Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lake Superior Camping: Swim, Paddle, & Run

I found myself on Lake Superior this past week in Wisconsin’s Big Bay State Park for some kayaking, swimming, running, and camping.  This park is on Madeline Island which is one of the apostle islands, an area known for good paddling.  The trip was too short at 3 nights and 2 days but was a lot of fun.  Weather was gorgeous and ranged from 70 - 80°F during the day.  It rained the last night there which, made packing up and unpacking everything at home to dry lame but otherwise, good things.  The pictures tell a better story than my words can.
Getting ready for a swim.
Just before the trip I got a wetsuit in the mail.  I figured I can use all the help I can get for my upcoming sprint tri and can also get good use out of it kayaking.  I took the wetsuit up to get familiar with it and get some open water swim practice in.  The beach area was fairly shallow as it has sandbars that go out some ways.  Water temperature in the shallows is cool but warmer than the rest of the lake and comfortable for a short duration.  That said it also gets deep fast and there are some strong currents that would sweep us and our kayaks away from the shore in short order.  Lake Superior is massive, and very far North and sub sequentially very cold.  To call it a lake is an understatement, it looks more like an ocean.  My wife paddled a kayak at my side as I swam but I was very mindful of my surroundings.

The vast expanse that is Lake Superior.
I dove in the water without the wetsuit to get a feel for the temperature.  Breathing is difficult enough when swimming without the shock that accompanies cold water.  It took a little getting used to but I don’t imagine swimming any duration in cold water without a wetsuit is a good idea.  Alternatively swimming with the wetsuit was very comfortable and easy.  I swam fast as I ever have and knocked down 500 yards in 11:26 with energy to spare.  Five weeks ago I could not swim even 50 yards.  The only trouble I had was my goggles fogging, which I am still looking for solutions.

Paddling back to shore.  The water was clean.  I even filtered some and drank it.
After knocking out the swim it was time to paddle.  Talk about a good core workout.  Even getting the boats the 1/4 mile to shore was a workout in itself.  My wife and I went out on the big water and came back to shore for lunch and some sun.  After eating we paddled back to our launch site for a round trip of 3 miles.  Any future trip will include far more paddling than this – driving 800 miles with kayaks on the roof demands it.  Next year I would like to paddle to another island, overnight it, and paddle back in the morning.

Base Camp
The following day my wife and I set out on a long run turned into an unplanned 16 mile trail/road run at a very comfortable conversation pace.  We took it easy, stopped to take pictures, eat, and take in the scenery.  It was unhurried, simple, and fun.  Running should always be enjoyable and recreational runs are a good way to mix it up.  Perhaps the spirit of this run was motivated by the words out of Born to Run which I brought along to read at my wife’s encouragement (I know I am late to the party on this one).  I am looking forward to getting in some more trail running and already have a camping and running trip planned for the North Face Endurance challenge in two weeks.     


1 comment:

  1. Your pictures are amazing! I agree, Born to Run is very motivating. I'm jealous that you are doing the Endurance Challenge!