Gordon Gridley's Bear Lake Swim

Gordon Gridley after his 19 mile crossing of Bear Lake.
I was a member of Gordon Gridley's support crew, along with Jacob Gridley and Will Reeves, on his 19 mile Bear Lake crossing yesterday.  It was an incredible experience and I am grateful that I was able to be a small part of it.

After a fitful night of sleep, I was up at 4:00am to get my stuff together.  We were going to be out on the lake for 10 plus hours so I had food, drinks, sunscreen, swimming gear, etc.  The rest of the crew got up and going around 4:30am.  We loaded up the van and headed for the lake.  When we got to the State Park, the gate was locked so we had to carry everything down to the beach.  It was a chilly morning and we all went into the bathroom to stay warm while we got ready.

Gordon and Will at the beginning of a very long day.
At about 6:35am we were in the water and on our way.  Will started in the water with Gordon as his pace swimmer while Jacob and I were paddling in two kayaks.  My job was to use the GPS to keep everyone on course and make log entries of Gordon's progress every hour.  I was also acting as Will's support boat and had all his food, drink and swimming stuff with me.

The first few miles went by without much trouble.  The water was about 68 degrees and there was a slight breeze.  At about mile 4 the wind started picking up and was causing some chop on the water.  The wind would prove to be a major challenge the rest of the day, changing directions several times and making for very choppy water.

At mile 7 Will and I traded places.  It was getting warm and I was exited to get in the water to cool down.  I got ready and hopped off the side of the kayak and then helped Will get on.  In my rush to get in the water, I forgot to put on my BodyGlide and I am still feeling the consequences of that mistake today.

The first mile was tough.  It usually takes me about a mile or so to get warmed up and into a good rhythm.  Gords, having already been in the water for 7 miles, was already in his groove.  After  the first mile I stated feeling really good.  I think paddling for 7 mils before swimming was actually good, because it warmed my shoulders up.  I was lucky to be swimming in mostly smooth water for most of the way.  At one point however, the wind did pick up and we were swimming into what felt like a headwind.

This was a much different experience from other open water swims I have done.  You really have no idea how fast you are going, where you are at, or where you are going.  I had to rely on Jacob and especially Will to make sure that I was going the right way.  A couple times I was so in the zone and worried about keeping a good pace for Gords that I actually went off course and Will had to come bring me back.  Even though this was Gordon's swim, I felt like we were all part of a team and were working together to make sure he had a successful crossing.  It was added motivation for me to keep up my pace so that I didn't let the team down.

Gordon and I are pretty well matched as far as pace goes (at least over short distances, he kicks my butt over long distances) and we swam side by side for most of my time in the water.  At about mile 12 we stopped for a feeding and Gordon had a Buzz Bite.  I don't know what's in those things, but I need to get some because he TOOK OFF!  I was having a hard time keeping up with him and, after another mile, decided I wasn't doing him much good as a pacer and got back on the kayak.  I put in about 6 miles total and felt much faster and stronger that I did at Deer Creek.  I wanted to go further, but didn't want to slow Gordon down.  I was happy to help him out a little and get in another 10K before Slam the Dam at the same time.  I need to really pick up my training between now and next summer so that I can do a good job pacing him on his English Channel swim.
Thanks to Will for being so supportive while I was in the water.  He kept complimenting me on my stroke (which means a lot coming from a guy who has a flawless stroke) and encouraging me as well as keeping me on course and helping me with my feedings.  Thanks Will!

Stopped for a feeding.
Gordon and Will were going strong until about mile 16 when things took a real turn for the worse.  The wind had picked up again and was coming from the northwest.  At about mile 17, conditions got even worst and I felt like I wasn't making any forward progress at all in the kayak.  By this time Will and I were a ways ahead of Gordon and Jacob.  Will was still making pretty good progress, but waves were splashing into the kayak and I felt like I was going backwards.  Will and I both thought that we were going to have to get the ranger to go back for Jacob and Gordon.  At this point I said a silent prayer and asked for just one hour of no wind so that we could finish.  As I read Gordon's account of his experience this morning, he was saying the exact same prayer at right about the same time.  Fortunately, our prayers were answered and the wind died down long enough for us to finish.

Gords ended up with a time of 11:13:15.  He had been shooting for a time of under 10 hours, but considering the weather conditions, he was pretty happy to have been able to finish.  I have seen Gordon at the end of two very long swims (this one and his 21 mile swim at GSL) and each time he has a huge smile on his face and is always positive.

The Crew.
It was an unforgettable experience and I was inspired by everyone on the team.  Gordon amazes me with his determination, endurance and positive attitude even in the toughest of conditions.  Will is an amazing swimmer and easily could have swam the whole distance himself, but let me take a short turn.  As far as I am concerned, Jacob is a professional marathon swimming support paddler and would be happy to have him on my crew in the future.

Thanks to the Gridley's for their hospitality over the weekend, our family really had a great time!  Thanks for some of the best tasting pizza after a long day!

Congrats to Gordon on another amazing swim!  Please read his own account of his swim on his blog, Gords Swim Log.


Gords said...

Thanks again Josh for coming up and swimming this with me. It was great to have some friends along during the long swim. It made it not so monotonous and lonely. That made a huge difference.

Josh said...

No problem, thanks for a great weekend!

I don't think I could do it mentally without someone else swimming there with me. I was telling Sabrina on the way home that I don't think I would even attempt that swim unless I had a couple pacers with me.