Six miles across Utah Lake
but also wanted to reassure myself there could still be quality
to my life after the big 6-0 came with my 60th birthday on
Aug. 20,” said Pat Christian, about his epoch swim six miles
across Utah Lake Saturday Aug.18.
With his relatively sedentary profession as a reporter
for The Daily Herald, Pat has tried to offset that by choosing
rather physically demanding hobbies and sports that include
running, swimming and bicycling.
He's climbed the third highest mountain in North
America, 18,405-foot Pico de Orizaba, Mexico's highest
peak. And he's bicycled from Utah to California with his son
Christopher and competed in marathons and triathlons.
Most recently, he participated in the Provo River
Trail Half Marathon earlier this month as training run for his
entry next month in the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan when
he will run 26 miles with his son Christopher. They both ran
this same race last year.
But his typical triathlon swims were only a half mile
long, and Pat's training swims have only been at longest a mile
and a quarter.
"Several months ago, I set a goal of swimming
across Utah Lake starting from north of the dike at Utah Lake
State Park and swimming northwest to Pelican Point on my
birthday. The idea was a mile for every decade of my life," Pat
His wife Sonia, who tried but couldn't talk Pat out of
his crazy idea, at least talked him into making the swim on the
Saturday two days before his birthday, so family members
and friends who wanted to support his swim could do it on
their day off.
"When I put this crazy plan together earlier this year,
I thought I might actually be able to pull it off.
"But on Saturday morning, I was confident I wasn't
going to make it across.
"More recently -- even as I trained hard at public
swimming pools in Orem and Provo putting in lap after lap -- I
would occasionally drive down to the east shore of Utah
Lake, look across to the west shore.
"It looked impossibly too far across.
" . . . maybe for someone younger, yes.
"But for me out of reach."
required miles running, needed to be in shape for the
upcoming marathon, he was not satisfied with his water
"I would often swim a mile during a session, but
when I finished I felt trashed, with little left in me. A half mile
swimming session seemed easier, but the longer sessions
convinced me, I couldn't swim six miles," he said.
Pat calculated that on Wednesday, before the big
Saturday, that it would be the last day he could train. And it
needed to be his hardest workout.
"I drove to the pool in Orem just after 6 a.m. and
swam a mile and was beat.
"For lunch, I drove to the pool in Provo and swam a
half mile, and felt OK, afterward grabbing a quick veggie
Subway and eating it in the newsroom.
"After work, in the evening," I drove back to the
pool in Orem, and swam another half mile.
"I was totally spent, but I had swam a total of two
miles. Granted, it was a broken two miles, but my longest . . .
my hardest day.
"I went home, climbed in bed and went out like the
final bright flash of a dying light bulb.
"Next morning, it felt as if a train had rolled over my
shoulders and I hoped I could recover by Saturday morning."
their dawn, and Pat's big Saturday was finally here and Utah
Lake was waiting.
Pat felt mostly recovered from Wednesday, but
His support crew were in the boat: His wife Sonia,
son Chris, daughter Heather, brother in law Carlos Moreno,
nephew Carlos Arturo Moreno, Amy Brierley, Chris'
girlfriend, and Chris's friend Ron Kelly who was graciously
using his boat and excellent navigation skills to help Pat's big
"I'll be happy with two miles," Pat told everyone in
"I'm pretty sure I can do two; I did a broken two
Pat would be more than satisfied with making it half
way across, he said.
Jumping out of the boat near the north dike of the
harbor around 8:45 a.m., Pat began swimming.
"Under the murky green water, I felt the initial chill,
but it didn't seem that cold.
"I started to swim and already didn't feel comfortable
with the waves the morning breeze was churning up on Utah
"This was different than the swimming pool or the
couple days I trained on the south side of the south dike
where Provo River enters Utah Lake.
"The waves spelled trouble.
"As I swam, my arm came up and I turned my head
for a breath. But the water was not the usual smooth air
pocket and I accidentally choked on water instead of getting
my expected breath of air.
"I had to stop every so often and cough out water,
and it was a bit frightening because I considered the possibility
I could choke too badly and go under. And in this murky
water maybe rescuers in the support boat wouldn't be able to
locate and save me."
