Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do an ultra swim? My friend Rob M wondered so he went out and did it! A marathon swim (aka ultra swim) is usually defined as anything longer than 10km in open water and most times it is a point-to-point swim in a lake or ocean or a channel-crossing.
A little background on Rob – he swam competitively as a child but gave it up due to burnout when he was 15. Last year he did a few open water races and felt comfortable in the 3 km to 5 km distances and thought “why not try something a little longer”? He recently got involved with local Master swim competitions and said that also contributed to the itch to expand on his swim experiences.
This is Rob and his kyacker Marzena on race morning and here is his race report:
It was my first marathon swim ever and I learned a lot about the need to hydrate and fuel appropriately for a race of this distance.
The race began at Skaha Lake Beach Park in Penticton (BC) and finished in Ok Falls at the south end of Skaha Lake. The total distance of the race was just under 12 km…11.8km to be exact. The first 7 km’s I was on track with my expected time and pace but I learned that I did not drink enough. The water was cool but I was probably sweating a ton and not knowing it.
Consequently, I started having some of the usual symptoms of dehydration by km 8. Also the wind kicked up around the 4 km mark and we started getting waves that affected my stroke rhythm. I got sick a few times and had to use the assistance of my kayaker (my daughter in-law) to allow the symptoms to pass before I could continue to swim.
I had hoped for a 4:00 hr to sub – 4:00 hr time but because of my struggles with dehydration and sickness, I came in around 4:40. I was happy about finishing the swim. It took a couple of hours to recover. I slowly took in water/electrolytes and found a way to start to eat a little.
The race was extremely well organized and I highly recommend it as a challenge to strong, confident swimmers. There is only one bailout point and that is at the 8 km mark at Ponderosa Point where they will pick up swimmers and shuttle them to the finish line.
Being confident in water and being able to push through adversity is critical if you are considering an event like this. Also choosing someone who knows what they are doing in a kayak is key as they are your navigator and can keep a straight line to the way points. (Thank you Marzena!!)
I am planning on doing it again. I will pay close attention to my sweat rate while training and I might modify my training so that I can do my next ultra swim without a wetsuit. Although wetsuits provide buoyancy and reduce drag, I think I might benefit from staying a little cooler while swimming. Also, most of my swim training is in the pool where I don’t wear a wetsuit so ideally, I would like to do my marathon swims without one as well. I would promote this race to anyone at LYNX who wants a long, challenging swim. As a primer I would recommend the Lake Windermere Open Water Swim 5km race and the Rattlesnake Island Swim 7.5 km. The Rattle Snake Island race, like Skaha Lake race, requires a kayaker. I would recommend doing Rattle Snake 7.5 event before attempting this 11.8 Skaha Lake Ultra Swim .
Note from Mary: Further to what Rob has mentioned about working towards not wearing a wetsuit in his next marathon swim, open water crossings are not officially recognized when swimmers wear a wetsuit. Wetsuits are considered a swim aid. To be officially recognized by open water swimming governing bodies, the swimmer is allowed to wear a standard swim suit, cap, goggles, and grease and is allowed a support vessel to provide navigational assistance, food and fuel. Having said this, wetsuits are fine if you don’t care about your race being officially recognized. Click here: Rules of Marathon Swimming to learn more.
Thanks Rob for sharing details of your first marathon swim experience. I look forward to hearing more about your future endeavours!