A former Navy Seal, a former Navy Officer and F-14 pilot, Swim Buddy, Farallon Joe, a Kiwi and an Irishman swim across Tahoe…
I know what you're thinking: DREAM TEAM!! But, alas, to the race officials were simply known as the "Navy West/Dolphin Club Combined" team.
The opportunity to participate in the 36th Trans Tahoe relay swim across the width of the lake from Sand Harbor, Nevada to Skylandia Beach, California with my friends was too good to pass up.
Last year I participated in the relay for the first time, and loved it. It was also my very first time swimming in Lake Tahoe.
It's an incredibly beautiful lake - the second deepest lake in the US - with a maximum depth of 1625 ft filled with pristine water that, if emptied, would cover the entire state of California with 1 ft of water. Truly awe-inspiring. And, while technically a competitive swim event, the Trans Tahoe Relay is also A LOT of fun. A morning spent on/in the water, on a boat, with friends is hard to beat.
Preparation began months ago when my friend Kurt W. Beyer, a former F-14 pilot and fellow Dolphin Club member, invited me to join his team.
With over 900 swimmers competing, its a major event for the area. At 7am on Saturday 21st July, Swim Buddy, Joe and I race out the door. We're supposed to meet Kurt, the Navy Seal and the Irishman at 7:15am sharp. Hopefully we're on "Navy Time" which, I think, is a little more forgiving than Military Time...
Arriving at the boat in shorts, tank top and flip flops, I soon recall that it's actually quite chilly in the morning at Tahoe - even in the Summer. I watch with a little envy as other teams assemble in long swim coats, woolen hats and Ugg Boots.
We load the boat and motor towards Sandy Harbor on the Nevada side of the lake. The air temperature is a chilly 48 degrees, and feels much colder as we travel across the lake at 20 knots. This is good for my cold-water swimming acclimation I reassure myself.
Joe will be our first swimmer, and we drop him off at the beach. We motor back out towards the hundred or so boats which are positioned near the swim buoys in preparation to for the race to begin.
When Joe begins the race, he'll have to quickly decipher our boat from amongst the hundreds of other boats and teams. Always "representing" my people, I brought my New Zealand flag with me. My hope is that the flag will be a helpful visual aid for Joe.
Unfortunately, however, my teammates failed to mention the Irishman would bring his flag. After an animated exchange of banter we decide BOTH flags may fly. I'm not sure what the Queen would think. Perhaps this is a first step in Ireland rejoining the Commonweath of Nations. Baby steps...
Joe soons swims up towards our boat, and we're off! The first legs are 30 minutes in duration, then 15 minutes then 10 minutes until we reach the finish. Joe swims the first 30 minutes and makes excellent progress.
Our next swimmer, my Swim Buddy, jumps in. It's a glorious morning and the mood of all the teams is upbeat. Everyone is having a blast. I spot a few teams with Aussies onboard and make sure to proudly display my Kiwi flag.
Next up: our former Navy Seal teammate... sporting a very "manly man" swimsuit, it sure is a "look." I'll spare you the entire visual, but instead share 2 words: pink plaid. And so, in the interests of national security, I shall (reluctantly) omit his true identity. We shall call him Dave.
At the end of Dave's 30 minute leg, I jump in. And the water feels BEAUTIFUL. I feel energetic and strong... and, especially at altitude, it's a wonderful feeling. Crossing the deepest part of the lake I once again marvel at that which lies below.
My 30 minute leg passes very quickly. Kurt meets me in the water, gives me a 'high 5,' and continues swimming. Next our Irishman jumps in and completes his 30 minute leg. The sun is shining and it's a glorious day.
Soon we switch into 15 minute and 10 minute legs. Approaching the finish, it's my turn to jump in...and I get the pleasure and privilege of finishing off the relay. I'm so excited! I attach the timer to my ankle.... and.... jump!
Crossing the finish line with my teammates at 5 hours 21 minutes 10 seconds isn't exactly a world record. Probably not even first in our division. But we know one thing is certain: real men really do wear plaid. Pink plaid.