What an excellent experience for this event!
Sunday August 22nd started as it should have been with me waking up early and getting ready. Thankfully, my close friends Blain and Becky were sharing my room, and Blain got up as I was getting ready to leave, walking with me to the start line...around 6:45 or so. Everyone was lining up along the boardwalk getting ready for a 7:30 start. The mood was quite relaxed and easy going. The weather was nice and cool and the Lake was pretty calm. As I suited up and got ready to go, I ran through my mental checklist of what I needed...2 swim caps, heavy duty water shoes, about 6 Gu packs tucked into my sleeves, Aftershokz bone conduction headphones, watch all set up and dialed in, cell phone in waterproof bag tucked safely in dry bag swim buoy.
At 7:30, Eric Hansen the event director rang the bell signaling everyone could start. We basically made our way sort of single file down the little rock beach and into the water. I noticed right away that there were those entering the water and immediately going right and heading around the Island. They would swim 7.6 miles instead of the full 8.2 distance. Of course you know, as hard headed and stubborn as I am, I went left and swam around a buoy to make sure I would swim the full 8.2 mile distance. This buoy, and the one near the finish line, would add the distance to the swim since marine law and limitations wouldn't allow us to swim across the harbor entrance channel. The water temp was a comfortable 71 or so degrees.
After making my way around the off set buoy, I turned and headed in the right direction to make my way along the shoreline of the Island. It took me a little bit to settle in heading to that buoy, getting goggles adjusted, swim stroke warmed up and into some sort of rhythm, getting my breathing right, and working the excitement out of my system. Once I settled in, all was well. However, I did notice that I could barely see the bottom as I made my way to the first point of land I was sighting on. I thought I had someone even further out in the Lake from me, and it looked to me like I was a bit too far off shore. I turned in a bit and made my way back toward the shoreline. I was up in my head and feeling frustrated with myself for this early lapse. But as I got back to shore in about waist deep water, we were all consolidating, and my little rush of adrenaline calmed down when I saw there were quite a few swimmers behind me, and others were just ahead in close proximity. Whew!
From then on, I just swam close to shore in waist to chest deep water. There were times when it got shallow, and all I had to do was stand up and walk a bit to where it got a bit deeper. Truth be told, I was pretty reluctant wearing water shoes having never worn them for open water swimming, but as soon as I got in, I was so grateful I had them on. The rocks weren't all that smooth, and they provided good footing when I needed it. Usually, I am not bothered by being barefoot, but it would have been a deterrent in this case. Bonus for not being weighed down like I thought they would. Somewhere around the second mile, it was time to turn on my headphones and have music keep me company. Everything was falling into a nice pace. I was approaching British Landing and have an old friend who is a 4th generation Islander that has a beach shack right next to it. I recognized where I was and spotted several people at his place. I stood up and asked "is my friend Jim Bogan around?" Out comes a bearded gent stating "Here I am!" I beamed, telling him who I was...and spent several minutes chatting it up with some short reminisces of hot dogs and beers on his beach, with me crashing out in a hammock to the sounds of the Lake washing up on the shore. We both stated at the same time I should keep swimming, and said our goodbyes and off I went. A nice volunteer at British Landing took an empty Gu pack for me. Back to the rhythm of my swim stroke once again.
The NNWesterly gentle breeze had kicked up a bit of a chop here, with us swimming into little one footers, with the occasional two foot wave. It was a bit rough going, but not too bad. This lasted until the halfway point and official aid station. We were swimming almost directly North practically straight into them. It was here we were able to start bending around the top of the Island and head in a more Southerly and Easterly direction. The little chop was now at our side and eventually pushed us along from almost behind. By this time, I had also removed one of my swim caps and felt much better and cooled down a bit, getting away from the feeling of being a little overheated. Not long after this, between 11k and 12k was when I really began to struggle for the first time, both mentally and physically. It just didn't seem like I was making any headway, and to make matters worse, the back neck part of my wetsuit had for some reason become out of sorts and was rubbing hard against my neck. As hard as I tried to focus on something else, I would stop fairly frequently to readjust its position, almost to no avail. Finally though, I was able to resituate it to where it was bearable. My stroke came back. I settled back in, and set my mind getting to Arch Rock, the place where I could most definitely state in my head "We're home!"
Arch Rock was a stretch, and one thing I kept doing after getting past the halfway point was looking for some friends on the road spectating me. Little did I know the location sharing on my phone wasn't working for them. At Arch Rock, I said to myself..."Self, Fck it! Just swim from here on out and you'll see them at the finish!" That was my new focus. Arch Rock came into view and as I passed it, I felt I was getting excited and ready to be done with this swim. Next up was the DNR Park Center which borders Mission Pointe Resort and the finish line. As I rounded that, I saw the 2nd buoy to swim around by the East breakwall of the harbor. I swear it looked miles away. All this time I was swimming in the proximity of a small group, and they seemed to be pulling away, even though this wasn't a race. I was starting to feel all the strokes I had made so far and didn't have it in me to try and keep up. Finally reaching that buoy, I turned for home...the finish. Usually, in whatever event/race I do, no matter how spent I am, I can make some sort of sprint to the line. This time, I got nothing. And just kept up the same pace I had been for this lap around the Island.
I was so ready to get out of the water and stop swimming. The volunteers at the water's edge were such a welcome sight and assisted in steadying me as I stumbled a bit on the rocks getting out and onto the grassy lawn of Mission Pointe Resort. I was handed my medal, looked up, and saw my school leader Cindy and her spouse Larry cheering my finish and welcoming me in! Not long after that, one of my all time closest friends Laura (like a little sister) and her partner Jamie walked up, then Andrea with Homes. I can't thank them all enough for being there for me. We sat at a table set up in the warm sunshine, spending the next couple of hours chatting it all up about the event and sharing all sorts of other stories. Great times, smiling faces!
There you have it! I am feeling very good after this event, and am happy with myself for completing it almost 45 minutes faster than the goal I had set for myself. I swam for 5 hours and 21 minutes and some change. Not too bad for this 60 year old who was looking to do something big for his 60th lap around the Sun on this big blue marble. Great times, smiling faces!