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by Author Unknown

December 31, 2008

Swimming opportunities abound in Alaska

Dave Schmidt of Alaska Masters isn't afraid of the cold. Schmidt, 63, participated in the first annual Chena Lake Swim outside of Fairbanks, Alaska this summer. While some might have shied away from this chilly challenge, he jumped right in.

Schmidt grew up a swimmer. A sprinter as an age-grouper, he loved the water. He bucked his sprinting training and experienced his first open water swim when he was a young teen. Immediately Schmidt became fascinated with the challenge and the fun of the open water. He swam throughout childhood and college, stepped away for many years, and returned as an adult. He became a member of U.S. Masters Swimming in 1973.

Schmidt earned multiple degrees in environmental studies. While working toward a master's degree in fisheries biology, he moved to Alaska to further his research. Already a Masters swimmer, Schmidt found it easy to find fellow swimmers in his new home. "There really are quite a few of us up here," he says. He is now an environmental coordinator for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

The Chena Lake Swim
The Chena Lake Swim actually took place in a new reservoir outside of Fairbanks, in a small town call North Pole, Alaska. The event included a 1K and 5K option.

The Swimmers
Swimmers of all ages participated in the inaugural event. Some participants wore wetsuits to battle the cold while others wore regular training suits.

The Water
The water was a chilly 65 degrees. Though some participants chose to wear a wetsuit, Schmidt wore nothing more than a Speedo brief. "It was cold for the first 100 yards, but then you get into a groove. I had a stride and patterns that helped raise my body temperature and kept me focused on the swim."

So, how did Schmidt perform in this chilly event? "It was fine. A good midseason swim," he says. He is ultimately looking forward to the Alcatraz swim in the San Francisco Bay on August 29. He trains mostly in the pool, however has a long list of open water events in which he'd like to participate. "I'd love to swim in an event in the Bahamas and a swim in the South Pacific from Asia to Europe." When asked how to prepare for a swim like the Chena Lake swim and the others in his future, Schmidt offered some sound advice. "It is really mostly mental preparation. Your body will know how to swim once you are there, but you have to be ready, mentally, for the challenge. If you are afraid of creepy crawlies or the cold water, find a swim in warm and clear water. There is nothing better than a clear swim."

Schmidt is quick to point out that Alaska has an active Masters swimming population. "There are plenty of swimmers and many opportunities to compete," he says. Alaska is home to 242 Masters swimmers and multiple workout groups. "I love swimming here. I am able to train and compete as much as I'd like."

To learn more about the Chena Lake Swim visit

To learn more about Masters Swimming in Alaska visit

To view upcoming U.S. Masters Swimming open water swimming opportunities visit



  • Open Water