Sunday, August 31, 2014

29Aug14 - Slaying the Monster!

This will be a long entry!
I accomplished something Friday night through Saturday morning that has been a year of training and 3 years of dreaming of to complete.  I swam an ultra-marathon and FINISHED it!  Granted, when I did Catalina, I swam for 15 hours but never hit land.  Swimming that long is amazing enough but there has always been something in the back of my mind that kept bugging me..DAILY...that I had unfinished business!  I exercised those demons for sure.
This swim was supposed to take place a week ago but storms moved in and so it got pushed back a week.  I have been on the phone or texting James Johnson daily about the weather.  There is probably no one in UT or ID that knows more about Bear Lake and the weather around it than James.  (He's going for a double length later this week)
My original crew had to be replaced.  They were all set for last week but this week simply did not work out for a lot of them.  Life happens and I changed to date so it was up to me to find another crew.  It ended up being a small crew.  I had my wife as a paddler, my brother Josh Black as the boat driver, James Hubbard as paddler and pictures, my father in law Jed Black as feed maker and back up driver, and Joelle Beard as head of crew.  She ran the show, and did an amazing job!
The boss!

We all arrived at 1900 at the Bear Lake Marina.  We loaded up the 24' boat that Josh was using from his father in law.  We were off by 1930 and I gave instructions as we drove south.  Wind was coming from the SE so south to north I would go.

All our gear

Heading to start
99% of the reason this is in here is to make Patricia mad I put a pic of her eating!

Jed and Josh
Getting ready

Making sure GPS tracking is on
100% ready
We all got ready and Patricia got in the kayak.  I greased up and we had a last minute prayer.  I got in and THE second I hit the water, the weeks of nerves disappeared.  Just for fun, I flailed around a second screaming, "I CAN'T SWIM, I CAN'T SWIM!"  I felt great, I felt ready, I knew I was going to do fine....still didn't stop me from saying one last prayer (never hurts)!
One last prayer


I ended my prayer, told myself out loud, "You can do this" (with some attitude)  then let out a war cry.  I officially started at 8:04:30 PM
 (It may be noticed by others that I'm on "wet" land.  Rules state that swimmer should start and end on dry land.  The dry land at the start would have been a 1/3 mile walk because of a rainstorm the day no!  Out of the water and standing on the driest mud I could is good enough.)
Water temp was 66-67 and pretty calm at the start.

I purposely went a tiny bit slower for the first few miles.  My stroke count was an average of 57.  It takes me around 3-4 miles to get going for most swims anyway.

Mile 1
For some reason, around mile 3, I started to get a cramp on my left leg left of my shin.  It just would not relax.  I swam dead leg for awhile on my left leg.  The cramping did not get worse but it did not get better.  I kept thinking, "Well, I'm not stopping/quitting for a shin cramp...this is going to be a LONG night"!  I finally got fed up enough that I stopped and rubbed it for about 20 seconds.  I rubbed it with some anger and it hurt doing it but helped.  I also took 1/2 banana the next feed.  The cramp was soon gone. It did make for an interesting 30 min.
It was around mile 4.5 that I picked it up.  I knew I was about halfway to my next feed and so I picked it up.  I moved my stroke count up to 60.  It felt good.  Took most of my feeds REALLY fast.  I would count down from 10 in my head and was usually rolling back over to my stomach on 2 then swimming at 1.  Keep it fast.  I only took longer feed breaks on food feeds or when the kayaker changed.

Fast feeds!

