James Jonsson's Account of His Bear Lake Crossing

James Jonsson sent me his first hand account of his record breaking Bear Lake crossing and was kind enough to allow me to publish it here along with some photos.

Because of the direction of the wind, James and his boat captain decided to swim south-to-north instead of north-to-south as others have done.  I asked him about currents because I was under the impression that there was a north-to-south current.  He informed me that the outflow of the lake is to the north and any currents would be northerly.  However, the river that flows into and out of Bear Lake are small and any current that exists would be minimal.

Below is James' first had account:

Summary of Bear Lake Length-Wise Crossing – July 22, 2010.

My team consisted of Jeff Peterson (boat captain), and two of my daughters, Cheyanne and Kaili. Cheyanne was a competitive age-group swimmer and has watched me swim for many years; she took the role of my swim coach. Kaili was my feeding coach; she was responsible for keeping me on schedule with my feeding stops. The day started off with a southwesterly wind blowing at 5-10 mph, so we decided to start the swim from the south shore and take advantage of the winds. The forecast was calling for a calm morning and then westerly winds for the afternoon, and if this were the case we would have started from the north shore instead because the normal pattern at Bear Lake is for the afternoon winds to veer to the northwest. The water temp was 71 degrees at the immediate surface and got significantly colder about 18” down.

I started the swim at approximately 6:15 AM and my schedule called for me to swim for one hour before my first feeding, then every 45 minutes thereafter. At my first feeding stop I felt great and looked around and realized that this was a really big lake. I had gone over 2 miles in the first hour and I had a long way to go. After my third feeding stop at 2:30 hours, I was now into what I call “The Zone”. This is where I am able to get into a trance-like state (hypnotic?), and swim for hours without really noticing it. I knew I was in the Zone when my support team stopped me at the 3:15 hour feeding and it felt like I had just stopped a few minutes before; this was a good sign. The southwesterly winds had died down and at my 3:15 hour feeding the lake was absolutely glassy and silky smooth. This was what I had hoped for and it seemed like the lake was cooperating. The sky was sunny, there was no wind, and there were no other boats to be found. At this time I was already past the 1/3rd point across the lake and it was time to “put the hammer down” and pick up my pace to swim as fast as I could.

At my 4:00 hour feeding Jeff told me I was approximately half-way across. At the 4:45 hour feeding I needed two Advil. My left shoulder was hurting and I could tell I was really pushing it hard. I knew the Advil would reduce the inflammation and deaden the pain, so I continued holding a fast race-like pace. The lake conditions were holding up and I could tell I was slicing through the water very well. At the 5:30 hour feeding my shoulder pain was gone, I was holding a race-pace and I was really pushing hard. At the 6:15 hour feeding I was told that I had less than 1/3rd to go. My body felt great, I was on course, and I knew I could finish off the lake strongly. Just after the 7:00 hour feeding I noticed an annoying 2 foot ground swell from the northwest that reminded me of the ocean. The water was glassy and there was no wind, but I couldn’t figure out where the swell was coming from. I soon got my answer when the wind suddenly picked up from the northwest at 20 mph. I found myself battling 2 foot choppy water and my beautiful glassy water was gone. When I stopped at my 7:45 hour feeding I had to keep chasing the boat backwards to get my nutrition. I took off my swim cap and tossed it in the boat because it was on the verge getting ripped off by the chop. At the 8:30 hour feeding I could see the bottom coming up and I knew I was close to finishing.

At about the 8:45 mark, Jeff told me it was getting too shallow for him to continue following me. The wind was still whipping but the chop was starting to mellow out because we were now close to shore. Jeff stopped the boat and I continued ahead in the increasingly shallow water. Soon thereafter I had reached the farthest point along the north shore and I stood up and the clock was stopped at 8:53:26. I started my swim at the southern-most point along the south shore and finished at the northern-most point. Jeff Peterson directed me on a perfect course to swim between the longest possible points. It was a perfect day to swim, even with the strong winds towards the end. That’s what makes long distance open water swims challenging; you have to be prepared to deal with the conditions as they present themselves.

I have to say that swimming the length of Bear Lake is long enough to be a serious challenge for any marathon swimmer and the lake is big enough where the weather will be a factor.


