I am finally able to move around well enough to write. I also needed a few days for my brain to decompress. Let me start this entry by stating first and foremost that Tahoe is absolutely beautiful. Not only the lake itself, but the entire geographic area surrounding the lake. I arrived Sunday night for a few days of solitude to prepare for this swim and I could not have picked a more beautiful area to relax in.
That being said, I had a terrible time in the lake! Some days are good and some days are bad. Today was a bad day and on a really important one. I am still trying to figure out what exactly happened to me mentally but I completely fell apart during my swim. My crew consisted of Gordon, Joelle, and Jamie. I had planned on a 4th crew member but unforeseen circumstances kept him from being able to come.
The ride down to the lake and all the prep went great. We were able to get a ride most of the way down the lake before having to get the boat in the water. This cut out having to drive down the whole lake to the start. We put the pontoon boat in and started our way down. Jamie covered what his responsibilities were going to be and the reasons he would pull me. I covered my end by telling everyone again what their job was and the reasons to pull me. Other than obvious safety issues such as lightning on the lake, as long as I was cognitively aware and was making forward progress (no matter how slow), the swim will continue.
Soon enough, we arrived at the start and I did my final prep before getting in. My mind was all over the place and I was getting watery eyes as I prepared. My nerves were working overtime. As I was applying my grease, I looked up at Gordon and asked him, "What the hell did I get myself into"? This was actually a serious question instead of a comical one. When I did Bear Lake last year, I felt great and had a ton of confidence. There was none of that getting in Tahoe. I jumped in and swam ashore. I said a prayer, gave myself a small pep talk and headed in. As I was wading in deep enough to start swimming, there was a guy there hanging out who told me good luck and go for it. That was nice.
My swim started. The water was 65 and felt a bit chilly. I knew in a few minuted I would be adjusted and okay. I just enjoyed the view of how clear the lake was and avoiding all of the boats that were at the south end. There was a LOT of traffic so Jamie had me swim right next to the boat while Gordon waved a red shirt around on a pole to make us more visible to other boaters. We cleared the traffic and soon enough, I was in the open. Let the plugging away the miles BEGIN!
The sun was up and felt great on my back. It was taking a little longer than expected to warm up and it did cross my mind that I might have some problems in the middle of the night with the cold if I can't warm up faster.
The miles ticked by and I was feeling pretty good. I was in a decent rhythm and was warm. As the sun was starting to make its way down to the horizon, Gordon got in for an hour. It was nice having someone to swim with for awhile even though I did not anticipate swimming with anyone until the morning. An hour passed and Gordon had to get out. Support swimmers are only allowed to be in the water for an hour at a time maximum then must get out.
The sun set and it felt like my mental state set with it. I just did not feel right mentally. I just had no motivation to be swimming anymore. Sure enough, as soon as the sun was completely down and the only way I was able to see the boat was through chem lights, I started to get a bit cold. I knew it was going to be a long night.
My mind completely fell apart at this moment. Whatever shred of motivation I had to be swimming or finish was gone. This was now a punishment instead of a pleasure. Thoughts of the worst kind were now flooding my head and I was trying every trick I could think of to keep myself going. Mentally, I went to some really dark places. I am not going to expound on them too much because I have still not gotten over them yet. All I could think about was how miserable I felt, how cold I was getting, and how much I wanted to quit. I tried to get my mind to focus on other things by counting strokes out by the 1000's then doing a little pick up in my kick to "celebrate" hitting 1000 strokes. I focused on my family, friends, and how great my training was to get here. I pictured myself in Jordanelle Reservoir and this was only a night training swim. So many thoughts of positive and they all sound beautiful but there is one problem....THEY DID NOTHING! As soon as "happy" thought would come in, it would immediately get run off screaming with its tail between legs by negative thoughts.
