END-WET review...

edited July 2012 in Swim Reports
I did the END-WET 26.7 mile race this last weekend and thought a review of this 1st time event might be in order if anyone is considering it for next year.

I have been involved with endurance sports (running, racewalking and swimming) since 1969 and in 43 years of races END-WET now joins 8 Bridges as the only perfect-score races and are alone at the very top of the cool/fun/oh-my-God-I-can't-wait-to-do-it-again list. This race was AWESOME fun.

The race is in the Red River of the North from Grand Forks, ND to Olso, MN, a distance of 26.7 miles. The river averages about 100 meters wide and is very clean (it tastes better than my tap water in Mt Joy) with a slight current. You swim about 1.75 miles, then you have to get out and walk around a dam, after that it's 25 uninterrupted miles where you don't see a single road, bridge, or phone wire and I think I only saw 2 farm buildings. I did, however, see several bald eagles flying low over the river and enormous cottonwood trees lining the banks. Even though the water was low and too warm (81-82ish where it's normally about 75) due to the drought that is going on in that part of the world, there were very few spots that were too shallow or too warm. It was just one long, peaceful (and painful) day in swimming paradise with my kayaker (a 65 year old lady named Trish, who was excellent support) for company. It's the only long race I've ever been in where I was 100% certain that I was going to finish from the get-go simply because I was enjoying it so much despite the pain - on top of the usual fatigue pain, I injured my left shoulder just below the dam and swam 25 miles somewhat one-armed. (It's a long story.) In fact, there was a 100% finish rate among the solo and relay swimmers, most of whom said something similar about enjoying it helping them get through it.

There was strong community support with radio, tv and newspaper coverage. In fact, I actually gave a quick interview right before I jumped back in after the dam to a newspaper reporter who was totally into the event. The mayor of Grand Forks came to the awards ceremony and really looked pleased to be there on a Sunday morning. Farmers cut paths down to the river on their properties so that people could park and walk in to watch the swimmers and a good number of people actually took advantage of it and followed the race by going point to point. They updated the race on Facebook but they also had boards at three different locations in town that were updated, including one in the town square. There was also a massive presence of the Sheriff's Dept on the river providing support and safety services. Local businesses donated food for the pre-race meeting, for after the race and at the awards ceremony. They also had a paddle board clinic on Sunday after the race conducted by the Canadian Women's National Champion and we got to try paddle boarding. I confess I fell in once, but it was hot and I was just trying to cool off - yeah, that's the ticket - just cooling off. I also saw another bald eagle during the paddle board clinic.

Of note is the fact that the local people view the river as polluted and dangerous because it has silt in it and because an occasional drunk tries to swim across it and drowns. Nothing could be farther from the truth, although I bet the river is a terror when it floods.

For awards, every finisher got a pendant that has a number engraved on it, in this case the number was from 1 (Darren Miller - first finisher) to 12. Next year they will go from 13 (first finisher) - up and continue that way through the years. So, for all time, I am #8. Very cool.

This year, being the first year, solo was limited to 15 and they got 12 people. Next year they are talking about a limit of 30. I hadn't been out of the water for more than 2 minutes when I told the race director I wanted one of next year's spots. Let me be blunt: Put this on your to-do list of swims before everyone else does - you can thank me later.

Overall rating: A perfect 10.

-LBJ
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot

Comments

  • This is tempting. I think next year, I'll do Kingdom Swim, since one of the guys who is going to be in my wedding (which is getting most of my vacation next year) lives in Burlington, but this race looked interesting to me when I first heard about it some months back.
  • Here is a link to a time-lapse video of the first half of the END-WET course that a kayaker took:



    So it's about 13-14 miles of kayaking compressed into 8-9 minutes. Way cool.

    -LBJ
    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot
  • evmoevmo Admin
    Mesmerizing!
  • MandaiMandai Member
    Nice write-up LBJ, and the video is the cherry on top of it!
    As another swimmer in this event, I can only underline what LBJ wrote. I reckon many in this forum have done ocean and lake swims, but a river swim is something special and an challenge worth trying.

