Trans Tahoe Relay – Tahoe, CA

Author: Kelly –

I have spent a few days reflecting on the weekend and what a good time we all had.  Now, time for the report!  A little background first.  The Trans Tahoe Relay race is a prestigious swim race run by the SF Olympic Club and is in its 37th year.  The event begins at Sandy Beach, Incline Village and ends at Skylandia Beach, Lake Forest.  The distance is approximately 11-12 miles, depending upon the source (and the line you swim).  Teams of 6 swimmers toe the line so to speak and take turns swimming from their pilot boat (first 30 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 10 minutes). Rinse and repeat until you are done. Oh, did I mention, no wet suits are allowed?  The field is quite competitive.  Marginal swimmers should not attempt this event. That being said, it is a fun and challenging event.

Back in January, I put a call for swimmers out to the team.  I immediately got 5 swimmers (but then one declined when she discovered wet suits are not allowed).  We had a “team meeting” in the spring and plotted out a few open water swim practices, including Del Valle and Aquatic Park (sans wets suits). Before we knew it, race weekend was here.  Elizabeth Vanderheiden, Kirsten Cherry, Nicole Genua, Nicole Eden-Muraoka, Amy Carter and myself all met on Friday evening at Amy’s Auntie Marcia’s cabin in Northstar.  Auntie Marcia has a cabin large enough to accomodate all of us, which was fun!  We had a pre-race pasta feed and hit the sack around 9pm for a 4 am wakeup call.  We were scheduled to pick up our boat at 5:45 am.

We arrived to pick up our boat at Sunnyside Marina.  Keep in mind, boats are difficult to rent on this day and I think we got the last in the fleet. When I rented the boat, I was told that it was a typical ski boat and that only six are allowed in the boat.  This meant that we could not have a driver and must drive ourselves.  When I asked around the group, the answer I got was “Yes, I have driven a boat before, but it has been a long time….”.  This was my biggest worry for the race!  It turns out that we have 3 very competent drivers and navigators: Elizabeth, Kirsten and Nicole E.   As for the boat…oh my goodness.  They must have drug it out of dry dock!  It was a circa 1960 something Ski Nautique ski boat with no radio and no speedometer.  Every time we put the boat in idle it would rotate around.  It was comical but after adjustments, we started to do fine!

We chugged across the lake and my team mates dropped me off at the start.  I swam to the shore holding my towel overhead so I could wrap up until the gun went off. The water at the shore was a balmy 64 degrees. The boats must congregate outside the cove to pick up their swimmer as they exit the shore about 1000 yards out. Now, mind you, there are between 150 to 180 teams participating. So…that is how many boats there are!  The race starts in waves with the elite swimmers first (the 20 minute milers who finish in 3 hours and change).  We were in the 3rd wave, the 240+ age groupers.  I chatted with Pilar (former dmc member) on shore. The Detour 580 team was there as well.  I did a little warm up swim and before you know it, it was time.  The wave went off and I got a good start.  The water felt wonderful and the altitude (at 6200 feet) did not bother me too much.   I swam across the cove and rounded the buoy heading out toward the open water.  There was a line of swimmers and a ring of boats.  This is where things got a little complicated.  I could not find my boat!  They all looked the same!

I swam, stopped and waved but could not find them.  I called my number to the safety boat. He called it out but they could not hear (and they had no radio).  By this time, my watch read 24 minutes and I began to get worried because I need to hand off to my next swimmer at 30 minutes.  Fortunately, we had the foresight to hang the huge red and white Hammer Nutrition banner on our boat.  I spotted the banner and started to swim for the boat as it was motoring AWAY from me!  They could not see me. That banner saved me because at this point I was a little distressed.  My team mates also finally saw me.  I got to the boat and Elizabeth took over for me.  I was really hungry by time I got to the boat since it was about 8 am and I had breakfast at 4:30 am!  I grabbed a Hammer Recovery bar a felt better after eating.

From there, we rotated swimmers until all six swam 30 minutes.  I was then back in for 15 minutes.  By then we were in the middle of the lake and it was a bit colder. Also, at this time of day, some of the massive boats were heading out, creating hazards and wakes.  At one point, approaching a shore point, the water felt like the bay (churning like a washing machine).  It created slow going. Before I knew it, it was time for my 10 minute swim.  I even got to take a second ten minute swim.   Nicole Eden-Muraoka had the privledge of swimming across the state line from Nevada to California.  I  checked my navigation map on my phone since we did not have navigation on our ancient boat!

Everyone swam their hearts out!  In between we hung out on the boat.  We did not have music so there was not much to do but watch our swimmer and take in the beauty around us.  The water in the lake is a deep deep blue and truly lovely.  We chatted, snacked, applied sunscreen, laughed and swam.

We were approaching the finishing buoys at around 6 hours.  Nicole Eden-Muraoka requested to be the finishing swimmer so we gave her the timing chip and off she went!  We waited in the boat for the announcement from shore saying “dmc rocks the lake!  at 6:13!”.  We all cheered and Nicole handed off the chip and swam back to us.  We all jumped back in the water for our photo and then motored back to Sunnyside Marina to return our boat. On the way back, Nicole Genua rehydrated with a Hammer fizz in her water.  A short time later we had lunch and cocktails at Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge.

Overall, this is an epic event and so much fun. We all really felt like it was a big accomplishment.  Nicole, Nicole and I hung around the next day for a little 40 mile recovery ride over Brockway Summit to the lake, around to Tahoe City and back to Truckee and Northstar (where we were staying).  It was a beautiful day and a great finish to the weekend.  Good friends. Good times.