Lake Tahoe- August 2020

We arrived home from Lake Tahoe late last night and I wanted to share some more about the trip, before I forget. I haven’t been very far from home since I went to England for the CS&PF dinner in March, just before COVID arrived with a vengeance, and my travelling spirit was more than in need of a little adventure.

Six of us from here in Colorado set out last Friday after work to make the 17ish hour drive to Lake Tahoe. We stopped overnight in Utah and arrived in Tahoe on Saturday evening. It’s a tradition to always take a quick dip in the water you’re going to swim, as soon as you arrive, so we unloaded our stuff and made our way down to the shore. I’ve swum a double of Tahoe in 2013, have crewed a swim in 2018, and visited on a work trip in 2019- but I’ll never ever get over how blue the water is. Every time I get into it, I’m simply mesmerized by the blueness. I love all water, but I seem to have a special relationship with lakes, especially clear, cold ones, surrounded by mountains. The water temp was a perfect (maybe slightly warm) 67F/19.5C, the evening sun was shining, and there was barely a breeze. It’s a miracle I didn’t just start swimming across the width of the lake right then and there!

Jim and I were scheduled to start our length crossing (21.3 miles) on Sunday night at 11 pm. D’Arcy would follow with a Tuesday night swim. I’d never done a tandem swim before- but Jim and I are good swim pals and have trained together a lot. We knew he’d go out faster than I’d like, but that he’d probably drop off to the point I’d have to hold up for him toward the end. We were both ok with that compromise, if it meant sharing the lake together.

We coordinated our feeds so that we could be efficient on the stops and set off with Reptile at the helm, John G as his assistant, John Hughes to look after me and Jim, and Cindy Hughes to act as observer. When we first arrived at Camp Richardson at 10 pm, there was a pretty stiff breeze, but as the 11 pm start approached, the waves chilled out. Despite an initial hard left out of the marina, which warranted some light flashing and yelling, Jim and I had a pretty smooth and predictable evening in the lake.

I’d had a lot of people ask me “Just a single length” so many times ahead of the swim- but trust me 21 miles is a long way no matter how far you’ve swum in the past. But, it does go by rather quickly and before we knew it the sun was coming up and the beach at Incline Village was under our toes. I hadn’t expected to get a long swim this year, so I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do one that was fairly stress-free. Our swim couldn’t have been more smooth, more perfect, more joyful.

Next up was D’Arcy in her first big swim ever. For crew, John Hughes was piloting the boat, Cindy was observer and Ken Classen and I were crew. We started her at 8 pm to give her some daylight to settle in, since she’d never done a night swim before. We were self-supporting, though Reptile had another swimmer leaving just behind us, so we knew he’d watch over us in case of emergency. D’Arcy faced a pretty good headwind for the first 3 hours of her swim, then some feeding issues for another 2 hours- but once we settled in and got our acts together, she just cranked out the miles and finished really strong. I got to spend about 9.5 hours in a kayak next to her. I already had a healthy respect for the paddlers I’ve had over the years, but let me assure you- I was more sore from kayak duty than I was from my swim two nights prior.

D’Arcy was nervous leading up to the swim and we were all worried about her initially, but she gained power and speed the longer the swim went on and as she came out at Incline Village, she proclaimed, “That. Was. Awesome.” You can’t ask for any thing more than that.

I could probably write more details about the swims, but truly, the best thing about the week was being able to spend time with friends in a beautiful place. Life has been so stressful in so many ways the last few months and more than once last week, I found myself wishing I could float off into the deep blue, silent abyss that is Tahoe in search of more peace and calm. Fortunately, I can’t hold my breath that long, so you’re stuck with me on land for awhile longer.

The week felt more like summer camp than a big swim, where we all learned a lot and challenged ourselves, but made some really incredible memories together as well. We spent Thursday hanging out at a small lake south of Tahoe, just splashing around, kayaking and sitting in the sun. It made me realize that while I see my friends a lot, with our busy lives and schedules, we don’t get a chance to actually just talk and be together. Swimming is such a solitary sport, so even when you’re swimming tandem with someone in a workout/training session, you don’t exactly get much time to ask how their day was, beyond the basics.

I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed slowing down, spending quality time with people I love, and sharing a lake I love with two of my favorite swimmers. Especially with D’Arcy, since it was her first big swim, I could hardly contain my tears as I watched her struggle with her demons, overcome her fears, and walk out victorious on the other side with a huge smile (and a latte).

In these crazy times, I needed this week to re-set more than I think I realized. My heart is so full it might burst and I am left feeling so grateful for the beauty and people in this world. Swim on, my friends.

The team after the swims!
Sarah and Jim on the way back!
D’Arcy looking mighty fierce at her swim start.

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