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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fast Times, Camaraderie On S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge Day 2

"Tomorrow is the long one, 17 miles total, the longest of the four stages. But today was a great day [in Canyon Lake]," recalled David Barra of Day 2 in the S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge in the state of Arizona.

"Last year, I recall this swim was a lot harder. But we had mostly tail winds today, so it was a pretty speedy swim. All the swimmers finished. And, of course, Grace van der Byl took the day again [with the fastest time]. There are no surprises there.

It took Barra 3 hours 18 minutes to finish, compared with his 4 hours 30 minute effort last year in the same venue.

"It was beautiful with very dramatic landscape.

There were whitecaps because of the winds. The canyon walls magnify the wind because the canyon is only a couple yards wide at most. I went faster because of the tailwinds, but also because we fought against a strong current last year
." The reservoirs which provide water to the metropolis of Phoenix are managed carefully. The local water management authorities regulate the water usage and levels so sometimes, they pump in or release the water. This leads to currents that can flow either with or against the swimmers.

Unlike the previous day's pre-race ritual, the field loaded the boats and then got to preview the entire course and experience the scenery before they swam. "It was great to be able to see where we would swim before. But most of the swimmers thought today was easier than Day 1 in Saguaro Lake. The anxiety level went way down for the swimmers. Of course, fatigue is accumulating, but a lot of the other parts of swimming - like the anxiety and anticipation - go away. So there is more of a calm that sets in with the swimmers." The group didn't splash until 9 am as staging with a couple pontoon boats took more time and was a bit more complicated. But once everyone was in place with one hand on the buoy line next to the edge of the dam, the countdown began and they all started together to the other side.

Most of the field is going to relocate from Phoenix to the Apache Lake Resort which is a remote part of the American southwest desert environment. "We will all be moving there. We probably be hitting the sack tomorrow."

While the blistering sun and the potential for the damaging rays of the sun to wreck havoc on the swimmers were major concerns, the swimmers have prepared well and avoided severe sunburn. "There is lots of Desitin and zinc oxide putting used. Everyone has their own techniques; some are pre-coating the night before and letting it soak in. Others just lather up before the swim in the morning. With the winds, the weather is not that bad. The breeze makes it very pleasant."

The day is filled with electricity fueled by profound camaraderie. "Everyone is having a good time and enjoying the company of other like-minded people. People have known other swimmers through social media, but we have never been able to meet some swimmers face-to-face. It is a great way to socialize surrounded by a great venue. I have done swim camps, swim vacations, and it is like that. Everyone just hangs out. You are spending a week with these folks and the camaraderie is easily created."

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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