Well, like the plastic surgeon said to the prospective client, "they can't all be big ones."
When the goal is to run an event in each county, you can't hold out for a half-marathon or a 10k, even for a 5k. Not every county has a big race, or even a race. That was the case with our trip to Warren County for the 7th annual The Crossing 1-mile event.
The Crossing is a 1-mile swim across Lake Gaston sponsored by O'Sail -- the Organization to Support the Arts, Infrastructure and Learning on Lake Gaston. The Crossing is one of O'Sail's three big fundraising events each year -- and maybe the most fun. A channel of buoys is anchored in the lake outlining a 1-mile route from Morningstar Marina on the south side to Watersview Restaurant on the north shore, along Eaton's Ferry Bridge. Then all manner of human-powered vessels make the 1-mile trip across the lake, ahead of plenty of swimmers (169 this year) that are either racing or swimming recreationally across Lake Gaston. And in the last couple of years, they have added a 1-mile walking event across Eaton's Ferry Bridge. So even though it wasn't a race, it's a great event in a beautiful location and I'm glad we got there.
The O'Sail organizers do a wonderful job coordinating with any of the local authorities that need to be there to provide oversight and safety for the event -- the Warren County Sheriff's office, the Coast Guard Auxilary Patrol, a dive team, the local wildlife protection agency, plenty of EMTs and first-responders, and lots of volunteers. As I got there, the competitive swimmers were being chipped and all the participants, whether they were runners, walkers, team rowers or paddlers, or swimmers, were being numbered triathlon-style and given their directions. Sponsors were introduced and thanked, final announcements were made, and then it was time for The Crossing!
The walkers and joggers were the first ones out, most importantly to get a good view from the bridge of the swim start. I counted three other folks who were there to run besides myself, so after the sheriff's deputies closed one lane of the bridge to traffic -- they shuttled traffic back and forth in the remaining lane all morning -- we literally had the run of the bridge! From the entrance of Morningstar Marina across the bridge to the exit of Watersview Restaurant was almost exactly a mile, so it was very easy to keep track of how far I had gone. I made my first trip across and turned back to see all the flotilla headed across the lake. There were lots of kayaks, rowboats, canoes, paddleboards, and an inflatable raft or two spread across the lake making various speeds. Many of the groups were wearing costumes or funny hats, and more than a few were festooned with flags, balloons or signs. One team was themed, "rowing Miss Daisy." Along the 1-mile route, there were large numbers of engine-powered crafts watching the festivities and providing encouragement to all, along with the safety vessels.
Meanwhile, the swimmers had been loaded onto a military landing craft (MLC) which shuttled them all from the marina out to where the 1-mile swim route started. The faster swimmers wearing the timing chips went into the water first, followed by the recreational swimmers whose goal was just to get across. All the swimmers received bright yellow Morningstar Marina swim caps, and it was great to see all the yellow caps bobbing along at various speeds all along the bridge.
I finished my first lap and headed back out for another. The walkers, which consisted of folks of all ages and included a wheelchair and a few strollers, were more spread out this lap since most of them were tracking the progress of various swimmers and boaters, cheering them along and having a grand old time. I saw the leading swimmers getting close to the north shore, where they had a short run up the bank to a finish line to make the trip an official mile. Naturally, the lead swimmers looked the part and could have just come from a triathlon, but all the swimmers appeared to be enjoying the group outing in the lake. I turned around and headed back across.
By the time I started my third lap, the shuttle buses bringing the finished swimmers and boaters back to the starting area were starting to run, and more than a few of the walkers were heading back to the marina, too. The sun was getting hotter and the humidity had me soaking wet, but there was a nice breeze blowing that helped keep me cool -- and blew some of the trailing boaters and swimmers a little off-course. The MLC was now picking up the course buoys as the trailing swimmers passed them -- just like our races, where we have a trailing vehicle for safety, at The Crossing they had a trailing Sea-Doo. More and more folks were coming back across the bridge, and a few folks gave me some encouragement as they recognized I had been doing multiple laps back and forth. (I didn't see any other runners sticking around past one lap across the bridge and back.)
Swimmers, boaters and walkers all got a Crossing t-shirt at the finish line, so my last time turning around I made sure and picked mine up, tossing it over my shoulder for the last mile back. Some cheerful gentlemen from one of the local churches had been offering cold bottled water to the walkers all morning, and I was happy to get a bottle myself as I arrived back at the marina to complete my effort. I was very happy to get six miles in all going back and forth across the lake, taking in the whole spectacle of the morning and enjoying all the activity and celebration of the event.
It was also nice to run into NCRC buddy Frank Lilley, who lives in the Littleton area of Warren County, and former NCRC members Spencer Compos and his wife, who were floating across the lake in an inflatable raft with their sons to celebrate their 25th anniversary. It was great to finally make it up to Lake Gaston and Warren County! The Crossing was a lot of fun, and maybe next year we'll see if we can't manage to finish the 1-mile swim ourselves!