What's up with Utah Lake?

I just read this fascinating article in the Deseret News on Sunday.  If you have ever been to Utah Lake and wondered why the water was so murky, this article explains why and what is being done to try to restore the lake's water quality and get an endangered species off the endangered list at the same time.

The short version of the story is that we screwed the lake up by changing the way the water flows and by introducing carp into the lake.  There is currently an effort underway to remove 5 million pounds of carp from the lake each year.  Carp make up a staggering 90 percent of the lake's biomass.  "By constantly churning up the lake's muddy bottom, carp transformed Utah Lake from a pristine, clear, shallow lake into an unsightly brown body of turgid water".

At the same time the carp are being removed, an endangered species of fish called the June Sucker, is being hatched and reintroduced into the lake.

And the water quality is actually getting better, even though it may be hard to tell.

"The water quality in Utah Lake is better, thanks to the increase in water and other things, but it's not evident because of the carp in the system," Wilson said. "They keep the solids in suspension and make the lake look dirty. The water quality is much better than it appears."

You can read the full article on the Deseret News website.


US Open Water Swimming - Virtual Open Water Swim Competition

Open water swimming in Utah is quickly coming to a close as we move into fall with water levels and temperatures dropping.  US Open Water Swimming Connection has come up with a "Virtual Open Water Swim" to help keep us swimming and thinking about open water through the winter months.

The competition goes for six months and starts October 1.  You can enter one of five "goal distances" that are based on actual open water distances.  They are as follows:

1) 50 miles Lake Travis, Texas - 88,000 yards: averaging 3,382 yards per week
2) 100 miles, Lake Powell, Utah -176,000 yards: averaging 6765 yards per week
3) 150 miles, Oahu to the Big Island, Hawaii - 264,000 yards: averaging 10,150 yards per week
4) 200 miles, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland/Virginia - 352,000 yards: averaging 13,530 yards per week
5) 250 Miles Lake Huron, Michigan - 410,000 yards: averaging 16,712 yards per week 

After sign up, each swimmer will receive a swim log form to keep track of their yardage.  You can log any distance you swim whether it be in open water or in the pool.  The person that completes the distance and submits their swim log FIRST will receive a $40 gift certificate from Kiefer Swim Shop. Other prizes (lotion, shampoo, caps) will be awarded for 2nd - 5th place in each category. More prizes may be added depending upon participation levels for each category.

The cost to enter varies from $15 to $75 depending on if you add options like a t-shirt or workout plans.
Karen Reeder has informed me that there are currently no swimmers from Utah entered in the competition.  I am planning on entering (and counting Slam the Dam as my first swim).  Let's get some more swimmers signed up to represent the Beehive State!

Details on the event can be found on the US Open Water Swimming Connection site or by clicking here.


Bountiful Lake Clean-Up for Austin Gridley's Eagle Scout Project

I was lucky to be able to spend a couple hours cleaning up the shoreline of Bountiful Lake this morning.  The clean-up was for my friend Gordon Gridley's son Austin's Eagle project.

I got to the lake a little after 8am and, after signing in, was given a bag and a section of shoreline to work on.  It actually wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.  That is not to say that there wasn't a lot of trash.  I had about half of a garbage bag full when I finished.  I would say that about 40% or the trash I picked up was cigarette butts, 40% fishing line and 20% other junk (bottles, wrappers, cans, etc.)  After finishing my assigned section, I kept going and walked all the way around the lake.  It was nice to experience the lake from another perspective (i.e. not in the water).

I saw several other people there that were walking around with bags and helping with the clean-up.  When I checked out, it looked like Austin had over a page of volunteers.

I wish Austin the best of luck in getting his Eagle Scout award and thank him for choosing to clean my regular swimming hole.

According to Gordon's blog, Austin had 32 volunteers for a combined 22 hours of work and 650 lbs of trash collected!  Check out Gordon's blog for a video (and news clip).  Nice job Austin!


Bountiful Lake Clean-Up - Saturday September 25, 2010

My friend Gordon Gridley's son Austin has organized a clean-up of the Bountiful Lake shoreline this coming Saturday for his Eagle Scout project.  Anyone is invited to participate in the clean-up and Austin would really appreciate your help if you are able to make it.  The project will start at 8:00am, but you can stop in anytime during the day to help.

Here is a short video about the project:

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. You'll see the lake on the left side, the entrance to the parking lot is at the very northeast corner. The boat ramp is on the west side of the parking lot.


Kau Wela Open Swim - Canceled

My wife Sabrina and I both registered for the Kau Wela Open Swim this weekend and were really looking forward to a quick trip to St. George.  Unfortunately, I got an email yesterday afternoon telling me that the swim had been canceled due to a lack or participants.  If you were registered, like we were, St. George City will be sending refund checks in the mail.