At 9 hours I was told I was halfway. I just yelled at my crew, "Are you F-ing kidding me!!!" When I did my 10 mile training swim a few weeks ago, I timed 3 separate miles and hit 33 min, 35 min, and 33 min. The 10th mile was the 2nd 33 min. Now I'm barely going over 1 mile per hour! What the hell is going on??? One low point I reached was I was thinking about quitting. Not the Tahoe swim but swimming entirely. I was questioning why I was doing a sport that made me feel this bad. I was ACTUALLY HEADING TO THE BOAT TO TOUCH IT (if you touch the boat on purpose, you are disqualified immediately) and by some miracle, I popped my head up and demanded a support swimmer at the next feed. I honestly have no idea what happened. An angel must have possessed me to make me do that because I did not make that action on my own free will. I had surrendered at this point. Now I just needed to get through until the next feed. All my feeds are 30 min apart. "Just stay in, help is coming" was repeated non stop until the next feed. Sure enough, I heard a splash.and saw an extra light in the water. I looked up and it was Gordon. I started to cry seeing my friend in with me again. "Okay, I'm back in Jordanelle and this is an easy training swim with my friend". I did wander a bit from time to time and almost swam into Gordon. He was definitely on high alert because any time I came near him from wandering, he would make a sharp turn and swim away from me in a sprint. It reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the bunny scene....RUN AWAY!!! (If you touch another swimmer, then that disqualifies you immediately also.)
An hour passed and it was the easiest hour of the night. I saw Gordon get out and someone yelled to me that it is only an hour until sunrise. That means that it is only 30 min until I can see some kind of light. One more carrot to reach for. Sure enough, I started to see light on my right and realized it was not an illusion. The sun was rising, I had made it the worst night of swimming in my life.
As the time passed, more of the boat and more importantly, more of my support crew became visible. I don't know when, but Joelle got in and swam with me for a bit. The water was cold for her and she was only able to handle 30 min. It was perfect and helped me out tremendously mentally. My spirits were SLOWLY starting to pick up and the sun was rising and started to warm my back. I did have some bouts of shivering during the night but my crew kept my feeds warm and I was able to deal with it.
I got within a few miles and a strange though crossed my broken mind, "I might actually be able to finish this damn thing!" I was told how much farther was left at each feed. Some of the times it was good news and other times it made me depressed. Many hours passed and only a few miles later, I was able to see the shore. I finally knew I was going to finish. Crying in your goggles has zero benefits.
|Coming in...almost done!|
|Jamie driving and Joelle warning others to stay away.|
Gordon jumped in again and swam ashore. He had my GoPro on his head and was supposed to film me coming in. Instead of a video of me coming in, I got this on my GoPro.
I finally, FINALLY was able to touch the bottom and I stood up. I walked out of the water and was done. I made it. 17 hours, 45 minutes and 21 seconds was my official time. I felt no joy. I felt no happiness. I felt zero sense of accomplishment. The only thing I cared about was that it was over and I could get the hell out of there. This was the complete opposite of how I felt when I crossed Bear Lake last year. I fully realize that what I did was an amazing thing and people have been telling me how inspiring I am for being so determined and blah blah blah. Sorry, I just did not feel that or have yet to feel it. I was done and that was the only feeling I had in me.
I hugged my crew and am very thankful for the help they provided. Each one of them sacrificed so much to help get me through such a difficult accomplishment. Joelle kept everything running smooth and making sure I was being watched over constantly. Jamie kept my spirits up the best he could and would just tell me to put my head down whenever I became a whiny crybaby (He had to tell me to keep my head down a lot then!). Gordon, you did nothing short but save my ass from quitting. No shortcut about it, if it was not for you getting in at night, there was zero chance I would have finished the swim.
I am grateful for all the support I have received over this adventure. I was given words of encouragement and I would be told messages people were leaving for me during feeds. It did help.
I am glad it is over but have yet to figure out what happened to me out there. It took me just over 13 hours to do 19.5 miles for Bear Lake last year and just under 18 hours to swim 22 today. That means it took me almost 5 hours to swim 2.5 miles more. Something just does not add up. I am sure that I will eventually see the good of this accomplishment over the bad but for now, I can only remember all of the horrible dark places my mind took me during this swim that broke me down. I still love swimming but I will take a serious look about doing another ultra-marathon swim like this again.
The last thing I want to post is about my wife Patricia. Another summer of her having to listen to my alarm going off at 0430 at the latest and some mornings at 0300 so I could go train. She has never told me I could not go on a training swim or held me back in any way. The support I had from my crew is minuscule compared to the months of support Patricia has given me. She was up half the night watching my SPOT GPS and asking for updates every few hours. I can not thank her enough for the love and support she has given me to help get me though this event.
Thank you everyone for the love and support. I did not do this swim, WE did this swim. Zero chance of success without my support. I owe everything to you for finishing.
Tahoe has been tackled!!!
22 miles OW