Danville man to go for lake swim record
August 17, 2005
Ken Harmon is not new to the sport of open-water swimming. In fact, he has been crossing bodies of water for the better part of two decades.
His resume of open water swims include the Donner Lake annual race every year since 1987; the 12 miles around Coronado Island in under five hours for a top-10 finish in the 25K National Open Water Championship in both 1994 and ’95; a handful of San Francisco Bay swims, including the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge in 1 hour, 31 minutes; the 20-mile length of Lake Washington in Seattle; the 12-mile width of Lake Tahoe three different times, one of which he was the first person to cross solo during a sanctioned relay event; and the 10-mile Maui Channel from the island of Lanai to Maui.
Even though Harmon knows what open-water distance swimming is all about, he’s going to try something that will take him into uncharted waters.
According to Harmon, swimming the length of Lake Tahoe could be more difficult than many other open-water swims in the world.
At 6,229 feet in elevation and between 45 and 70 degrees, Tahoe is quite an endeavor. Not to mention the fact that after Bruckner Chase’s record swim from Camp Richardson to Kings Beach last Monday, only eight people have officially done the swim.
While Harmon is attempting this swim for charity, he admits that he would like to set a record.
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“We want to accomplish two things,” Harmon said after a training session at Donner Lake earlier this month. “We want to finish and get a lot of money for charity, but we also want to set a mark.”
If Harmon finishes the swim in less than 11 hours, 16 minutes, he will not only record the fastest time swimming the length of the lake, at 45 years old he will be the oldest person to complete the swim.
While all of these athletes’ endeavors are incredible and deserve recognition, Harmon says he hopes to beat the record.
His course is really what sets him apart.
Harmon went to the Coast Guard station and had them plot out the longest possible route across the lake. From Camp Richardson to Incline Village is 22 miles, and the longest straight line across the lake.
“The only way to make it longer is to swim into Emerald Bay and back out again,” Harmon said.
The reason Harmon is attempting this swim is to raise money for a community pool in Danville, where he lives. The 50-meter community pool will be built at Danville’s San Ramon Valley High School.
Harmon’s water background was in water polo, and the Danville pool will benefit the local swimming community as well as the high school water polo programs.
Harmon’s goal for the swim is to raise $100,000 for the pool. This may seem lofty, since so far he has received just over $5,000.
However, Harmon is confident that he will get a lot of donations after he actually completes the swim, if he survives.
On Monday, Aug. 22, look for a big guy swimming in the middle of the lake with his wife paddling a kayak next to him and two support boats trolling along behind. His long-time friend, training partner and three-time Olympic water polo player, Craig Klass, will swim with him for the first half hour of every hour.
Harmon will depart from Camp Richardson between 5:30 and 6 a.m. and is shooting for 12 hours in the water, then joining the party crowd at the Hyatt in Incline Village.
“If I’m sipping Patròn by 6 p.m. I’ll be happy,” Harmon said.
Oh, and don’t look for a man with a wetsuit, that’s not what open water swimming is about. According to Harmon, open-water swimming is about the human body and nature, and testing the limits of one within the other.
When asked if he did anything to keep his body fat up to help him stay warm and keep him afloat, Harmon just laughed. “I’m 45, I don’t have to do anything.”
While Harmon felt good enough to go again after swimming two lengths of Donner Lake the day after competing in the annual Donner Lake swim, he was still hesitant.
“I have to swim four of those and feel as good as I do now,” he said.
Harmon’s wife Marcia, who supports him and feeds him from a kayak, was more confident.
“You just have to have heart,” Marcia said, “and he’s got it.”
For more information about Ken Harmon or to donate to his cause, visit http://www.swimfar.org.
Mrytle Huddleson swam the length first in 1931 at age 34 from Deadman’s Point to Tahoe City in 22 hours and 53 minutes. Fred Rogers in 1955, at age 29, swam from Kings Beach to Bijou in 19:06. Erline Christopherson of Lodi was 16 in 1962 and swam from Baldwin Beach to Dollar Point in 13:17. Lenore Modell was the youngest at 13 years old in 1963 when she swam from Tahoe Keys to Kings Beach in 14:34. Laura Colette of San Francisco became the first to do a south-north (Camp Richardson to Kings Beach) and north-south swims in 2003 and English Channel phenom Ken Murphy also made a successful swim in 2003.
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