Swimming Like A Bird From Start To Finish

Swimming Like A Bird From Start To Finish

39-year-old Clark Bird of Merced, California completed the length of Lake Tahoe last week under the most unusual and difficult of conditions – against the wind and at night 13 hours and 23 minutes at high altitude.

Throughout the history of Lake Tahoe crossings, only Tom Linthicum in 2009 did so in the same north-to-south direction, also without a wetsuit.

I swam 5:27 at night to 6:50 in the morning. At the beginning, the wind was at 10 mph for the first two and half hours. The wind then calmed down to 2-3 mph for the next six hours. Then it picked back up between 10-15 mph for the next three hours and calmed back down for the last two hours. At the start the temperature was 61°F (16.1°C) and dipped down to 58°F (14.4°C) for much of the night swim. The wind, cold and night swimming took its toll on me as I completed the last five miles in approximately six hours.”

It was a physical challenge that became a mental challenge to finish. My body temperature was 95°F (35°C) after a one-hour hot shower which means I was in some state of hypothermia during the last section of the swim. In addition, the air temperature in Tahoe got very cold.”

The former All-American swimmer and water polo player at Merced Community College was confident that his effort stacks up with the greatest marathon swims in history. “The English Channel is a shorter distance with about the same air and water temperatures that I had during my Lake Tahoe swim. The Catalina Channel is also a shorter swim with water temperatures between 62°F (16.6°C) and 70°F (21.1°C). In any case, the conditions that were presented to me match up to all of these swims in that I had high wind advisories, cold water and [did] 22.1 miles (35.5K) at night.”

Clark had an interesting motivation to do this swim. “I had done the width of Tahoe a few years back and when Ken [Harmon] decided to do a double-crossing, I told him I would like to pace him for one length. My plan was to break the record for the length, but I now believe that my swim should be in a different category than the other lengthwise swims across Tahoe as I believe they did it during the day and had much better conditions.”

Like every successful swim, Clark was prepared and prepared for every possible condition. “I feel my year of training for this event paid off on miles 19 though 22 when I just flat-out made the decision I was going to finish what I started.”

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