HAGUE They swam for 12 hours despite the fact that they knew they probably wouldnt reach the finish line.
The Lake George Open Water Swim on Saturday attracted 10 of the best open water swimmers in the world, but only one made it all the way from Shepard Park in Lake George to the Hague Town Beach. That swimmer was Rafael Antonio Perez, a 26-year-old professional swimmer from Sante Fe, Argentina.
Prior to the race, Perez said he came to see Lake George and to swim the marathon in preparation for another race.
Next week is a World Cup race in Italy, he said. There have been no races for me in four months so this is training.
The training was challenging, as a north wind kicked up throughout the day, slowing the marathon swimmers and making their task even more challenging.
It was an extremely well-run race, said Denis Crean, a swimmer from Chevy Chase, Md. It was grueling, particularly the first half until the Narrows, it was like swimming upstream with the winds.
Swimmers left Shepard Park at 8 a.m. and Perez arrived at Hague Beach at 7:30 p.m.
Race organizer Graham Bailey said the race was called at 8 p.m., 12 hours after it started.
Only one racer had to come out of the water before we called the race, he said. Martin (Andres Clement) dropped out with hypothermia. The Argentinian swimmer was just 17 years old, and was on the same team as Perez.
Even though no other racers reached the finish line, they all were given full prizes for whatever place they were in. The second swimmer overall was Dori Miller of Arlington, Mass. who was within a mile or so of the finish when the race was called. She was given first place in the womens class.
Second place in the mens class was Crean followed by Bruckner Chase, 41, of Ocean City, N.J. and Ray Gandy, 45, of Coventry, R.I. came in fourth.
Second place in the womens class was Irene van der Laan, a 46-year-old swimmer from The Netherlands followed by Elissa Kline, 24, a Glens Falls native who is studying in Salt Lake City, Utah and Elaine Kornbau, 25, from Waltham, Mass. was fourth.
Chase said the swim was rough, mostly in the southern basin.
It was very challenging for a very long time, he said. The worst part was by the Sagamore, but we had a little respite in the Narrows.
Overall, Chase said he and the other swimmers were thrilled with the race and the area.
What a magnificent time we had in Lake George, Chase said. My wife and I cant wait to come back. He said the race was the safest hed ever entered.
Ive never felt safer in the water as I did on that course, and Ive been doing this for 20 plus years, he said. It allowed me to focus on my swimming, Graham did a fantastic job.
Crean said that he wanted to come back to race again.
Most of the swimmers said theyd like to come back and take a stab at finishing, he said.
Kline, who coaches the womens swimming team at her college in Utah, has always loved swimming.
I love swimming distances, she said. My father and brother and I did a relay and swam the whole lake in 1997 as a fundraiser.
Miller, a web designer from Boston, has swum across Long Island Sound and in the Boston Light race, but has a plan in mind.
Im going to swim the English Channel next August, she said. This race is lake conditions, but the distance and time is roughly the same. Miller suffered from a sore shoulder and despite the fact that she swam with one arm at times, she came in second overall and first in the womens class.
Each of the swimmers had a boat and coach that fed them food and water periodically, eating snacks like bananas, granola bars and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They all knew by 5 or 6 p.m. that they probably wouldnt make it to the finish line in the 12-hour period allotted them, but not one voluntarily stopped swimming.
I felt very relieved when I finally did get out of the water, Chase said. It was a real test, I had to ask myself why am I in the water anyway, I knew I wouldnt make it all the way, I couldnt gotten out and said, who cares. The fact that everybody who could have gotten out, stayed in the water speaks to the love of the sport and is a testament to the fortitude of the people in the race.
Race winners split a $25,000 prize pot, with an awards ceremony on Sunday morning.