Woman swims across Grand Lake
Grand Lake, Colorado CO
A statement, a challenge, and the promise of a steak dinner all led Tierah Ellard to take the plunge into Grand Lake recently.
On July 31, Ellard swam across the lake and back, a distance of roughly two miles through water just slightly warmer than 60 degrees.
A talented swimmer working in Grand Lake for the summer, Ellard spoke aloud about her plan to swim the lake. A skeptical co-worker bet her a steak dinner that she couldn’t do it. Ellard’s competitive side kicked in, and it was on.
She started from the end of the dock at the Town Beach.
“I just jumped in,” Ellard said. “I knew if I waded in I’d just chicken out.”
Ellard swam the length of the lake and back without the aid of flippers. Aside from her bathing suit, she wore a surf shirt. Worn specifically for cold water swimming, the shirt covered about three-fourths of her body to help keep her warm.
Ellard believes the shirt was the reason she managed to withstand the cold long enough to complete the swim.
To ensure her safety, her supervisor paddled along beside her in a kayak and timed her. The entire swim took just over 40 minutes, including 20 minutes for the way back.
“I was definitely swimming slow on the way back,” said Ellard, “but on the way there, when I first started swimming, it was so windy. The lake was white-capped, and the wind started blowing toward me.”
Upon finishing the swim, Ellard relaxed in the slightly warmer waters near the beach, where she noticed her arms and legs had turned purple from the cold. This didn’t seem to bother her, however, as she spoke cheerfully about the swim.
Ellard, a native of Roswell, Ga., is an accomplished swimmer. She swam for the club team SwimAtlanta, as well as for her school at Berea College in Kentucky. She has also competed nationally at the NAIA National Championships.
“I’ve been swimming competitively since I was 12,” said Ellard. “Swimming’s pretty much in my blood.”
Her competitive streak runs in the family, where she is one of 12 children. Her recent lake swim now constitutes “bragging rights” she says.
“Back home, we’re all swimmers, we’re all athletic. You try to find that one thing that one-ups everyone else. It’s a healthy competition.”
Ellard came to Grand Lake through A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP), a program that places Christians in national parks throughout the U.S. Ellard holds worship services at the Grand Lake Lodge as well as in the Rocky Mountain National Park at the Timber Creek campground.
“I never get tired of the view,” Ellard said of Grand Lake. Will she attempt to swim the lake again? She’s not sure.
“It was definitely fun,” she said. “I think it’d be fun to do it again, but I don’t know if I actually would.”
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