Lucky’s Lake Swim

Lucky’s Lake Swim Review


“We provide all alligators for free. There is no extra or hidden charge” boasts the Lucky’s Lake Swim website.

 

After reading that I knew my casual google search for open water swimming in Orlando had struck gold. My family and I were on vacation and I hoped to get some training in during my time in Florida.

Glassy conditions for Lucky's Lake Swim

Not only are the alligators provided, but Lucky’s Lake Swim is a totally free event happening daily. In a world of $1000 entry fees for  Ironman triathlons, I figured there had to be a catch. Who would open up his own home and let strangers come each day for a 1k swim in the warm Florida lake waters? As it turns out, Dr. “Lucky” Meisenheimer would. Besides creating a swim with a cult following, Lucky has quite the resumé. One needs only to glance at Dr. Meisenheimer’s wiki page to discover the man who is the cross-section of medical doctor, author, former collegiate swimmer, actor, yo-yo enthusiast, family man, and foot-in-mouth-swim record holder. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

 

Am I in the right place?

I drove to Lake Cane, entering Lucky’s lakefront property around 6:00 am and parked beneath an outdoor basketball hoop. A regular to the pre-dawn ritual greeted me, “You swimming today?” Al Johnson,  a Vietnam Vet, took me down to the dock and got me the orange clip-on float buoy, required for all newbies, including “Michael freaking Phelps” as the website states. He traded my signed waiver for a green swim cap and we set our gear on the dock. Al noticed my outsized military tattoos and told me he had served with the 173rd in Vietnam. Apparently, I’m not the only veteran-turned-endurance-junkie out there. Al and a pair of former Air Force F-16 pilots were regulars.

Lucky's Lake Swim fake alligator

It’s a little more convicing in the dark

 

It was then that I noticed a hungry gator just a few inches deep staring up at me. “It’s not real!” Al chided me after glancing my open jaw. Good to know.

 

Floaties are provided for Lucky's Lake Swim

Floaties are provided for Lucky’s Lake Swim

 

Dark Waters

The swim starts at 6:30 on weekdays, so it would not be light until halfway through.  The other regulars showed up, some with wetsuits because it was likely the coldest swim of the year. In central Florida, this means 63º, which felt like a bath tub compared to the San Francisco Bay. And to boot, the water was a full 20º warmer than the air temperature that morning! A novel experience for a west-coaster like me.

When it finally reached half past six we all paddled out and began our lake crossing, keeping left of the buoys. Of course I wasn’t thinking about gators biting my legs, or arms, or neck. Nope. Quickly those thoughts disappeared as I settled into the familiar rythm of stroke and breath. The silence of early morning complimented the still, dark waters of Lake Cane. The only sounds were my breathing and the splash of my hands entering the water. Soon enough I touched my feet to the soft banks on the opposite side of the lake. Halfway there.

Lucky's Lake Swim sunrise

During the trip back a sunrise slowly peaked over mossy oak trees and simplified the sighting back to Lucky’s dock. A thick mist hung over the Lake Cane’s surface, catching the orange rays of the dawn.  Twenty-seven minutes after I had jumped in, my hands reached the dock and feet found purchase on the shore. My first crossing was complete!

Lucky's Lake Swim dock signs

 

Hanging Out

The air temp. was still in the 40’s. Warm up back in the truck with the heater on, I figured, until I heard someone call out to me “you gotta try the hot tub!”  A quick rinse and then into the tub. Heaven. I chatted with a few of the other regulars who were happy to hear about my swims in the Pacific. They were used to the out-of-towners and glad to hear about my first time here in Lake Cane. They told me about the duck who sometimes made the crossing with them and a Jack Rusell terrier who also completed multiple swims. Why not?

Lucky's Lake Swim hot tub

Fully reheated, I stepped out and was promptly handed the first-timer’s goodie bag. It included a bumper sticker, patch, and log sheet to track all my future crossings. Swimmers are given various caps and shirts after milestone crossings (25, 50, 100, etc.).

