Mercury in the Great Salt Lake

This recent article on KSL.com has me a little worried about attempting some swims in the Great Salt Lake this summer. I can deal with salt and brine shrimp...but mercury?

Does anyone know if the mercury is concentrated in any particular part of the lake or is it everywhere? It must not be an issue around the beaches where swimming is allowed, but what about in the main body of the lake?


Open Water Sighting Video From Swim Art

Here is a great video from Swim Art in San Francisco about how to swim straight and how to sight during open water swims. There are a bunch of videos about sighting out there, but I think this one is probably the best.

Triathlon Start Video

I saw this Clif Bar commercial posted on the Swim Art Facebook page and thought it was pretty funny.


10 Commandments of Open Water Swimming

I ran into this entertaining and useful article on the United States Open Water Swimming Association's website and thought it was worth sharing. It was written by open water swimming coach John Flanagan. Someone should put this on a shirt.

1 Thou Shalt Not Swim Alone

Safety is the first command­ment in Flanagan's bible, and safety means never swimming in open water alone. Either swim with another person or get a friend to accompany you in a boat. If that's impossible. swim parallel (and close) to shore while someone walks the shoreline watching you. "Definitely have a buddy sys­tem," says Flanagan. "Swim­ming alone is a bad move."

2 Thou Shalt Not Be Intimidated

Yes, open-water swimming is different from a pool-eaves, currents, no walls-but that's the fun. Besides, with a little knowledge and a few tricks, these variables are easily managed.

3 Thou Shalt Start Small

If you're looking for a race or a good training spot, think small and tame. Flanagan's own open-water experience began in 1979 with a two-mile cable swim (swimmers swim loops around a quarter-mile length of cable) in a lake. You should do the same. Try something short (open-water races can be as little as a half mile), calm (lakes are a good place to start), and fun (guaranteed, says Flanagan).

4 Thou Shalt Learn To Sight Breathe

In the fullness of time, your ability to swim straight will im­prove dramatically, but until then you'll need to look where you're going about every five strokes. You do that by lifting your head up just high enough to clear the waves. If you lift it higher, you'll drop your legs and put unnecessary strain on your neck and back. If you can't get a good look, drop your head, take a few more strokes, and look again. If you keep your head up for several strokes, you'll wear yourself out. Flanagan's swimmers prac­tice the head lift (and condi­tion their necks and backs) in the pool with his 50-yard "Tarzan" drill: 25 yards one way with their heads out of the water, 25 yards back swimming easy freestyle.

5 Thou Shalt Alternate Breathe

Learn to breathe to both sides, every third stroke. This helps you see where you're going and, more important, it eases shoulder strain. Alter­nate breathing helps in short races and is crucial in longer swims. Flanagan, big on detail, does the math-in a 10-hour race you might take 40,000 strokes. "Breathe every stroke and, whew, man you could re­ally destroy that one shoul­der," he says.

6 Thou Shalt Not Kick So Hard

Open-water swimming is about efficiency, not power, says Flanagan. You're swimming longer, so you need to con­serve. The best place to start? Your legs - those big, energy‑gobbling muscles. Bag that six ­beat kick for an easy two-beat one. "You become much more of an upper-body swimmer," says Flanagan. "The legs are al­most along for the ride."

7 Thou Shalt Not Covet a Pool Stroke

Pool coaches forever harp about pushing hard through the last part of the freestyle arm stroke, where you generate the most power. Good advice if you're swimming a 100 free, but in open-water swimming, you want to save your energy. "Concentrate on the front and middle part of your stroke and ease off during the stressful follow-through because that's going to wear you out," Flana­gan says. "In open water, you actually have to learn to be a little less efficient"

8 Thou Shalt Let the Mind Wander

Open-water swimming can be an out-of-body experience of sorts-the mind wanders off while the body goes about its metronomic business. "You get into an almost hypnotic state where you separate your mind from your body," says Flanagan. "Your body is doing the work and your mind is en­joying the scenery or the feel of the water. In a short pool swim, you need intense mental focus, a plan for every step of the race. But in open-water swimming, you can't focus on minutiae because it will wear you out and drive you nuts. You need to mentally relax." And definitely don't think about how far you have to go, laughs Flanagan.

9 Thou Shalt Start Smart

The starts of open-water swims can be crazy. Popular ones might have 600 people, and when the gun goes off they charge to the water like K-mart shoppers hunting a blue-light special. And that's the quiet part. In the shallows, you'll meet elbows, knees and feet everywhere. Some folks won't hesitate to swim right over you. If you've never been part of a mass start, or if you're a slower swimmer, Flanagan suggests you start at the back or to the side of the pack. And if the crowd is thick, stay wide of the buoys; it may require a few extra strokes but you'll avoid getting blud­geoned by everyone else cut­ting in close.

10 Thou Shall Have Fun

"Open-water swimming is an absolutely phenomenal sport." Flanagan gushes. "You won't believe the enjoyment and sat­isfaction you'll get from it."


