Emily von Jentzen is loading up on sleep and pasta as she prepares for the longest aquatic adventure of her lifetime, a 56-mile swim down the length of Flathead Lake and back.
Von Jentzen, an accomplished 34-year-old distance swimmer and attorney in Kalispell, will leave Somers Bay around 6 a.m., Saturday, July 29 and attempt to swim south to Boettcher Park in Polson. The goal is to arrive at the southern end of Flathead Lake before 10 p.m. that night. Here, she will meet John Cole, a 35-year-old pediatrician in Kalispell, and the pair will attempt to swim north back to Somers. The goal is to finish around noon on Sunday, July 30.
If successful, von Jentzen would become the first person on record to swim down and back, or “double-cross,” Flathead Lake. Cole would become only the sixth person on record to swim the entire length of the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. In 2010, von Jentzen became the first woman to accomplish the herculean feat.
The duo’s efforts are raising money for a pair of children in need through von Jentzen’s nonprofit, Enduring Waves Foundation. The swimmers are supporting a 5-year-old boy in Bigfork who has a congenital heart defect and a 2-year-old girl in Joplin with Stage-4 neuroblastoma. Supporters can donate to von Zentzen and Cole’s fundraising efforts through www.enduringwaves.com.
Leading up to this weekend’s epic adventure, von Jentzen said she began tapering down her mileage while getting as much sleep as possible. She’s also loading up on carbohydrates to store as much energy as possible for the 30-plus hour undertaking.
“Now it’s all about resting and being prepared,” she said.
Mother Nature has been cooperative leading up to this weekend with warm temperatures helping heat up the water to nearly 70 degrees, which will make life a little easier on the two swimmers, who will not be wearing wetsuits.
“This will be the warmest swim I’ve ever done,” she said.
However, the degree of waves will remain unknown until the day of the event, and von Jentzen and Cole are hoping the lake will be as calm as possible.
Kayaks and motorboats will travel alongside the swimmers to help navigate at night while also providing safety measures and storing their food.
Leading up to the big challenge, von Jentzen is eager yet antsy, as she usually is before a big swim.
“You get a tiny pit in your stomach,” she said. “You know there will be some part of this swim that will be hard; you just don’t know when it will happen.”
But both von Jentzen and Cole have the ultimate inspiration: young Monte and Scottie Marie, the two benefactors of this year’s foundation fundraising campaign.
“It’s a lot easier to be doing something hard when you’re doing it for somebody else,” she said.
The Enduring Waves Foundation will be publishing live results of von Jentzen and Cole’s swim at enduringwaves.com.