End Wet 2018 report
End Wet 2018
End Wet is a 36-mile swim that takes place in North Dakota on the red river. It is the longest single day swim race in the United States though current assisted. However as with any Open water swim this benefit can vary from year to year.
Below I will attempt to write a brief synopsis of my experience for anyone looking for additional resources to the prior year write ups.
This was a swim that worried me, even with current assist, it’s a long day at the office particularly for swimmers like myself who are not particularly fast. I spent a significant amount of time before the swim going through the DNF page of MSF to prepare myself for any outcome.
However, as a swim friend pointed out in the days before when I was expressing my worries, “End Wet will be a long day to face yourself, your thoughts, your rawness”.
Myself and my yacker (James) left Chicago on Thursday night and flew to Fargo where we spent a night. We then picked up a car and drove to the “test swim” organized by some of the other swimmers for 11.30 am on Friday in Grand Forks. I was encouraged to get in, but went with my gut on not swimming 3 miles the day before the event. I did however jump in the river and join them about 1,000 meters from the end, just to get my feet wet.
Afterwards, we grabbed a little lunch and checked into the hotel.
That afternoon I prepared my feeds and checked my mental list over a few times.
Once this was taken care of we headed to the race meeting which began with meet & greets plus sign ins at 5.30pm. At around 6.15pm the organizers started talking and went through a clear yet concise briefing on the course, the options, expectations, cut offs etc. This was followed by a guest speaker, however you could feel the eagerness in the room to get to the hotels to sleep for the next days early start.
I got up on the third alarm on Saturday morning or roughly at about 3.15am, I let James lie a little longer as he had less to prepare than I did. I put the Jammers on, I put the Sol Rx on, I checked and rechecked bags etc. I thought and posted the following
“Its 3.45am, I have sunscreen on, I am wearing Jammers, I am eating a banana, the lube is at the ready….I need a better hobby”
Then it was time to go.
We got on the shuttle bus at about 4.15am and arrived at the campground at about 5.15am. We identified our Kayak and got her prepped, I had brought little plastic bags to apply the zinc oxide and Vaseline. I decided to wear my own cap rather than the race cap and I appreciated having that option. At around 5.35am they told us race time would be starting soon. At roughly 5.40am it was go time.
The water was moving fast at this stage which was nice but also meant it took much longer for the Kayakers to find us, as at least in my case I had made much more progress than expected. The water was a warm 73f and as expected, brown and silty. Visibility was limited to about 10 inches. This takes a little getting used to even though I do most of my open water swimming in Lake Michigan contrary to the often-popular assumptions, it is quite clear. Personally, for the first few hours I was not enjoying my swim, however this was down to my own mental state versus anything to do with the quality of the water, event etc.
My choice of swim cap kept slipping off my head, I had to stop 3-4 times to fix it and during the 1st hour and my goggles were hurting my face, they were pressing against my cheek bones and it was just hurting, at the next stop I chose to loosen my goggles which did get rid of the pain. However, this then led to my left goggle leaking, I stopped a few times to try to fix it but it did not improve and I eventually lost my left contact and gave up trying to keep water out of my eye (my eye stayed red for the next 2 days). I thought I had other goggles on the kayak (which I did) but I chose not to have the kayaker look for them. These things were playing on my mind and I was unhappy.
After stop 3 I tried to refocus (I feed every 30 mins), I tried to keep in mind what others had said to me, enjoy the day, enjoy the water, stop worrying about other people’s perceptions. With a little focus and the repeating of a new found mantra I was able to clear my mind and get down to
“Swim, look at kayak, swim look at kayak, there is nothing else” (not the mantra)
At the 15-mile mark or the distance of Border Buster (as I tried to remind myself while ignoring the current benefit), we had the option of doing a feed change out so James took this option to swap out the used bottles and pick up 6 fresh feed bottles that we had left at the start point to be brought here. We went through this point at about 5 hours, which gave me a nice psychological boost of being 3mph for first 5 hours and knowing we were 3hrs 40 mins ahead of the cut-off at this first check point. While James did the swap out I just kept swimming.
We also discovered during a feed the GU does not float, you learn something new every swim.
During the second half of the course, we did encounter a wind from the north that would blow up and made the kayakers day a little more difficult while I would spend quite a bit of a time with a little chop slapping my forehead.
However, the next milestone I cared about was being under 20 miles, cause then we were down to only “2 Swim the Sucks” left to swim. At each feed by this point I was doing math, ok 20 miles to go 11 hours to do it. I gradually watched the miles go down, with about 12 miles to go James told me I had this, it was good to hear but not words I would let come from my mouth until the last 1000 meters.
At around the 7.5 mile mark, I knew at this point I had less than 3 hours of swimming at current pace and about 6-7 hours to get it done. If it all went wrong, I decided in my head that even with one arm (if it came to it) I could do a mile an hour. Thankfully that was not needed. I will admit my feeds also became longer at this stage as to be plainly honest, the finish time no longer was an influence, I had some chats with James. James did his best to steer me away from the trees etc. jutting from the water, as I seemed to be attracted to trying to swim into them head first.
I continued to watch the miles disappear, it was nice when we got to the 3-mile mark where others had got in the previous day and it was even nicer when we got to the point that I got in. As we approached the end dock I breast stroked and asked the people on the dock if it was “too late to quit”. I decided it was best to touch the dock. The race director told me to be careful as I tried to step up on deck and I will admit I found it a little hard to stand initially, he gave me his hand to grab on to and we made our way on to dry land.
“It’s all a mind game and the willingness to suffer until your feet touch dry land” (found and shamelessly stolen from my searches through the DNF posts)
I was a little delirious at his point and un sure on my feet, I was asked if I wanted to sit, I did not, I was asked if I wanted a cookie, yes, I did. However, a lot of these first few mins out of the water are lacking clarity right now. I thanked James again and helped him empty our stuff from the kayak.
I must give a shout out to the town of grand forks which was friendly, had good food and things to do, including going to the cinema on Sunday.
This swim for me was a new challenge, it was the longest distance I have swam (irrespective of current) and it was a new longest time in the water at 13hrs and 15 mins. I would suggest those that feel they are ready to go for it, as you won’t know until you try and I am very happy I tried.