The competition will be rescheduled to June 4th, 2011 and will include a beginner open triathlon division.  Hopefully by holding it earlier in the year there are enough participants to hold the event.

This leaves just one more swimming competition for me this year: Slam the Dam.  I am really excited for the race and to swim at Lake Mead for the first time.  Registration closes on September 26 so if you were thinking about participating you only have a few days left to sign up.


Swimming in Utah's Largest Freshwater Lake

After swimming in Utah Lake last week, I started thinking about some possible swims that I could try there next year.  Utah Lake seems like an obvious place for distance swimming.  It is the third largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes (Lake Tahoe and Flathead Lake are larger).

One of the swims that I am interested in doing is swimming the width from the State Park to Pelican Point.  I got the idea from an article I found about Pat Christian who, for his 60th birthday, swam across the 6+ mile width of Utah Lake.  Click here for his story.  Karen Sigler ran into another guy at her pool who swam across the width several years ago.

This swim looks to be a little less than 10K.  The only thing that makes me nervous about it is that there are typically a lot of boats out on the open lake.  I would definitely need to have a powerboat accompany me to keep an eye on me and make sure that I don't get hit by other boats.

Another swim that I am interested in doing is much shorter.  It would be from Lincoln Beach, around a small island called Bird Island, and back.  The island is about 2.14 miles from Lincoln Beach so the round trip would be about 4.28 miles.  I'm not sure how visible the island is from the water so I would want to have someone with me in a boat to help me navigate.

Have you done any swimming at Utah Lake or know someone who has?  Do you have ideas for other swims in the lake?  I would love to hear from you.


Another Great Salt Lake Swim

Hats off to Gordon for spotting this article.

Mike Stephens recently celebrated his 48th birthday by swimming from Promontory Point to Fremont Island.  The total distance was about 2.5 miles and Mike finished the swim in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Unfortunately, Mike seems to have had a bad experience with the salt water.

"It was great, but that salt was a killer on my throat," Stephens said. "My nose, my throat just burned. Every swallow stung."

I have experience similar salt-induced burning but have always carried water or Gatorade with me to rinse out my mouth.

There is a great article with a short video about Mike's swim on the Standard Examiner's website.

Wednesday's "Double Header" Swim

Yesterday was a good day.  I was able to get in two open water swims, see the sun rise and set from the water and spend time with friends.

Bountiful Lake - 6:30am

The first swim was early Wednesday morning at Bountiful Lake.  When Gordon and I met in the parking lot it was still pretty dark and the air temperature was still pretty cool.  The water temperature had cooled down considerably from the last time I was there.  I guessed about 64, but after our swim Gordon's thermometer read 62.

In the past, when getting into cold water, I have usually waded in slowly to try to get used to the water before starting to swim.  Recently I have adopted Gordon's cold water entry strategy:  wade in until you are about to your waist and then jump in and go for it.  I think that by wading in slowly until I am up to my neck I actually make myself more cold because I spend more time just standing in cold water and lowering my body temperature instead of swimming in it to raise my body temperature.

It was dark for all of the first lap and most of the second and I was wishing I had worn my clear goggles instead of the tinted and mirrored ones I had on.  On the third lap the sun finally came up over the mountains.  Although it did little to warm up the water, it was a welcome sight.  I can't imagine doing a channel swim where you have to start in the middle of the night and swim in the dark (especially in the ocean).

There were a few spots where I got into a really good groove and felt like I was swimming fairly fast and efficiently.  Even then, I still couldn't keep up with Gordon (who is a swimming machine)!

Both Gordon and I felt pretty good about spending an hour and a half in 62 degree water but if we get a relay team together for Trans-Tahoe we are going to have to get used to swimming in much colder water.

Lincoln Beach (Utah Lake) - 6:00pm

For the second swim I drove down to the south end of Utah Lake near Lincoln Beach and met Karen Sigler and Jim Hubbard.  I have never seen that side of the lake before and it was beautiful!

We walked a little ways down to the beach and got ready to get in.  Luckily Jim had a can of mosquito repellent with him because they were out in full force!  I have never seen that many mosquitoes in one place before.

We had to wade out into the water over sharp rocks for about 100 yards before it was deep enough that we could swim.  There were a couple boats on the water and a few fishermen, but other than that we had the lake to ourselves.  The water was calm and as smooth as glass.  I didn't take the temperature but I would bet it was around 68 degrees.  I have only swam one other time in Utah Lake and the water was pretty murky.  I was hoping that on this side it would be a little more clear, but it was about the same.

Once we got out into the lake far enough that we could swim, we headed west towards the setting sun.  I love swimming in the evening and wish that my schedule worked out so that I could do it more often.  Seeing the sun set from the water is something that everyone should experience.

