Long-distance Bay Area swimmer preparing to take on Lake Michigan 

click to enlarge Open-water swimmer Jamie Patrick is preparing to try and swim 75 uninterrupted miles across Lake Michigan later this summer. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Open-water swimmer Jamie Patrick is preparing to try and swim 75 uninterrupted miles across Lake Michigan later this summer.

As the 43-year-old general manager of Patrick & Co., an office supplies and furniture store with several San Francisco locations, Jamie Patrick, like many of his peers, must get a bit creative with workouts.

Patrick swam in high school and college, and he'll pop into the Bay at Aquatic Park, near Ghiradelli Square, for a rousing early-morning swim. On the way home, he might head to the club and spend a few hours in the pool. Should his wife and daughter head out from the house, he'll dip into an endless pool in the garage.

Only, this isn't simply about maintaining fitness -- Patrick is one of the premier open-water swimmers in the world. He's criss-crossed Lake Tahoe, enduring 44 miles with a single minute-long break. He's gone down the Sacramento River and navigated the Straight of Gibraltar.

Later this summer, Patrick has his sights set on setting the record for the longest still water swim in history. On Aug. 22, he will attempt to swim 71 uninterrupted miles in Lake Michigan, from Milwaukee Bay to Chicago Harbor.

In waters that were recently a shade over 50 degrees -- for some perspective, Lake Tahoe in summer is usually around 60 degrees -- Patrick will be equipped only with a swimming cap, goggles and standard suit.

During Diana Nyad's famous 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, she wore a suit at times for protection from jellyfish stings.

Patrick cannot touch the supporting boats or embrace a helping hand. When he is handed something to eat (rice balls studded with egg and raisins a particular favorite), he cannot stop to rest. He is scheduled to complete 250,000 strokes over 48 hours -- though he wants to finish in 36, five more than his current personal record.

Fourteen crew members, whom he considers great friends, will be in attendance. Add in cinematographer Doug Stanley, of Deadliest Catch fame, who will be broadcasting the entire event live on Facebook.

"I expect this to be one of the stories of 2014," Stanley said. "This is more than just a man swimming. There are epic proportions that will affect us all."

Speaking of which.

"I train myself mentally on a daily basis, figuring out how to get through tough times," Patrick said. "The mind tells you to give up 100 times, but to push past that is the key.

"To be honest, I'm more worried about the first day than the second day. Once I get past my previous longest swim, then every stroke will be something new. The mind tells you to give up 100 times, but to push past that is the key."

By the time Patrick emerges from the water and staggers into the Windy City, he will be a wreck. There is a heavy price attached to Herculean endeavors. But then, this is a chance to etch his name into history.

"When things get really bad, as much as I want to give up, I have that little thought, that little feeling that I know I can do it," Patrick said. "The body and mind can do a lot more than we perceive. I've learned to do that, and that's why I've been successful."

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Matthew Snyder

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