in my inner thigh. "Hmmm. That's not good." Then a minute later, my hand started to hurt. It's an old RSI that sometimes nags me on long swims. "Not that. Not now." Before I'd gone another mile, I picked up a twinge in my shoulder. "The wheels are off now, baby!" I soldiered on.

Around 3 miles, I decided I'd need to start drinking lake water as my tap water supply was getting low. I knew there was a stretch from mile 7 to 8 where I would be swimming along scores of private docks and I'd be able to find a spigot, but I'd be dehydrated by then. Lake seemed clean enough and I'd taken a least a dozen accidental gallons out of this lake over the years and don't know that it had caused any problems. Gulp, gulp, yum, yum.

Miles 4-7 was a wide-open crossing. I had to continually listen/look for boat traffic, stopping several times to wait for boaters to confirm visual with me. I've found one major negative of the ISHOF buoy: it is so visible it actually attracts boaters. So while I feel much safer, I do have to visually engage/wave to (and occasionally speak to) a lot more boaters than before. I'd modified my left arm recovery to resolve the shoulder twinge and slowed my kicking to a faint, one-and-a-half beat to minimize the inner-thigh problem, but the hand pain persisted. I finished the last of my feeds. Even with all this, I felt fantastic. I hammered this section. But for the occasional boat, I don't think I would have even broken stroke.

Miles 7-8: I didn't find any spigots to refill my bottle, but I didn't look that hard either. I was in a groove and didn't want to interrupt it. I just drank more lake water, sipping it every 10 strokes or so. At this point, every stroke was taking me a couple meters from my 6-mile bail out, which forced me to seriously evaluate the wisdom of going the distance. It wasn't how I felt at the time that worried me, but how I would feel. It was facing the unknown, alone. The dichotomy of lonely darkness that both haunts me on these swims, but also draws me to them. As I did so, a loon decided to join me. He was swimming right along side, squawking and carrying on like a crazy bird (crazy as a loon, I suppose). He'd squawk a bit, then dive and come up on the other side and squawk some more. I even got to see him swim under me once. I figured I'd keep swimming for a while. I mean, with the loon and all, how often do you get that chance? He followed me for the better part of a mile, and I enjoyed the company. Then, while I was searching under me for my new friend, I spotted three fishing rods, all bungeed together. Sunken treasure! I unhooked my buoy and dove down. They were shiny clean and without moss or rust as if freshly fallen off of some hapless fisherman's boat. I swam them over to a nearby dock, propped them up to make them visible and continued on my journey.

At mile 8, I entered a tight channel connecting two lakes. Its a a high traffic area, and there was a mild current. So I floated vertically and tried (unsuccessfully) to bum water bottles off of the passing boats. One guy retorted, "I find that a bit of an odd question under the circumstances." I supposed that was true. Another offered a ride, which I declined.

Around 9 miles was the restaurant, and the smell aroused my appetite. I was STARVING. It had been more than an hour since I'd eaten, and I'd been rationing before that. The lunch crowd was already there, and I didn't want to scare the women and children by sidling up to the bar, greased-up old man in a speedo and all, so I swam up to a boat that was just tying up to the dock. I convinced a young passenger to buy me a sandwich, a water bottle and a coke with the $20 bucks in my buoy. While he was gone, I texted my wife with my revised itinerary. When my gracious host returned with my sammich, he inquired, "can I ask you a question?" I figured he was a budding triathlete who wanted some tips from a seasoned "expert", so I proudly responded, "But, of course," and prepared to dole out morsels of OWS wisdom to the lad. Boy was I wrong. He busted out the most unexpected question of all: did I knew Jesus Christ as my personal savior? I said, "As a matter of fact, I do. But, brother, anyone who will buy a sandwich for a strange old man in a speedo can share the Gospel with me any day!!" So I listened to his rather skilled presentation of the problem of sin and the free gift of salvation while I scarfed down a ham & cheese on white, extra mayo. I thanked him for his generosity (both kinds) and continued my journey.

Miles 9-12: As I cleared the next channel, I entered into the final lake: unfamiliar territory for me. While I had a renewed confidence in my eternal destiny, my immediate one was very much in doubt. I studied the horizon and tried to compare it to my recollection of the map. "Is that.. wait, no.. ok, maybe. Hmmm... It's got to be that way? Got to be," and I set of in what I thought was the right direction. This lake was full of boats and waves. Rough going, to say the least. To make matters worse, the Coke buzz wore off after about 45 minutes, and I spiraled into sugar crash. Ugh. Then, as I approached what I thought was the finish line, I discovered it was not and I was lost. There was no public ramp in sight, and nothing was where it should have been based on my mental picture. I spotted (heard?) one of those ubiquitous rockin' flotillas of drunken revelers anchored to a nearby sandbar, so I swam over. I quickly attracted a crowd of curious onlookers, one of whom seemed familiar with said public ramp. He pointed to an opening about 1,000 meters away and slurred, "Doood! I know wher yur lookin for! S'over there! Hanga right and yul see 'n island. But's a long f*%kin way, man! Whatchu gonna swim it? Aw, geez. Go on th' right side of th' island and yul see it. 'Sa looong f*%kin' way!" His description seemed right. Now that he mentioned it, I remembered there was an island on the map, immediately adjacent to my objective. I'd gone 15 degrees too far to the right end ended up the wrong bay. I thanked him for his kindness and headed off in the general direction indicated.

Miles 12-13.5: Hard slog. Probably the mental let-down of thinking I was done, but having to go another 1.5 miles while not knowing how far I would actually have to go. But then, as hope faded, right where drunk dood said, I spotted the public ramp. Even better: I spotted my beautiful wife, sitting on the dock, reading her book, fresh towel and dry clothes at her feet. Booya.

I wept just a little bit the last couple hundred meters, like I often do at the end of an epic swim. I suppose out of gratitude that I have the ability to go on these sorts of little adventures...

13.5 miles, 7:05

I did a few more easy swims to finish out the week, for a two-week total of 58 miles. Next stop: Suck Creek!

"Lights go out and I can't be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought be down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."



  • Congratulations on a great swim and great story! Love the question..... I guess we all need as much help as we can get!
  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member
    Great swim !
  • Awesome stuff! congrats!
  • Great story. Sounds like you met some kind people along the way.
  • Awesome story, thanks for sharing!

    Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average.

  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNMember
    What a great story! I love the adventure of the characters you met along the way. Did you write this in your head as you were swimming?
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    Awesome swim and story. Would make a great blog post.

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • phodgeszohophodgeszoho UKSenior Member

    Great story. Thanks for sharing. :-)

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