At 4:45 am, I grabbed my phone in the darkness to check the time. From my cozy Boler bed, I could see a light on in the cabin and I knew that indeed, my hosts were up early as promised and YES – we would be meeting on the beach at 5:30 to take on the first leg of our 3 day, 24 km swim from Sunshine Bay to Nelson.
I drove out to the fabulous Steven Family cabin late evening yesterday, and even at that point I wasn’t exactly sure that what we’d planned would actually happen. I wasn’t sure that I’d swim all 3 days. I wasn’t sure my shoulders would hold up, or that my nutrition and energy levels would be well prepared enough.
My friends Mark, Deanne, and Bruce Steven dreamed up the crazy idea to swim from their cabin on Kootenay Lake all the way to the City of Nelson, BC. They plotted out a 3 day route that would average around 8.5 km each day, followed by a big breakfast and sweet recovery time at the cabin. And “cabin” doesn’t do the place justice – it’s a gorgeous property with a spacious deck, 2 gazebos, a private beach and an outdoor shower.
I slurped back a cup of coffee, having stuffed my face the night before with my favourite pre-swim feast: peanut butter, bagels, apple slices, and more peanut butter.
After a thorough neck slathering, I slipped into my Orca Alpha suit and headed down to the beach. We were joined by Stephen, a triathlete from Nelson, and our 3 support paddlers who would help to guide us and also carry our all-important hydration and nutrition. I chose a variety of Clif Shock Bloks as they are easy to eat in the water and the caffeine works as an effective analgesic when the joints begin to ache.
We set off just as the sun was starting to rise. The water was beautiful and calm and I started feeling awake and alive. After 2 km though, the wind and chop picked up and for a while I felt like I wasn’t making any progress, just flailing my arms and legs. We swam through the ferry crossing and I had visions of being sawn in half by the underwater cables. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.We swam through 2 more narrows where the river meets the lake, and the temperature change was suddenly very apparent. The rush of cold into my wetsuit was both invigorating and concerning, because I’d been swimming with a numb left arm since around 1 km in and I wanted to monitor how my fingers felt in the cold.
Soon enough my support paddler let me know that we had around 15 minutes to go, and I had a surge of energy just as I moved into the very shallowest part of the swim. The water wasn’t deep enough for my pull, so I managed to scoot along half pulling and half pushing off the sandy bottom with my legs. I imagined that old illustration of the aquatic creatures evolving to walk on land, and became one of them.
I reached the beach and we celebrated with happiness and relief. One down and two to go!
We spent most of the rest of the day relaxing, catching wee naps and refuelling. And tooting. Those Shock Bloks produce a lot of wind.
Tomorrow we have another 8.5 km to go.
- Very limited neck chafing. Either my wetsuit is wearing in or my new Sport Shield roll-on is a lifesaver
- Energy level. I didn’t lag much the whole time.
- Mood. Mostly positive thoughts and I was able to keep my preoccupations at bay.
- I now know that I can achieve my 11.8 km swim next weekend.
- Our awesome paddlers Tayne, Lyndsey and Karen.
- An amazing breakfast prepared by Barney York.
- A numb left arm throughout most of the swim. This happens to me when I wear a wetsuit probably 3/5 times. A pinched nerve? It’s super annoying but not painful.
- Not enough tunes in my Duo. My playlist ran through itself and repeated, and then conked out with about a km left to go. I’ll be fully charged up for tomorrow.