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August 2 , 2008

 

Tough Lake Tahoe swim next challenge for Vleck

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

You are Christine Vleck and someone who has grown to crave challenges like this noble cause.
You are a 29-year-old Californian with a thirst for adventure, which is why you will be among a nine-person contingent — split up into teams of three — who will be entering the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe in the early hours next Saturday morning for your toughest yet most rewarding challenge to date.
This is a different athletic undertaking, not at all like the softball and basketball games you played in for the purple and white of Cortland High yet not too much different than the five grueling triathlons you have completed in this past year. Your energetic and ambitious friends who make up a team that goes by “SwimAnything” will be attempting to swim the diagonal dimensions of Lake Tahoe. That will be a 45-mile two-way test of endurance and willpower that will also help raise money for a grand cause. The National Brain Tumor Society will benefit from your efforts.
You are Christine Vleck and are looking to create a bit of history, too.
Though some of your male cohorts were successful in this undertaking a year ago when some $5,000 was raised for this cancer cause, you and some teammates will be looking to become the first females to cover the 22.5-mile distance in a single day before making a return trip on Sunday. While not churning through the water you will be alongside a swimmer in a kayak, a task that is just as demanding on your shoulder muscles and just as energy draining.
You figure to be in the water swimming for four to five hours each day, in increments of 60 minutes before giving way to a teammate. You are also well aware that less than 10 people have officially gone the length of Lake Tahoe in a single day previous to your attempt.
You are Christine Vleck and know that there is more than simply swimming involved here. Scenic Lake Tahoe, located on the border between California and Nevada, is some 6,225 feet above sea level and will test your lungs. And afternoon winds can turn the water surface into a sea of whitecaps and turn your swim into one bumpy ride. And the crystal clear waters provide another problem, as swimmers often experience vertigo and become nauseous with no depth perception available to the eye.
This will be a tougher task for you than the others. As you point out: “I’m the least experienced of the swimmers on the team. Most of them swam in college, so this will probably be my biggest challenge because swimming is my weakness.”
You will not be unprepared, however. You often awake at 6 a.m. in the morning and swim in Lake Anza, not far from your home near San Francisco, to put in some miles. Later in the day there are laps in a pool for further training. Even last week while home visiting the family, you dragged mom up to SUNY Cortland’s Holsten Pool to put in more work in preparation.
You are Christine Vleck and athletics took a back seat after leaving Cortland High when you graduated in 1997, attending more to your studies at Cornell University in Ithaca. Six years ago you left Central New York and headed west and worked for PowerBar and found yourself in 2006 representing that company at the infamous Kona Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. “You catch the bug,” you say now of the infectious atmosphere at that event that tugged on your competitive spirit.
So now you are Christine Vleck the tri-athlete, competing in distance races of endurance that go from swimming to cycling to running. That bike trip you took to the South Island of New Zealand where you put in some 900 miles of peddling helped you develop your abilities on a bicycle. Running was the easy part, something you always enjoyed even back in your Cortland days. The differences in the triathlon disciplines are what you find enjoyable, too, as the training differs so you can rest certain parts of your body along the way. And while you worked for your MBA at the prestigious Cal-Berkeley Business School, you enjoyed having more time to train before you join the real work world and take up a steady job in        September.
You are Christine Vleck and recent training has been mostly aquatic in nature with Lake Tahoe on your mind. You don’t want to let the other members of the SwimAnything team down. Kathy Dideum, Katie Dwyer and Jessica Johnston are the other females you call teammates. Matt and John Evans, Ken Wallace, Adam Brink, Patrick Dideumm, Marty Matthies and Ralph Fallant are the men on this special squad. Always on your mind is former classmate Steve Dugan, diagnosed with a brain tumor. Another team member has a relative who recently passed away from cancer, too.
So soon you will be off. PowerBar in one those companies who have provided its products for nourishment. As you point out “We will need to have thousands and thousands of calories” to fuel your body during the ordeal. Gulps of water can be had right out of the lake itself.
And this is a project your group has put together pretty much by itself. “We schemed it up ourselves and notified the Coast Guard that we will be out there,” you say of this journey that starts at Incline Village Beach and takes you to Emerald Bay for camping overnight in preparation for the return trip.
You are Christine Vleck and you hope your effort will not go un-rewarded, as donations can still be made the website www.swimanything.com.