Victoria-based trio warm up for very cool marathon swim


Three Victoria-based long-distance swimmers plan a 50-kilometre open-water swim in the frigid Great Bear Sea along the northern coast of B.C.

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The trio will attempt the two-day swim starting July 13, if weather permits.

Jill Yoneda, 41, Susan Simmons, 51, and Dale Robinson, 41, are training for the marathon swim they hope will raise awareness about the unique waters surrounding the Great Bear Rainforest.

They feel the biggest challenge might be the water that will be a cool 12C to 14C.

“We have had people who know the area help us pick the best days to swim,” said Yoneda, a champion free diver. The swim will begin on the shores of Ocean Falls and is to end in Bella Bella.

The women will not be wearing wet suits, even though “it is very cold water,” said Yoneda. “I am a bit nervous about whether we can do it.”

Yoneda has three titanium discs in her neck and one leg is paralyzed due to a medical procedure. She hopes the cold and turbulent water is not overwhelming. “It will be a real test,” she said.

They plan to have a film crew follow the journey and expect to produce a documentary on the swim and the environmental and cultural issues threatening the unique region of B.C.

Simmons, who has multiple sclerosis, has in the past completed a 70-kilometre swim in Lake Cowichan. She plans to go to the north coast in the upcoming weeks for a trial swim to see how her body adapts to the cold-water conditions.

Simmons has been doing marathon swims since being diagnosed with MS when she was 40. “I have been using swimming as a way to treat the disease,” she said.

She has a simple strategy for the upcoming swim: “It is all about keeping calm and having a normal swim,” she said.

The trio will have a support crew to help with any problems that arise. Simmons said if they encounter orcas, they will get out of the water. “If it is an orca, I probably will request that the crew remove me from the water,” she said. “The orcas can sometimes get a bit aggressive.”

Simmons said the big thing while in the water is to keep hydrated and well nourished. “I will be burning a lot of calories and you have to be well nourished,” she said.

Among her favourite foods while swimming: “I love cantaloupe,” she said. “It is one of my favourite things to eat when I’m in the water.”

Yoneda said that if the swim is successful, the trio hope to swim the Inside Passage next summer. She expects it could take a month to cover the 300-kilometre route from Prince Rupert to Bella Bella.

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