submitted by Marisa Frieder
The 2018 Portland Bridge Swim took place on a bright, sunny day, with 83 solo swimmers competing in the National Championship, as well as 17 3-person relay teams. River conditions were tougher than most years, with a north wind blowing chop into swimmers’ faces even while they rode a long, slow current. At 11:48 the tide started coming in, twice as fast as the outgoing current had been, hitting most swimmers as they entered the long, dispiriting 5 mile stretch between the 10th & 11th bridge. On a good day, almost everybody considers quitting in that stretch, so having to fight a tide and chop made it even more impressive that they all kept going. Despite a roster full of fast national swimmers intent on taking first place, that position was won by local Galen Sollom-Brotherton of Beaverton. Coming in at 3:58:04, Galen made our Oregon Masters Swimming community proud! Mackenzie Leake of Stanford, CA finished 3rd overall and first for the women, with an eye-popping time of 4:08.51.
Overall & Men’s first-place finisher Galen Sollom-Brotherton, 27, from Beaverton OR
Galen graduated from Whitman College in 2014, and spent the next 2 years coaching in different places. During those 2 years, he swam in the Fat Salmon race one year, and the Del Valle 10k the next year. Since his eventual goal is to do a swim like Lake Tahoe or an English Channel crossing, he was pleased to find a swim as long as the Portland Bridge swim. Galen says, “Swimming through downtown Portland and under the bridges was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. I will never view the Willamette the same.”
When Galen was about 2 miles from the finish, he began to feel the tide holding him back a bit. Regarding the swim, Galen says, “It was a brutal one for sure.” He paced himself by keeping his eyes on Eilhard Lussier.
First Place Women’s finisher Mackenzie Leake, 24, Stanford CA
Mackenzie is a third-year computer science PhD student at Stanford, and is a summer research intern at Adobe in San Francisco. She wanted to enjoy a vacation in Oregon with her family, and explore and swim in some beautiful places. She swims with the Stanford Masters team, for Coach Tim Edmonds.
Mackenzie’s dad is the reason that she started doing longer swims. “In high school he jokingly said he wouldn’t come and sit 8 hours at a swim meet to watch me swim for 30 seconds. I figured that meant I needed to start swimming the mile if I wanted him to come (and I figured 11 miles might actually make it even more worth it this time around),” Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie has been swimming for so many years, that she is always looking for new swimming challenges. She describes her experience during the Portland Bridge Swim. “The Portland Bridge Swim is longer, by far, than anything I’ve ever swum. Something I love about open water swims is nice views along the way, so I was really excited about getting a special tour of Portland. I definitely got more eager to continue the tour and see the next bridge as the swim went on.”
Michael Oxendine, currently 35 (36 in competition), Talent OR
Michael discovered that he liked open water swimming (no gators – no sharks), and having some great local friends who like it too (Todd Lantry, Leah Harris, Shannon House-Keegan, Mike Stadnisky), just makes it more fun. They all train together with Southern Oregon Masters Aquatics and Rogue Valley Masters Swim Team. Michael says, “I had a blast for the first 8 miles, and then…I was ready to be at the finish, which didn’t seem to be getting close nearly fast enough.” He really enjoys the sportsmanship and support from the other competitors.
Pat Lee, Richland WA
Pat’s cousin used to be water patrol for the 4.4 mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge swim, in the D.C. area. He was aware of the event, but had no aspirations to swim it at that time. But, 20 years later he was driving home from work in Richland, Washington, and saw a 4.4 swim sticker on the back of a car. He got to know the swimmer driving that car, and learned that he had done the race a few years before. So, they began training together. Pat finally swam the 4.4 mile swim in 2012. He enjoyed the challenge so much that he started to look for similar challenges in other states. Then he discovered the PBS swim. After asking his training partner if they could do PBS together, his partner said, “Maybe … someday”. Pat began training on his own since he had no friend in the race. He logged hours and hours in the pool.
He finished the PBS in 2013 and was racing well in the 2014 event before it was cancelled because of a lightning storm. After the disappointment of the 2014 event, he didn’t want to spend another four months training (mostly by himself) with the possibility of another cancellation. However, in 2018 his training partner, the one who had inspired him to pursue long distance open water swimming in the first place, entered the PBS. Just days after the opening of registration, his training partner told him that the registration limit had been reached and registration was now closed. So Pat went home and got on the waitlist. Pat and his friend continued to train together and got pulled from the wait list in May. They had spent several long Fridays doing 12k – 13k in a 25 yard pool, because open water in Richland is too cold to train for such long swims. Pat says, “Training in the pool, as boring as it was, paid off because I was 9th out of the water and first in my age group.”
Katie Levine, Missoula MT
Katie found out about the Bridge Swim at the 2017 Elk Lake Swim Series. Upon returning home to Missoula, MT, she told her best friend and training partner, Carrie Jacobs about the event, half joking that they should do it. When Carrie said, “Let’s do it!”, Katie was a little excited, but mostly anxious. Since the Bridge Swim fell on Katie’s birthday, she had to do it! Katie says, “The Bridge Swim became a personal challenge for me. In 2004 I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, poly-myositis, that causes muscle weakness. Conquering an 11 mile swim was my way of showing that my arthritis does not define me!”