Sarah Thomas - Grand Lake, Oklahoma
Highway 59 Bridge to Pensacola Bridge
19.7 miles (31.7 km)
11 hours, 31 minutes on 22-23 July 2017
Observed and documented by Melody Maxson
First known swim of Grand Lake length
- Name: Sarah Thomas
- Age on swim date: 35
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Conifer, Colorado, USA
- Ryan Willis - pilot
- Becky Baxter - crew
- John Baxter - crew
- Rachel Murphy - crew
- Melody Maxson - observer
Escort vessel: ski boat out of Langley, OK
Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
From Highway 59 sailboat bridge, north of Patricia Island, to Pensacola Bridge via shortest path.
- Route Distance: 19.7 miles (31.7 km)
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: Highway 59 sailboat bridge (36°38’21.7”N 94°48’52.6”W)
- Finish Location: Pensacola Dam (36°28’29.1”N 95°01’38.9”W)
First known swim of this route.
- Start: July 22, 2017, 20:06:09 Central Daylight Time
- Finish: July 23, 2017, 07:38:17 Central Daylight Time
- Elapsed: 11 hours, 31 minutes, 7 seconds
Summary of Conditions
Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Data from Grove Municipal Airport weather station, July 22-23, 2017.
by Sarah Thomas
I’ve wanted to swim the length of Grand Lake for several years now. It’s the lake where my grandparents have a cabin and where we spent many summers growing up. The generally accepted start of the Lake is at Sailboat Bridge. There is swimable water past the bridge, but the water quality isn’t great and it gets shallow in places. Also, I didn’t have unlimited time, so it made sense to start at Sailboat Bridge and then swim to the dam. My first choice would have been to make this swim in March or April, when water temps were reasonable, but I couldn’t ever seem to make that work. When my sister planned her wedding nearby at the end of July, I figured that was my best chance possible to have everyone together to crew for me and get it done. We chose to swim over night to avoid the heat and crazy boaters who frequent the lake on the weekend in the summers. This was a family swim: We borrowed a speed boat from my mom’s cousin who lives near the swim finish. For crew, Ryan was piloting the boat, Melody was observing, my mom and step dad were in charge of feeds, and my sister Rachel pace-swam and helped with temperature readings.
When we met at the boat dock to depart on the evening of July 22, air temps were in the upper 90s and water temp by the dock was right at 90 degrees. It took us about an hour to drive the length of the lake in the boat. We started just after 8 pm. I jumped off the boat just on the far side of Sailboat Bridge and swam under the width of the bridge. My sister, Rachel, started the swim with me and stayed in until it was dark- maybe about an hour.
It was a pretty tame swim, all in all. Right at dusk, I hit a few solid things with my hands, but it was dark and I couldn’t see what it was. I hope it was carp… A few hours into the night, I swam through something that made me itch all over. I ended up pulling my suit down around my waist to avoid going insane from itching. We all expected the wind to die down and for the night to be really calm, but it was pretty windy most of the way and Ryan had a hard time keeping the boat straight in the night. A few times, during feed stops, he would drift either really close or really far away from me and often he would get spun around. One time, during a feed stop, the boat did come close and I had to kick it away to avoid getting slammed. There was some heat lightning off in the distance, but nothing close to us to worry about. Water temps remained in the mid 80s for most of the swim and mostly I was just hot.
As dawn approached, I pulled my swim suit straps back up and realized how swollen I was- I could barely get my straps on and my hands were really stiff. I hadn’t made quite as much progress and I’d wanted over night- I’d been swimming pretty slow because I was so uncomfortably hot. I’d been hoping for a 10-11 hour swim, max for the 19.7 mile route, but it ended up taking 11.5 hours. Rachel jumped back in with me for the last 30 minutes or so and we touched the buoy line at the dam together. It was very windy and choppy at this point, so after finishing, we had a bit of a struggle to get back to the boat. When I got out, my hand were really swollen and I was a bit dehydrated, but otherwise fine. I was glad to have done the swim, but in retrospect, I should have waited for better water temps.
Click to enlarge.