I was in a good routine for swimming, feeds, and pee was at a good interval.  Now it was just grinding out the miles.  We had a good tail wind with a slight current for the first few hours.  I could feel the push and it helped.
Patricia changed out so Jim could paddle after 3 and 1/2 hours.  There had been some difficulty with seeing the kayak and lighting.  The boat did put a spot light on the kayak.  That made it extremely easy for me to follow but also blinded the kayaker which caused her to wander some.  When Jim got in, he had a chem light on the back of his head and a blue headlight on the front.  I could not see the kayak but could see his head well and it was easy to follow him.
It was pitch black dark and the stars were out.  Every once and awhile, I would roll back a tiny bit while breathing and look at the stars for a second.  BEAUTIFUL.
We did run into a headwind a few times and it even rained on us from 0250-0310.  I didn't mind the rain but the wind slowed me down.  At one point I only got 1/2 mile in 30 minutes.  This actually pissed me off.  I told them to up my calories a bit and I pulled harder until I got through it.
The crew did stop me when I crossed the state line from Utah to Idaho.  I have a self tradition of honking the car horn whenever I drive across a state line.  I've never swam across a state line so this was pretty fun for me.  The boat pulled ahead and stopped on the line.  All the boat lights went on, the music was on full blast and everyone was screaming for me.  I did breast across the line and my mental energy kicked back in!  James Johnson had told me that the state line S to N was about 10 miles.  It's actually 11.3 so I was well over halfway!  This made me VERY happy.
 I told the crew I wanted to know my distance left at every feed.  I could now mentally break down each distance into training swims I've done.  This helped keep my spirits up.  "7.5 miles left, I've done that at Jordanelle for a long swim"..."6 miles left, that is a Tue and Thu swim at JN"...5 miles left, that's 2 Goody laps at Pineview"...Shorter and shorter.  Soon enough, I was thinking of the swims as "short days/rest days" for training.
The only real snags I had were that the headwind which slowed me down.  It cost me energy that ended up making me go REALLY slow the last 2 miles.  I also think I became slow the last 2 miles because of tapering a week too early.  Granted it was because of the weather but if I had good weather the original date, I doubt I would have gotten so tired at the end.
My beautiful paddler.  Great looking at her every 6 strokes
 I also got cold an hour before sunrise.  I was shivering and uncomfortable.  I was thinking of asking them to make my feeds to hot water but knew the sun was rising soon and so I just swam harder for that hour.  It warmed me up long enough for the sun to come over the mountains to get me.

Sun just coming up...I made it through the night

This is just a great shot.  Thanks Jim!
Sun on my back = new energy!
The last hangup...which is a BIG one happened at 0450.  Jim was due to get off the kayak.  Josh stopped the boat and Patricia got ready.  Everyone was helping her get ready and no one noticed the boat did a 180!  Josh took off and for some they couldn't find us!  They were all in PANIC mode and Josh was driving like a mad man around the lake and everyone on the boat was looking for lights and they chased down every single thing they saw that they suspected was us.  Jim and I were still dealing with a current against us and wind.  I stopped when I knew it was long overdue for a feed for me.  I asked him where the boat was and neither of us could find it.  This made me REALLY worried.  I knew they had not run out of gas because Josh would have told us well in advance if gas was becoming a situation.  It crossed my mind that they all had accidentally fallen asleep.  This made me MAD as hell!  I told Jim that if they fell asleep, I would not make it to the end.  At some point, I would have to hold onto the kayak to rest.  This would immediately disqualify me and all 4 of them would have hell to pay.  I yelled a few times but no answer came.  I decided to keep going.  Jim and I continued on and after about 10 minutes the boat was there.  All of them were apologizing and felt bad they lost us.  It happens and I'm glad they found us.  Josh was clearly shaken.  He had all the lights on and was freaking out as they tried to find us....Other than that, it went great!  Patricia got back on the kayak and finished the swim with me.

Around 0700 I needed some support and told Joelle to get ready.  At 0730, she got in and swam with me.  Having her get in was a HUGE mental boost for me.  Even though she is not allowed to get even with me or ahead of me, I would tell myself that I was faster than her and she couldn't keep up.  This kept me going even though I knew I was at turtle pace and she was figuring out ways to swim slower and not make it obvious! 

Joelle getting ready

Support swimmer GO!

Eating, I look like an idiot
 I kept getting told I was only a mile away so I picked up my pace.  I counted out 1000 strokes then was told again it was only a mile away.  I even passed on a feed because I thought I was right at the end.  Thinking and being told I was only 1 mile away happened for awhile.  I finally took one last feed and then I was REALLY only one mile away.
Can see finish
One last Swiss Cake Roll
am I asleep here?

