GSL Open Water Swim 2012

So I did it.  After all the hard work, training, anxiety, practice and even a last minute sinus infection I made it!  I completed my goal and swam the Great Salt Lake Open Marathon Swim.

Hail the conquering hero! Me and my medal!

It was definitely the most difficult race I have done so far both physically and mentally.  They almost had to cancel the race because of wind storms that had come in but luckily they abated enough in the morning to allow us to go forward.  Nevertheless, it made for choppy ocean-like conditions.  To make matters worse it was too windy to put out the normal course buoys.  These are helpful during the race because you can measure your progress more easily than looking at the finish line.  You have more to sight off and it is mentally more encouraging to know ‘I’ve done a 1/4 mile or 1/2 mile.

With no buoys I had to press forward and there were more than one occasion where I wondered if I could do it.  At one point I did some back stroke just to relax a little and not feel so stressed.  It helped (I think the kayakers thought I was crazy when I did that!).   I stayed close to the kayakers and that was helpful because they had a better vantage point to the finish line.  Plus, they were very encouraging.  (I need all the encouragement I can get in the water).

When I was 1/3rd of the way through I developed a strategy that helped me get through the race.  I figured I could do 100 strokes at a time and that would make the race seem smaller, kind of mini-goals.  Plus, the counting gave me something else to think about besides ‘wow, this water is salty.’ or ‘how come that finish line isn’t getting any closer?’.  After the 100 strokes I did a little bit of breaststroke just to use my legs more and feel like I was sighting better, shake things up a bit.  Then I rested for 20 seconds.  I’m not saying this is the fastest strategy but on this day with this race it worked.


I always learn something from these swims that I take away for my life and that’s my take away this time- you don’t have to conquer the obstacle in one mass endeavor, that feels too daunting.  However, if you can divide it up into manageable portions you can accomplish just about anything.

This week I got a blessing from an elder in my church and it said ‘if I have faith I will swim well and my swim will be an example to others’.  When you are out in those storms it’s hard to have faith in yourself, in the hours practiced, in the time spent mentally and physically preparing, but is that not the essence of faith.  It is believing in something that you haven’t seen, like crossing the finish line.  If I could believe, I could keep swimming, and I MADE IT!

Here I am at the finish line:

Thanks so much for all your support and love.  I feel overwhelmed.  Thanks to all my swim friends for helping me and becoming some of my most dear friends.  Thanks to my family and other friends for all your love and support. Thanks to my trainers and coaches for your guidance and help. Thanks to Josh and Gordon and everyone else who gave so much to make the swim happen. Most importantly thanks to God and Jesus Christ who carry me through all challenges and believe in any goal I set.   I am so grateful.


Kate, Esther and I at the finish line
Me, Kate and Esther- showing off our muscles and race ink!
Esther, Kate, Jim Hubbard (who originally introduced me to open water), and me
Me with my new friend Etsuko. Both Etsuko and Esther are new to open water and they did great!
A group of my swim friends at the finish line.

21 thoughts on “GSL Open Water Swim 2012

  1. I couldn’t help but smile while watching that video when you crossed the finish line. You can genuinely see the look of relief and joy on your face when it was over, no matter how exhausted you may have been. Very cool and I’m so happy for you. Nice work, Rachel!

    1. Relief and joy that describes the moment well. It was such a great experience! We’ll have to meet for swims over the summer. I hope to try out a bunch of lakes around the state.

  2. Laura Colette- Nice job Rachel and smart to swim it in little chunks….. Good girl. I swim the distance between feed on really long swims or use the ‘I can swim for 5 minutes and then make another decision’ because I can do anything for 5 minutes. It gets me through the ‘why am I doing this to myself’ phases.

  3. Rachel, I think your 100-stroke strategy is super! You devided up the one mile course into manageable portions even though there were no buoys. I’ll definitely try that when I’m in the open water next time!

    1. Desperation inspires invention! 🙂 . I’m excited to use the strategy for future races, especially the 5k at Deer Creek. I wish there was a race in July but we’ll have plenty of fun swimming with our friends.

  4. Rachel I’m so happy I found this post. My husband and I set a goal to swim Alcatraz in 2014 and so to get ready we are going to do this one next year and I’m just starting to swim again after years and years of being out of the water. Reading this and seeing your pics has me motivated and excited. 😉

    1. Thank you so much. It motivates me to know I might motivate others. Really. Thank you.
      Congrats for getting back in the water! I swam in my first open water swim last August and it has changed my life. I have not only grown physically but I’ve made so many amazing friends. Its hard to imagine my life without competitive swimming in it.
      Its funny because I’ve had so many people say ‘I could never swim a 5k’ and I think ‘I would have said the same thing a year ago’. Isn’t it exciting when our vision is expanded and we make and keep bold goals. So great!
      I will be excited to hear about your Alcatraz swim. That is a bold goal! Are you swimming GSL next year? Its a great race if you are. My next race is Slam the Dam in Las Vegas. It is a lot of fun. They even have an ‘el-fish’ Elvis impersonator.
      Anyway, thanks for saying such nice things and I can’t wait to hear more about your success in the water.
      Isn’t it amazing how we can inspire and influence one another across the world? It makes me so excited!

        1. That’s so great! You will love it. Are you in Utah then? You should check out There are lots of groups that swim regularly. Might still be able to catch some open water this season.
          I will see you in future swims because I will be there at all of those!

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