5 Lakes in 5 Days: Swimming To Austin
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on October 2nd, 2010

An always-popular motivator for swimmers is the Virtual Journey, in which you log your mileage and apply it to going somewhere desirable. I sojourned in San Diego from February thru April this year, while preparing for two marathon swims Maui Channel and Tampa Bay. I swam regularly at LaJolla Cove, nearly always with members of the LaJolla Cove Swim Club. Club members logged their mileage over the winter on the club bulletin board, swimming virtually from San Diego to Tahiti, with a spirited contest to see who could contribute the most mileage to the club’s total.

This post is about something different – an actual journey, swimming 5 lakes in the Texas Hill Country in 5 days, the Tex Robertson Highland Lakes Challenge. I’ve completed this journey two of its three years, and it remains the most memorable event I’ve done. I’ll be in Singapore during this year’s journey, but I’ll be back in Austin in 2011. Here I’ll share some of the aspects of that swim that have made it special and memorable for me.
1) Keith and Sandy Neilson Bell, founders of the American Swimming Association treat all of the typically small group of swimmers who participate, like family. Keith and Sandy and ASA are organizing the most interesting and innovative events in swimming today, both in the pool and in open water. All their events are enjoyable (read Steve Munatones’s post on The Daily News of Open Water Swimming) and memorable but they seem to have a special simpatico with open water and their desire to make it fun really shone through for me in the Highland Lakes Challenge.
2) Because water and air are still relatively balmy in Austin that time of year I can be swimming in open water in late October. Nuff said.
3) You swim to get somewhere. The first leg of the HLC is in Lake Buchanan, about 50 miles northwest of Austin. Each day you get a bit closer to Austin. (And each afternoon we returned to Austin to enjoy the great food and music/nightlife.
4) Stage racing rewards efficiency. Each lake, and each day is a race, but the real race is decided by your cumulative time over 5 days. Because of the intimacy of a small field, both times I’ve swum HLC I’ve been able to identify a closely-matched competitor with whom I felt I was engaging in a ‘match race to Austin.’ If we were swimming a single race, I could focus only on winning that day’s race. But in a 5-day stage race I could potentially ‘lose’ 4 of the days, but if my winning margin was sufficient on the 5th stage, I could still ‘win’ the overall race. The strategy involved in trying to arrive at the best cumulative time over 5 days and nearly 15 miles of swimming engaged me on a higher level than anything else I’ve done.

A 5-day race may not be for everyone, but you can also swim a “Mini-Challenge” shorter distances in any leg, or swim any combination of single days, or a “Weekend Challenge.”

Interested? Learn more here.

2 Responses to “5 Lakes in 5 Days: Swimming To Austin”

  1. Tanya Coller says:

    This looks like a great experience! I’ve been a swimmer forever but am new to the TI technique and love it – went from struggling to swim a 1000 to comfortably completeting 2 miles as part of my Half Ironman training. I still have a lot to learn and fine tune but what I’m most excited about is that I actually enjoy swimming again!

    I just googled “total immersion swimming austin” and found this blog about the open water race next fall. Completeting either the mini-challenge or weekend warrior is my goal!

    Hope to actually meet you while you are here – I am so grateful for you and TI!!

    Thank you,
    Austin, TX

  2. Tanya
    There’s a good chance I’ll do that event next October. I hope to meet you there.

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