The Cold Water Group

Looking back on the last 2 years I can't help but feel it has been everything I had hoped for, and more. It started in January 2010 when I decided to chase an old dream of mine to swim the English Channel. It all seemed so implausible, but as I thought to myself "since when did that ever stop me". I had returned to swimming just a few years before by way of triathlons, and had tackled a number of open water races as well. But, there is a big difference between a swimmer turned triathlete and a pure swimmer. Make the shift to pure swimming would require a shift of my training regimen from a multi-sport program to one geared for swimming alone. Like many life long swimmers, years ago I had developed a shoulder problem and mine had knocked me out of the water for a decade. So to be capable of swimming a channel I was going to have to address that problem. To make a long story short, I had surgery, followed by rehabilitation, and to my delight it continues to improve to this day.

One of the more memorable experiences I had in that first year was when I showed up at nearby Hagg Lake  in the spring to join a local group of Masters open water swimmers. They were part of a larger community that kept in touch through a Google group called The Cold Water Group. Early one morning I went to the lake to join them for a swim. I pulled up into the parking lot and began to put on my wetsuit. I can't remember the exact temperature of the water that day, but I know it was near 50° F , well below my cold water experience. So after donning my neoprene, I headed to the water and was greeted by a number of the group that had shown up that morning. It quickly became apparent that these folks were serious. Every one of them was ready to plunge in with only the traditional swim wear, googles and a thin cap. Thankfully, despite my wimpish garb they welcomed me into the fold. It was a fun and gregarious group of swimmers. One of those swimmers was Marjana, who reminded me that we had swum together in Oregon Masters in the mid-1980's, almost 30 years ago. Talk about time flying by.

Back in the 1980's there wasn't an open water swimming community in Oregon. In fact, none at all.The only swim that I knew of was a fun swim across the Columbia River, less than a mile in calm and relatively warm water. If you wanted to race open water you had to travel to California where I'd spent much of my time since the 1980's. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the sport had arrived in Oregon and thrived, but cold water swimming? That was very surprising. I jumped in with them and was amazed at how they quietly managed entering and swimming in the cold water, very impressive. But even more impressive was what each had planned to swim in 2010. The Santa Barbara Channel? Pioneer a new marathon swim on the Willamette River? An English Channel Relay?  The Catalina Channel swimming breaststroke? An English Channel solo? All I could think was "these guys are monsters". However, the funny thing was that they were anything but that. They were, as I've come to learn about marathon swimmers in general, ordinary folks doing extraordinary things.

Tim Cepedes, (me), David Livengood, Marjana Prather, Marisia Frieder, Joni Young, and Jason Lassen (front)

Photograph Courtesy of Tim Cepedes

2010 Successful Marathon Swims

David Livengood - English Channel

Jason Lassen - Catalina Channel Breaststroke World Record

Joni Young - Santa Barbara Channel

Joni Young, Tim Cepedes, Marjana Prather - (not present: Jim Teisher, Natalie Groat , Andrew Shaar), - Oregon Quacks English Channel Relay

Marisa Frieder - First successful swim of the 11 Bridges (11 miles) of Portland which she now runs as an annual event

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