Point to LaPointe

Point to LaPointe finish line

This is the finish line of the Point to LaPointe open water swimming race. The start is that little town on the opposite shore, two miles away across Lake Superior. So yeah, it’s pretty badass.

We can’t even remember where we heard about the swim originally, but it’s been on our wishlist for years. After I did 2.4 miles in the Ironman last year, it seemed a lot more achievable, though there are challenges to the race in addition to the distance. The coldness of Lake Superior, for one—the lake was only ice-free a week into June. And it’s a straight shot across to the island. Sure there are buoys and escort kayaks, but what if you got lost and ended up in Canada?

Erica loves open water swimming even more than I do and so I signed us both up in the spring. And just a few weeks ago when we were in Duluth, mentioning the race to Coleen made her decide to check it off her wishlist as well and she signed up. So we were a little cadre.

We lucked into perfect conditions for the race. They warned that they’d have to cancel the race if there was fog—which my recent experience in Duluth had me nervous for—and the forecast for the weekend was in the 60s. But on the day of the race, it was suddenly warm, with clear skies and headed into the 80s. The water was a balmy 66°. And in addition to all the directional help of buoys and kayaks, this year the host family (the landing is just in someone’s backyard) added a smoke-signal fire that was easily visible and really helped with sighting, even for experienced swimmers of the race. And Erica and I had futzed around with various neoprene booties, gloves, and caps to add to our wet suits and in the end we didn’t need any of it.

I went out with the idea of pacing myself just to make sure I could finish. It was a little odd at first to just be heading out into the wide open water—most of the time when I swim in Lake Michigan it’s at Oak Street Beach, where even if it’s deep or rough, I’m never that far from a wall with ladders. But a nice thing about being at the back of the pack is that there was almost always another swimmer to the side or ahead of me, which was comforting and easier to sight off of than the buoys. And when you’re as slow as I am, by the time you’re finishing you have 3 or 4 kayaks keeping an eye on you individually.

Erica smoked me on time and actually passed me somewhere in the water even with the women’s wave starting 5 minutes after the men’s. She finished with a time 15 minutes faster than mine—she’s a champ.

Afterwards we met up with Colleen and Amy Jo and the kids, and their neighbor Bart for a well-deserved breakfast at one of the island’s few restaurants. (Bart finished 34th overall, and Colleen did the race in just over an hour.)

Breakfast on Madeline Island
Erica is taking the photo

Official results: Time: 1:44:51.4
Overall Place: 397 / 412
Place in Gender: 210 / 217
Place in Age Group (M40-49): 55 / 57