Gords Fremont Island Adventure

My friend and training partner had an exciting open water adventure last weekend.  He swam from Antelope Island to Fremont Island in the Great Salt Lake, camped  out on the island, and then swam back the next morning.  The total trip was just under 13 miles of swimming.  Check out the write-up of his adventure on his blog.


Group Swim - July 28 @ Bountiful Lake

It's time for another group swim.  We will be meeting this coming Wednesday morning at 6:30am at Bountiful Lake.  The water has been pretty warm the last couple weeks and is in the low to mid 70's.  We will be meeting in the parking lot near the boat ramp.  Swimmers of all experience levels are welcome to join us.

Directions to Bountiful Lake:
Coming from north or south of Bountiful, take the 500 South exit from either I-15 or Legacy Parkway.  Head west on 500 South.  500 South will wrap around into a frontage road.  Head north on the frontage road for about 1.5 miles.  Turn left and you are there.

US Trisports Adds Awards for Fastest Swim!

US Trisports, a local triathlon race management company that puts on amazing open water triathlons, has started what will hopefully be a new trend with other race management companies in the state.  Beginning with their Stansbury Tri, they awarded certificates for the fastest swim splits.  Certificates went out to the fastest overall swimmers as well as fastest age group swimmers.  For guys like me who are not runners and are only average cyclists, this gives us a better chance of winning an award.  Plus it's nice to recognize fast swimmers since the swim is often neglected and something that a lot of triathletes just try to "survive".  My cap is off to US Trisports.

I have talked about this before, but I would like to see race management companies take this one step further and offer a "swim only" division.  Those athletes participating in the "swim only" division could either start in their own wave or start with an existing wave.  All of the support would already be in place for swimmers and with the electronic timing, it would be a piece of cake to capture just the swim split.  Race management companies could charge a smaller fee for the "swim only" division that would just be icing on the cake of their regular registration fees.  For open water swimmers like myself, this would give us many more options for open water racing.  Triathletes looking to get more open water experience may also be interested in a "swim only" division as part of their training and as a way to just focus on the swim.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a good idea?


Review of Homemade Ear Drops

A while ago I ran into a guy who told me about the homemade ear drops that he uses after open water swimming to flush the water from his ear canals and kill possible bacteria in the water.  I decided to make my own bottle of the drops and try them out for myself.

Making the ear drops is foolproof: simply mix even parts of rubbing alcohol and vinegar.  I put mine is a small squeeze bottle that I keep in my bag with my goggles, caps and other swimming equipment.  Since making the ear drops, I have been using them after every open water swim that I do and I can tell you that they actually work.  It only takes a couple drops and the rubbing alcohol almost instantly flushes the water out of my ear canals.  If you can get past the potent smell of the combination of vinegar and rubbing alcohol, I would recommend making yourself a bottle and trying them out.

Here is a link to my previous post which has links to other articles and recipes for making the drops.


New Record Set by James Jonsson for Bear Lake Crossing

I just got an email from James Jonsson this afternoon.  He successfully swam the length of Bear Lake, and set a new record while he was at it.  James finished the swim in 8:53:26 which is well below the two other crossings that I am aware of by Neal Phelps (13 hours with wetsuit and fins) and John Quackenbush (15 hours).  I am hoping to post more information on his record-breaking swim in the next few days.  Congrats James!

How to Swim in Rough and Choppy Water

Swim Art in San Francisco has made a really excellent video about how to swim in rough and choppy water. For anyone who swam in last year's Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim, this would have been a good video to watch before the start.


Bear Lake Swimming Federation

I had a lot of positive response the other day after mentioning the idea of starting a Bear Lake Swimming Federation to keep an official record book of swimmers who swim the length of the lake.

I thought I would post some additional ideas that I had to get your feedback on them as well as to ask you to share your ideas and suggestions.