Pat kept going and was already feeling taxed. In the
excitement and anxiety of the start of his swim, he was going
out to fast, but didn't realize it.
A half hour into the swimming, he signaled for a
rendezvous with his support boat for sips of Gatorade and
then continued swimming.
"The first hour of swimming in the rough water, just
reinforced my assessment that I couldn't make it. At an hour
and a half, I was on my second bottle of Gatorade and
someone ask, 'How's your breathing?'
"Weird," I said. "I really haven't found my pace."
"Your going to fast," Chris said.
"I sat at the back of the boat and Amy, a registered
nurse, took my blood pressure, pulse and listened to my
"Everything was OK, but working overtime, so we
decided I should slow down.
"After two hours in the water, and slowing down a
bit, I was finally getting my pace, getting into a groove in my
head, and I was getting confident. I didn't know if I would
make it, but I knew I had a lot left in me. And the water was
"Farther out in the lake, Amy took my vitals again,
and they were better. Slowing the pace seemed to have been
a good idea.
"My shoulders however were starting to burn with
pain, so I took and Advil, and decided to swim with my short
training fins to transfer more propulsion from my shoulders to
Pat also figured he was drinking too much and
shifted to drinking more water than Gatorade, and told the
crew he would stop for a drink only every 20 minutes instead
of every 15.
He swam on, telling the crew that at the three hour
mark, where he thought he would be one side or the other of
midway, he would stop about a half hour for lunch -- a
sandwich, grapes and fluid.
After lunch he swam on with Chris and Carlos
Arturo swimming with him for about 15 minutes.
"Out here in the middle of the lake, the water was
smooth. Temperature seemed around 75 degrees, except for
the frequent pocket of cold water I swam through. The water
no longer seemed so green. It was still murky, but more like
swimming in milk than what had seemed green pea soup at the
End in sight
and I had lost my confidence that I wouldn't make it. But was
not sure I wouldn't, and not sure I would.
"I was on my pace. I was enjoying my swim, in a
zone where there was really not much thought at all, more just
experiencing being part of the lake and feeling it and time slip
"But maybe at about a mile and a half from the other
shore, things became different.
"To me at least, it seems in any foot or bike event,
no matter how short or long I seem to arrive at a point where
the event is no longer so fun. At that point it becomes more of
a chore and challenge. But I even come to like that aspect,
because that's where I learn the most about myself by pushing
ahead even when I don't want to push ahead or almost can't
"By this point my shoulders were really hurting me,
but I was finally confident I could make it even if I turned over
on my back and just kicked with my feet. I actually did this a
few times now, just to give my shoulders a break from the
Pat swam on, arm over arm, following the crew in
the boat and was overtaken by the surprise of meeting his
From their higher perch on the water, the crew first
saw the large white patch of pelicans standing in shallow water
at Pelican Point, and motored toward it, getting so close the
big birds flew away.
Chris and Carlos Arturo got out near the shore and
were standing on the bottom up to their knees.
From his low position in the water, Pat thought he
still had about an hour to go before he might reach the shore,
but he would really reach it in about five minutes, Kelly
"I swam on.
"I could see the big tree next to the pump house and
vaguely knew I would make the shore, but was too much in
the zone and my pace to be very excited about it.
"I was still more of the lake than of the shore."
"Up ahead, it seemed the boat had stopped, and I
assumed this was my 20 minute drink rendezvous.
"I swam closer, and became confused when I
noticed Carlos Arturo seemed to be standing in the water.
How could that be so far from the shore, I thought.
"Stand up someone yelled."
"Without complete understanding, I put my feet
down and my feet touched the shallow ground under the
water for a moment and I stood and raised both hands in
victory, and people cheered.
"I kept repeating, 'Amazing, absolutely amazing. Is
this an island or am I here?'"
It was around 2 p.m.
"Then I continued to swim until it became absolutely
too shallow to swim on and there were more cheers and high
fives and hugs.
"It was really starting to sink in that I had made it.
"I finally waded to dry shore, and got more cheers
from my crew.
"All right! That's six miles.
"I didn't think I could do it."
"My son Shaun who was working at Slate Canyon
Youth Detention Center called my on a cell phone and
Sonia asked Pat, how he was feeling.
"I feel Ok actually."
"I didn't think I could do it."