Article written by Kevin Grogan DashSports

The day after Christmas 2020, was certainly a day David Tisdale will remember for some time.  On that morning, he entered Lake Minneola at Waterfront park and swam the entire Clermont Chain of Lakes to the furthest point of the chain; the beach at Lake Louisa State Park. The feat may seem surreal to most, but not to Tisdale who loves to push endurance limits.  Tisdale reflected on this dynamic feat this weekend.

Tablet: You swam from Waterfront Park Beach to Lake Louisa Beach the day after Christmas; 17,281 yards.  Why did this epic distance intrigue you?

Tisdale: I’ve completed swims of 10k to 20k a few times before.  I occasionally train these distances in preparation for some of my favorite open water swimming races.  When local triathlon guru, Kevin Grogan, mentioned that a Beach to Beach swim in the Clermont Chain of Lakes measures between 15k and 10 miles, it interested me immediately.  Swimming through the narrow channels introduced a new dimension to my typical training.  I also hoped this achievement might bring awareness to my fundraising efforts for the Navy Seal Foundation, a worthy and honorable cause ideally suitable and inspirational for an open water swimmer.

Tablet: Your close friend, Geir Ingolfsrud, was with you the whole way (by kayak) for the five-plus hour swim.  Tell us about him.

Tisdale: Geir’s involvement was instrumental to the planning and successful execution of the swim.  Anyone who has kayaked for five consecutive hours without a break can tell you that it is quite a test of endurance.  In addition to superior navigation and nutritional support, Geir scouted the course, provided coaching, and managed our safety plan.  Given the characteristics of this particular swim, his qualifications made Geir the ideal choice.  He is an experienced navigator, a certified US Masters Swimming coach, and a world-class swimmer and athlete.  Geir has won national age-group titles in 800-meter freestyle and in multisport racing.  Geir is well known in the Clermont athletic community, but due to his humble personality, few are aware of his broad and lengthy resume of athletic accomplishments.  Until I brought to his attention, he wasn’t even aware that he is an age group record holder in Lucky’s Lake Swim Golden Mile.  In March, Geir will join two teammates in tackling a Double Anvil triathlon, covering twice the distance of a full distance Ironman.

Tablet:  Talk about the teamwork that goes into something like this.  What was the plan of execution?

Tisdale: Late December offers only a narrow band of daylight hours, but we made best use of the limited time window by planning ahead.  We positioned a vehicle at the finish and an extra vehicle near the midpoint of the swim in case of emergency.  We synchronized our watches for feeds at regular intervals.  I typically start a long swim with a full stomach of pasta, and consume bananas, salt, glucose, and water at each preplanned break.  The cold temperatures demanded additional preparations.  We also stored several layers of dry layered clothing in the kayak and in the vehicles at the start, the midpoint, and the endpoint of the swim.  Our original plan involved an additional swimmer, local endurance icon, Bojan “Boki” Maric.  Together, we were victorious in the two-man team category of the 2018 Alligator Lighthouse Swim.  Unfortunately, he was called away due to a family emergency and was unable to join us.  Boki has been a fantastic mentor and teammate in my endurance swimming pursuits, so I hope he can join me in a repeat performance of this feat someday.

Tablet: It was really cold that day.  Were you able to ever get comfortable?

Tisdale: Even under ideal conditions, there is nothing comfortable about a five-hour swim, but I did remain relatively comfortable for the first three hours.  I was raised in New England and Geir is from Norway, so we generally prefer cooler temperatures.  With water temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s and air temperatures in the 40s, hypothermia was certainly a risk for both of us to carefully manage.  To limit the danger, we carefully orchestrated the launch so that we could both maintain a warm core temperature as far into the swim as possible.  Wearing several layers of warm clothing, Geir organized the kayak and signaled that he was ready to go.  I downed a hot coffee, filled my wetsuit with several buckets of hot water, pulled the kayak into the lake, and initiated the swim at a relatively fast pace to get my blood flowing.  We maintained a fast steady rhythm throughout and kept the feeding sessions brief.  I started experiencing mild numbness in my feet and fingers after about two hours.  Thirty minutes from the finish, the inside of my mouth went numb, my speech was slurring, and my motor control was declining.  It was obvious that my core temperature was dropping, but the fastest way out of the water was to complete the full distance, so I asked Geir to watch me carefully and to keep a life vest handy until we reached the beach.

Tablet: There is only one other person that I know of that has swum the eerie Crooked River. By the time you got to this portion of the swim, were you at all concerned?

