Going the distance: Santa Cruz man to attempt to swim length of lake | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Going the distance: Santa Cruz man to attempt to swim length of lake

Steve Yingling

The water is warmer than normal, making Lake Tahoe more alluring than ever to distance swimmers.

Consequently, there will be two attempts to swim the 22-mile length of the lake in the coming weeks.

Bruckner Chase, 39, of Santa Cruz will attempt to swim from Camp Richardson to Kings Beach on Monday. He’ll take a south-north crossing, departing from Camp Rich at 3 a.m. Monday.

A week later, 45-year-old Ken Harmon of Danville, Calif, will attempt a different route, swimming from Camp Richardson to Hyatt Beach in Incline Village.

Chase is using the nearly half-day lake test to prepare for the daunting task of swimming the English Channel next year. He’s not attempting to swim the length lake because he’s nearing 40 or to raise money for a charity.

“The swim for me is about facing fears and challenges,” he said. “The swim is not about being the first, the oldest, the youngest or the fastest. Just like the English Channel, the swim is about overcoming everything unpredictable that nature can throw at you.”

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Fred Rogers was the first to swim the length of the lake in 1955 and Laura Colette was the last in 2003.

Ironically, Chase and Rogers recently met for the first time during a swimming event in Santa Cruz, allowing Chase to gather precious information about the adventure that awaits him.

“It turns out he was also a training partner of my deceased father-in-law, Col. Stewart Evans, who swam from the Farallons to the mainland in 1967,” Chase said. “Another swim of the lake by a Bay Area swimmer 50 years to the month of Fred’s first swim seems very appropriate. I really got a lot out of talking to him and he will be the first person I call when I get up to north end of the lake.”

Chase is familiar with the lake’s chilly temperatures, having competed in the Trans Tahoe races in 2003 and 2004. He finished the 111Ú2-mile solo swim from Dollar Point to Sand Harbor in 4 hours, 30 minutes the first year and 4:20 the following year. Last year, Chase battled through a storm to finish the 10-mile Maui Channel Swim in more than 6 hours.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better. We’re getting lucky that the water is 62 or 63 degrees,” Chase said. “I normally train in Monterey Bay where the water temperature is 56 to 60.”

Some would call Chase crazy for giving up his pillow for a bone-chilling swim three hours before dawn, but Chase finds the lake at any hour invigorating.

“I’m pretty exited to be swimming in the middle of night in sort of an eery way,” Chase said. “I love the water color … it’s mesmerizing and I find it almost hypnotic. I’m looking forward to seeing the sun come up.”

Chase will only sleep up to five hours the night before his quest.

“What works for me is getting a lot of sleep several days before the race,” he said. “The night before the race doesn’t matter much. I’ll drink a couple of Red Bulls or some coffee and get in the water as close to 3 o’clock as possible.”

A four-person support crew on a boat will monitor Chase’s condition and keep him on course. If all goes well, Chase plans on reaching shore in time to eat a hamburger and drink a beer for lunch.

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