The main purposes of the Federation would be very similar to those of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation which are:
1. To promote interest in Catalina Channel Swimming.
2. To furnish information to and advise those intending to make the swim
3. To promote the safety and welfare of the swimmer.
4. To observe and authenticate persons who swim the Catalina Channel.
5. To gather and preserve historical Catalina Channel Swimming data.
Interest in swimming Bear Lake has been increasing over the past couple of year with two successful crossings in 2009, two attempts planned in 2010 and several other attempts planned in the coming years.  Part of the allure of Bear Lake to marathon swimmers is 1) the long distance and 2) the relatively cold water.  Because of these two things, Bear Lake would make an excellent qualifying or training swim for those interested in swimming the English or Catalina Channels.  The Federation would help to promote interest in Bear Lake swimming.

Another reason for starting the Federation would be to provide information on the swim for swimmers interested in making the attempt.  Information would include a suggested course, current conditions (including water temperatures) and currents as well as rules, boat rentals, Utah State Parks, lodging, etc.

Safety is an important issue in open water swimming.  When you combine open water with a long distance and cold water, it becomes even more important.  A possible idea would be to require swimmers to have someone on the boat (or a Federation official) who is CPR and First Aid certified.  Maybe another requirement would be to inform local authorities of the date of the attempt.  The Federation would provide appropriate contact information for emergency services in the area.

Perhaps the most important reason to start a Federation would be to keep track of official finish times.  Ideally, there would be an official from the Federation that would be on the swimmer's support boat to take the official start and finish times as well as make sure that channel swimming rules were followed.  Having official times would make the swim more legitimate and might help to attract swimmers from around the world.

Maintaining a history of marathon swimming in the lake would also be a goal of the Federation.  This might include first hand stories of the swimmers as well as photos.

What do you think?  What ideas or suggestions do you have?  I don't want to take on this project alone so if you are interested in volunteering your time and talents to get it going, let me know.


James Jonsson to Attempt the Length of Bear Lake This Week

James Jonsson, open water chair for Utah Masters Swimming, will be attempting to swim the 19 plus mile length of Bear Lake this Thursday.  He will not only be going for distance, he also has a goal to swim fast.  Having seen James swim in Masters meets and in the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim, he will undoubtedly set the bar very high for those who choose to test their endurance after him.

It seems that Bear Lake is becoming the "English Channel of the West" and is growing in popularity with marathon swimmers looking to test their endurance.  In the past year or so there were two successful crossings by Neal Phelps and John Quackenbush (Neal wore a wetsuit and snorkel in his crossing and John swam following channel swimming rules).  James Jonsson will be the third person to attempt the swim with another attempt by my friend Gordon Gridley later this summer.  I am hoping to make an attempt myself in the next couple of years.  As the popularity of swimming across Bear Lake increases and more swimmers attempt the swim, there ought to be a "Bear Lake Swimming Federation" to keep an official record book of everyone who attempts and successfully crosses the lake.

We wish James the best of luck with his swim this Thursday and anxiously wait to hear how he does.


Recap of Open Water Clinic at Deer Creek

It was an absolutely perfect morning at Deer Creek reservoir for our first open water swimming clinic.  Both the sky and the water were warm and clear (the water temperature was 72 degrees near the shore at a depth of two feet).

After rounding up all of the people who got lost trying to find the location of the clinic, we got the clinic started a little after 8:00am.  There were 10 people in attendance, which turned out to be just the right sized group.

Jim Hubbard, race director for the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim, started things off by giving us information about this year's race.

From there we moved into the main portion of the clinic by talking about the differences between open water swimming and pool swimming, safety, equipment (goggles, wetsuits, etc), sighting and navigation, starts and nutrition.  The swimmers who came to the clinic were great and asked good questions and made good comments.

After the "dryland" presentation, we got changed and got into the water to practice sighting, drafting, turns and do a race start simulation.  We were able to use one of the new fluorescent orange buoys that Jim made for this year's race and it worked out really well.

 I had a great time leading the clinic and I hope that everyone who came was able to take some new information and experience home with them.  I think that we will definitely be holding another free clinic next year in the weeks leading up to Deer Creek.

If you were in attendance, we would love to hear your comments and suggestions on what we can do to make the clinic better for next year.


Upcoming Open Water Clinics - July 2010

July is a busy month for open water swimming clinics.  Below is the schedule of upcoming clinics:

July 17 - Deer Creek Reservoir - 8:00am
Free open water clinic sponsored by Utah Open Water and the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim.  Meet on the grassy picnic area north of the parking lot of Walsburg Bay.