From the water we saw what looked like and island but was actually a mountain on the opposite shore.  I immediately starting thinking about swimming from that point back to Lincoln Beach.  After looking it up on Google Maps it looks like it's only about 4 miles, but would still be a fun swim.  Karen volunteered to kayak for me if I decide to do it.

It was a great day and I was lucky to get as much swimming in as I did.  I am also lucky to have great friends that share my love of open water swimming and are willing to go on these adventures with me.


Upcoming Group Swims - Wednesday September 15

The open water season is quickly coming to a close (unless you live in southern Utah) but there will be two opportunities for group swims that will both take place this coming Wednesday.

The first swim will be at our usual spot at Bountiful Lake.  We will meet at 6:30am in the parking lot near the boat ramp.  The water here has been getting a little cooler and is probably in the mid 60's.

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.

For the second swim we move south from Davis County to fellow swimmer and super-volunteer Karen Sigler's neck of the woods in Utah County.  We will be meeting at Lincoln Beach (south side of Utah Lake) at 6:00pm.  This will be my first time swimming at Lincoln Beach and I am looking forward to trying something new.  I am told that if you like swimming with fish, this is the place to be.  For a map and directions click here.

Kokopelli, Kau Wela and Slam the Dam are coming up fast and if you are looking to squeeze in some more time in the open water, this might be a good opportunity for you.

Gordon Gridley Breaks a 72 Year Old Swimming Record!

Congrats to my friend Gordon Gridley who broke a record yesterday that has stood for 72 years!  Historically, marathon swimming races where held at the Great Salt Lake from the southern tip of Antelope Island to Black Rock beach (just west of the Great Salt Lake Marina).  Orson Spencer set the record way back in 1938 with a very respectable time of  3:40:52.  Gordon finished the swim yesterday with a time of 3:24:37, setting a new record for the 8.2 mile course.

*UPDATE* Gordon's swim was reported on The Daily News of Open Water Swimming and has been included in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame!  Way to go Gordon!

You can read Gordon's first hand account as well as see photos and video from the swim on his blog:

If you are interested in the history of open water swimming in the Great Salt Lake, click here.
If you are interested in participating in an open water competition in the Great Salt Lake next year, visit the Great Salt Lake Open Water Marathon Swim page.

Congrats again to Gordon on an inspiring swim!


A Wild Ride in the Great Salt Lake

I met Gordon and Julian Riley at Black Rock this morning at 7:00am for a swim in the Great Salt Lake.  Julian drove all the way up from Provo and we were glad to have him join us on our adventure.

When I first pulled up the weather was relatively calm and the water looked fairly smooth.  By the time we got ready and walked down to the beach, the wind had picked up and was causing some small waves in the water.  After we waded into the water and started swimming, the wind really picked up and I found myself "body surfing" towards the marina.

The water was not as clear as last time we swam the same course.  I think it was partly due to the wind and partly due to being later in the season.  The water was also noticeably cooler and was probably in the upper 60's (which to me felt great).

I think it must have been Julian's first time swimming in the Great Salt Lake and he was amazed at how high up on the water you float without a wetsuit.  At one point he looked over at me and said it looked like half of my body was out of the water.

We continued on past the marina and followed the line of five deep channel buoys.  At the fifth buoy we took a break and had some Gatorade (mostly to get the taste of salt out of our mouths) before turning around.  The wind was still pretty strong, only now we were swimming into it.  More than once I looked up to sight only to have a wave crash into my face.

At about the third buoy on the way back I noticed that the top of my head was getting cold.  I wondered if my cap had broken and was letting water in.  When I stopped to see what was going on, I found that my cap had come nearly all of the way off and was only being held on by the straps of my goggles.  Instead of trying to put it back on, I tucked it into my suit and kept going.  Not having a cap made it a little harder for Julian to see me and in retrospect, I probably should have tried to put it back on.  The only reason I even wear a cap is for safety and to make myself visible.

At one point we went into some pretty shallow water and I found my hands brushing the bottom of the lake as I pulled.  I am always amazed at how shallow the lake is.  At one point Gordon stopped me to wait for Julian and we both stood up on the bottom until he caught up with us.

We ended up swimming about 5K and I stopped my watch at 1:36.  Not a bad time considering stops for Gatorade and the rough water.

When we got back to the beach, my Crocs and one of Julian's flip flops had blown away.

Swimming in the Great Salt Lake is always an adventure and something than every open water swimmer should experience.  Each time I swim in it's salty waters, I get more excited about the Great Salt Lake Open Water Marathon Swim that Gordon and I are planning for 2011.


Group Swim - September 8 @ Black Rock (Great Salt Lake Marina)

It's been a while since I have posted about a group swim (and this may be short notice for a lot of people) but we will be swimming tomorrow morning, September 8, at 7:00am.  We will be meeting at Black Rock which is about one mile west of the Great Salt Lake Marina.  We are planning on swimming about 5K.

We swam this same route a while ago and you can read about it here.