Motivational Monday: Staying Motivated Once Your ‘Glory Days’ Have Passed Through Open Water

Photo Courtesy: Jack Hallahan

Motivational Monday: Staying Motivated Once Your ‘Glory Days’ Have Passed Through Open Water

By Jack Hallahan

For competitive swimmers, years of chasing the black line at some point come to a close. For some, a strange phenomenon occurs after taking a break from such a demanding sport: the urge to get back in the swim runs deep!

Only now we need to set sites on different goals to stay motivated. Weekly swim practices can satisfy some of that chemical bond you have to chlorinated pool water…but nothing compares to the thrill of competition!That’s where open water racing comes into focus.

Few events provide motivation like California’s annual Trans Tahoe Relay. Often a reunion of college and high school teammates, relays have been racing across this breath-taking lake since 1976. Trans Tahoe Relay has “become one of the largest open water swims in the world, promoting team spirited competition between swimming clubs and other groups and organizations,” according to the event’s website.Makes sense.


Photo Courtesy: Jack Hallahan

Where else can you find such a lively and competitive yet laid back atmosphere? How often can you swim in the reflections of The Sierra Mountains…one of the most beautiful backdrops you can ask for? Unlike other open water events, Trans Tahoe brings the aquatic community together to promote camaraderie, teamwork and sportsmanship. Oh, and proceeds go towards Keep Tahoe Blue, a long-standing foundation dedicated to preserving this treasure. What a great cause!

While the drama of a strong finish or glory of winning is a worthy pursuit, most teams don’t take themselves too seriously. Chuckle-worthy names and festive boat décor keep the vibe super positive. From “White Claw Warriors” to “Too Slow for Tokyo,” team names express fun-loving personas masking a shared goal: overcome the elements of 60 degree water and mile high altitude and face these challenges together across 230+ relay teams.

So, how to stay motivated?


Big Fish Goals. Little Fish Goals.

Some teams arrive at Tahoe to earn top honors…Big Fish Goals. Elite swimmers arriving from around the globe to compete with local teams representing the Olympic Club, or hardened open water swimmers from South End Rowing Club or Dolphin Club where a 30 minute sprint in 60 degree water is just another San Francisco Bay weekend experience. Triathlon clubs, masters teams, DI NCAA colleges, water polo clubs, and a variety of teams with former nationally ranked athletes compete among 50 relay teams in the highly competitive Open Division.Departing 7:30 a.m. from Sandy Point, Nevada, Big Fish teams aim to cross the California state line in under two hours for a finish at Skylandia Beach, Calif., between 3 1/2 and 4 hours. These relay teams average between 1:05 and 1:20 per 100 yards at this pace! Open Division winners “Tahoe Eleven Milers” George Tidmarsh, Andreas Waschburger, Barton Wells, Thomas Lurz, Heidi George and Rowen Straub covered the course in a blistering 3:19.55. Second-place finishers The Olympic Club’s “Tropic Like it’s Hot” or 3rd place “Seal Spotter Support Group” gave chase. Congrats to all!

Now here’s a Big Fish Story.North Bay Aquatics (NBA) “Angry Tuna” Masters brings it on every year, with over 10 relay teams competing this July. ASCA Hall of Fame Coach Don Swartz (often cited for inventing “negative split” racing strategies) and his infamous “Tahoe Tuesday” sets give relay racers year round motivation for Trans Tahoe.

Seems to be working out pretty well!

For the past seven years, NBA Team TunaTronik composed of masters women now in their 50’s have never lost their 240+ or 300+ age group. 2023 was no exception. Deb McFerron, Andrea Salmi, Janet Harlow, Sara Quick, Neda Nguyen and Jenna Haufler took top honors in 240+ women’s division with an impressive 3:58 time (averaging 1:12 per 100 yards).They train together…and hang together.

Team captains Salmi and Quick are “Try Hards” who push each other as elite Masters veterans (going 1-2 in 50-54 200 free at USMS Spring Nationals). Cal ’95 ace Harlow and Deb “The Hammer” McFerron round out the core team. Short-handed this year, Andrea and Sara looked across the lanes for swimmers who are also fun, recruiting accomplished triathletes Nguyen and Haufler.

Congrats, Ladies!


Photo Courtesy: Jack Hallahan

Little Fish goals are far simpler, ranging from finishing before the race shuts down to recording a best time…or not losing your opening leg swimmer. Over the past seven years, “Don’t Lose Doug” from Orinda, Calif., has faced down all of these challenges! DJ Tierney explained, “We were Chamber’s Punch our first year, but a name change was in order after losing opening leg swimmer Doug West in the chaos of countless swimmers navigating bumps and elbows from dozens of competitors.” Foirty-five minutes later, they got their second swimmer in the water. Towards the last hours of their maiden Tahoe experience, white cap swells nearly saw this squad succumb to a “DNF” (did not finish) tag.Little Fish don’t give up easily.