Lucky's Lake Swim swim cap, bumper sticker, and patch

 

Lucky himself took me to sign the wall and was nice enough to snap a picture with me, talking about how it all came together back in 1989 when he first organized the group swims. Eventually, it grew from him and a couple friends to dozens of people a day and sometimes 200 plus swimmers on summer weekends. Crowds like that sound like great training for an Ironman mass swim start, but I was grateful for the relative solitude my group of seven afforded me that morning.

Lucky's Lake Swim photo with Dr. Lucky Meisenheimer

The photo on the right is none other than Gwen Jorgenson, who swam here in September ’16.

Lucky's Lake Swim wall signing

…and it’s official!

I always enjoy the feeling of starting my day with a good swim, especially in open water. But more than the exercise, the feeling of community and shared experience made Lucky’s Lake Swim special. Not only was there a tight-knit group of regulars, but they extended that welcome to me, a tourist. When it comes down to it, the shared experience is what makes this special.

The walk to Lucky's Lake Swim

 

Driving back from Lake Cane, I smiled. Only 24 more crossings until I earned that white swim cap!

 

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Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz Review

Standing on the pier awaiting the swim start for Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz

 

Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz was my third middle-distance triathlon. In contrast to the first two, I did not feel an excessive amount of pre-race jitters. The lack of fear coming into the race was a welcome change. I felt confident I would finish and  had no attachment to any finish time. Okay, I wanted to finish in under 6 hours, but it wouldn’t be a heartbreaker if it took longer. After all, I race for fun. I race to celebrate being alive and honor other people I care about. It was also the first triathlon training strictly with the Maffetone Method.

Up until a week before the race, Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz was simply another triathlon. Sure, I cared about it, but I did not raise funds for any charities like my previous race in Oceanside. That all changed when my coworker, Dave, shared some heavy news with me. His wife, Sarah, just found out she had cancer. Both of them were understandably devastated by the news, but as a testament to their strength in the middle of uncertainty, they were not hiding from this. Dave and Sarah were sharing the news with others, partly as a way to have some choice in the matter. How do you react when someone shares this with you? I certainly didn’t know. Continue reading

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Ragnar Trail Tahoe Review

Ragnar Trail Tahoe

 

Runner on the yellow loop trail during sunrise for Ragnar Trail Tahoe.

Last year while in Tahoe and recovering from my first Half Ironman, I walked by Royal Gorge Resort the week before the Ragnar Trail Tahoe race and saw a couple storage containers with the logo and big signs saying “Ragnar.” After investigating online, I knew that this race was speaking to my soul. Through a series of connections I was able to find a team. The “Twisted Blisters” were a Team in Training group out of the Sacramento area using the race to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma research. They had all spent time training in the hills and getting ready specifically for the Ragnar Relay, while I had been keeping in shape by training up for my next Half Ironman in September. Truth be told, I was cycling and swimming regularly, but my runs were few and far between.

 

What the hell is Ragnar?

The Ragnar Trail Relays are blend of camping, distance running, and partying. It brings together the fringe cultures of trail runners, CrossFitters, and miscellaneous bearded outdoorsy types. Teams of 8 — or 4 if you’re f*cking insane  really fit — take turns with each member completing  the three loops: Green (3.3 miles), Yellow (5.8 miles), and Red (7.1 miles). Staggered starting times for the different teams ensures there are runners at all times on the trails without things getting too crowded. Running through the night and into the next day, teams continue until they finish.

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Mt. Diablo Trails Challenge Review

Signing up

Fresh off completing my second Half-Ironman I decided to sign up for a race that caught my eye a few years ago: The Mt. Diablo Trails Challenge, put on by Brazen Racing. I had run one previous trail race with Brazen in the South Bay and loved the experience. Something about the “vibe” of trail runners was much more relaxed and running through the hills with the only sounds being my footsteps and the rustling of trees in the wind beat running on surface streets any day of the week.

