The Red River, North Dakota, and the water in my basement, peaked simultaneously around June 21st 2014. It’s been a very stormy year.
I’d been checking the updates on EndWet’s facebook page for about a week prior to the race. The waters were rising. Apparently the river had reached official flood levels about a day or two prior to the race. I was nervous, and had visions of being pulverized by torrents of gushing water, floating houses, dead cows, fcars, people in barrels, and the usual things you see when major floods are reported on the news.
Despite the rising waters, Andy Magness of Extreme Nth Dakota racing managed to obtain the blessing of the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Dept. The only condition was that each swimmer had to tow an orange bubble for visibility. I’d been meaning to buy one, anyway. Swimmers who needed one were able to buy them for cost price at the pre-race meeting.
Here it is. I haven’t named it yet, and suggestions are appreciated.
My fears were put to rest when I reached Grand Forks the afternoon before the race. The river was high, and the current fast, but nothing scary was floating in the water. The only thing that worried me was whether I’d be able to make it to shore at the finish point quickly enough to avoid being swept north to Canada. I think the current was estimated to be around 2mph. As is normal with the Red River, the water was a nice milk chocolate brown. This is due to silt in the water, and it is quite clean.
I was happy to see quite a few forumites at the pre-race meeting. Suzie Dods, Franco, Leonard Jansen, Tim Root, Sandra Berquist. Canadian pocket rocket Annelise Carr was the guest swimmer this year.
As usual, I was nervous and panicky on race morning. I’m in the red suit standing at the back, with the look of utter panic on my face.
Once in the water, all fears disappeared. All I had to do was swim 36 miles, with a little help from the river. The water felt cool and relaxing. For most of the swim I was relaxed and relieved that the worries of the world were outside and, if I kept my head down, they couldn’t find me.
I fed on Carbopro and Ribena every 45 minutes, with ginger beer as a treat after about 8 hours. I also had a few Honey Stingers and plain water feeds mixed in.
Swimming down the Red River is a little like I imagine it would feel like to fall out of the Jungle River cruise at Disney, or to fall into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. Most of the shoreline is jungle. Well, it looks like jungle from the water. I didn’t see monkeys like last year, but DID see a giant bird’s nest floating down the river! It took me a while to pass it, too. Fast nest. Being a slower swimmer has its advantages, and running into a few logs didn’t hurt. Aside from my kayaker, and the occasional visit from the Sheriff’s jet ski, I felt mostly alone during the race. The river winds this way and that, and you can’t see very far ahead. The whole day was very peaceful.
My kayaker, Melinda, was very patient with me every time I asked if the river was turning left or right up ahead. Believe it or not, that’s hard to tell from swimmer height, with trees lining the shore. That, or maybe my eyesight is on its way out. I can’t believe people really volunteer to kayak for these things. They are saints. I’m very grateful.
It was a good thing that we missed the mile markers for a couple of hours after the half way point. I spent about two hours not knowing how far I’d gone. When we finally found mile marker twenty seven, I was very happy to know my calculations were correct, and I’d been swimming at around 3mph.
I was quite relieved when I finally caught up to Franco. My shoulder was hurting quite badly about 2 hours from the end, and it was nice to catch up to Franco. Having another swimmer around encourages me to whine less and swim more. We went to and fro for a while, until he finally beat me in the end. I think I’m being very gracious about it.
Here’s Franco and me coming in for the finish after almost 10 hours. I’m the one at the back, swimming hell for leather towards the shore.
I finished in just under ten hours (9.52?). Aside from a very suspect training swim in the lake a couple of years ago, it was my longest swim to date.
Finishing in Grand Forks was a great idea. The swimmers were shuttled to the very clean, hot showers at the nearby campground, and the post race dinner was at the restaurant where we parked our cars.
Loved every 36 chocolately brown miles of it.