The Kingdom Swim, billed as “no lanes, no lines, no limits,” offers participants the option of swimming 10, six, three, one, or one-quarter miles, with or without a wetsuit, on Lake Memphremagog. The event is a fundraiser for Indoor Recreation of Orleans County’s Healthy Changes Initiative. Jim Birmingham of Waterbury chose the six-mile, non-wetsuit option, finishing in 3:37.
VS: Was this your first time doing the Kingdom Swim?
JB: I’ve done it each year that it’s been held. The first two years, I did the three-mile option and last year I did 10 miles. That wasn’t going to happen this year. It takes quite a lot to build up to 10 miles, but six miles is no slouch of a swim.
VS: What kept you from doing 10 miles this year?
JB: The 10-mile swim last year was a hard one, and I was up and down about whether I wanted to do it again. Then Irene hit. We got 15 inches of water in the first floor of our house, and the flood left six feet of water in our sunken back yard, but we felt fortunate because we saw friends and neighbors who had it worse. There were hundreds of people we didn’t know who came and helped us, and it was great to be part of that. It was a remarkable experience, which put swimming in perspective. I stopped swimming completely for three or four months before I eased back into the pool. I hemmed and hawed because I hadn’t put in the training, but on the final day of registration, I signed up for the six-mile race. Signing up was a new level of recovery, and I had a great time.
VS: And next year?
JB: I hope to do the 10-mile swim next year.
VS: How did you feel about your finish?
JB: It was a soft time, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy with it. It was actually the same pace per mile as I did with the 10-mile last year.
VS: Do you bring your own support crew?
JB: I haven’t had to use [the swim’s] volunteers because I have a friend who has paddled for me each time. It’s great that they have all those volunteer kayakers—200 plus—for the three, six, and 10-mile swimmers. It’s a big deal to ask a friend to do this.
VS: Do you do other distance swims?
JB: This is the only organized swim I’ve done. I’m an adult-onset swimmer. I’ve only been at it for a few years, first with a lap in the pool, and then a mile before heading out to the lake. Training for the first year of the Kingdom Swim gave me focus.
VS: What do you enjoy about the Kingdom Swim?
JB: Lake Memphremagog is spectacular; it’s a real jewel up there. The course is a nice one, and the lake temperature is not too hot. It’s a big lake, and it’s a challenge. The last two years, the wind kicked down from Canada. Last year, there were one-and-a-half- to two-foot whitecaps. It was brutal. This year, the wind only blew in the very beginning. That adds an element of variety to it. Newport is only an hour away so it’s convenient. The last three years, my kayaker and I camped out with our families and made a weekend out of it. The people involved in the swim are a lot of fun, and there’s a great Kingdom flavor to it. [Organizer] Phil White sends out some fun e-mails too.
VS: If you were in charge of the race, would you do anything differently?
JB: There’s really nothing to change; it’s a really well-run thing, and they’ve got their bases covered. The only suggestion is that the kayakers should get T-shirts as well as the swimmers.