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For the love of swimming

LAKE GEORGE He swam around Manhattan Island, and across Tampa Bay, but hes never been to Lake George. That will all change when Denis Crean travels to the area for the first annual Lake George Marathon on June 30. Crean will be one of 11 world-class marathon swimmers who will compete for a total prize purse of $25,000 by swimming from Shepard Park in Lake George Village to Hague. Crean, who lives in Washington D.C. began open water marathon swimming in 2004 when he swam across Tampa Bay in Florida. I swam in shorter races before that, but before I swam Tampa Bay, I trained with the expectation of just finishing the race in 10 hours or less, Crean said. I actually won the race in 9 hours and 20 minutes. He has never been to Lake George and is looking forward to the experience. It offers a unique challenge, he said. I dont know how much [of a role] temperature will play, and I also like the idea of resurrecting a race after 80 years. Organizer Graham Bailey read about the last marathon in Lake George which was in 1927, which inspired him to bring the race back. Bruckner Chase of Ocean City, N.J. is also looking forward to swimming the race. Ive been researching the area and I can hardly wait to get there, Chase said. It seems like such a romantic era in 1927 when the last race was. To be part of an event 80 years later is so exciting. Both Chase and Crean are drawn to long distance swimming competitions. A lot of it is centered around freedom, Crean said. Out in the middle of Tampa Bay all you can see is water, but you know you can get back to land. Even though swimmers are always accompanied by a support boat, Crean said he finds the experience cleansing. Not being attached to anything, being one with the water and the sun above, its somewhat spiritual, he said. Ive met people that have become close friends and we realize that open marathon swimming has become our passion. He and Chase have founded the United States Open Water Association to promote their sport. Chase began his career as an endurance athlete at the age of 19 when he entered his first Ironman competition. He competed in the 100 mile run in Vermont in 1998 and has been swimming in open water marathons for the past three or four years. Ive always been drawn to sports outside of my pre-conceived comfort zone, Chase said. He met his wife Michelle through mutual friends, and discovered that her father, Col. Stewart Evans, was the only person to swim from Farallon Island in California to the mainland in 1967. Theres a great white shark research center there now, he said. There were sharks back then, but there are a lot more now, you probably wouldnt get very far today. Bruckner feels a strong obligation to honor the legacy of Michelle's father and other swimmers who accomplished some amazing feats without the 21st century benefits that he has. I grew up in Memphis, and I was saved from drowning twice by the time I was 10, he said. I never dreamed I would end up doing some of the athletic events that now appear on my resume. Bruckner has attempted to swim the English Channel, but weather forced the swim to be stopped. He swam the over 21 mile distance of Lake Tahoe and the Maui Channel in Hawaii. The Lake George Marathon Swim will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 30 and the weekend will also have shorter open swim races for amateur swimmers on Saturday in Lake George and on Sunday in Bolton and Hague. Visit swimlakegeorge.org for more information or contact Bailey at bailey6@nycap.rr.com.

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