Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Marathon swimmer attempts 34-mile swim of Lake Pend Oreille today

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 8:19 AM

While the rest of us sit inside at our air-conditioned desks or do whatever else we can to stay cool today, it's fair to say Elaine K. Howley has the most strenuous plan to beat the heat. The 45-year-old open-water swimmer is attempting a solo, non-stop swim of the length of Idaho's largest lake, Lake Pend Oreille — a total of 34 miles from the southern tip at Buttonhook Bay up to Sandpoint's City Beach in the northwest. 
click to enlarge Marathon swimmer attempts 34-mile swim of Lake Pend Oreille today
Ultra-marathon swimmer Elaine K. Howley.

If Howley is successful, she'll be the first person to do so. It's expected to take the Boston-based ultra-marathon swimmer between 17 and 20 hours to complete her journey if conditions are fair, but could take as many as 24 hours if the water is choppy. Follow Howley's progress throughout the day via the Sandpoint Online Facebook page, which is posting frequent photo and video updates of her swim. 

Howley's impressive resume includes the "Triple Crown" of ultra-marathon, open-water swims — solo crossings of the Catalina Island channel (20.4 miles), the English Channel (21 miles), and a circumnavigation of Manhattan Island (28.5 miles). Adding to her swimming skill set is certification as an ice swimmer. She completed a 1-mile swim in Boston Harbor's 41-degree water in December 2012 without a wet suit.

As she swims today, Howley is supported by an experienced boat and kayak crew, though rules of the Marathon Swimmers Federation (which she co-authored) state that a swimmer may not touch the boat or any crew members, and may not wear a wetsuit. The latter shouldn't be an issue as Lake Pend Oreille averages a surface temp of 65-70 degrees this time of year.

The marathon swim is in part helping to promote the upcoming Long Bridge Swim, a 19-year Sandpoint summer tradition that helps raise funds for swimming lessons and aquatic safety. Participants in the annual event, this year on Sat, Aug. 2, swim the length of the bridge over a 1.76-mile stretch of the lake near Sandpoint. Long Bridge Swim founder Eric Ridgway challenged Howley to swim Lake Pend Oreille to help promote aquatic recreation in the Sandpoint area and the Long Bridge event

“We have such an incredibly beautiful lake here that I am sure that we are going to have many more open water swimmers coming in the years ahead to take on the challenges of this fresh water playground,” Ridgway told Sandpoint Online.

click to enlarge Marathon swimmer attempts 34-mile swim of Lake Pend Oreille today
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Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's Editor, and has been on staff since 2012. Her past roles at the paper include arts and culture editor, food editor and listings editor. She also currently serves as editor of the Inlander's yearly, glossy magazine, the Annual Manual. Chey (pronounced "Shay") is a lifelong resident...