The core team made up of West, Tierney, Jonathan Harris, Ben Barber and Tim Krozek rambled through 6 more Tahoe races in pursuit of an elusive goal: breaking five hours. This July, Tim and DJ recruited Arne Brock-Utne and me to add speed to their boat. Harris barked out halfway across the lake, “We trained for this. I am keeping track of our projected finish and it’s going to be tight to beat 5 hours! Let’s go!” Boat Captain Barber chimed in, “I have a straight line navigating us to the finish. We can do it!”


Arne and Tim offered strong legs, and I crossed the line to cap off a perfect day and lead the boat in the post-race celebration!

“Don’t Lose Doug” smashed our goal with a 4:51 effort!

Need motivation?

The Countdown to 2024 Trans Tahoe is at 361 Days, 10 Hours, 44 Minutes, and 12 seconds…

Sign up here!

Results for all divisions:

Men 114+
1st Place: “Phlex” (sponored by PHLEX Swimming Tech) comprised of Ryan Rosenbaum, Harrison Gibson, Marcin Cieslak, Arthur Frayler, Tomas Peribonio, and Eduardo Solache
2nd Place: “Placeholder”
3rd Place: “Olympic Club Bears”

Men 180+
1st Place: “Phlex” (sponored by PHLEX Swimming Tech) comprised of Ryan Rosenbaum, Harrison Gibson, Marcin Cieslak, Arthur Frayler, Tomas Peribonio, and Eduardo Solache
2nd Place: “Laureen’s Lads”
3rd Place: “For the Boys”

Mixed 114+
1st Place: “Ta-Homos!” Philip Goldberg, Gen Heidkamp, Jasmine Zeng, Todd Bergman, Keiranne Brownlie, Spencer Hammer
2nd Place: “Drag me Daddy”
3rd Place: “Rockin the Boat”

Miced 180+
1st Place: “Nba Mixers” Stephen Root, Christine Gould, Mike Merrell, Mike kelly, Alisseia Root, Sophia Bell
2nd Place: “Hook ‘Em Heels”
3rd Place: “The Swarm”

Women’s 114+
1st Place: “Luke’s Ladies” comprised of Shannon Hackett, Erika Hanson, Sally Ferguson, Hailey Eberle, Lauren Green, Maggie Oys
2nd Place: “Save the Mermaids”
3rd Place: “Boat Goats”

Women’s 180+
1st Place: “Shark Dreams” Dourney Monsees, Danielle Beccks, Katherine Kronick, Catherine Ladd, Elyssa Pedote, Gabriella Giordano
2nd Place: “Swammers”
3rd Place: “GT S’Women”


Photo Courtesy: Jack Hallahan

Just for Fun
1st Place: “3’s and Big Dunks”
2nd Place: “Team Clari”
3rd Place: “Sonder Power”

Women’s 240+
1st Place: “Tunatronik” Deb McFerron, Andrea Salmi, Janet Harlow, Sara Quick, Neda Nguyen, Jenna Haufler
2nd Place: “Keep Tahoe Blue & Gold”
3rd Place: “Women of the Creek”

Men’s 240+
1st Place: “Phlex” (sponored by PHLEX Swimming Tech) comprised of Ryan Rosenbaum, Harrison Gibson, Marcin Cieslak, Arthur Frayler, Tomas Peribonio, and Eduardo Solache
2nd Place: “Placeholder”
3rd Place: “Olympic Club Bears”

Men’s 300+
1st Place: “Stiffest Ripples” (Nico Ghilardi, Todd Arms, Kirk Richards, Michl Kiedel, Brad Jerome, Al Boyce
2nd Place: “Powered by Bac Mastersr”
3rd Place: “Irish Swimmers Cowboy Up! Edition”

Men’s 360+
1st Place: “Rogue Waves” John Ring, Brent Ford, Jon Sterkel, Jonathan Vick, Patrick Meaney , Pat Padilla
2nd Place: “2nd Leg Naked”
3rd Place: “Chico 360”

Men’s 420+
1st Place: “Olympic Club Stanford 70’s” Al Humphrey, Sean Kelly, Tim Broderick, Mike McCaffery, Ed Rudloff, James Kemp

Mixed 300+
1st Place: “Shivering Sharks” Sarah Groskof, Kat Steward, Mary Jensen, Jim McDonald, Kyle Schempp, Jeff Justeson
2nd Place: “Cal Tex”
3rd Place: “Rock Bottom”

Mixed 360+
1st Place: “In it For Bacon” Carol Deming, Tom McCleary, Bonnie Fritz, Jackie McCleary, James Deming, John Fritz
2nd Place: “Memo #1”

Women’s 300+
1st Place: “A’She Tuna” Amy Thompson, Dylon MacEachran, Erika Shern, Molly Coomber, Megan Hardin, Melissa Lewis
2nd Place: “The Lakeside Levathians”


Photo Courtesy: Jack Hallahan

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mark welte
mark welte
6 months ago

Great article about a great event! Congrats on doing the TTR!

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