I just got back from the awards ceremony for END-WET, our 36 mile downriver swim which took place yesterday. It was a great event, despite the river being 6 feet into flood stage and plenty of debris in the water adding to the challenge of swimming such a distance. As a race director, I couldn't be happier with how everything came together and how the volunteers, support kayakers, city officials, local sponsors, and swimmers themselves came together to help create such a great adventure. This event is special to me because it has a big impact on the community in which I live and contributes to a new vision of the river within which it is held.
However, as a race director I also have way too much going on in my head not to miss a few things now and then, which was the case at that awards ceremony. So here's two important things that I missed:
The relay team. Every year at END-WET we've had a group of local girls who have not only formed a relay team, but both won the relay category and been the first swimmers to finish the distance. This year they were back and although they were the only relay team this year (we gotta get more relay teams!!! Come on you local swimmers - the river is really fun to swim in!!!), they carried on their tradition of swimming hard and once again beat all the solo swimmers to the finish line (although solo winner Kevin Kopplin put up quite a fight!). These girls, led by former collegiate swimmer Hannah Whitehead, deserved recognition at the awards ceremony not only for their achievement (each swimmer still went 6-9 miles!) but also for their continued local support of our event. Sorry for the oversight ladies!
The Elder. Bill Daugherty was one of the solo swimmers that began but did not finish the event. He made it 21 miles before withdrawing from the event. We at ENDracing want to offer him a heart congratulations for sticking it out this far--which is still longer than most open water swims out there. What makes his accomplishment particularly remarkable, despite his not finishing the full distance, is that Bill is 71 years old. Yep, that's right - seven-one. I only hope to still be alive when I'm 71... If I've got the courage, confidence, and vitality that Bill does when I am his age I'll be over the moon. We were so happy to have you in the water at our event Bill.
If you were part of the event and can think of anything else I missed, please let me know - we'll look forward to hearing all the stories over the coming weeks and seeing the great photos that Wes Peck (our resident photographer) always takes.
This same question can mean lots of things, many of them containing far more nobility than the one I am actually asking. But never-the-less, I'll admit that I've been contemplating this less meaningful version for some time as I muddle through my own training and mull over my own endurance ambitions. The pursuit of what can be thought of as 'peak' achievements in the world of endurance sports consumes many of the people who enter into this strange and hard to understand (for those not directly involved) world. Running 100 miles. Racing for days. Riding for centuries. Men and women have demonstrated that human potential is something to be in awe of--the mind and body, under the right circumstances can do seemingly impossible things. Passion, dedication to one's craft, disciplined training, and will-power applied over decades--combined with science and a loss of the more 'obvious' challenges that unexplored places once offered--have pushed people to incredible heights. 'Peak' events in each major discipline--races or efforts hard and long enough to make a bucket list for all but the most dedicated participants have gotten exponentially harder than they were a generation ago. These events are now becoming commonplace, routinely reaching their participant limits within hours of registration opening.
There is no doubt that the world of the ultra-endurance athlete is no longer a lonely place as it once was.
But it is still, at least to my knowledge, a pretty segmented one. And this, is where my fascination lies. Is one person capable of achieving success in ultra-endurance across disciplines? Is it humanly possible to develop one's abilities to compete in say a 100 mile paddle race and a 135 mile winter bike race? Would any of the folks bold enough to sign up for a 100 mile trail run even consider also signing up for END-WET, our 36 mile swim? When we put out our Undead Hall of Fame challenge last year, over 30 athletes answered the call and attempted to bike 100 miles of singletrack (in 12 hours) on Saturday and then run 50 miles (also in 12 hours) only half a day later. Only four were able to do it, and of those, only one might possibly hope to finish the swim. What kind of person would it take to be able to perform at such an impressive level, over such a broad spectrum of disciplines, within a narrow time window? Just how much can one person do?
I'm not sure yet how or when this question will be answered, but I'm hoping to play a part in the inquiry (not as a participant mind you, but as an event director!). And while the question (as I ask it) might not inspire world peace, seeking the answer will certainly keep me inspired here in my piece of the world.
The swimmers might get the glory, but they don't do it alone.... Be an unsung hero--Volunteer
On June 21st two dozen or more crazy people are coming from around the country to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to participate in the longest one day swim event in North America this year, ENDracing's END-WET. It is a 36 mile downriver race from near Climax, MN, to the center of the Grand Cities. Each solo swimmer requires a support boater to be with them the entire race and although while a few of the swimmers are making the journey to the Red with their own support people, the majority of them are not. Thats where you come in. We need support boaters. It's (kind of) a paying gig. ENDracing will provide all support boaters with $100 as a thank you giving up your saturday to help your swimmer attempt (and hopefully accomplish) what is nothing short of an incredible feat. Than being said, don't do it for the money--its not really a good time investment economically speaking! Sure the cash helps you have a nice party afterwords or take your significant (and very understanding) other out for date night, but even paddling 36 miles in a day is no joke. And you'll be doing much more than that - you'll be looking after somene who's condition will deteriorate as the miles wear on - both mentally and physically.
Although the swimmers often get all the accolades, it really is a team effort, and the swimmers realize this. They can't do it without your support. We need roughly 20 paddlers. It's no problem if you don't have your own boat, we've got craft to spare. If you want to team up with a freind so you'll have company during the long journey or even to split the support job up into two halves (switch with a friend at roughly half way) then let us know (the caveat is that we only have $100/swimmer as a gift built into the budget if you team up you'd each get half). The most important thing is that you have are comfortable paddling on the lazy red and willing to put in a rather long day on the water. This is truly a one of a kind event that showcases the tremendous hospitality of our community. There is nothing else like it anywhere--the only other swim anywhere near as long charges over $2000 to each participant. This is cost prohibitive to many potential racers, and not our style. We want these crazy people to be able to challenge themselves and visit our wonderful corner of the country without taking out a second mortgage. And this is only possible because of both generous support from the City, Visitors Bureau, and incredible volunteers. Express your interest in volunteering for this year's END-WET at http://endracing.com/volunteer.