Three days before the race I pulled the pin and signed up for the half marathon course. After clicking the button to register, I figured I might glance at the run course and elevation chart. Why not, right? The chart revealed what looked like a great stock right before that crashed hard around mile 10 with a total ascent/descent of about 2,492 feet. This could be a bit hilly, I suddenly realized. Continue reading

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Ironman 70.3 California Review

When I first considered trying the Half-Iron distance, Ironman 70.3 California was the race I wanted, but it had sold out months before. When it opened a couple weeks before Vineman 70.3, I jumped on it. My initial motivation was just to complete the race in honor of my fallen brothers from 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. Fortunately the race turned out to be about a lot more than that. Ironman 70.3 California offered a chance for a race early in the season and a bike ride through Camp Pendleton.

 

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A view of Ruby’s Pier- the Ironman 70.3 California finish line.

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13.1 : SF Rock ‘n’ Roll Review

 

Today’s  race review of the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon is a guest post by Shari Blackburn. 

13.1

 

By Shari Blackburn

 

San Francisco Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Race Medal

Waking up to a dark room with the train sounding its horn outside of my window… I hesitate to lift or move any muscle. “Another day…” I remember this feeling of anxiousness like mornings before. This is something I questioned constantly as an endurance-junky… “What am I doing? Do I really want to purposely wake up at 3:30 in the morning to put my self through hours of pain and soreness?”

 

As I wash my face and look myself in the mirror, all I yearn for is my plethora of pillows and soft, warm bed. As I put on my running shoes and Team RWB t-shirt, I think of those who do no have the luxury as I do to put on a t-shirt and shorts. I remember those mornings gearing up in my ABUs, ready for pre-departure briefings at headquarters to the missile fields.  Those days, winters were Continue reading

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SuperSEAL Triathlon Review

San Diego is a special place for me. My first memory is playing on the beach with kelp  near the Del Coronado hotel. I transformed from a doughy boy into a Marine at the recruit depot in the fall of 2001. Now with family living down here I have enjoyed the occasional visit paired with a quick tri in the morning.  SuperSEAL was a great chance to see how my training was coming along for Ironman California 70.3 next month.

 

The SuperSEAL Course

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SuperSEAL was a bit longer than the last Olympic distance triathlon I raced. The 1 mile swim was much closer to the Half-Iron distance and the 40k bike a decent length to see how my indoor trainer sessions (thanks to El Niño rains) had prepared me. The 10k run was standard length with the first leg on a dirt trail. Racing in San Diego usually affords great scenery, but Coronado’s Silver Strand tops them all.

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Take the Rock Swim Review

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“Don’t you know there are sharks out there?”

is the top question people ask upon learning I have swam from Alcatraz Island to Aquatic Park, San Francisco.

Other common queries are about the water temperature, distance, and the simple question of why anyone would do this. I asked these same questions the first time Earle Conklin approached me about taking on this challenge as a pang of fear coursed through my body.

Earle, a Vietnam Vet, wanted to organize a swim for all Veterans and their families. When he explained that he had led boy scouts across the 1.3 miles cold water channel in San Francisco Bay I felt my manhood being called into question. If those kids could do it then of course I would try it out. Continue reading

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Ironman 70.3 Vineman Review

Ironman 70.3 Vineman First Light

I awoke 30 minutes before my alarm went off. Race day! I dressed and triple-checked my gear to make sure nothing was missing. My friend Chris and I loaded gear into his truck and hitched my bike to the carrier. The family would not be awake for another couple hours. As opposed to many other races and events, a sense of calm pervaded over the race-day jitters. The waiting for Ironman 70.3 Vineman had ended.

This race was different for a few reasons.  First off, I managed to stick to my sixteen-week training plan without missing too many training sessions.  I missed a few of my long bike rides because of some weekend trips, but I was able to prioritize my training and plan sessions around work and family time. I knew I had put the hours and miles in. But it was not just the training that put me at ease. Today I had the quiet resolve to finish no matter what because I was representing my friends and fellow Marines who had died fighting with me in Iraq or lost their lives since returning. This race was bigger than me. I knew a lot of people were pulling for me.

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