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  • emilyvonjentzen

Double Crossed

This took me two weeks to write.....but rest assured, my recovery from the swim has gone quite well! I have been extremely gracious for all of the support, encouragement and donations for Monte and Scottie Marie. The swim was hard--much harder than I had anticipated. I had many moments where I wasn't sure I would be able to make it. I had many moments of frustration over the fact that things weren't going how I expected they would. I was able to push through physical and mental hurdles to complete my goal of completing the first ever Double Crossing of Flathead Lake.

So in detailing my experience, I would first like to let you in on a few things I didn't really discuss prior to the swim. I was EXTREMELY worried about my training volume prior to the swim. I had an excellent base training block of high mileage from November through February, but a few late spring illnesses sidetracked me from meeting all my mileage goals this spring and early summer. My pre-season training (from July through first week in December) I swam 124.6 miles. My regular season mileage (from December through July) was 311 miles. Several years back I was told by a world renowned open water coach that my training in comparison to other marathon swimmers was somewhere around 1/3 to 1/4 of the training volume of what other swimmers do. There are two takeaways from this....first I'm not a professional athlete (and I have to work a full time job) and second...I've always been able to do more with less in many areas of my life. In addition to feeling like I may have undershot my training, I was under a CONSIDERABLE amount of stress in the month leading up to the swim. I was a co-race director for the Flathead Lake Swim Series just two weeks prior to my Double Crossing.....and I also had listed my house for sale and was moving most of my stuff to storage (house went under contract yesterday-woohoo).

So needless to say....when July 28th came around I was not 100% confident I was going to be able to get it done. I woke up at 3:30am (my alarm wasn't set until 4:15). I started to prepare myself, having some snacks and gathering up my gear. I did a little yoga to calm my nerves. Katie, my right hand crew member, came to pick me up at about 5:15 and we were off. The launch was pretty smooth. Only a small gathering of folks to see me off (which I prefer). I made two enormous mistakes before launching. First I miscalculated a powder to water ratio of my Cytomax (electrolyte drink) that I drank immediately before starting......this resulted in me puking 45 minutes into the swim, but I did recovery quickly from that error. Second, halfway through my sunscreen application I got distracted and NO SUNSCREEN was put on my legs....this resulted in me having a better understanding of what bacon goes through..... :/

From six until maybe noon or so I was making incredible time. We had excellent water conditions and I believed we were a bit ahead of schedule. I was expecting those conditions to last throughout the day.....that expectation was NOT met. From about Angel Point to the Narrows I battled a strong head wind. My progress slowed considerable (some watching the tracker even claimed I was going backwards....ugh). This was the hardest part of the swim mentally for me. I got really down on myself. I the point that I realized we weren't even going to be in Polson by our latest estimates (10pm) I was really discouraged. I had a pretty big emotional breakdown and I remember telling my crew "I'm going so slow and everyone is going to laugh at me." My crew refocused me and we worked through it. Late in the evening I started to get chilly but we had an issue with our electric tea kettle requiring too much energy to be plugged into the boat, so I had to wait a bit longer than anticipated for warm liquids. While we awaited a generator Chad Fetveit boated out with some hot water and soup....which was SO helpful until the generator was transported out to the boat.

I got into Polson at around 1:30 am and John was eagerly awaiting my arrival (if not for John's positive attitude and encouragement I do not believe I would have completed this swim). I cleared the water to complete the North to South crossing, ate two grilled cheese sandwiches and then John and I headed North. I've always struggled with nighttime swimming (particularly around 3am). Luckily we had VERY calm water overnight. I was feeling extremely fatigued and had to direct my kayakers to keep a very close eye on me as I felt like I was falling asleep. I kept telling myself "if you can make it to sunrise you will finish this swim."

