One of the most wonderful things about our sport to me, are the great friends I make around the world. People who love to swim, especially people who love to swim in open water.
We have a common bond, a love for the water, the wildlife, the environment and the challenges that nature presents us with. Open water swimmers tend to be friendly and supportive of one another.
These days with the help of the internet, chat groups and social media I have many friends around the globe whom I haven’t yet met in person. Karah Nazor Friberg was one such friend; we’d had many email conversations on a variety of topics over the past few years, building our friendship across the globe.
It was early November 2011 when I received an email from Karah asking if I would like to go to Chattanooga, Tennessee to take part in a swim she was organising in October 2012, an event called Swim the Suck. www.swimthesuck10mile.com Chris and I knew little about the area, but I was keen to meet Karah and exited to take part in her 10 mile swim and enjoy the company of other swimmers.
Karah told us about Chattanooga, the surrounding area and about her swim which is held in the beautiful Tennessee Gorge, she wrote us about the wonderful views from Signal and Lookout Mountains, about the outdoor activities which included rafting and hiking and of nearby places to visit such as the Smoky Mountains. Chris and I became very excited about our trip to Tennessee in October 2012.
On October 2nd we commenced our long journey from our hometown of Townsville through Brisbane, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta where we stayed overnight then drove north to Chattanooga the following day.
Karah was there to meet us and give us instructions on how to get to our accommodations for the duration of our stay. She also told us about a one mile swim event she was holding that evening called the Snail Darter. We learned that the Snail Darter was a small fish native to the Little Tennessee River and was an endangered species. It was subsequently the centre of a legal battle which held up the construction of the Tellico Dam for two years. Karah’s father Hank Hill was in the centre of this landmark environmental case Hill v TVA which went all the way to the supreme court and saved the little Snail Darter fish whose status has now been down listed from endangered to threatened. http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?recNum=FI0395 Chris and I were keen to take part in the swim and loosen up from the many hours of travel over the past two days.
When we arrived to register for the event we met Borut and Martin Strel also known as the “Big River Man”. Martin is famous for swimming many of the world’s biggest rivers including the Amazon! The Snail Darter was a low-key fun event which somehow I won the women’s division and was presented with a flying pink pig!
The following day we spent the morning at the Chattanooga Aquarium then in the evening went to Martin Strel’s movie night to watch his film “Big River Man” which Chris and I enjoyed very much before a group of us including Martin and Borut socialised at a local venue suitably named Big River! http://www.strel-swimming.com/ Friday, was pre race day so Chris and I spent a quiet day resting and organising our gear for Swim the Such the following day, in the evening we met with all the swimmers, kayakers and supporters for the pre swim briefing at Outdoor Chattanooga, a pasta dinner and a short presentation by myself and Martin Strel. http://www.outdoorchattanooga.com/
Saturday greeted us with cool overcast conditions and a few scattered showers, quite different from the beautiful and sunny previous few days, the water temperature was fine though and reported to be around 74F (approx 21/22C). The Swim the Suck was great, swimming 10 miles downstream through the beautiful Tennessee River Gorge surrounded by the Cumberland Mountains with a good push for the current generated by controlled water released from the Chickamauga Dam.
The start was at Suck Creek, (hence the name) there was plenty of parking for the 70 swimmers and 80 or so kayakers and organizers. As usual the start was a busy time for all, with swimmers and kayakers finding their respective partners amongst the crowd both in and upon the water.
But with the limited swimmer numbers, the width of the river and the varying speeds of the swimmers I think most of us got away to a comfortable start. The first swimmer completed the course in 3 hours 22 minutes and the final swimmers coming in at 6 hrs 45 minutes. The finish of the swim was at a lovely private property at Living Waters, where we found our bags of dry clothes and towels that we’d left at the start which had been shuttled to the finish ready for our arrival, there was a beautiful log fire burning, hot coffee, sandwiches, fruit and a small tent for changing into dry clothes.
When we were ready there was a shuttle bus to take us to The Pot House which is where the post swim celebrations were to take place along with plenty of hot food and drinks. This was a very well organized, friendly, fun and social event in a truly beautiful part of the world.
At the post swim celebrations Chris and I met Bo and Tami Chamberlain and Tim Shults who was Chris’ kayaker during the swim, both families had their children babysat for the day so they could come out on the water and kayak for swimmers. Before we knew it we’d teed up a day of rafting for the following morning with Bo and Tami and their two daughters Zoe and Emma on the Ocoee River, a little downstream of where the white-water rafting events took place in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, to be followed by a chilly night at Tim and his wife Berry’s home! This was a wonderful day, the rafting trip was well organized by Bo and Tami who are both former river guides, we thoroughly enjoyed the natural beauty of the Ocoee river and then our visit to Tim and Berry’s rustic home high on Signal Mountain.
The following two days we spent enjoying swimming and kayaking on Chickamauga Lake. Then on Wednesday evening we had a very important date with Zoe who had just turned 11 years old. After the Snail Darter race the previous week Chris had promised Zoe that we’d swim the Snail Darter 1 mile course with her the following Wednesday. So today was the big day and we met with Zoe and the C.O.W.S. (Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers) for their weekly swim. Zoe did just great, she swam well, learned about swimming in the open water with a current and with the company of two kayakers, Chris, myself and one or two othe swimmers Zoe completed the 1 mile Snail Darter course in 18 minutes! Well done Zoe http://www.outdoorchattanooga.com/
Our flight home was scheduled for Saturday; so with only a few days left before we had to return home to Australia Chris and I drove to the Great Smoky Mountains just a few hours north east of Chattanooga. We were so lucky with the weather; it was a perfect, clear day so we headed straight to Clingmans’ Dome where we could see for miles across the beautiful mountain ranges and enjoyed a four hour hike with breathtaking views. The following morning our destination was Cades Cove a 12 mile, one way loop road with several places to stop and take in the views or go for hikes.
Chris and I hiked the five mile return trip to Abrams Falls and on our return whilst driving out of Cades Cove we noticed right beside us in the woods was a black bear! This bear was a bit of a show off, he cruised through the woods, climbed to the top of a tree and then down again, sauntered along the road beside the two cars ahead of us, crossed the road in front of them, then continued on his way through the woods on the opposite side of the road. He wasn’t in the slightest worried about the cars or the people in them excitedly watching and taking photos as he went on his way.
A huge thank you to Karah Nazor Friberg and Philip Grimes at Outdoor Chattanooga for putting on a wonderful event, thank you to the kayakers and all involved in helping out and organising this year’s fantastic swim, and to fellow swimmers and locals for their friendship and hospitality. And as always a big thank you to all the sponsors of the Swim the Suck 2012. THANK YOU! Interested in Swim the Suck 2013?
Nominations open on 1/1/2013 for a tentative date of 5th October 2013 www.swimthesuck10mile.com
Links Swim the Sucks www.swimthesuck10mile.com
Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/#!/SwimTheSuck