There were a lot of things running through my mind early Saturday evening, July 20th, as I swam to the beach, somehow pulled myself up out of the water and rang the bell on shore to signal I had completed a 34k swim. What stood out the most however, and flooded me with emotion, was that “it takes a village.” This is my story of that village.

In the beginning

The village began to form in December 2012, just after I had announced to one of my coaches, Danielle Brault that I would wanted to swim the length of Lake Cowichan – a 34 kilometer, 10 to 12 hour swim. I wanted to test my MS head on. I had been struggling with speeding up so thought I would try increasing my distance as a way of keeping me motivated in the pool.

Danielle suggested to one of my teammates, Alex Cape, that she jump in. The village was now three.

Over the next several months Alex and I trained as often as we could: Alex in Chilliwack while studying to be a paramedic and myself in Victoria. We shared our weekly workouts, triumphs and challenges with Danielle via email and swam together whenever Alex as in town.

By March we were both swimming well over 30 kilometers a week; more than could be achieved during regular team workouts. I added a 3k swim in advanced my YMCA masters workouts and 3 to 9k swims on Sundays post Victoria Masters swims. Kate Whitaker, Lauren Westmcott, Pam Loadman and Chelsea Flotre swam with me would they could. The village was now 7.

Come April I suffered an acute shoulder injury while canoeing. I was unable to raise my left arm more than 15 degrees and I soon found myself under the care of Sandy Wilson (Arbutus Physiotherapy). Confronted with the possibility that I may not be able to swim for some time, along with the hormonally induced depression from the drop in exercise I sought a few words of wisdom from another of my coaches, Mike Neill (Tyee Aquatic Club and Human Powered Racing). The village was now 9.

Over the next few weeks I kicked as many workouts as I could and spent more time on a spin bike than I thought humanly possible. I needed to keep my fitness level up while my shoulder healed.

May soon rolled around and things were looking up. I slowly worked swimming back into my routine. The timing was perfect. As I increased my volume I was able to shift from the pool to the lake. The change was a welcome one.

Along with my new environment came a new routine and new swim mates. Tuesday and Thursday nights I spent an hour in an outrigger followed by a one hour swim. Lake workouts were Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights for a few hours as well as 4 to 8 hours on Saturday or Sunday. My partner Ray Este kayaked beside me ensuring I stay on course, didn’t swim over anyone or into the occasional dog, keep track of my lap times and provided me with nourishment.

As the length of workouts increased it became more and more difficult for both Alex and I to keep our energy up. By the 4 hour mark we were slowing down significantly. Enter Clint Lien, head-coach of Mercury Rising Triathlon Club. A quick chat about nutritional needs during long events and we had a plan which we tested and then later used during the swim.

I put word out that I was looking for training lap partners and was fortunate to have several friends join me for portions of my workouts. Alex, Kate, Lauren, Pam and Chelsea shifted some of their swims from the pool to the lake. Victoria Masters Rod Carmichael , Len Martel, Bjarne Hansen, Barbara Kay Peck, Eleanor Liddy, David Jara, and others also partook in loops.

The next eight weeks passed quickly. There was little time for anything other than work, swimming and the occasional paddle.

July soon rolled around it was time to work on the logistics of the swim. Len Martel, a good friend from Victoria Masters Swim Club offered to help. Another good friend, MJ vanBergen, offered to assist with safety and feeding. The village now had a major and safety warden.

We launched a facebook event for “a wee little swim across the lake” and invited friends to join the adventure. The village grew. Ten more swimmers, 11 paddlers, a small fleet of boaters complete with coaches and an on-shore crew quickly formed.

Word soon got out about “a wee little swim across a lake” through the village criers. Supporters and spectators began to amass. The village was now ready for the swim.


Alex Cape, Janet Bell, Russ Cape, Rod Carmichael, Ian Graeme, Pam Loadman, Len Martel, Carol Pilon, Avila Rhodes, Dale Robinson, Susan Simmons and Lauren Westmacott

Emma Beckwith, Shannon Davis, Ray Este, Martin Figel, Ian Graeme, Bjarne Hansen, Pam Loadman, Carol Pal, Barbara Kay-Peck, Carol Pilon and Lauren Westmacott

Safety, Logistics, Boaters & Coaches
MJ VanBergen, Len Martel, Chris Martel, Denis Martel, Gordon & Caroline Austin, Ed & Carolanne Bonenfant, Rick McPhail and Matt Piechnik
Danielle Brault and Sarah Macdonald, RCMP

On-shore Crew
Carol Martel, Joanne Trottier, Erin Beckwith, Laura Silva and Debbie, Alexa, Chelsea & Cortney Martel

Village Criers
Travis Paterson – Victoria News, Richard Watts – Times Colonist, 89.7FM, Jo-Ann Roberts – All Points West CBC, Lindsay Chung – Cowichan News Leader, Sucheta Singh, Cowichan Valley Citizen, Mike Bishop at 98.7 The Lake

Event Funders
Dalton Smith & the Town of Lake Cowichan, Jim Eddy at Heather Campsite, Bell’s Floring, IRLY Bird

Special thanks all of those who donated their hard earned cash to the swim and Country Grocer Lake Cowichan for feeding all of the swimmers and volunteers after the swim – we were really hungry and are very grateful.

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