Liquid Image Freestyle Series Goggle Camera

I love to see all of the cool gadgets that come out of CES each year. This year in particular something caught my eye: the Liquid Image Freestyle Series goggle camera. It is basically a video camera and digital still camera built into a pair of swimming goggles. The goggles can go underwater to a depth of 15 feet. The design is pretty stylish and the goggles appear to be not much larger than triathlon goggles and masks. Video is VGA quality and the digital camera is 1.3 MP. The Freestyle Series goggles have 4GB of internal memory which the manufacturer says is good for 6,000 still images or 90 minutes of video. The camera runs on a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that is good for about an hour and a half of video recording or an hour and five minutes with the LED flashlight on.

There is no price listed on Liquid Image's website, but the price on some of their diving masks ranges from $109 to $309. While it's an interesting idea, I don't think I would use it enough to justify spending that much money.


Utah Open Water - 2009 In Review

I started this website in March 2009 out of my love for open water swimming, triathlon and the beautiful State of Utah. My hope was to create a resource for open water swimmers and triathletes in Utah and to get people excited about the sport.

Since Utah Open Water was started in March 2009 through the end of the year, there were nearly 2,000 unique visitors to the site from 54 different countries.

We saw some exciting developments like John Quackenbush's Bear Lake crossing and the announcement of Ironman St. George.

Of the 51 posts in 2009, these were five most popular:

How to Use GPS to Measure Distance, Speed and "Straightness" of Open Water Swims

Wetsuit Rentals at Wasatch Running Center

Swimming in Cold Water

Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim

2009 Utah Open Water Calendar

I am always looking for ways to improve the content and features of the site and provide information that is useful and interesting to open water swimmers and triathletes in Utah. If you have a suggestion for how the site could be better, please feel free to leave a comment or email me at joshuakgreen@gmail.com. I am not a coach and am by no means an expert swimmer, but if you have a question about swimming I would be happy to research it and post my findings. Lastly, if you would like to contribute an article or have an open water event that we should know about, please send me an email.

Here's to a happy and productive 2010.


History of Marathon Swimming in the Great Salt Lake

A recent article in the Deseret News about the history of marathon swimming in the Great Salt Lake inspired me to research the subject a little more. My research led me to Dale L. Morgan's book "The Great Salt Lake", which is a history of the lake as well as western exploration and settlement. Mr. Morgan discusses the history of marathon swimming in the lake in a chapter titled "Place of Resort".

Being the largest lake west of the Great Lakes and having many islands to swim between, the Great Salt Lake would seem to be an obvious choice for marathon swimming. Maybe it's the lower water levels, the brine shrimp or maybe it's high salt levels. For whatever reason, organized marathon swims in the Great Salt Lake are a thing of the past.

Swimming enthusiasts used to argue that because of the high salinity of the Great Salt Lake, swimmers' bodies floated much higher in the water and offered ideal conditions for setting speed records. The salt water, they believed, was unsuited for sprint events and perfectly suited for distance events.

Antelope Island to Saltair (marked with a red line on the map)

In 1919 a professional swimmer, C. S. Leaf, swam from Antelope Island to Saltair in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 27 seconds. Seven years later, in 1926, a marathon swim was staged and was won by Chick Mitchell. Four years later in 1930, the swim was revived. Orson Spencer dominated the event three years in a row, setting a record of 2 hours 20 minutes in 1932. Water levels fell far enough that Saltair was left high and dry and the event was discontinued. Although never officially measured, the course was estimated by promoters and swimmers to be between 6 and 7 miles.

Antelope Island to Black Rock Beach (marked with a yellow line on the map)

In 1937 a marathon swim was organized that went from Antelope Island to Back Rock Beach. A survey of the course was completed which established the distance at 8.12 miles. Orson Spencer won this new event in 1937 and 1938, setting a course record of 3:40:52 in 1938. The following year only one swimmer, E. C. Watson, finished the course due to rough water. Orson Spencer, who was nearly blinded by the salt water, was pulled from the water only a mile and a half from the shore. The event was held for the last time in 1940. This time Kenny Lyman finished ahead of E. C. Watson. After suffering from an automobile accident, Orson Spencer was unable to participate. The record for the Antelope Island to Black Rock Beach course has remained unchanged since 1937 when Orson Spencer set the record at 3 hours, 40 minutes and 52 seconds.

After 70 years I think it is time for a revival of marathon swimming in the Great Salt Lake. The lake poses several challenges apart from the obviously salty water. Finding a good course will be difficult as the water is very shallow. With water levels lower that they were in the 20's and 30's, if you tried to swim one of the historic courses mentioned above you would probably end up running the last mile. I plan on doing some "hands on" research this coming spring and summer and will attempt a few swims between different islands. If I can find a good course and if there are enough people interested in participating, I may even try to put together an organized event in the next few years.

If anyone has any experience with long distance swimming in the Great Salt Lake, I would love to talk to you. Also, if anyone has any additional information about the history of marathon swimming in the lake or any of the swimmers mentioned above, I would like to hear from you as well.