Marathon Swimming Challenges

This weekend is the highlight, and the end, of my open water season. Tomorrow I fly to Salt Lake City to do the Deer Creek 10K. As soon as I'm out of the water I will jump into my car and drive to  Fort Collins, Colorado. I have to make the pre-race meeting for the Horsetooth 10k at 6 PM. The next day, I'll be taking on a rare point to point 10K at Horsetooth Reservoir. 


Most 10Ks are a closed loop where you swim one or more circuits. However for the Horsetooth 10K on Sunday, they have set up a challenging course where you start at the south end of the lake and swim north to the finish. For first timers like me, it means having no familiar reference points to let me know how far into the swim I am. Sounds exciting. Just go as hard as you can, for as long as you can, and hope it's long enough.


With swimming marathon distances, typically considered 10K or longer, there are always additional challenges. One simple, but all too frequent challenge, is getting the proper support crew and boat at the start line on time, and ready to go. With a 10K it can be no more than a single kayaker with a couple of bottles of a sport drink, and a few of packets of an energy gel. Generally, the presence of a kayaker is welcomed by the swimmer, and is imposed by the race director, who in turn is responding to liability concerns or rules of a governing body. However, there are occasions where a swimmer will do a 10K for training purposes, and just tuck a number of energy gel packets into their suit and go it alone. Definitely not for the inexperienced, or where cold water or rough conditions add additional risks.

In taking on my double 10K I thought the challenge was going to be getting out of the water at the Deer Creek 10K, jumping into the car and making it in time for the Horsetooth pre-race meeting. I was mistaken. As it turns out, my arrangements for a support kayaker for Deer Creek fell through and I am left scrambling to find a replacement. With only 2 days left until the swim, it is uncertain if I will able to find a kayaker, even with the help of the race organizers. While this is a bit unsettling, it is not as bad as a swimmer attempting the English Channel in a couple of  weeks. He had secured his boat and pilot probably a year or two in advance, but at the last minute he lost his support crew and is scrambling to find replacements. The open water community is very close and supportive, and I am sure he'll find a crew. But if you are taking on the English Channel, the last thing you want is having to deal with an unexpected problem. Despite the adage: "Plan for the worst but hope for the best", there is always something you didn't prepare for that could go wrong at the last minute. In that light, dealing with the lack of a kayaker for the Deer Creek is providing me practice for my future marathon swims. I am keeping my fingers crossed. I hope that helps.

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