As a newbie marathon swimmer, I had planned for the Suck to be my first attempt at the ten-mile distance, but I decided that I wanted to do the Kingdom Swim’s Border Buster, a fifteen-miler, next summer. In order to qualify, I needed to do a non-current assisted swim ten miles or longer. Given the time of the year and my experience, I opted for the ten-miler in the same venue as the Border Buster: Lake Memphremagog in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I had a little over two months to train for it.
I was not prepared for the beauty of the locale, though a place name with the word ‘kingdom’ should’ve given it away. It was nothing short of magical. Driving on I-91 from Hartford, CT, the landscape took my breath away with the gorgeous mountains, the deep green pines and their sweet smell, the meandering rivers, the granite cliffs. I reached the lake at the end of the day, when the sun was hiding over the tallest mountain peaks, turning the water surface into a silvery mirror. The scenery stole my breath and brought me to tears. I can never help but think how blessed I am to be able to do what I love the most in these gorgeous natural settings.
My journey ended at the campground in Prouty Beach, Newport, which was nearly full. I pitched my tent on a spot overlooking the beach and went for (what else?) a swim. It was dusk and I didn’t want to waste time putting my contacts on. At the closest beach, I waded in and found the water surprisingly warm, in the mid-70s, perhaps. I didn’t stray too far from shore for fear of not seeing anything and for that reason never really got away from the submerged vegetation. My little swim felt fantastic after a whole day of planes (no trains) and automobiles.
The day before the race I woke very early. I had forgotten sunrise is just after 5 am during the New England summer. What else is there to do but to go for a swim? This time I tried the main beach and didn’t find as many snarling plants. Buoys were already out, so I swam to the closest one. One other swimmer shared an otherwise deserted lake.
Around mid-day I went into Newport for sign-in and to board the Northern Star for a cruise around the buoys located within the US portion of the lake. Lake Memphremagog is a glacial lake, so it is long and narrow. Most of it lies within Canada. Luckily, my kayaker was able to join me on the boat. It was quite a useful experience to be able to look at the course together and learn from another experienced kayaker who had joined us.
Later that afternoon, Phil, our race director, gathered the swimmers at the Gateway Center in Newport for a safety briefing. Glancing around the room, I recognized many a swimmer from the marathon swimming world. How exciting to be surrounded by swimmers who’ve accomplished such feats of courage and physical prowess, which in my mind can only be accomplished with hard work, dedication, discipline, perseverance, and yes, heart. At that point, this race started to morph into something I didn’t expect it to be, but couldn’t yet put my finger on it. Swimmers promenaded along the lake shore in good fun. The night ended with a delicious pasta dinner and lively music.