In 2018, I am planning my final 2 big marathon swims. On July 18-20, I am planning on swimming the Santa Barbara Channel from Santa Cruz Island to Oxnard, California, a distance of 30 km. This swim is similar to the Catalina swim, but 100 km further north, on the north side of Los Angeles. The water is colder and the currents stronger. The main reason for doing this swim is to complete the "California Triple Crown" (Catalina, Lake Tahoe and the Santa Barbara Channel). Only 7 people have completed these 3 swims - and no Canadians! I would also be the first Canadian to swim from Santa Cruz Island, which is the "crown jewel" of the Santa Barbara islands and an ecological and marine preserve in the Channel Island National Park.
During the window of August 16-22, I am hoping to fulfill a 20 year dream by swimming across the eastern end of Lake Superior, from Whitefish Point, Michigan to Pancake Bay, Ontario, a distance of 29 km. This is a new route. Only 2 people have swum Lake Superior before, down at the western tip of the Lake. In addition to the cold water (hoping for 15-19 deg. c) and big wave challenge, this swim is interesting because it passes less than 20 km from the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world. The massive storms and waves are legendary.
For those of you who don't know me, I swam Lake Ontario the easy way in 1983 and the hard way in 1984, becoming the first person to have swum it in both directions. I "came out of retirement" to swim the English Channel in 2011. I won the Van Audenaerde cup for the toughest endurance feat of the year. In 2013, I was the oldest Canadian to swim the Catalina Strait in California. After swimming around Manhattan Island in 2014 (oldest Canadian), I became the first Canadian to complete the coveted Triple Crown of open water swimming (English Channel, Catalina Strait and Manhattan). In 2015, I was the first to swim between three provinces: from Nova Scotia north to New Brunswick and across the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island. In March 2016, I fulfilled a 3 year long dream, to be the first Canadian (and oldest woman) to swim across the icy, treacherous Cook Strait between the South and North Islands of New Zealand. In August 2016, I swam across Cape Cod, becoming only the 9th person and the first Canadian to swim this historic Pilgrim route across the shark infested swirling tidal waters. On August 20-21, 2017, I was the oldest woman and the first Canadian to swim the length of Lake Tahoe from Camp Richardson, California in the south to Hyatt Beach, Nevada in the north, a distance of 34 kilometers. The major challenge was the altitude of the lake, at 6200 feet or 1897 m. (See links below for more detail).
I am pleased to be able to use this opportunity to raise money for Sashbear, an organization founded by Lynn Courey, whose daughter, Sasha, a swimmer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), died by suicide in 2011. Sashbear funds education programs for therapists, families and in schools. I have dedicated my psychiatric career to the treatment and research of BPD, which has a suicide rate of 10%. More treatment programs and support for families are desperately needed in Canada. Please support my swims by donating to Sashbear. Thank you. http://sashbear.org/en/
Monday, 28 August 2017
Saturday, 26 August 2017
Wednesday, 23 August 2017
After all the crew went home and I had my swim, we drove to San Francisco. Driving through Sacramento at 102 deg. F. (39 deg. C.) was really hard to take. As we descended to sea level and could see San Francisco Bay, the temperature plummeted to 79 deg. F (27 deg. C.) in the space of 25 kilometers. And, I have to admit that breathing is a lot easier at sea level. We are flying home on Sunday.
Monday, 21 August 2017
Even though the conditions were almost ideal, it was my toughest and longest lake swim since Lake Ontario.
The swim started late at 8:30 pm because we had to wait for a thunder shower to pass. I waded into the 20 deg. C waters of beautiful Lake Tahoe at Camp Richardson, California.The first couple of hours, the light slowly faded behind the ring of mountains around the lake. Then the stars came out, I've never seen the Milky Way in such detail before. After about 3 hours, the washing machine-like swells started. I seemed to be going up and down randomly. These appeared on and off throughout the night, lasting up to an hour at a time. I can understand why swimmers unaccustomed to night swimming would find this disorienting and nauseating. Tom thinks they are caused by a desert crosswind and water sloshing from a strong wind the previous day. Jodi says the winds blew from all directions.
After about 4 hours, the cold air (down to 15 deg. C.) and breeze started cooling me off. A brief sprint was sufficient to warm me up. However, I couldn't keep up sprinting because the altitude made breathing hard. I noticed around 3 am that whenever I sprinted, I also threw up a bit. This culminated in full out retching. After miserable hour full of quitting thoughts, it dawned on me that the bonamine (Bonine) I had taken at 6 pm had run out after 8 hours. Within minutes of taking a second one, all the nausea went away. That's the thing about marathon swimming, symptoms like pain, nausea and headache come and go and environmental changes happen from hour to hour. It usually goes away if you keep going.
When I took the second pill, I had trouble swallowing it. By the time the break ended, I was shivering. I stayed chilled and having to sprint frequently until after the eclipse ended and the sun finally got warm.
The eclipse: The sky looked like someone had sprinkled black dust in the sky. The water lost it's beautiful cobalt blue colour. The sun was still shining, but it lost it's warmth and a breeze picked up. The eclipse lasted about an hour.
When I warmed up, then my shoulders, back and wrists started to hurt. I slowed down for a couple of hours, but the the pain passed and I was able to pick it up to finish the swim in 17 hours and 2 minutes and 46 seconds at Hyatt Beach, in Incline Village, Nevada.
Oldest woman and first Canadian to swim Lake Tahoe!!!
Thank you to all my crew: Thie, Paula and my husband and especially observer Jodi DiLascio who face-timed her mother, Marilyn Bell DiLascio, to me live. Thank you to everyone who sent prayers and good wishes.
Ir's not too late to donate to Sashbear!
Sunday, 20 August 2017
We've been a bit worried about the stories we have heard of swimmers unable to stop throwing up about 4 hours into the swim. Then Jodi told us about a swimmer who described that the darkness was so disorienting it made her nauseated. So we have all decided to take Bonine, a medication for motion sickness, even though the waves won't be bad. I feel confident this will do the trick.
Talk to you after the swim.
Marilyn signing off, but my crew will try to text as often as they can.
Follow the tracker at https://track.rs/tahoe/
Saturday, 19 August 2017
The Hamilton Spectator published a lovely article yesterday about the swim, emphasizing the suicide prevention work that Sashbear and I do.
My crew includes Thie Convery, who swam Lake Erie in 2010 (20 km) and has been on most of my swims, Paula Jongerden, who swam the 44 km crossing of Lake Erie in 2002 and helped me swim to P.E.I., and my husband. We are honoured to have Jodi DiLascio as the official observer. Jodi is the daughter of Marilyn Bell DiLascio. In a touching moment this morning on the phone, Jodi thanked my mother for naming me after her mother.
Friday, 18 August 2017
The north end of the lake is more sheltered. The mountains are just as spectacular as the ones at the south end.
Then we drove along the east side of the lake and checked out all the landmarks.
We are starting to look at the weather. There seems to be a risk of thunder late afternoon everyday for the next 5 days. We may need to start the swim earlier.
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
I am only going to swim 20 minutes today. I have to taper my swimming to rest my muscles and joints.
Yesterday. surprisingly, it thundered and lightninged and rained in California!
Then we went for a drive along the south west coast of Lake Tahoe into spectacular Emerald Bay. The drive was an experience with 3 hairpin turns on the side of a cliff to the top and then a half kilometer along a ridge with a 600 hundred foot drop on either side without a guard rail. The cloud cover prevented us from seeing the legendary emerald colour of the bay.
I got pictures of Tom's boat, the Ghostrider. I also got to met a few of my heroes from the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco.
The water and the sun were so beautiful in my afternoon workout, I felt like I could have kept going forever. I'm sure I will think differently about that on Monday after 20 km, but it still is an excellent sign.
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
So I took the gondola and then another chairlift to the top of Heavenly Valley, a world famous ski resort. Then I hiked up even higher past the top of another chair to the very top of the resort, the Sky Express chair at 10,040 feet. I think I huffed and puffed enough to get my body into high altitude gear. The views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains were spectacular.
At noon, I'm going to send off Devon Clifford, a lady from near New York City, who wants to do a double crossing of Lake Tahoe. You can follow her on the tracker at the same link that my swim will be on. https://track.rs/tahoe/
Monday, 14 August 2017
Last night I went to Camp Richardson to see the start of another swim. I met my captain, Tom Linthicum, and saw the boat, the kayak and the starting spot. It is pitch black here. No glow of lights on the horizon, just surrounded by tall black mountains. Also, the air gets quite cool at night, which I am thinking will be the biggest challenge. I will have to sprint to stay warm and the altitude may put a cap on how fast I can swim.
I'm staying in a hotel right on the beach the first 5 nights until my crew arrives and then we move to a big rental house. I have a clear view of the first half of the course and I can picture where the finish is by the slope of the distant mountains. It is very reassuring that I can see the whole outline of the lake from my balcony. One of the mountains still has snow on it. So far, from my balcony, I've seen paragliding, water skiing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.
Fun observations about Lake Tahoe: It never seems to rain here, even the boats don't cover up for the night. Overnight is usually calm and the wind blows from 11 am to 7 pm. The forecast is always the same. There are no bugs. Water boils sooner at a lower temperature and it takes longer to cook food at higher altitude.
Sunday, 13 August 2017
How Lake Tahoe was formed is an interesting story. According to the Washoe Indian legend, an innocent Native American man was being chased by an Evil Spirit. In order to ward off the Evil Spirit, the Great Spirit gave the man a branch of leaves, promising that each leaf dropped would magically produce a body of water that would impede the Evil Spirit's chase. However, the man dropped the entire branch in fright, thus creating the giant lake.
Saturday, 12 August 2017
There will be an 80% solar eclipse at 10:20 in the morning, California time, for 2 minutes, while I am swimming.
As my official observer, Jodi DiLascio, says, "Marilyn will swim from dark to light to dark to light."
I am laughing to myself because I am not allowed to wear a watch and my crew never tells me the time so that I don't get discouraged with my slow progress. But I will know when 10:20 happens!!! The other issue is whether I should take my dark goggles off for 2 minutes or not.
Friday, 11 August 2017
A guy jumped off his boat anchored near where I was swimming, presumable expecting warm water like yesterday, and I heard him screaming with the cold.
Monday, 7 August 2017
I did a whole workout in my new Speedo Aquablade suit and it fit well and didn't rub anywhere. It fit so snugly, I didn't even get any seaweed down my suit. It's not very flattering but it is fast. My nickname for this suit is "my saran wrap suit".
CBC Hamilton interviewed me today. No details on publication or airing times yet.
Sashbear is busy setting up their facebook page to follow my swim. We are all excited about the posts that they are running. I like to call them "DBT skills with Marilyn". https://www.facebook.com/Sashbearorg/