Joelle and me
 Joelle took a wide angle and swam ahead when I was only a few hundred yards away.  Soon enough I saw her standing.  She is not very tall so I knew that if she was standing, I could stand and just walk in if I needed.
I NEVER let myself believe I was done until I saw that.  When I trained for Catalina, it had never once crossed my mind that I would not finish.  When I got pulled, it mentally destroyed me for almost a month.  I never let myself fall into that trap for this swim.  I realized there was a chance I could not make it but never let the thought linger.  I just accepted it as a fact but I would do my best.  I would only tell myself that I could do it and I was trained well enough to finish.  Once I saw Joelle standing, I finally allowed myself to 100% believe I would finish.
Walking out

almost there

I walked onto the beach and raised my arms to signal I'm done at 9:12:35.  I then fell down to my knees and had a good cry!  I could actually feel the pain and disappointment of not finishing Catalina go away.  I was grateful for finishing, I was in awe of my crew, and I was thankful to God for the moment.  All those at once = tears!  Joelle gave me a hug and it helped.

There was one lady on the beach and asked how far we had just swam.  I couldn't really talk and didn't want to.  Joelle must have sensed this and so she did the talking.  She told her what I had done and the lady was really impressed and said Congratulations.  I just nodded and said thanks.  I wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone.  Not sure why.  I headed back to the boat.  Patricia was at the edge of the lake and I gave her a hug.  I had JUST stopped crying and it started again.  I said, "We did it"...she said "You"...I was quick to correct her, "WE"...  I think of Jamie Patrick at times like this.  He NEVER talks about big swims without giving most of the credit to his crew.  No swimmer does these alone.  There really is no such thing as a solo swim for events like this.
Swimming back to boat...victorious. (hint of a smile)

I got on the boat and they all cheered for me like crazy.  I hugged them all and cried....again!  I just kept saying Thank you and We did it!  I never thought about me doing the swim, it was always WE are doing the swim.  Every one of them stayed up all night and did their jobs amazingly.

Here is what they all ended up doing:
Joelle - Feed mixer, timer, log keeper, support swimmer and keeping everything moving smoothly
Patricia - paddler
Josh - drove the boat the entire time...amazing!
Jed - helped Joelle make feeds, usually the one tossing feeds to me
Jim - pictures, keeping my "fans" posted, and paddler.  Kept me calm when we were alone
Me - I just swam.

My feeds were every half hour.  The first few hours I only drank 8 oz of actual liquid.  The liquid would either be 6 oz of water, 2 oz of gatorade then 1 and 1/2 scoops of Carbo Pro for 150 calories or 8 oz of water, a squirt of Mio for flavor and 1/2 scoops of Carbo Pro.  After 5 hours it changed to 8 oz of water, 2 to 2 and 1/2 scoops of Carbo Pro and the same of the other 2.  The Gatorade was added to get a little bit of electrolytes.   The Mio was added because some flavors are just DELICIOUS!  It was random what I got to keep it interesting.
The only solids I took were 1/2 a banana, buzz bites, and 1 swiss cake roll.  These were random or when I specifically asked for one.

Bad things:
1. I crashed out with 2 miles left
2. We lost the boat for a bit of time.  Never should have happened
3. I let the fact that the head wind and current slowing me down get to me more than it should

Good things:
2. The crew was amazing and could not have done a better job
4. I stayed focused mentally for 95% of the swim...I have a habit of daydreaming during longer swims.
6. My feeds, urination timing, and stroke rate was consistent throughout the whole swim.
8. I never turned into a Diva and got mad or yelled at my's been known to happen
9. I FINISHED!!!!!!!!!

I want to thank my crew again for such a great job.  I grabbed some of you at the literal last day but I don't think I could have had a better crew and have a crew do a better job.  I can't think highly enough of all of you.
I most of all want to thank Patricia.  She has had to listen to alarm clocks going off at 0430 all summer long and dealing with my naps, overspending our budget on feed powders, and putting up with me when I would have to train instead of doing other things she would have like to do with me on a particular day.  She has been NOTHING but supportive since day one, including sacrificing her own time to give me more for myself.

Thanks everyone for all the support, training swims, advice, prayers and love.



  1. It was my pleasure to help out. I enjoyed it extremely.

  2. I talked to Jed this morning - WOW I am so in awe of you and your swimming. I am just so amazed at endurance athletes. Congrats on this accomplishment!