To be honest, I’ve always been a little afraid of getting into open water swimming. Yes I was training to swim some 11+ miles across the width of Lake Tahoe, but trying to get me into any open water to even train for that was terrifying as I’d never done it before. This past Spring, I did a open water skills clinic with the Rolling Hills Masters’ coach and that was a lot of fun as I finally learned how to do things like sighting. That was in a pool though so I was still nervous about trying that out for real.
Last weekend my chance to attend Jamie’s Swim Camp finally came up. I was excited to see Jamie again and finally meet my friend Janet. BTW, Janet is an incredible human being. Aside from putting up with me from 3000 miles away when I’d have nervous breakdowns about my swimming, she also completed swimming the 22 miles across the length of Lake Tahoe just the week before in 14 hours and 28 minutes. She started the night of Thursday, 1 August and swam through the entire night and finished just before 12 NOON that Friday. Her energy and positive attitude radiant even more in person than over the phone. If I could be around her every day, I would.
I got in late Friday night into Reno/Tahoe Airport and drove to Jamie’s where we were all staying. I was surprised to find that people were still awake. I walked up to Jamie and gave him a big hug. Janet recognized me (from photos) and had the most radiant smile I’ve ever seen on someone and we hugged. I then felt warm hands all over my back asking me about my tattoo there (those hands turned into a massage so sure, do whatever you want total stranger). This was my introduction to Lynn Kubasek, who to me was a living legend from the “Did You Swim Today?” Facebook group. She swims *all* the time and is constantly posting on that group either about her own swims or in support of other swimmers. And she makes her own soaps! And she’s an artist! I felt instantly comfortable with her and she can say “hi” to me anytime via a back massage before saying anything.
One of the best things about staying with a bunch of swimmers is that our version of sleeping in means that we’re all up by 7 AM. Saturday morning we were up at 7 and I think around 8 Jamie said that we had 15 minutes to get all of our swim gear and head out towards Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe for our first swim of the day. Being from the Bay Area, I had been coming to Lake Tahoe since I was a kid to go skiing during the winter, but had never been there in the summertime. As far as I knew from my eyes, Lake Tahoe itself looked white. Saturday morning I saw how beautiful Lake Tahoe looked during the summer with its rich blue water. I’ve never seen such a beautiful lake!
We ended up swimming out to the island in Emerald Bay, going around it twice, and then swimming off to the side and back down to where our stuff was. Jamie estimated that this swim was somewhere around 1.5 – 2 miles. My swim partner was a woman from San Luis Obispo named Lizza. Janet convinced me to wear my shortie as I could always take it off, but couldn’t put it on if I didn’t have it. Better safe than sorry. It was incredible to start off my first open water swim with a swim partner on one side and Jamie on the other! The water was so clear and any nervousness quickly went away. WAY better than swimming in any pool! I didn’t even notice how far we had swum as it felt like it was only 100 yards and we had only been in there a couple of minutes. I jokingly commented afterwards that I’m never swimming in a pool ever again. I was surprised at how comfortable I was in the water and everything about the swim was the coolest feeling that I’ve ever had.
We headed back to the cabin to have lunch and get ready for Swim #2. For this swim, we were going down part of Truckee River. My car was left at the end point and the 5 of us piled into Jamie’s truck which already had 4 people in it. This is how you get to know your campmates *really* well *very* quickly. We went to the starting point when Janet noticed my goggles weren’t on. CRAP. I re-traced my steps but couldn’t find the #@&*)$ things. A man named Brian offered to lend me his spare ones which were crappy, but better than nothing. My first river swim was still awesome though with these guys and the additional fun of navigating around inner tubes and rafts floating down the river. Crazy swimmers in the water definitely got the attention of people in the rafts and inner tubes. Goody (yes that’s really his name) took video of the river swim with his GoPro which I would love to get the entire version of sometime. A highlight was Jamie saying that I had a great stroke! (Again, all “thanks” should be directed to Tom Reudy, my Masters coach IMO but Tom says that I’m the one who did all the hard work.)
We reconvened at the cabin and most people were done for the day. Lynn, Patsee, Lizza, and myself decided to go for a third swim in Donner Lake. It took us 3 tries to find the lake since Lynn wasn’t too sure how to get there. We got out onto one of the public docks to assess the situation. The sun position was low and providing some serious glare along the surface of the water. Lynn made a safety call (abort!) since boats would not see us if they were driving towards the sun. Boaters are usually not along the shoreline, but we didn’t trust them to stay out in the middle of the lake either. Live to swim another day.
Got back to the cabin, cleaned up, relaxed, and had dinner. After we were sufficiently liquored up, some of us went out for a quick night swim. This really was highlight of the trip as out in the water we could see the Milky Way and the sky was so clear!
Sunday morning most people took off early as they were driving home whether it was back to Utah or SoCal. Paul, Floyd, Lizza, and myself headed out to Donner Lake for one last swim. We did about a mile down the shoreline and back for a total of 2+ miles. Found a beer can while swimming and tucked it into my suit for proper recycling later. We could have gone further and longer, but these guys were awesome in wanting to make sure that I didn’t miss my flight that afternoon! We said bye to Lizza as she was driving straight back to SLO from there.
I headed back to the cabin to shower as I’m sure my fellow plane passengers would appreciate me not smelling like Donner Lake (which really didn’t have any noticeable smell). Jamie, Janet, and Karen were busy cleaning the house. I showered and asked what could be done to help, which because they were such efficient busy bees, the only thing I could do was make one of the upstairs beds.
Janet and I had our flights at the same time out of RNO so we caravaned back to the airport. Once we got there, we found out that were on the exact same Southwest flight to Las Vegas with her continuing on it to Baltimore. She saved me a seat on the plane and we were finally able to catch up during that hour flight. She ate the sandwiches that she had been saving for dinner and didn’t have much food left so before I hopped off the plane, I quickly reached into my suitcase and grabbed whatever fuel I could get my hands on to give to her. I hugged her goodbye and headed off to my delayed flight to Burbank.
I’m really glad that I came to Jamie’s swim camp. I’m thankful that he does it single-handedly! I met a lot of really cool people, made some new friends, got over any fear of open water swimming (not including races). I definitely plan on doing the Tahoe Relay and Donner Lake Swim next year. I also plan on doing all 4 days of Swim Camp next year wherever Jamie decides to have it! I can’t wait! This weekend was more incredible than I could have anticipated. I still can’t believe it actually happened.
So what do I do? Start looking up any and all open water swims for the rest of the season, no matter where they’re located. I already have my form and check filled out for the 2013 Corona Del Mar – Don Burns 1 Mile Ocean Swim happening in 12 days. I asked Jamie if it would be crazy for me to do it having never open water swimming in the ocean. He said to go for it and he knows that I could do it! Yipee! I contacted Patsee and she said it was her first open water swim 8 years ago. She’ll be doing it again this year so it’s going to be really cool to do my first ocean swim with a new friend (and Lynn too if she’s also doing it). I definitely plan on getting together with Patsee and Lynn to swim open water on the weekends down in Laguna Beach where they live as often as possible.