A year ago today I successfully swam across lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan. I became the first American and second person to cross the lake, also the first person to swim across the historical route, on the western side of the lake, between the villages of Kara-Talaa in the south and Toru Aygyr in the north.
Since my crossing, Peace Corps volunteer and FIU swimmer Sarah D’Antoni also crossed the lake, becoming the first woman and second American to cross the lake and simultaneously destroying my time by about 1:20, setting the course record of 4:43.
My hope after my crossing was to show the Kyrgyz people how wonderful their lake is for open water swimming. I have a dream that sometime in the future there will be an Ironman-length triathlon held there. There already is a marathon held along the lake each year. Once they finish repaving the road encircling the lake, the bike route will be safe enough for a 112-mile race. And we already know the second largest alpine lake in the world has plenty of water for a measly 2.4 miles!
But my greatest wish is that some locals will start crossing the lake. And it looks like that is going to happen! On July 16th this year, five swimmers will attempt to replicate mine and Sarah’s crossings, following all the same rules that we did last year. [Edit: Within two hours of composing and scheduling this post for publication, my friend contacted me and informed me that these swimmers have decided to change the date to 6 August and to wear wetsuits.] The news of the Lake Issyk Kul Swim Challenge, when I read about it on 3 July, excited me so much, it was a little embarrassing. Like a little kid Christmas morning! I hope to be able to bring you, dear reader(s), good news on 16 July about five new names in the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation database. Good luck to all the swimmers!