July 17 - Springville Reservoir - 10am to 11:30am
Trifecta Endurance will be holding an open water clinic at Springville Reservoir.  The clinic will be led by Barbara Sherwood and Wes Johnson.  The clinic costs $25 and you can find more details on their website and on Active.com.

July 17 - Stansbury Lake - 9am to 10am
US Trisports will be holding an open water clinic at Stansbury Lake near Tooele.  The clinic will be led by Shannon Mulder, L2 USAT Coach.  There is no charge for the clinic, but you must register on their website.

July 21 - Stansbury Lake - 5pm to 6pm
US Trisports will be holding an open water clinic at Stansbury Lake near Tooele.  The clinic will be led by Shannon Mulder, L2 USAT Coach.  There is no charge for the clinic, but you must register on their website.

July 21 - Jordanelle Reservoir - 6pm to 7:30pm
Trifecta Endurance will be holding an open water clinic at Jordanelle Reservoir.  The clinic will be led by Barbara Sherwood and Wes Johnson.  The clinic costs $25 and you can find more details on their website and on Active.com.

July 31 - Deer Creek Reservoir - 10am to 11:30am
Trifecta Endurance will be holding an open water clinic at Deer Creek Reservoir.  The clinic will be led by Barbara Sherwood and Wes Johnson.  The clinic costs $25 and you can find more details on their website and on Active.com.


Deer Creek Named One of America's Top 50 Open Water Swims

It's no surprise to us here in Utah, but the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim was named one of America's Top 50 Open Water Swims.  Events were subjectively ranked with priority given to events that have long histories, many participants or are held in historical or beautiful locations.  Deer Creek is number 34 on the list.

Location: Deer Creek Reservoir, Walsburg Bay, Utah.
• Course: All courses hug the coastline of Deer Creek.
• Distance: 1 mile, 5K, 10K and 10 miles
• Date: August
• Description: Flat water course in beautiful lake southeast of Salt Lake City.
• Additional Information: One of the handful of races in this part of the Rocky Mountain range where the altitude is 5417 feet (1651 meters), adding another element to the swim.
This year's swim will take place on Saturday August 14.  Details on registration can be found on the event website.


Free Open Water Clinic - July 17 @ Deer Creek Reservoir

Just a reminder that we are presenting a free open water swimming clinic at Deer Creek reservoir on Saturday July 17 at 8:00am.  Entrance to the park is $10 per car, so it pays to carpool.  We will meet on the grassy picnic area just north of the Walsburg Bay parking lot.

For those who will be swimming at this year's Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim, race director Jim Hubbard will be on had to talk about the course, rules, etc.  It will be a great opportunity to swim all, or part, of the course and see what water temperatures and conditions will be like.  Since it is required for those participating in the Deer Creek Open Water swim to have a support boat, it would be a good time for your paddler to see the course and where the course markers will be.  If you have never swam with a support boat, it will be a good experience to practice with them to figure out where you want your boat positioned and how you will handle feedings.

The clinic will be geared more towards beginners, but all are welcome to attend.  Topics that will be presented include: differences between open water and pool swimming, equipment (goggles, wetsuits) and basic open water techniques like sighting.  We will have a brief Q&A followed by in-the-water practice.
Since this will be our first clinic, we need you to help us to know what to present.  Send me an email at joshuakgreen@gmail.com or leave a comment below with your questions, concerns and fears related to open water swimming so that we can try to help you resolve them at the clinic.


Open Water Clinic at Echo Reservoir with Trifecta Endurance

I was lucky to attend Trifecta Endurance's open water clinic at Echo Reservoir Tuesday night and had a lot of fun.  It was a great opportunity to meet fellow swimmers and triathletes as well as coaches Wes Johnson and Barb Sherwood.  It was a chance for me to practice a lot of open water skills that I wouldn't otherwise practice in my training swims.

This is the first clinic that I have been to that had "swag" bags for each of the participants.  There was some great stuff in there including a water bottle from Wasatch Running, a sample of BodyGlide, a gift card, a Marathon Bar, and some other fun stuff.

