Swimapalooza: Central Oregon Lake Adventures

I’m proud to say I’ve stuck with my goal of swimming every day, and I had my biggest week ever at 27,000+ yards (over 15.5 miles)! And my shoulder doesn’t hurt, I can hardly believe it.

Last weekend I drove down to Redmond to stay and swim with Jessica, who raced SCAR this year and continues to train for big events. I only point this out because I just said I was going to swim with her. “with” meaning we were both swimming at the same time in the same place, but we were no where near each other, except when I put on my little fins. Then at least we were close-ish.

Day One – Elk Lake

Water Temp: 62°F
Weather: Clear, mid-40s to start but warmed rapidly, a bit windy on the shore
Elevation: 4,882 ft

When we originally discussed our plan, I heard “swim Friday morning, 3 hour swims Saturday and Sunday”. I was nervous to swim for too long; when Jessica said she wanted to swim for 3 hours, I balked a bit and decided shorter would be better, as I didn’t think I could swim 3 x 3 hour days in a row.

It was absolutely beautiful, and being an early Friday morning, very quiet on the lake. Pretty much perfect conditions. We essentially did our own swims; Jessica only fed once an hour I think, so she took off into the distance. I wanted to maintain my 30 minute feeds, so I stuck to swimming back and forth across the lake (from what I could see). I couldn’t figure out where the hell Jessica was swimming to, it looked like the lake ended. Once I finally looked at the map of the lake, I realized I was only swimming a very small portion of it! The damn thing is deceiving; the first time I turned around to head back to the beach, it looked like I was suddenly right there. But then after a few minutes of swimming, it looked like I was exactly the same distance away. This is why swimmers need support kayakers! ha.

After an hour of swimming I had convinced myself I was cold. I wasn’t cold, I was just slightly uncomfortable, having gotten somewhat used to 68 degree water. I urged myself to stay in another 30 minutes. Once I started on that lap, I was magically not cold anymore, although honestly I just bored. So I stopped after an hour and a half and read a book on the shore.

In retrospect, I wish I would have done hour long feeds so I could explore more of the lake, or figured out a way to carry feeds with me. Due to lowered lake temps around the area, we ended up not swimming as much as originally planned the next day, so I should have done the whole 3 hours while conditions were ripe. Oh well!

Day Two – East Lake + Juniper Pool

Water Temp: 57°F in the shallows, 55 or 56 away from shore
Weather: Clear, warm (60s?), windy (lots of chop coming back)
Elevation: 6,400 ft

East Lake is a sister lake to Paulina, in a caldera in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. I’ve mountain biked the trail that encircles the two lakes high up on a ridge, so I was very excited to be able to actually get in the lake!

We decided we wanted to explore more, so we brought along an inflatable kayak to hold all of our feed supplies, as well as towels and clothes so someone could bail if needed. Also I hoped it would slow Jessica down slightly. After blowing it up and hauling it down to the shore, Jessica went out on the dock to check the water temp. She estimated it to be the same as Elk Lake, since she had swam both in the weeks prior and they seemed to be tracking the same.

When I walked out to the dock, she looked at me grimly.

“68!?” I said, joking.

“57. And this is in the shallows.” She didn’t look too pleased.

“Well, you want cold water training, here it is. I didn’t really, but here it is,” I replied.

We decided cutting our desired time in half was our best bet. We aimed for some cool lava rock cliffs a few thousand meters away. The lake has a very weird smell that I couldn’t quite place; it seemed like a mixture of boat gasoline and bad farts. Afterward, Jessica told me it was sulfur–because we were swimming in a semi-active volcano!

I was falling behind quickly, so after our first feed break, I put on the zoomers I brought. The cliffs were amazing to swim under, I wish I had gotten some photos. I tried to look at them the best I could, but I knew we would get cold if we stopped swimming for long.

The wind started kicking up, making the return trip a bit difficult. We swam along the cliffs a bit, following the shoreline back around. I was having a lot of trouble breathing. Usually I would have just switched my pattern from my usual every 3rd stroke, to every 4th to avoid the choppy side. However, I felt like I needed more breath than that–I think from the elevation (Lake Tahoe high!), as well as from trying to hang on to Jessica’s speed. My zoomers don’t give me a ton of speed, and Jessica was cold so she was swimming hard to stay warm.

I’m happy to report despite not really drinking much on my second feed (I abandoned my attempt at finding my 2nd bottle when Jessica was clearly very cold and needed to swim ASAP), I was not terribly cold when we got out and felt I had another 30 minutes or more in me. Swimming hard certainly helped, last time I was in the mid/upper 50s for 2 hours there was a lot of lallygagging and no feeds.

Since we didn’t get our desired swimming time in, we also went to Juniper and swam for another hour or so; I never get to swim in a 50 meter pool, and dang is it glorious.

Day Three – Lake Simtustus

Water Temp: 65°F (lots of very cold and very warm spots!)
Weather: Clear, hot (high 70s)
Elevation: 1,585 ft

I wish I had taken my camera on this swim. It was SO cool! We swam through a deep canyon, in a lake that felt more like a river, the way it snaked through the rocks.

When Jessica pulled the thermometer out of the water, she was smiling widely. 65 degrees! The sun was shining, it was hot, and normal people were out swimming in the water. It was going to be glorious.

We swam a half hour to a point where she had turned around last time she swam there. Since the day was so lovely and the water so warm, we decided to explore what we thought was another cove. It turned out to keep going…and going…I think she was ready to keep going forever, but I got a bit nervous about not having any calories with me. I should have stuffed a gel into my swim buoy, although I would have had to wash it down with lake water (mmm!). Turns out it goes on for twice the distance we swam, so a long adventure for another day.

All in all, this whole experience left me feeling so grateful to the swim community. I only knew Jessica from meeting her at the Mosier to Hood River swim last year, and the 24 hr relay this year, yet she let me stay at her house and took me on lake tours all weekend! I’m so lucky I get to do this, and I thought about that a lot while swimming.

One more week of Swimapalooza. On the final day I will be support paddling for a team for Portland Bridge Swim, followed a few days later by crewing for a huge swim around Sauvie Island. Stay tuned!