Dear Powell River. I owe you 15km.

It’s been close to 2 weeks since I had the opportunity to swim in Powell Lake in the traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation – and what a swim it was!  I am so grateful to all who donated to the MS Wellness centre so we can provide programs to people living in Powell River with Multiple Sclerosis.

You did your part, now I need to finish mine.

Here’s a look back at what happened and what’s next.

On August 6 at about 4:00 PM I met my night crew one (Pay, Bill, Ewan, MJ) and 2 (Sherry & Jim) at Mowat Bay. We loaded up the escort boats with all we would need for the next 24 hours and headed to the end of Powell Lake by the Daniels River. I sat in the back of the boat, with my head down, listening to music to help prepare me for the swim. I tried not look back at the distance, but instead focused on the mountains and sky and the beauty around me. I felt I was in a very special place.

We arrived at the start around 5:30 PM. While my crew prepared their kayaks and my food for the journey, I found a place by the water where I could sit quietly and enjoy the surroundings. I had brought a humble offering for the Tla’amin ancestors which I placed on the rocks beside me. In a quiet moment I apologized and then I thanked them for their wisdom and asked if they could kindly guide me and my crew safely through the water way.

As I sat waiting for my crew, I realized that I was sitting right in the heart of bearatory – grizzlies to be more specific – and cougars too. I flinched at every sound as I anxiously awaited the start.

At 17:55 PM I slid into the water and began my swim. The water was warm (23C) and the air warmer. It was perfect for night swimming. I would get cold as the air temperature dropped. I felt strong as I swam, stronger than I have in a long time. I swam into the night, feeling the power of my body every stroke along the way. I felt a force pulling me through the water toward Mowat Bay.



By 10:30 my tummy started to hurt. It was my own fault. I did not know then, but I had made a mistake that would cause me to end my swim early.

A few weeks prior to the Powell Lake swim I had a terrible fall on a dock. I fell hard on my back / side on a guard rail. Thank goodness someone caught me and helped break the fall. I was in extreme pain for a few weeks, unable to swim. Every movement hurt. I eventually found my way back to the water, swimming in the cold hoping it would help ease the pain. With time I got better, but as I swam, I still felt pain deep inside, and I was worried as I increased my swimming it would worsen. I was so afraid of the pain returning I took anti-inflammatories at the beginning and throughout the swim. They were very hard on my tummy.

There is very little I can say to describe the two worlds I was living in as I swam throughout the night, one a world of extreme beauty and the other of extreme pain. I swam as I always do in half an hour increments with 1 to 2-minute pauses for snacks between. Each time I swam the pain in my stomach worsened. Each time I paused the joy in my heart increased as I watched a sky light up with shooting starts and meteor showers.

Somewhere around 2:00 AM my crew changed. Ewan, who kayaked by my side since the start headed in for some sleep along with Pat and Bill. MJ joined Jim on his escort boat and Sherry joined me at my side.

I don’t remember a lot of what happened from that point, only that I struggled more and more each time I paused for a break and that I could no longer eat. Sherry worked tirelessly with me, keeping me swimming or somehow moving on the water.

I was hoping that when the sun rose, I would start to feel better. It seemed to take forever for it to pop up over the mountains. I was worn down and was now struggling to stay awake. I pressed on as long as I could, switching between swimming and water walking.

With it now light, it was much easier to sight the temptation of land. With very little food in me and no relief from the pain I made the difficult decision to stop the swim. MJ and Jim found a place where I could land and exit the water and Sherry very gently guided me there. After landing, I made my way to Jim’s boat and found a little spot to curl-up in the cuddy cabin below deck.

Since then and now I have processed all of what happened and how I am feeling. There is a bit of sadness that I did not complete the swim as planned, but at the same time, I am glad that I removed myself from the water when I did. I had completed about 35km with another 15km to go – or better stated another 6 hours in the water and heat. I can’t imagine what I would have been like at the end.

Determined to see this through, on September 3 I will return to the lake and complete the last 15 km.

Thank you again for all of your support.


12 thoughts on “Dear Powell River. I owe you 15km.

  1. That’s amazing. Brilliant swim. I am sure those last 15 km will be a walk (swim) in the park in September.
    Well done.

  2. You are like the “Best Book” ever … can’t put the book down until every word is read. Best part is, you are a “Never Ending Story”! Looking forward to this next chapter!!!!

  3. That was absolutely.marvellous. Thanks Susan. You’re a champ and I know you’ll be back – but your #1 in my book no matter what!

  4. I’m so honoured to be reading your story!! I also have MS. and started cold water dipping last month – I’m in my 4th week, I think? I find you to be such an inspiration and I am so excited to read about your adventures & am hoping to start swimming soon! I’m really excited to meet you!! Much love 💕
    Denise Dowdy

  5. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey, Susan! You are an incredible soul and your spirit and determination are beyond inspiring! Best wishes!

  6. Still a Champion… and I am so glad that you listen to your body. We want to keep you with us for many more years.
    Bless you 10 times over.

  7. You are amazing and such an inspiration. Glad to hear you took care of yourself. ❤️

  8. As always, your story inspires and uplifts. It’s not just your courage and perseverance but also your deep appreciation for the environments in which you swim, your honouring of the Indigenous people and nations on whose territories you travel, and your generosity in sharing your triumphs and challenges. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope the last 15 km are filled with ease and beauty. Every time I enter the ocean and experience the shock of the cold I think of you and your tenacity; and as I feel the cold easing, and the joy of being in the water and swimming with kelp, crabs, and otters arising, I think of you and the grace of being part of a community of diverse, amazing, and beautiful cold water swimmers. Swim on friend. ❤️

  9. I’m sorry you were feeling so poorly but glad you made the right call to take care of yourself, and that is great you’re planning to get back and finish the rest of the course <3

  10. My heart is in my mouth reading this and knowing you, your strength and resilience. Once again, thank you for sharing your life and experiences in and out of the water with us all. I am so sad not to join you on the Great Bear Swim this year, but look to you as always with great admiration and love. For both you and Ray and the team. Colly x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *