Well we swam Lake Tahoe today in a time of 6 hours and 7 minutes becoming the first Irish relay team to do so. Not a great time by the standards of the competition as the winners from the Olympic club posted a time of 3 hours and 25 minutes. The start of the race was a spectacle: 4 waves of 64 swimmers, 10 minutes apart with about 250 boats waiting just off shore to pick up their first swimmer. As each swimmer passed the outer buoy, their number was called over the walkie-talkie and then their boat would move into the path of the swimmer. You can just imagine the pandemonium trying to pick out our poor Hillbilly James, but our Captain Jamie (about 26 years old, tanned and handsome, according to the girls) did so effortlessly.
Off we headed across the vast expanse in absolutely perfect conditions. The sun was beginning to rise as was the temperature. The water was perfect and as clear as I have ever seen. We were warned not to try to sprint even though our first leg was just 30 minutes. Within 2 to 3 minutes you realised why. Suddenly your chest would start to tighten followed by extreme breathlessness. It was tough to keep going. When we got out of the water, all of us were gasping for air and it took a bit of time to recover.
Still we found each swim extremely enjoyable and the real sense of occasion just added to the day. On James second leg, he decided to do a bit of showboating and managed the butterfly for about 10 seconds. While impressive, he's some fool, as that was him finished for the rest of his 10-minute leg, with breast-stroke occasionally interrupted by a very poor front-crawl.
Everyone swam brilliantly, especially me! I treated Tahoe to my funky trunks which definitely lifted people's spirits. Our captain broke out in hysterics when he heard my nick name, 'The Bullet', only to witness the disappointment when I entered the water. After my last swim I was panned out on the deck and Jamie said I looked more like a spent cartridge than a bullet!
Denise deserves special mention. Some fancy fit American chick tried to cross her path. It was quite a tussle for some time, made more interesting by the severe lack of oxygen. Of course you know who won! Denise literally forced that poor girl at least 500 metres off course. Saskia played a blinder as did Sandra. The 3 girls really anchored the team this year in both swims.
The weather turned rough for the last hour. High winds created an awful chop which made swimming conditions extreme. With no buoyancy to hold you up (fresh lake-water), you had to work so much harder which of course requires oxygen, a commodity in scarce supply. Enda mastered the conditions effortlessly, but it was Saskia and Sandra who showed real grit to fight through the chop.
Every swim has its hero and for this one it was Denise. She had less rest than anyone else as the last swimmer. For her final 10 minutes, she swam in very difficult conditions while finishing the race. She swam 17 minutes through lung-bursting conditions to do our team and club proud. The Olympic Club (hosts of the competition) were fantastic. Apart from showering us with gifts of class jammers and swim suits, we were invited to their base in San Francisco for a relaxing swim and breakfast.
The Catalina Channel was amazing but Lake Tahoe and the Olympic Club made this an absolutely incredible journey.
AS AN ASIDE ....
P J and Kate headed off this morning at the same time as the swimmers for a cycle around Lake Tahoe. They finished at the same time as the relay swimmers having covered over 125km. They followed the lake through California into Nevada and back through California again climbing to a height of over 1,300m and reaching speeds of 75km plus on the decent. They looked pretty shuck when they got back but had a great day.
By the way I am getting a bit suspicious of P J, his pet name for Kate is Dolly. They seem very cosy together.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Leah moved into the master bedroom once all the mad fools headed out and had a well deserved uninterrupted sleep. Well almost uninterrupted.
Heike's some cook ... dishing up incredible grub for the whole gang!