Cascade Lakes Swim Series at Elk Lake

This past weekend was the Cascade Lakes Swim Series at Elk Lake. While acknowledging all the fantastic regional open water races, I think this is the premier event in the Northwest. It is also closing in on being the top small open water festival in the country: that's assuming you want to call a 5 race series, featuring a field of over 150 swimmers for the 1500 meter swim, a small open water event.

All of the races in the series take place over a single weekend at Elk Lake, which sits at 4,892' in the Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon. Bob Bruce, both the Race Director and Master of Ceremonies, readily admits the event would simply not happen without the scores of volunteers and the generosity of the sponsors. Despite maintaining inexpensive entry fees, competitors were provided a tasty catered meal at the end of each day's races. Accommodations were available in nearby Bend, and there was also a low cost option of staying at the nearby group campsite (only $5 per person)

2010 EL & BB H-L

Bob Bruce at the Finish Line

Photograph by Bob Needham

The first race up was the 3K on Friday evening with everyone starting together. This was one of the 2 races I had chosen to compete in. It was twice around a triangle loop, coming in close to shore as you headed out for the second time around. This provided great viewing for all the spectators lined up on the beach. The water was a wonderful 68°, and it stayed that temperature the entire sunny weekend. I'd like to tell you about the exciting finish of the 3K, but I was too busy slogging along in what surely was one of my worst swims in quite some time. Thankfully I managed to shift into swimming in the moment while enjoying the view of the 10,358' South Sister towering over the lake.

2010 EL SS & OWS H-L

Photograph by Bob Needham

Next up was Saturday's 500 meter time trial with each swimmer's individual starting time set by their best 500 yard pool time. People were sent off in 20 second intervals and swam it as a pursuit race, challenging themselves to catch the faster swimmer in front of them. The second race of the day was the 1500 meter race featuring a mass start once again. With over 150 swimmers lined up for the start, it promised to be a competitive race. The exciting finish more than lived up to to everyone's expectations. Make sure to watch the entire video to experience it for yourself. After the race was over, I joined everyone in a wonderful lunch. Later in the afternoon I went on a fun swim in preparation for my race the next day: 3 loops of the 1500 meter race course. Well that is what we distance freestylers call fun.

Dadi Brancamp & Mike Self race neck-in-neck in the exciting finish of the 1500 meter race.

Video by Bob Needham

The third and final day of the festival featured my favorite race of the series: the 5K. I awoke in my tent only to find frost on my shoes sitting outside, and a mist hanging low over the small pond beside my campsite. Neither was a good sign. The frost on my windshield, and the 32° reading on my car thermometer, gave me cause to wonder whether retreating to my sleeping bag would be the prudent thing to do. However, I knew that the sun would quickly warm the air a good 20° by race time. But more importantly, the water temperature in the lake was likely to be the same as it was the previous day. Thankfully, I was right on both counts. 

The course for the 5K was unique, with one lap around a diamond shaped course and two laps around a triangle course (they removed one buoy at a point of the diamond after everyone had passed around it). Thankfully, I raced much better than I did just 2 days earlier. While I was not as fast as I had been in the past because of the lack of off-season training, I raced smart and up to my potential. I say raced smart because I was drafting behind Joni Young for nearly half the race. Thanks to Joni for her ability to swim a straight line and her almost nonexistent kick, making it a lot easier to follow behind her. I kept a respectful distance to express my gratitude. Unfortunately, I had a lapse of concentration and as she surged around a buoy, I was left behind literally in her wake. Rest assured if the opportunity ever rises again, I'll be tickling her feet the entire way to make sure she doesn't get away.

The final race was the 1K. The race had an unusual wave start, with each successive group being rapidly sent out in one minute intervals. The course followed an irregular shoreline concluding with a fast straight line sprint to the finish, producing lots of excitement for the many spectators. 

All in all, it provided for great racing on a perfect weekend in the Oregon Cascades.  It was a chance to test my mid-season preparation and reminded me that there are no shortcuts to proper preparation. Good results one year simply don't carry over to the next. I know I learned a lot that will help me stay motivated during the hard training for my Catalina Channel attempt next year.

© 2010-2016 Website Designed and Created by Bob Needham - All Rights Reserved