    Tobias
  • smithsmith Member
    Very good to hear that this event went well. Sounds like the race directors were absolutely exceptional. I was especially stunned to read that Dan Projansky finished the entire race butterfly in a bit over 14 hours. Absolutely amazing.
    Lactate is for wimps.
  • thanks for the write-up Leonard - great to get your feedback and know you enjoyed yourself so much. you pushed hard through a tough swim and a challenging injury. can't wait to see you next year!
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    If I hadn't only heard of this swim a few days before it happened I'd have done it for sure! Looks really unique.
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Charter Member
    I’m very glad that I was able to speak with Andy Magness, Race Director for the END (Extreme North Dakota) WET Red River Swim, back in February of this year because it was an absolutely incredible experience to participate in the 26.7-mile swim over the July 21 weekend from Grand Forks, ND to Oslo, MN! Andy and Rob Treuer invited me up for the swim, and there was no way I could say no to that request! The travel bug has bit me HARD this year, and even as I write this I am relaxing from swimming, however I want to travel somewhere again real soon!! I cannot get enough!

    I arrived in Grand Forks, via Minneapolis, from Pittsburgh on Friday, July 20 around 11:30PM. I was picked up at the quiet, little GFK airport (there were 2 gates at the airport) by Andy, and I was driven over to Rob Treuer's house outside of the town. Rob lives in a beautiful house, with his wife and children, and it was very kind of them to allow me to stay in their home (their one daughter was out of town, so I slept in a room which had plenty of pink, ha!) as well as feeding me before and after the swim. It is so nice to be able to travel, and have people take care of these logistics, as it makes it much easier on the swimmer! We got to bed around 1AM, and rose around 5AM for breakfast, and head down to the starting line...

    This swim (RESULTS) was much different than swimming in a lake or ocean, yet it was similar to swimming around Manhattan since we had a strong current at times. For the most part, this swim has a slight push (I was told around ¾ mile/hour current) with a much stronger one several occasions! The river was along the North Dakota/Minnesota border, so it was pretty awesome to breath and see ND on the left, and MN on the right! Each swimmer was given a support kayak, canoe or boat to follow throughout the race. I cannot say enough about Will and Jeff – two guys who did an incredible job keep and eye on me, and being diligent with the feeds every 45 minutes. WELL DONE GENTLEMEN!

    I faced a few challenges during this race, including the heat (around 85-90 air, and 80-85 water temperature) and a shallow river - at times I hit bottom. This was not normal, as the temperature was quite high, and they have not had a lot of rain, which put the water level abnormally low. Regardless, it was a great experience and I completely recommend this well-run race to anyone looking to conquer another (or their first) marathon swim! It was very well-run for a first-year event, and I cannot say enough about this race!

    We started the day swimming off a floating dock, just down from East Grand Forks, MN. There was a cat fishing tournament going on in the Red River (luckily, it was upstream, and we swam downstream) so we had to a wait until a few minutes past 7AM to get started, so all the fishing boats could launch. This was expected and it didn't impact our swimming at all since we listened to Andy's instructions, and took our time to get down to the dock. It was great briefly chatting prior to the swim, and hearing each swimmers take on what we were about to undertake! We were all excited, and ready to get started. We were lead downstream for about two miles by Lina Augaitis (from Vancouver; she later won the SUP race!) until we reached an impassable system of rapids. This is where the race really got interesting, as we climbed out of the water, and jogged probably about a half-mile to the other side of the rapids, and hopped back into the river via another dock. The media crew had their camera in my face as I was sucking down Gu Roctane and some Carbo Pro/Cytomax drink - I'm sure that made for an interesting shot!

