Just keep Swimming Continued…

After The Skaha Ultra Swim, my open water swimming adventure still continues…

Since I proved to myself, I could complete a 12km swim…. Could I complete 50% more?

Two weeks later, I headed to Christina Lake.

 I had read about a non-profit organization hosting their first sports fundraiser swim event. The event was called “The Big Effort Swim” The fundraiser raised money for five charities.

They had four distances to choose from, 750m, 4000m, 18km or 36km.

I initially thought I would like to do it, maybe the 4000m and then I started talking to the organizers of the event… I convinced myself to do the 18km. The event organizers relayed I could stop anytime, and they would support me no matter how far I went.

This was not a race, just an event. Time was on my side.

This swim started at 4 am on August 20.

My day started at 2:30 am, getting up, breakfast, and all I needed to do is made sure I had enough coffee to start. I arrived at the beach at 3:20 am, where all the kayakers were getting all the boats set up and all the emergency equipment needed. 

They strapped on a glow stick to the back of my suit. That was all I needed! I was ready to go.

I got into the water at 3:50 am and just floated around, the water was warm, 24C, and it was dark; I spent some time looking up at the stars. I couldn’t believe what I was about to do, and I pondered the question, would I be able to complete this 18km?

I felt at peace and kept reminding myself I could stop any time. No pressure, just swim.

Christina Ostenstad swimming across Christina Lake in BC

At 4 am, we started, and for the next 2 hours, I had no recollection of just keep swimming in pitch black. I touched the odd weedy thing in the lake, but other than that, it was calm and relaxed. I felt like I was in a dream state.

When the sun rose, I became more aware of what was around me. The trees, the cabins on the lake…  By 8 am, the pontoon boats started to come out for support. Only six people were on the 18km and three on the 36km. We had one pontoon boat for every two people. They regularly checked in to see how things were going and whether we needed anything.

The weather was pretty calm until I hit the 6.5 km mark, and the wind picked up. It was choppy, and I had to adjust my stroke from a two-beat kick to a six-beat kick. I managed to keep moving until I became so congested, I could feel my throat closing. I stopped and said to my kayaker, I don’t know why I can’t breathe.

 He flagged down one of the wave runners, who then returned to his cabin and picked up allergy medication. I kept carrying on until he returned, and after about 30 mins, I was much better and back to a somewhat normal state. We figured there was pollen on the lake, which was the cause.

At this point, the wind shifted again, and it was even choppier than before. I just kept pushing through.

Once hitting the 15 km mark, my one arm was getting tired. I adjusted my stroke to a wider recovery arm and engaged the lats. That helped me to keep moving forward. And, of course, a little 200mg of Advil.

Just keep swimming became a countdown to the end as I would tell myself, ok, just one more km to go. At that point, I did not want to consume another gel or bar, and I was just sick of those. So, the pontoon came to the rescue with a different type of bar, which seemed to pique my interest.

Mentally, I had to do some self-talk to keep going… the only thing that kept popping into my mind was how one of my coworkers said, “I am going to donate to your swim by the km, so if you don’t make it… no donation…”  In my mind, I accepted the challenge! I knew I had to get to the end, or Hugh would not pay up!

When I hit the 16km mark, the waters were calm, the sun had come back out, and the wind had died right down. It just goes to show, you never know what the weather will do.

I came to an end, finally, after 11 hours and 6 mins. I landed on the north end of Christina Lake, where I was greeted by the Christina Lake Fire & Rescue boat, sirens, and all.

I was so happy and couldn’t believe I swam 18 km. Just keep Swimming for 11 hours didn’t feel that long… I had lost all sense of time.

And for me, I realized if I keep telling myself when things get tough, I can do anything..…. 

And so, I keep swimming…. Just keep swimming……

Christina Ostenstad standing beside the Christina Lake Fire and rescue boat at the finish of the 18km swim
Christina Lake, British Columbia 18km Finish
Chris’ Swim at 4:00 am
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