Along the Cascades Lakes Scenic Byway about 30 miles southwest of Bend, Elk Lake hosted the Cascade Lakes Swim Series and Festival for the 23rd year, directed by Bob Bruce, his wife, Barb, and the support of a slew of volunteers. With the South Sister, also known as “Charity,” and the gorgeous Oregon Cascades dominating the skyline, there is no more picturesque location in Oregon for open water swimming than Elk Lake. The swim series consisted of 5 swims-500 meter, 1000 meter, 1500 meter, 3000 meter, and 5000 meter-spread across 3 days. The long weekend and nearby campgrounds allowed veteran and new open water enthusiasts alike to soak in the setting, socialize, and make lasting memories at Elk Lake.
Over 200 swimmers registered for the event, which included the NW Zone Championship in the 1500 meter swim on Saturday and the 5k National Championship on Sunday. Swimmers could choose to enter in the short series—500, 1000, and 1500 meter swims, or the long series—1500, 3000, and 5000 meter swims. Seventy two intrepid swimmers made the most of the warmest water temperature (70°!) since 1999, and conquered the survivor series by swimming all 5 distances for a total of 11,000 meters!
The swim series started Friday evening with the 3000 meter swim. Volunteers and swimmers gathered on the beach, greeting old friends and making new ones. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the water was a cozy 72° near the shore and “cooling” to 70° by the first buoy 300 meters out. After the swim, swimmers and guests devoured wings provided by Hardy’s Hot Wings & Hamburgers, owned and operated by COMA’s own, Hardy Lussier.
Saturday started off with the 500 meter time trial, the only swim to start on land. Swimmers were individually staggered 15 seconds apart, swam 250 meters down a cable, turned 180° and swam back to the beach. The day continued with a Kid’s Festival, where little ones enjoyed some waterside activities and earned medals for their efforts! The swimming ended for the day with a record number of swimmers competing in the 1500 meter NW Zone Championship! So many swimmers, in fact, that for the first time in event history there were 4 heats to the race, which kept swimmers safer and made the timing of finishes smoother. Congratulations go to the two teams who were crowned Open Water Champions—small team: Rogue Valley Masters, and large team: Central Oregon Masters Aquatics!
Determined swimmers assembled on the sunny Sunday morning to test their endurance and mettle to tackle the longest swim in the series—the 5k National Championship. For some, it was the biggest obstacle in earning the Survivors Cup, for others it was a chance to better their times and challenge familiar rivalries. For all, it was a rewarding achievement! The series wrapped up with the 1000 meter “Tour of Buoys” and swimmers descended on the food tables for the final time, chowing down on the sweet fruit from Farmer Brown and sandwiches provided by volunteers, while Barb had the formidable task of tallying results for the whole weekend of swimming before the awards ceremony where medals, coasters, and survivor cups were awarded.
An event like this in a scenic (but remote) setting doesn’t happen without a lot of planning and a lot of helpers! A huge heartfelt thanks goes out to the organizers and volunteers who made this event possible and safe for all swimmers! The success of this event depended on the teamwork of everyone involved, from those who manned the registration table, the safety spotters and medic volunteers, those who hauled in coffee and water, helped serve food all weekend, and those who helped with the cookies, like Andy Schob who wrapped Rice Krispies Treats (pictured below). As always, the 2017 Cascade Lakes Swim Series was a fun event to commune with other swimmers and do what we love-SWIM!