    I took off swimming again, and began to navigate down the Red River for the remainder of the race, with Will and Jeff at the helm. It was a beautiful, meandering river, which took us through some excellent scenery! There were plenty of "downed" cotton trees in the river, as when it will flood, the water will remove the dirt around the base of the tree, which causes the tree to fall into the river. It made for an additional challenge at times, since there would be protruding branches sticking up that Jeff and Will made sure to block for me.

    It was nice to be swimming along and get the occasional push with the water - Jeff and Will would "ping-pong" down the river looking (and achieving) the faster water. This was great they were constantly looking out for me, as in races like this one (and Manhattan) it is something which can definitely benefit the swimmer! There were two relays in front, and one behind me, but other than that I swam alone for a good portion of the race. Around the mid-point, my shoulders were beginning to hurt a little (I suspect this was from a lack of recovery time after Japan) so I was just cruising along, happy to enjoy the remainder of the swim. Sandra Berquist made an excellent push around 3-4 miles left in the race and came up beside me. She was a great swimmer, and her husband was very supportive of her efforts! I love seeing this kind of team in the open water - such a blessing to have someone supporting all of your open water efforts! Cudos to you both!!

    As we approached the final mile marker, and I knew the ending was in sight, I was so thankful to be able to enjoy another great experience in marathon swimming. We finished just underneath the Rt 1 bridge, in the small town of Oslo, MN, and everyone in the town was excited - not only for the swim, but for the "Oslo Days" festival which was going on! Everyone was very supportive of the swimmers, and we got to shower-off (which was AWESOME) in a small, little gym just along the main street in town. Melodee Nugent and I walked over to the festival and got some food with a ticket they gave to the finishing swimmers - I got a large taco and water, while Melodee had the hot dog and nachos; got to love the junk food after a long swim! We returned to the town, and were taken back to Grand Forks by Rob and friends...

    When I spoke at the Grand Forks Fire Hall Theatre the following morning, I really focused on praising Andy, Rob and everyone who was involved in such a great challenge. The town mayor was there, and I wanted to make sure he understood that this event would draw national, as well as international competitors to their little piece of heaven! Tobias Frenz, who lived in Malaysia was in attendance, and this further pushed my side that they towns REALLY need to keep supporting END Racing, and all the amazing events they coordinate. I played my Team Forever video of my different Ocean's Seven swims, and I spoke about the experience I had in the Red River as well as why we all need to do whatever we can to help make the world a brighter place. Those in attendance had plenty of great questions about my swims, and I loved spending time there to answer every last one. Andy presented awards to all of the finishers, as well as END Racing water bottles to the top three finishers. Melodee, Sandra and I took a picture together on the stage, and Melodee's children were awesome enough to color me a picture, wishing me Good Luck on my remaining two Ocean's Seven swims in 2013 - such kindness, and a blessing to meet such nice people!!

    After interviewing the swimmers, I left the theatre with Dan Projansky, who got my vote for the performance of the weekend (and probably one of the top in the world!) since he did the 26.7-miles BUTTERFLY in a time of 14:30!! To me, this is simply incredible, and I applaud his amazing efforts! WELL DONE SIR!

    An incredible THANK YOU once again to Andy for having me up there, Rob and his family for putting me up in their beautiful home, Will and Jeff for having watch over me during the race and all the amazing new swimming friends I made while in Grand Forks - you are all my heroes, and I will do anything to support your future efforts :) CONGRATULATIONS to everyone (100% finish rate!) on a job well done...

    Cheers from PITTSBURGH!

    Darren
    www.darren-miller.com
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.
  • I'm excited to train for this swim this year. Did you happen to meet any unwanted visitors, like leeches, mosquitos or pokey things under the water that scratched you? It'll add to the adventure factor. I'm just wanting to be prepared for all types of challenges - in addition to swimming a crazy distance in hot weather. Thanks!
    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska
    http://mollysbigswim.blogspot.com/
    www.facebook.com/molly.nance
  • None of it Molly. Only had to watch out not to bump into submerged trees as the water level was so low. You'll enjoy it!
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