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Point to La Pointe Race Report

When I heard one of our regulars was going to miss the most recent Sasquatch Dash to go swim in Lake Superior I was intrigued.  So as his make-up assignment for missing out on the dash I asked him to do a report on his little dip in the lake.
Thanks Dan!

Adventure weekend on the big lake.

First an introduction:  My name is Dan Campion.  My wife Kim and I live in Danbury WI and own the Anytime Fitness in Siren.  I started swimming competitively in fifth grade, have been a runner for the past 25 years, and a triathlete for the past 11.  This is our story of how we participate in local races and activities and involve the entire family.

When I signed up for the Point to La Pointe open water swim, the water in Lake Superior was slowly warming.  This wouldn’t be so bad, its just a 2.1 mile open water swim from Bayfield to Madeline Island, to benefit the Bayfield Area Recreation Center.  All I needed was to do a little more swimming this summer and get a wetsuit, which the guys from Cyclova did an excellent job setting me up with.

The race organizers were monitoring the water temps regularly in the days prior to the race.  There were reports of water temps in the lower sixties and even high fifties – a full fifteen degrees cooler than the last few years.  Then came the cold water swimming recommendations – booties, gloves, multiple swim caps, and lighted beacon so that it would be easier for the Coast Guard to find your body.  Unless you get a special exemption from the race director, wetsuits are required.  Some sun and light winds brought the water temp up to 62 degrees the morning before the race.  Keep in mind that’s 36 degrees colder than your body temp. 

We rolled in to Washburn Friday night and checked into our “cabin” at the Washburn Motel.   It wasn’t exactly a motel, but a collection of one room cabins along the main drag.  Here’s a photo of my son in front of ours.  They were simple, clean, and got the job done, and it cost less to rent than the $90 race fee.

As an added bonus, we had the use of our very own fridge-stove-sink combo unit.  Yes, we travel in style.

After getting the kids settled in for the night, we set up our lawn chairs in the front yard and enjoyed the beautiful evening and watched the traffic go by.  This was a bit of novelty, since we live back in the woods at the end of a dead end road between Danbury and Webb Lake, and we don’t have much of a front yard and never any traffic.

The morning brought sunshine and much optimism.  After all, I could almost see the finish line from Bayfield.  Kim and the kids wished me good luck, took one last photo (to be used at my funeral, should I not finish the race).

I put off “warming up” until it was too close to the race start to do a warm up, since the water was so cold that I figured I’d turn blue waiting for the start if I got wet first.  It was so cold that I swam Tarzan style for the first 50 yards before I could brave putting my face in the frigid water.  Like any good triathlon start, the start was a mass of legs and arms, none of which are swimming in a straight line.  Right away I cut my toe on something that I think was either someone’s teeth or goggles.  Either way I think he came out on the short end of that deal. 

I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t the longest, coldest swim of my life.  Around 20 minutes into it, I either warmed up a bit, or got numb enough to not feel the cold anymore. 

Spectators were hauled over to the island on one of four Madeline Island Ferry boats, and then walked a half mile west to the lake home of a very generous family that allows the finish line to be on their beach.  On the race directions sheet, they asked that finishers please vomit in garbage cans at the finish line, and not the hosts’ yard.  Did I mention how generous they were to host 400 swimmers and their families and friends? 

This is a picture of my “middle of the pack” finish in 1 hour 9 minutes.

Here I am after race with my cheering section.

Photo my swim cap and sweatshirt.  The sweatshirt came in handy after the race!

But the adventure wasn’t over yet.  After catching a ferry back to Bayfield, we made our way west across the Bayfield Peninsula and grabbed the last available camping spot lakeside on the dunes at Herbster.  On our way home Sunday, we stopped and hiked the Twin Falls Trail in Port Wing, and two sections of the 4,600 mile North Country National Scenic Trail near Brule and Solon Springs.  


  1. I can hear Dan's voice telling the story as I read it! So glad we didn't have to go to the funeral to see the picture!