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Swimmers to take on Slam the Dam this weekend

It’s the biggest open water swim in Southern Nevada by a dam site.

Swimming, you might ask? In the desert?

The second annual Slam the Dam open water swim zone championship is slated for Saturday at Lake Mead’s Boulder Beach. It’s being hosted by Swim Las Vegas, Southern Nevada’s largest U.S. Masters swim team.

“Most people don’t think of ‘open water swimming’ when they think of Las Vegas, but we’d like to change that,” said Kara Robertson, race director.

Slam the Dam entrants begin at Boulder Beach or, for the longest swim, Sunset Overlook and can choose either the 1.2-mile Open Water Zone Championship or the 2.4-mile or 8K distance swims with two longer options to up the ante.

The Super Slam starts with the 2.4-mile swim, followed by swimming the 1.2-mile event. The longer Grand Slam begins with an 8K swim (about five miles), followed by a 1.2-mile leg. All the swims end at Boulder Beach.

Not all the participants are veterans at open swim competitions. The shorter events offer swimmers a safe introduction to distance swimming and testing their endurance in a safe way at Boulder Beach in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The course is manned by numerous lifeguards and escort boats.

For more information, visit swimlv.com or slamthedam.com.

Many members of Swim Las Vegas, the largest Masters and triathlon specific swim team in Southern Nevada, plan to participate. The group began three years ago with a handful of members and now numbers just over 100.

New members Astrid Kratzat and her husband, Stephen, signed up for the event. This will be their first Slam the Dam event. Knee surgery for both led the marathon runners to explore swimming events.

They underwent 12 weeks of training with the swim club to prepare, including practice swims at Lake Mead.

“There is something magical to witness a sunrise while being submerged in the water, all snug and warm in your wet suit, surrounded by a few dozen kindred spirits, all waiting for the start gun to go off,” Astrid Kratzat said.

Melissa Palmer found Swim Las Vegas and signed up for an underwater videotaping session to get her stroke analyzed. She also took a swim stroke class that led to swimming with reduced effort.

“It was funny because the distances and pace that I used to ‘suffer’ through as my whole workout are now an easy warm-up,” she said, adding that her swimming is now “active meditation.”

Paul Fritz is the head coach and race co-director and said conditions this year are much improved, mostly due to the water of Lake Mead rising recently.

“Last year, we were finishing in the mud,” he said.

There also were issues with mussels and underwater sticker plants.

This year, when swimmers were training in the reservoir, he had to use a GPS unit on the coastline to verify distance.

“The shoreline was moving by as much as four feet each day,” he said.

Last year, 100 swimmers took on the challenge, and 200 swimmers are expected this year. The roster includes an international field of swimmers from as far away as Australia and Russia and nationally ranked U.S. athletes, including world record-setting swimmers from the Ventura Deep Six Relay — swimmers who swam 202 continuous miles off the California coast.

The lure of a weekend in Las Vegas could be a factor in growing the tournament, Fritz said.

“A nice, long swim just means you’ll be able to chow down more at your hotel’s buffet,” Palmer added.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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