It would be a cold, gruelling 22 mile swim from Clarkston to Heller Bar in the Snake River in March.
In comparison, swimming 22 miles in a pool shouldn’t be that hard.
Keep in mind it takes 36 laps to equal one mile.
Since 2012, swimmers have taken on the Heller Bar Haul, an annual underwater marathon at the Asotin County Family Aquatic Center in Clarkston. People register to swim 22 miles over the month of March.
Three years ago Dave “the dolphin” Naumann did it in one day.
Naumann, 57, a pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Clarkston and teacher at the Valley Bible Academy, will compete again in this year’s contest. He knows he won’t be able to do it in a day, only because he’s teaching full time and the center’s weekend hours aren’t long enough (it took him 14 hours and 42 minutes to swim the distance in 2016). Instead he plans to break it up over three days.
Last year 20 people, ranging in age from 21 to 74, signed up for the haul, said Jessica West, the center’s manager.
Naumann started swimming for exercise in 1993 while living in Alaska, so that he wouldn’t end up looking like “Friar Tuck.”
“I’ve developed a stroke some would say is efficient. It’s tailor made for the Heller Bar Haul,” said Naumann, who can cross the lap pool in four strokes, if he’s counting on one arm; nine if he counts both. Most people average 12 or more, he said.
Inland 360 asked Naumann for some tips on long distance swimming for anyone interested in accepting this year’s challenge.
Build stamina over time.
“I had a lifeguard once tell me when you swim long distances, pretty soon it would not challenge you anymore. As you build up, you need to swim your normal stroke and cut out a stroke as you cross the pool. It takes a couple months to get used to one less stroke.”
Work with the water.
Total Immersion is a full body swimming method that conserves energy and focuses on balance and streamlining. Using these techniques, Naumann has learned to keep his head and chest in the water most of the time while efficiently gliding to get the most out of his forward crawl. “It gives the feeling of swimming downhill,” he said. “Most people say it looks like I’m going to sleep out there. I say, ‘I do take a nap.’ ”
Train smart before going the distance.
Like a runner training for a marathon, Naumann trains for the 22 mile swim by amping up his training schedule. He regularly swims five days a week. In February, he adds another day, along with some one-minute laps. He also swims five miles one day each week as a mini-marathon. This helps him discover issues he might encounter, like the fact that he must shave before swimming long distances or his stubbled chin will rub his shoulder raw.
Know your biggest weakness.
One of the biggest challenges when swimming long distances is boredom, Naumann said. “It’s just like running, the first two miles are going to stink. The first 20 laps are going to stink. I just tell myself I can swim all day.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Heller Bar Haul
WHEN: The month of March
WHERE: Asotin County Family Aquatic Center, 1603 Dustan Loop, Clarkston
COST: $15 with current membership, $25 without a membership
OF NOTE: The last day to sign up is March 13. People who complete the challenge receive a T-shirt and are entered in a drawing to win a three month membership.