Slowed by high wind, choppy waters and extreme exhaustion, Emily von Jentzen completed her nonstop swim of Lake Chelan at 3:51 a.m. Friday, nearly 36 hours after starting the challenge. The feat is believed to be the lake's first nonstop swim.
CHELAN — Slowed by high wind, choppy waters and extreme exhaustion, Emily von Jentzen completed her nonstop swim of Lake Chelan at 3:51 a.m. Friday, nearly 36 hours after starting the challenge Wednesday afternoon in Stehekin. The feat is believed to be the lake’s first nonstop swim.
The 28-year-old Montana attorney and triathlete said her swim of nearly 50 miles, to raise money for a 5-year-old Kalispell girl battling life-threatening cancer, was tougher than she imagined.
“I feel like I got hit by a truck,” von Jentzen said in a phone interview while sipping a milkshake after a few hours of sleep. She said strong winds came up on the lake after midnight, slowing her progress and sapping her strength. She made it just within the west end of Chelan city limits, but decided to call it quits after starting to hallucinate about four miles from her planned destination. She had estimated she would complete the swim in 28 hours or less and finish by 8 p.m. Thursday. It took nearly eight hours longer.
“The waves were coming at me. I was swimming as hard as I could and not making any progress. Lake Chelan made me work for every inch,” she said.
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Von Jentzen said she’d started arguing with her sister on the support boat about being off course. She was seeing things and thought she was closer to shore than she was.
“My sister wanted me to get on the boat right then, but I told her no way. But I did go to the closest shore. It was a little bit scary. I definitely didn’t have four more miles in me,” she said. She had gone without sleep for 48 hours. An EMT checked her after the swim and found her vitals to be good.
Von Jentzen battled choppy waters at the beginning of the swim near Stehekin as well. The water was much colder than she’d expected. She estimates it was no warmer than 58 degrees. She added layers of neoprene to warm up and asked for something warm to drink Thursday night. Her support crew was able to flag down a larger boat that provided hot water for some soup.
Von Jentzen said she thought about Katelyn Roker, the Montana girl battling Stage 4 neuroblastoma, whenever her strength began to waver.
“Katelyn doesn’t get to choose whether she has cancer or not. She doesn’t get to pick when she has to go in for a treatment,” von Jentzen said. “It helped me to associate with what she is going through. She’s my inspiration.” Katelyn and her parents were on the support boat for a while Thursday.
Von Jentzen hopes her swim will raise at least $10,000 to help with Katelyn’s expensive experimental treatments, which are not covered by her parents’ insurance. Donations can be made through von Jentzen’s blog, alakkeforkatelyn.blogspot.com. Von Jentzen raised a similar amount for another girl battling illness last summer by swimming the 30-mile length of Flathead Lake in Montana.