John Batchelder - Lake Washington
South to North with loop around Mercer Island
49.5 km (30.8 miles)
16 hours, 20 minutes on 8 July 2020
Observed and documented by Lori Graham
- Name: John Batchelder
- Gender: male
- Age on swim date: 39
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Littleton, Colorado
- Doug Benjamin - boat pilot
- Lynn Acton - support crew
- Lori Graham - observer
Love Canal - rented Carver 380
Note: This swim was self-organized on account of NOWSA pausing operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is documented through MSF with the express consent of NOWSA.
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: textile swimsuit, cap, goggles
From south end of Lake Washington, counter-clockwise around Mercer Island, finishing at north end.
- Body of Water: Lake Washington
- Route Type: One-way combined with circumnavigation.
- Start Location: Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (47.505655, -122.202058)
- Finish Location: Log Boom Park (47.757581, -122.265614)
- Minimum Route Distance: 49.5 km (30.8 miles) (map)
One recorded lengthwise swim - south to north - by Eric Ahearn in September 2018 (sanctioned by NOWSA). No known previous swims of a length combined with a circumnavigation.
- Start: 8 July 2020, 02:08 (Pacific Daylight, UTC-7).
- Finish: 8 July 2020, 18:29
- Elapsed: 16 hours, 20 minutes, 41 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||65||72|
|Air Temp (F)||55||71|
Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: Karbolyn, P2Life - 1st hour, then half-hourly.
by John Batchelder
In Summer 2020, I found that all my swim plans for the year were getting canceled, as was happening to just about everything worldwide. I had English Channel and Tsugaru Channel swim windows postponed to 2021. Those were big swims in their own right, but I was going to use them also to train for an even longer 50-mile Lake Memphremagog swim later in the year. So, I turned to try to find something, anything, of significant length to train. Trying to get swims scheduled was a challenge with so many swimming associations shut down and largely unresponsive. After trying and failing to connect, I turned to skipping these established swimming associations to just put on my own swim. I had my eyes on a Lake Washington swim as I figured that water would be similar to what I would experience in August, but mainly because I had connections in the area. I had two routes in mind. First was a double crossing of the length of the lake. Second, looking for something a bit different, was combining a length of the lake with a circumnavigation around Mercer Island. The second was my preference: it was shorter than a double length, but the overall distance came out at about a nice round number, 30 miles. Plus, it was my own creation, something different.
Through my friend Lori Graham’s connections, I got a hold of Doug Benjamin to pilot the boat for my swim. I chose a Wednesday, July 8, to keep away from the busier lake traffic on the weekends, and to give some flexibility to shift the day forward or backward a day if needed. For crew, I had Lori Graham from Seattle and another friend Lynn Acton from Denver coming out to support me.
I estimated about 17 hours for the 30-mile swim. In peak condition, I think I would be right around 15 hours, but I was far from peak condition with training hard to come by with all the COVID situation in 2020. I set a swim start time of about 2 in the morning. That way, even if I went longer than my estimate or got delayed at the start there would still be plenty of daylight. On Monday I met my pilot and took a boat ride with Lynn to preview the course. I took particular note that at the finish the water was quite shallow for a long way, and the boat would have to stay behind as I finished the last few hundred meters. So, it was good I got a chance to check out the layout of the finish.
That early morning of July 8, I met everyone at a marina on the south end of Lake Washington. We boarded my escort vessel, a Carver 380 model boat, and took the short ride from the marina over to the boat ramps at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. It was dark, but there was still plenty of light pollution from the city for me to see as I walked off the boat onto the dock and over to the boat ramp. After a quick check to make sure everyone on the boat was ready, I walked down the ramp into the water and began swimming. This was actually my first time swimming freestyle at night – all other night swims were butterfly. Immediately, I noticed that there was relatively little light on the boat itself, and I wished there were a few more lights or glowsticks to see better, though with the lights from the city there never really was an issue. The night swimming itself was uneventful. The water was calm. The water temperature was comfortable for me, around 65F. There wasn’t really anything to think about apart from just keeping myself swimming relaxed.
I took my first feed an hour into the swim, then feedings every half hour after that. I brought an LED light to attach to my water bottles to make it easier for me to find them in the dark. At that first feed, I reached for the light as the water bottle was thrown into the water ahead of me. Yet that light fell deeper than expected. I reached out after it, but the light went deeper still. It took me a little bit to realize that the light I was following had detached from my water bottle, and I just sat there, watching the light sink deeper and deeper. I then went to look for my bottle, but I couldn't see it. My crew had to reel it back in and throw it back out to me. This time my eyes were fixed on the bottle, and I had no issue finding it for my first feed. My crew apologized, but it didn't bother me. This was the only real issue I observed during the entirety of my swim. Apparently, there was a brief mechanical issue on the boat sometime during the swim, and an issue with my SPOT tracker device, but those I didn’t hear anything about until after the swim.
The night swimming was nice and calm. I had almost no issues with my feeds, which is always my main concern. For this swim I decided to stick with what has been most successful for me in the past. I went with two feeds. In my large, 32oz water bottles was Karbolyn just for the carbs and calories, and one bottle typically lasts me 4-5 feeds. After emptying a bottle, I would switch to my smaller, 18oz water bottles, which contained P2Life, which was a thicker mixture of about half carbs, half protein, and a bunch of other nutritional stuff – kind of like chocolate milk. The P2Life sits easier on my stomach but has fewer calories. One bottle lasts me 3-4 feeds, after which I would switch back to the Karbolyn. I kept up this pattern for most of the swim, though near the end I asked for plain water as my stomach was kind of clogged up with the Karbolyn.
I consider my swim as consisting of two halves. The first half was the swimming around Mercer Island. I had a good feel throughout that portion for where I was along the course and how my pace was doing. The second half, after I left Mercer Island to make the long swim to the north end of Lake Washington, I lost feel for where I was, and with it my mind really started to wander. It was probably more from mental fatigue than anything. During the second half I found myself drifting away from the boat more and more. My drifting must have gotten so bad just before reaching Magnusson Beach that my boat pilot stopped me to tell me about it, and I guess that was just the shakeup I needed to refocus, as from then on, I became more attentive to making sure I kept the line.
I got a little bit of a fun distraction late into the swim. Someone on a kayak came out to greet me. Well, he didn’t greet me so much as my crew on the boat. Apparently, he had gotten word of my swim and game out to find me and take some pictures. That was neat. Otherwise, there wasn’t much going on during the swim itself. I just kept swimming forward until eventually I saw the finish. As noted during my preview of the course, the lake became quite shallow at the end. It was not too shallow to swim, but shallow enough that there was tons of plant life and weeds to swim through. My boat stayed back as I swam through that final stretch of 200m or so, doing my best to pick a course to avoid the water plants as much as possible, though I was constantly having to shake off the leaves and grasses wrapping around me. As I approached the shore, I discovered some friends waiting there to welcome me and cheer me to the finish. Excellent! It was a bit muddy, but I didn’t have much difficulty getting out and walking ashore. Mission accomplished.
Overall, it was a satisfying swim, and for the most part everything went as expected. I am very thankful for the support of all my friends who helped make it happen, more so that this one swim proved to be my only marathon swim in 2020. Thank you to Lynn Acton who traveled with me to support the swim, and especially thank you to Lori Graham for all your encouragement and help to make this swim happen.
Click to enlarge.