A few months ago, I was googling around, trying to find information about the water temperature in the lake near where my brother lives. As I wandered around the Internet, I happened upon a website that reported the water temperature in Lake Okanagan, which turned out to be the website for the Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna. I figured the triathlon gods had led me to that website and were telling me to go do it!
I registered for the event and posted the news on Facebook. Right away, two of my friends also registered and we made a plan to do it together.
Today was race day! The conditions were absolutely perfect - clear blue sky, 22 degrees, water temp 22 degrees, calm water.
We drove to City Park in Kelowna and were early enough to get a parking spot right in the park. We pulled our wetsuits on halfway, checked our morning clothes bags, took some pictures of ourselves, and then hopped on the shuttle bus that took us to the start line on the west side of the lake. We were among the first of 1200 swimmers to arrive so we sat on a rock and chatted until we were able to do a warm-up swim. The water was warm and beautiful.
We started in waves. I was in wave 6 of 10. One friend was in an earlier wave and the other was in the wave after me. I stood and watched each wave go until it was my turn to get into the water. We had to swim out to a starting corral, which was about 100m off the shore. I took my time adjusting my googles and swam slowly to the start. I had just made it to the corral and the starter said "Go!"; at least I was close enough to the start to jump on it and get going!
The first couple hundred metres were in fairly shallow water, maybe 8 feet deep, so the bottom was visible. Sometimes I swam over weeds. Weeds freak me out. I always feel like they're reaching up to grab me. I tried to look at them as if they were lovely little gardens and that seemed to work for me. I was happy when it got a little deeper and I couldn't see them anymore.
I started with about 125 people but we spread out fairly quickly and were dotted across the surface of the lake. I felt like I was the only swimmer in the lake sometimes, although I knew there were hundreds of people behind me and others around me. I felt relaxed and comfortable and kept a nice rhythm. Sometimes I smiled under water at how lucky I was to be able to do that and to be there on such a beautiful day.
Sighting was easy all the way and as I neared the beach, I could see the finishing arch. It always seems that you can swim and swim and that point on the beach never gets closer! A few hundred metres out, I could hear the cheering and it made me swim faster. Finally, I stood up and ran under the arch. I heard my friend shouting my name. I saw the clock and wondered for a second whether I had swum to the wrong arch and maybe there was another one farther down the beach. It was a silly thought but I expected this to be a very slow swim since I'm not very fit this year. I'm not a fast swimmer but I did this 2100m swim in 47:17, which is a good pace for me and a bit of a surprise today.
I found my friends in the park and we got dressed and shared stories of our swims. It was a stellar experience for all of us - a perfect day and a very well-organized event. After we packed up, we went to McDonald's for Egg McMuffins and coffee and took them back to our hotel room. Once we were fed, we toasted our swim (at 10:30 in the morning) with some wonderful Okanagan wine. The perfect finish!