This is my first year tackling this swim, which traverses Lake Geneva. There are some that complete the entire eight-mile swim solo, as our boat owner/team leader extraordinaire Mark did a few years ago. You can also establish a relay team and split up the miles as you wish, which is what we did this year.
A support boat is required for every team or individual, and Mark put the boat in the lake the night before. We left the house at 4 a.m. and arrived at Gordy's at 4:30, just in time for instructions, bagels and the most delicious coffee ever. I don't know if it's because it was really early or something about these beans are extra special, but the coffee tasted like liquid maple syrup. The gist of the talk was to stay safe, because it's not a race. Swim for Freedom raises money for the families of Special Operations. In eight years, they've raised more than $200,000 to provide college educations to surviving children of special operations personnel killed in combat or training.
After the briefing, we took a team photo and then went to the boat. We crossed the lake and met on the beach opposite Fontana for a group photo before our swimmers took off. We were each given a swim cap with our team number, although for next year, I might wear my own. It was difficult to spot our first swimmer in the chaos, and you have to stay within 40 feet of your swimmer.
Mark took off straight from Lake Geneva beach at 6 a.m. and made a beeline for the first buoy. Race organizers places buoys at the first three mile markers, and then after that, you could sight off of The Abbey in Lake Geneva. I went in the water right after Mark came out. I wore a wetsuit, even though the water was warm, and regretted it by 20 minutes in. It was good practice for the Ironman, but I didn't need it at all.
My goal was to make it to two miles. Sighting was very difficult. Anytime I could see the buoy, another boat meandered into my sight line and I just hoped for the best. I stopped right around 1.17 miles because I could see all my boat mates staring at me and wondered if I'd gone off course or was losing ground. They assured me I was fine, so I checked my watch when I passed the three-mile buoy. I felt awesome when I checked off my two miles and got out of my wetsuit. From there, I refueled with a mimosa and hung out while Alyssa completed 1.2 miles, then Brent followed suit. Jess made it a mile, and then I took to the water for a second round of fun. I closed another half-mile gap, then Mark went back in, and then we all finished together. In all, we came out of the water right before 11 a.m. (1 p.m. was the cut off) and signed ourselves out before hitting the post party.
We each got the best cheeseburger ever, deviled eggs, chips, cookies and beer. We hung out and purchased lottery tickets before retrieving the boat for the day and driving home.
In all, I think I swam three of the eight miles and felt pretty good doing it. The water was very calm in the morning, and slightly less so as we approached the final two miles. This event is super cool - it's basically tailgating with a side of swimming. You can push yourself as much as you want, and it felt very safe. It's well-supported and well-run, and supports a great cause.
Time: 1:02:35 for a two-mile swim
Cost: None, but donations are encouraged
Pros: It's well-run, you get shirts and a water bottle and can koozies, the time limit is generous, it supports a good cause, there's a breakfast and lunch for participants
Cons: It's a damn early day, and there's still boat traffic going on, you have to have a support boat to do the swim (but volunteers are there if you don't have one)
Would I do this again? Yes, for sure