I had been wanting to swim the length of Donner Lake in the high Sierras after I saw and was inspired by a Masters Swim Race there three years ago. What a scene that was. I was standing on shore with 300 swimmers on an early August morning with the lake shrouded in fog. Donner is a high alpine lake on the California side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is at an altitude of 7,000 plus feet with its deepest point at over 300 feet! Mingling with these brave swimmers just before they set off into the foggy abyss was enough to scare this swim class dropout to death! The organizers of the event had to delay the start for the swimmers safety. The fog was as thick as pea soup, very much like the Oregon coast! Eventually the swim began and I made my way back down to the finish, a mere 2.7 mile swim. As I watched these athletes finish, I thought I must conquer this lake one day.
Fast forward to August 2011! At this point, I have a few triathlons under my belt and I am ready to tackle the beast of Donner. Well, maybe not, I pulled a pectoral muscle moving some furniture the week prior. Like a fool, I thought I would be OK swimming 3 miles. I set off in perfect conditions with the water a balmy 71 degrees and a very faint breeze blowing in from the west. Please note this is not the actual Masters Swim Race but my own personal little race. There is a huge difference here. BOATS and JET SKIS abound in non-sanctioned race settings. This is a hazard you MUST be cognizant of at all times hence why my girlfriend spots me with a bright yellow kayak. Regardless of the kayak, it is so easy to drift out into boating lanes. Chugging along we looked up to notice in the distant Sierra mountains….. SNOW! YES! snow in August. We had record snow this year! At approximately the two-mile mark with my pectoral muscle screaming at me and boats encroaching we aborted the mission. Dang. I was in discomfort the whole swim and was probably quite stupid to push it. So……. we stopped and I fell just short of my goal. Oh well. There will be another August and I will be back!