Sunrise came and brought with it renewed energy and a second wind. John and I eventually fell into a pretty decent pace and I felt like we were both pushing each other. We had calm water until noon or so I think. Then we had enormous waves pick up. The waves didn't really die down until maybe 2-3 hours from the end of the swim. Luckily the waves were at our back, but they were HUGE. The water was so rough that at one point nearly the entire crew had to be switched out after they got sea sick. Feeding in the rough water was extremely difficult and I was having a hard time with an upset stomach for several hours.

Once we got past Angel point and we could see the Somers water tower I was SO excited (but we did still have a considerable distance to go). At about the 35 hour mark of my swim I started to hallucinate, but it was still daylight and the hallucinations were minor (and I knew they were not real). I was very motivated to finish before the sun went down as I do not enjoy hallucinating in the dark. With about 2 miles to go I refused a feed because I just wanted to be done so badly. About the 39 hour mark my hallucinations had gotten worse and it was dark. Luckily John's wife Wendy was kayaking very close to me and was able to keep me on course and calm. I started to shiver at 39.5 hours. But after 40 hours in the water I was able to walk out of the water and congratulate John before paramedics loaded me up in the ambulance.

I was so amazed by the crowd that had accumulated on shore (as it was 10pm on a Sunday). I wish I had been able to sit and talk to everyone who came out to show their support. After that much time in the water it was important to immediately get my post swim IV in and have the medics check on me. I was in VERY good hands. I had a few amazing visitors while I was in the ambulance. Scottie Marie's dad was there to congratulate John and I--it was so awesome to meet him as we were not told he was going to be there. I also got a visitor that kind of brought everything full circle for me....little Karmyn the first child I swam for back in 2010 was there with her family. She is now a beautiful ten year old and has been cancer free for 5 years! It was so special to have her there.

It was also so special to have Brian, Jaime and Tim on board the crew. I swam for the Roker's little girl Katelyn in 2011. Katelyn got her angel wings in the fall of 2011, but I sure felt her presence during this swim.

I can not say enough about the caliber of the support crew that John and I were blessed with for this swim. These folks kept us safe, fed, motivated and sacrificed considerable portions of their weekend to support this endeavor. We had kayakers in for the entire second leg of the swim--even for the HOURS and HOURS of rough water. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude to the crew for this year's swim.

I was ultimately transported to the hospital after the swim. My physician wanted a blood draw done just to confirm my kidney function was normal (for those unaware I had a post swim kidney issue following a 2011 swim so we keep an eye on that). While the trip the hospital did prevent me from getting home until 3am (so I was up for 48 hour straight!), I was happy to have the blood work done and confirmation that my kidney function was completely normal!

Oddly enough, I had NO (that's right zero-zilch) shoulder pain or discomfort following my swim. WHAT?!?!?!?! That's crazy right!!! I completely credit this to my yoga instructor Erin from the Yoga Room in Kalispell. She worked with me one-on-one over the past year and REALLY strengthened my shoulders. I have never had a marathon swim where I didn't have shoulder pain following the swim. It is unbelievable to me that I could swim 40 hours and have no shoulder pain at all afterwards!

The pain I avoided in my shoulders was made up for by the excruciating sunburn on the backs of my legs. It was the worst sunburn I have ever gotten. No blistering, but EXTREMELY painful. Luckily, the sunburn pain lasted just a week and then I peeled like a giant snake, but now, for the most part I am back to normal! I returned to work this past Monday and aside from getting fatigued pretty quickly I am on the mend!

So while I am pretty close to being all healed up....our beneficiaries Scottie Marie and Monte are still battling their respective health issues. While we have raised a substantial amount for these two kiddos, we are still about $6,000 from our goal. So if you are able to make a donation, even a small one, please visit Our fundraising for these two will continue through the end of 2017.

DO YOU HAVE PHOTOS/VIDEO OF THE FINISH? My crew was obviously tending to my immediate needs at the finish and wasn't taking video. Did anyone get a photo of John and I coming out of the water together? If you have any photos or video that you would be willing to share, please email those to

In a few days I will post John's "guest blog post" on his Flathead Lake Crossing Experience.

Thank you SO MUCH for your love, support and encouragement!


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