Tisdale: I wasn’t overly concerned about that aspect.  One of the reasons we planned for late December was to minimize encounters with boats and wildlife.  We did not come across any reptiles, but we did maneuver around an unexpected number of motorized boats.  The boaters were curious, but courteous, giving us space to pass safely.  The boat fumes were unpleasant but the biggest challenge of the Crooked River is that it is indeed crooked.  Swimming efficiency is paramount in long-distance open water swimming, and efficiency degrades with frequent changes in direction and excessive sighting.  Even with Geir’s guidance from the kayak, I found myself sighting often to avoid obstacles.  On the positive side, water temperatures in the Crooked River were noticeably warmer than in the larger lakes so we were able to reduce the pace for a while and take a longer nutrition break.

Tablet: What is your swim background and your athletic background?

Tisdale: I’ve been a competitive swimmer for forty years but my increased focus on open water swimming and triathlon has only developed over the last ten years.  I had a late start in swimming at the age of 13.  I dabbled in track and field, cycling, and triathlon, and continued swimming throughout high school but remained mediocre at everything I tried.  When I enrolled at Clarkson University, it wasn’t certain whether my times were fast enough to make its Division III swim team.  With perseverance, I developed a specialization in backstroke and endurance freestyle events. I became a high point scorer and served as a team captain, but I hadn’t met my full potential yet.  With a sense of unfinished business, I got involved in coaching and continued to swim long distances on my own.  For many years, I immersed myself in waterskiing and scuba diving.  I relocated to Clermont in seeking a base for those activities.  Since moving to the Choice of Champions, I rediscovered triathlon which ignited my passion for open water swimming.

Tablet: You live on my favorite lake in the area; Saw Mill Lake.  How has lake life influenced your health and fitness?

Tisdale: Living on Saw Mill Lake has been transformative for my health and fitness in many ways.  It has been an ideal location for waterskiing, but I also benefited in an unexpected way when my neighbor and fellow water skier, Todd Fedorovich, encouraged me to reengage in running, cycling, and triathlon.  Our Saw Mill Lake neighborhood provides an ideal swimming environment with convenient access to Lake Louisa State Park, the Clermont Waterfront, the National Training Center, and the Van Fleet Trail.  Living in the Choice of Champions provides an ideal training ground and the opportunity to learn from numerous professional and amateur endurance athletes.  Owing to the support of my wife, Yolimar Bolivar, and our inspiring community of Clermont Triathletes, I’ve shed 75 pounds since 2010 and surpassed my own perceived limitations.  In 2019, I was honored to represent the United States triathlon team in the Age Group World Championships and earned an open water swimming gold medal in the Global Swim Series World Championships.  After decades of involvement in athletics, my greatest athletic achievements are now happening in my 50s, thanks in large part to our unique South Lake County environment and community spirit.

Tablet:  Talk about your training regimen through the pandemic till now.

Tisdale: As difficult as recent events have been for our nation and our community, I am fortunate because I’ve found ways to morph adversity into opportunity.  When the pandemic hit the United States in March, I ended a 25-year career as a traveling consultant and accepted permanent employment with my favorite customer.  Working from home allows me to train, eat, and sleep on a consistent schedule and my performance has evolved to a new level as a result.  My most recent improvements have been in running, which was both my figurative and literal Achilles heel.  Compared to most of the athletes I train with, I am older and heavier with the disproportionately top-heavy body of an endurance swimmer.  I’ve learned that frequent, intense, and long runs increase my risk of calf and heel injuries and tend to negatively impact my running performance over the long term.  To overcome this, I limit my running to two focused training sessions per week, leverage the cross-training benefits of swimming and cycling, and devote more time and energy to rest, proper diet, and active recovery.  I also enjoy the training benefits of frequent racing because the heightened intensity of competition enhances my mental toughness.  I enjoy a wide range of endurance events outside of my comfort zone including track meets, criteriums, and obstacle course races.

Tablet: Tell us about some of your other upcoming swims & endurance events.

Tisdale: Geir will provide kayak support for me as I participate in the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim on January 17th.  This fundraiser for the Navy Seal Foundation is one of our favorite events because it allows us to express gratitude toward the families of our fallen military heroes in a technically challenging 5k cross-current cold weather ocean swim.  Geir and I will both swim in the upcoming El Cruce 2.4 mile and 10k swims respectively in Cancun, Mexico.  I am also registered for the 20k Florida Keys Community College Swim Around Key West in 2021.  I also plan to compete in several triathlons, running, and cycling events this year.  Above all, I plan to enjoy informal training triathlons at Saw Mill Lake with some of my favorite neighbors.  These small group training sessions began when most events were canceled due to pandemic restrictions, but we’ve kept them going because they are especially competitive and engaging.

Tablet:  Anything else you would like to tell your Lake neighbors?

Tisdale:   Those who wish to donate to our Navy Seal Foundation fundraiser will find a donation link on my Facebook profile and on a Clermont Triathletes post about the recent Clermont Chain of Lakes swim.  We are sincerely grateful for all of the generous donations our community has made toward this worthy cause.

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