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Greater Victoria pair attempt 70-km swim in Cowichan Lake this weekend

Susan Simmons is tackling a 70-km swim of Cowichan Lake this weekend, a feat expected to take more than 24 hours. Simmons has been fighting off multiple sclerosis attacks by living an active life including swimming and eating healthy. - Charla Huber/File photo
Susan Simmons is tackling a 70-km swim of Cowichan Lake this weekend, a feat expected to take more than 24 hours. Simmons has been fighting off multiple sclerosis attacks by living an active life including swimming and eating healthy.
— image credit: Charla Huber/File photo

Two of Greater Victoria’s most ambitious open water swimmers are attempting to swim the length of Cowichan Lake for a second time this weekend.

And this time they’re making it a double.

In July 2013, Susan Simmons and Alex Cape swam the length of Cowichan Lake in a little more than 11 hours.

Now they’re planning two lengths of the lake – 70 km – a feat that will be at least 24 hours non-stop in the water.

They start Friday at 2 p.m. from the south end of the lake and anticipate a Lake Cowichan finish late on Saturday afternoon.

“There is a strict code with open water swimmers,” said Simmons. “No wetsuits, is one. But we are allowed to get out of the water for 20 minutes after we swim one length of the lake, if we wish.”

Simmons has captured the hearts of many as she’s dealt with multiple sclerosis for 20 years. Swimming, and a raw food-focused diet are her way of dealing with the disease.

Through her accomplishments, which include swimming with a relay team across the Georgia Strait and as of last month, the English Channel, Simmons has pulled together not only the Greater Victoria MS community, but people from all walks of life.

“I receive messages of support, messages of personal success stories that I influenced, and more, through my website,” Simmons said.

To prepare for the challenge Simmons and Cape swim with multiple masters clubs around town, including the 50 meter lanes at Crystal Pool and Saanich Commonwealth Place, and have spent the majority of their weekends for the past few months swimming the open waters of Thetis Lake.

“We’re in Thetis for hours and hours every Saturday and then we do it again on Sunday. We’ve actually found Thetis isn’t big enough for our training purposes,” Simmons said.

Should the couple succeed, they’ll need somewhere between 24 to 26 hours to complete the 70 km length.

To make it an even 70 km, they have tacked an extra kilometre into their route, upping it from the 34 km they did last summer.

The time and distance put them into a couple of exclusive open water swimming clubs, the limited 24-hour club, as well as the top 15 per cent of all successful open water swim attempts by distance.

The logistics for such a feat are plenty.

Len Martel heads the organizing, which includes dozens of volunteers. On the water are safety boats and kayaks, as well as several additional swimmers who are “jumping in” for two- or five-kilometre stretches, maybe more.

The two expect to reach Heather Campground at the north end of the lake around 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

During the night portion of the swim they’ll wear lights on their back which have been approved by the internationally recognized open water swimming guild.

The cooler overnight temperatures are one of the main challenges the two foresee, as well as the mental fight they’ll be waging.

The physical toll begins at 20km, Simmons said.

“A lot of the preparation has been mental, and we’ve been preparing ourselves for months, dating right back to the fall.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

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