For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Things are going Swimmingly (Apostle Islands idea)

I'm restless these days.  It has been to long since i've done stupid things to my body i guess.  My workouts are good and intense but so varied and short that i never really feel their effects the next day and always feel raring to go.  I need an outlet.

I won't have to wait to long though - i've agreed to run the Sheyenne National Grasslands trail the week after END-SPAR (the 6 hour race i'm directing).  The trail is 28+ miles long and i'll be shooting for an under 4 hours completion time - nothing to write home about but about all i can hope for considering i'm only running once a week, and sometimes less than three miles, in preparation.  This will satisfy me for a bit i suppose, and i'll be suitably distracted for the rest of May as Tammy and I take our first sans kids trip together since they were born (to the Gunks - i'm not sure if i even remember how to place gear it has been so long) and the whole family is heading out to visit my brother in Bend.

In fact, the summer will probably fly by as well - Untamed New England in June, then prepping for the marathon swim race that i'm directing in July, followed by the 24 hour adventure race i'm putting on in August.  But it's this swim race that has got me thinking.

I wanna swim there
Swimming is hard.  It is maybe the most feared of endurance sports, so much so that many people don't even include it in the list of things that people like to do for a really long time.  After all there are hugely well attended marathons and ultra distance runs and century bike rides that draw thousands as well.  Put on a 10 mile swim and very few people will be there - and it will take the entire population of the country just produce those few.  So i've become fascinated with swimming lately, and after seeing a post on about a sea kayaking trip through the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore have hatched a plan:
Chart a looping course to the outermost islands, making a loop and then returning to the mainland, doing it as fast as possible - hopefully over a long weekend.  The route i've initially looked at includes about 8-9 swims, varying in length from just over a mile to between 3 and 4 miles.  I'd do it with a single partner who would accompany me in a packraft (an adventure of its own) with all the gear needed for three a three day journey.  I'd swim and they'd paddle (or we'd switch off) between the islands, running or bushwhacking the length of the islands (many have rough trail systems) between swims.  The initial route is roughly 55 miles long with about 25 miles of swimming and 30 miles of foot travel.  I'd like to be self sufficient (ie start and finish with all our gear - carrying it all overland on the islands) which is why packrafts will play a crucial role.  The swims will definitely require a wetsuit (at least for me) as the water temps, at warmest, are around 50-55 degrees.  We'd likely take dry suits as well for the person in the packraft, and possibly have a second emergency boat in it became necessary to blow it up and get us both in boats to await a rescue if the currents and wind blew us out in the middle of lake superior.    
I'm perspiring anxiously just thinking about this.  Now truth be told, only about half of my crazy ideas ever see fruition - but i'm hoping this one makes the cut.  In particular i'm drawn to it because swimming is so challenging and, in a sense, inhospitable.  Two miles from the nearest land in five foot, fifty degree seas, with white-capping waves and the rain pouring down - well - you'll find out what you're made of - or, perhaps more importantly, what you're not.


  1. I've been day dreaming about some kind of mixed swim/run epic lately, too. Except without any crap to deal with. Having been into the gear (and $$$) intensive sports of cycling and kayaking, I find running and swimming to be a refreshing dose of simplicity. I was thinking more along the lines of a "castaway" trek, just swimsuit and goggles, linking a series of islands and beaches; run/hike where you can, swim where you must. I'm sure I'll do something like that here this summer, but not sure where the "ultimate" destination would be. It would be nice not to wear a wetsuit, but I guess it wouldn't necessarily ruin the experience, either. Hmmmm...

  2. well i've got the packraft(s) if you ever want to come and make a mission out of it..... would certainly be nice to share the swimming (: i like the castaway trek too - i've read about where this has been done before but with much logistics (boat support, etc). like you, it's the simplicity that appeals - the 'self-supported' nature of it. a packraft would allow gear to be transported so that the whole thing could be extended in time, but allow for the overland stuff to happen with way more efficiency than a sea kayak..... and if you've got someone swimming, you don't really need much speed.