As everyone was putting on their wetsuits and getting ready to get in the water, we talked briefly about the importance of warming up before you start your race.

Once in the water we split up into two groups based on experience and warmed up by swimming around near the beach.  The water felt nice even without a wetsuit and I would guess it was in the upper 60's.  It was early evening when we got started and the wind was picking up and made the water a little choppy.

After warming up, we talked about sighting and practiced by swimming towards natural landmarks on the other side of the reservoir.

Next up was drafting.  Wes, the coach that I was working with, told me that I needed to get a lot closer to the person that I was drafting and I did notice a difference when I followed his advice.  We took turns drafting off one another and I enjoyed pushing myself a little to keep up with the faster swimmers in my group.

Once we felt good about drafting we moved on to turns and each had the chance to practice with feedback from Wes and the other swimmers.

The clinic ended with a race simulation where everyone started together and swam out to Barb and back.  It's been a while since I have raced and I generally swim alone or with a small group so I had fun getting bumped and fighting through the crowded water at the start.

I highly recommend attending one of Trifecta Endurance's many upcoming open water clinics, whether you are a beginner or experienced swimmer.  Nothing you can do will prepare you more for race day and help you to overcome your open water fears than spending time in the open water with experienced swimmers.  Both Wes and Barb are experienced and accomplished athletes and coaches who are happy to share their knowledge and experience.


Swimming at Deer Creek Island Beach

I put my day off of work on Monday to good use and went swimming at Deer Creek Reservoir.  Instead of swimming at my usual spot in Walsburg Bay, home of the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim, I decided to branch out and try swimming at Island Beach.

One of the reasons for trying Island Beach is that there is, as you might guess from the name, an island to swim around.  I have seen the island from the road every time I have been on my way to Walsburg Bay and have always thought it would be fun to swim around it.

Another reason for choosing Island Beach was that my wife and two little boys came with me.  Island Beach has a nice little sandy beach that is the perfect spot for little boys to build sand castles and dig holes.  The beach also has good views of the southwestern side of the island.

It was a beautiful day with sunny skies and water temperatures in the mid 60's.  The water seemed to be a little more clear than I remember it being in Walsburg Bay last year.  The satellite photo above was obviously taken a few years ago because the reservoir was 100% full and there was enough water between the island and the shore for boats to drive through.

I saw more fish that day than I have ever seen at Deer Creek in the past.  I'm not a fish expert so I can't say what kind of fish they were but they looked to be redish-brownish in color and were easily over a foot long.  I saw "schools" of them swimming around the same spot each time I passed.

It was a busy day and I had to be extra careful of boats and wave runners when crossing from the beach to the island and back.  The water got a little rougher on the northwestern side of the island, but was fairly calm otherwise.  During the fifth lap the wind picked up and I found myself fighting against some pretty rough chop and decided to cut my swim a little short and headed back to the beach.

The whole time I was in the water I was thinking about what a great venue Island Beach would make for an open water race.  For spectators, the surrounding beaches offer excellent views of the island.  If you had a boat you could even cross over to the island and watch from there.  Restrooms and concessions are available at the park and at Deer Creek Island Resort.  For swimmers it would be fun to race on more of a "track" style course.  One lap around the island was about 1/2 mile so it would be easy to tell if you were on pace.

It was a great morning of swimming, followed by lunch at Tarahumara (one of the best Mexican restaurants in the State).  I will definitely be swimming at Island Beach again.

Group Swim - July 7 @ Bountiful Lake

We will be meeting at 6:30am this coming Wednesday morning for a group swim at Bountiful Lake.  The plan is to swim three laps (about three miles), but feel free to swim more or less.

Directions to Bountiful Lake:
Coming from north or south of Bountiful, take the 500 South exit from either I-15 or Legacy Parkway.  Head west on 500 South.  500 South will wrap around into a frontage road.  Head north on the frontage road for about 1.5 miles.  Turn left and you are there.


Group Swim - July 5 @ Deer Creek

I am planning on taking advantage of my day off tomorrow by swimming at Deer Creek.  I will be at the boat ramp on the south side (Walsbury Bay) around 9:00am if anyone wants to join me.  Water temperatures are reportedly in the lower 60's.