Swimming the Great Salt Lake is nothing to sneeze at, but…

It finally happened.  After a year of flirting with the idea, I finally got into the Great Salt Lake to swim.

This started over a year ago, when I started blogging about my swims in Utah Lake.  I came across the Utah Open Water swimming blog, which a guy, named Josh Green keeps.  He’s an unassuming soul, who spends a great deal of his time planning out the Next Swim and reviewing swims he’s accomplished.  He’s a fellow open water junkie.

I thought that I was pretty hard core.  People routinely tell me how impressed they are when they see me swimming the GUL, here in Provo.  But tonight, I met a group of people who have raised the bar.  These people thing nothing of walking into a body of water whose salt content is upwards of three times that of the ocean and diving in.  These people are maniacs.

We started off with a clinic by Josh Green and Gords, who are both accomplished open (salt) water swimmers.  A range of subjects were covered, from goggles, to rounding a buoy in a triathlon.  The collective knowledge of the group was something I tried to latch onto.  I knew that I was among some educated folks.

To my horror, the clinic ended and we entered the Great Salt Lake.  This was my first time in a GSL encounter.  I’ve driven past this lake, many times, when travelling to my home town of Chico, California.  But I never really imagined I’d get into this lake…

Until last year, when I started to think more seriously about open water swims.  I knew that at some point, I was going to have to swim The Salt.

A water temperature of 75 degrees made the introduction to this lake palatable.  I walked in with the group, down a boat ramp and into the water.  From here, we swam through a stagnant marina and finally entered the lake.

I can’t help but compare the Salt Lake to Utah Lake:  When I breathe out during a stroke in Utah Lake, my mouth is open.  In the Sale Lake, I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut and breathe out exclusively through my nose.  Also, I noticed that I could actually see the floor of the lake, where at Utah Lake, I can hardly see my hands in front of my face as they pass by.  There are stark benefits and drawbacks to both lakes.

I made it out (about a 1/2 mile) to a designated buoy, where the group was sort of waiting for us stragglers.  We headed back and I noticed that my head was completely stuffed up.  There was some effect from the saltwater that caused me to have a 100 percent stuffed up nose.  It was horrible.  With a stuffed up nose, I couldn’t breathe out through my nasals, which allowed water to sort of sweep in.  This set off an uncontrollable series of sneezes, which meant sitting up and waiting for the moment to pass.  This could take a while, though, because a gorgeous sun was setting, which triggered more sneezing!

So there I was, unable to swim.  It was just my own little Nose Hell, as I struggled to come up with a viable swim-back-to-shore plan.  Nose clogs, can’t breathe out, water trickles in, causes burning and sneezing, sit up to clear things out, sun causes more sneezing, which causes more nasal congestion…and on and on…

If we ever enter WWIII and, for some reason, I am captured by The Enemy and they discover I have very important classified information on, say, brine shrimp salad recipes, it could get ugly if they read my blog and put two and two together.  They’ll take me down to the Great Salt Lake and I guarantee it- I’ll talk.

I forced myself to swim back to the marina, coughing, sneezing and sputtering the whole way.  It was a sight to behold.  I’m sure the Got Salt Guys were ashamed.  Here’s this guy that’s been yammering on and one about Utah Lake and open water swimming and yet, he obviously hasn’t the skills to swim a line in the Salt Lake.  BloodyToe, indeed!

But anyway, I finally made my way out of the water and over to the freshwater hose that we used to wash the salt out of hair, jammers, suits, Swim Safety Devices, mouths (now with shriveled up tongues) and eyes.

But the salt isn’t gone.  It remains in my mind, my dreams.  I can’t shut my eyes for a family prayer without the haunt of salty brine shrimp clouding my worship.  I reach for Nabisco Whales snacks, but can’t stomach their once-delightful saltiness.  Nothing can quench my thirst and nothing will ever convince me to return to the Salt Lake to swim her waters…

…but we’ll see what the next few months bring…

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6 Responses to Swimming the Great Salt Lake is nothing to sneeze at, but…

  1. Pingback: Swimming the Great Salt Lake is nothing to sneeze at, but… » My Great Salt Lake: Lake Elevated

  2. Your post made me laugh. I especially liked the WWIII part. It made me feel like even more of a conquer for finishing my 1 mile swim in the GSL. Didn’t think of it as torture! I was kind of shocked when I swam in the GSL for the first time but you really do get used to it quite quickly. Plus, conquering mother nature is part of the fun of open water! Haven’t tried Utah Lake. Will have to try it some time.

  3. Etsuko Abe says:

    Nathan, you are not alone!!! The first several times I swam (or tried to swim) in that lake, I came out of the water feeling totally defeated. My eyes, my nose, my mouth, my throat, my skin…everything was hurting! Somewhere around my fifth swim I started to swim a little, the clinic was my seventh swim. Like Rachel says you will start to conquer the salt (and the little sea monkeys) little by little and it is a rewarding process. I hope you will come back and give yourself another chance! I started swimming in Utah Lake, too. Hope to see you!

    • Nathan Nelson says:

      I’ll be honest…when I write about my swimming, family life, etc., I’m a little dramatic. Probably for my own sake- it keeps me interested (read: Not bored.) Thanks for reading. I’ll be up north for another swim with my salty friends. In the meantime, come on down and swim with me any time you guys want to. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Utah Lake: Bodies in bodies of water? | Swim without walls

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