The Lake Chelan Swim is an annual community event in Manson, Washington, held on the first Saturday after Labour Day. It’s a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) shoreline race from Willow Point to Manson Bay Park. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend all summer. It’s the second last of my planned 2018 races (although – never say never!) and awesome because it’s a) a road trip, and who doesn’t love a road trip weekend and b) it’s one I hadn’t done since 2014 and I was eager to see how I’d fare with a few years of training under my belt. I should add a c) here – I’ve done such long swims recently (28 k and 12 k in the last month), that I knew a 2.4 k would feel very different!
The lake is one of Washington’s cleanest and most pristine, which is another reason I’ve been craving a return to this race. The water temperature, at around 18 degrees Celsius is also perfect. Perfect for a bracing wake up if one is a wee bit hungover, which you will be if you really make the most of your Chelan weekend. With dozens of wineries and bars in the region, a visit (even for a sporting event) must include a good sampling of the nightlife and fun stuff. The Shore to Shore Marathon is held the same weekend, just in case you’re particularly hardcore or maybe training for swim run. (Insane. How do you swim with shoes??)
The drive from Rossland to Lake Chelan is spectacular. Washington is a beautiful state, with winding roads that take you alongside the mighty Columbia River and through to the more arid and badlands-esque Okanogan County.
Having secured an amazing VRBO, I was eager to arrive and relax lakeside (and bar-side) before Saturday’s swim. I’m accustomed to events that begin at the crack of dawn, so it was nice to know that a restorative lie-in would be possible. The morning sunrise over the south side of the lake was beautiful and inspiring and the situation of the property was almost like an infinity pool – I could look down and across the water from the deck. If you’re planning to visit the area, you’d be treating yourself with a stay here. Treat yo self! But book early – places fill up fast!
With ample time for breakfast on Saturday morning, we took our foggy heads to the Riverwalk Cafe and replenished our energy stores with healthy fuel for the day ahead. The 5 km drive from Chelan to Manson gives you a glorious glimpse at the bright blue lake. It was a good opportunity to get the nerves in check and to start thinking about the race. Manson is a picturesque little resort town and registration for the swim is held at Manson Bay Park, which is also the finish line. After body marking and picking up our caps, we sat through the safety meeting and hopped on the big yellow school bus to Willow Bay Point for the start of the race. Change is good and a bathing suit should really not be boring, so I opted for my new sassy mermaid suit from Q Swimwear. With a good half hour before start time, we slithered into our wetsuits and took the opportunity to have a good stretch before hitting the water.
I cued up my Finis Duo with some Daft Punk, had a lovely nervous wetsuit pee (you know you love the details), and moved to the front of the start to join the first wave. And then – all 46 of us were off, swimming toward the first buoy of the course. A shoreline swim is always awesome, because breathing on the left side lets you gaze up at the lakeside homes and, if you’re feeling cheeky, wave to the spectators enjoying lunch topless on their decks. The red and yellow buoys were mostly easy to follow and prevented me from getting off course. Despite a thorough wipe with a Foggies cloth, I had a lot of goggle fog issues that saw me stop and spit in my lenses a few times. And that’s the best part of the Lake Chelan Swim – the gorgeous clear blue water that is quite unlike any other lake I’ve swam in. Goggle issues aside, the sensation of looking down at the bottom of the lake throughout the swim is really thrilling.
I swam the first kilometer easy and breezy, keeping a long stroke and breathing bilaterally. Having not trained very much over the previous 2 weeks meant I was full of energy in the water, and I knew I’d have plenty of juice to turn on during the second half. The water ranged from calm and peaceful at the start to episodes of big, deep rollers at any given moment. I find the rolling waves thrilling to swim, since it’s quite like being a sock in a washing machine with 46 of your best friends and what could be better than that? And when the second half approached and I knew I was getting close to turning left into the bay of the finish, I summoned all of the calories from my avocado toast (needed a break from peanut butter and jelly), cranked up my stroke rate, activated my kick, and came in as fast as I could to the finish. With a few steps to climb, my legs turned to jelly and I hobbled up to high-five the organizers, showed them my number, and ripped the cap off my head.
I went to check my placing and my time and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was 8th overall and came in at 43.56. This is 2 spots up and 2.5 minutes faster than my 2014 finish. Now again – it’s not the results that matter, right? But I couldn’t help but be curious. 😉
After the swim we plunked ourselves down on the benches and watched the other swimmers come in. This is one of the best parts of open water swimming events, since there is always such a variety of swimmer types, from newbies to the amazing woman who had spoken before the race about completing the Arizona S.C.A.R. swim in 4 Grand Canyon lakes. Adding that one to my bucket list!
And speaking of bucket lists, I have a big one coming up on September 22 with the Serpentine Swim in Hyde Park, London, Jolly Old England. A challenging year deserves some therapeutic travel, doesn’t it? Our local pools have reopened and I’m definitely going to get in some 4 km training sessions before I leave next Monday.
If you’re interested in the Lake Chelan area (and you should be, because it’s awesome), check out this lovely site. Wine trip, anyone?