'My ideal day': Dionne Tatlow swims across Lac La Ronge, Saskatchewan

La Ronge chiropractor Dionne Tatlow swam across Lac La Ronge on Saturday in 14 hours and 55 minutes. There's no documented evidence of anyone making the swim before.

Dionne Tatlow accomplished something never done before Saturday, swimming 45 km across Lac La Ronge.

Dionne Tatlow swam 45 kilometres across Lac La Ronge in less than 15 hours on Saturday. (Dionne Tatlow/Submitted to CBC)


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On Saturday, Dionne Tatlow did something no one's ever attempted to do.

The La Ronge chiropractor swam across chilly a Lac La Ronge in less than 15 hours.

The full distance of her journey is being calculated, but based on her estimates she swam 45 kilometres in one day.

Tatlow had originally planned to do the trip across the massive lake in two days, by swimming 12 hours the first day and then finishing on Sunday. But when she dove off the dock at the Nut Point campground in La Ronge, Sask., around 5:30 a.m., she thought the swim could be done in one long day.

Tatlow with friend Jason Watt (left) and father Guy Tatlow after finishing the 45 kilometre swim. (Dionne Tatlow/Submitted to CBC)

She divided the swim into five legs, each approximately 10 kilometres long. And just like chapters in a book, each one told a different story.

During the first leg the waters were choppy she said, but she wore a wetsuit and made good timing. That further solidified the idea that she could reach the other side by Saturday night. She decided to try the second leg without the wetsuit, knowing that her pace would slow down, but conditions on the lake became ideal. 

"Sunshine and the water was like glass and so smooth," she described over the phone on Sunday morning. "I was having a blast the whole time. I thought 'this is too easy,'"

No stranger to stormy swimming conditions

The sun stuck around for the third leg of the trip, but the tides turned, literally, in the fourth leg when a storm hit, making for miserable swimming conditions. 

"I have no clue how big the chop was but it wasn't even waves. It was a combination of waves and chop and rollers and not fun at all."

Luckily for Tatlow, her training prepared her for the worst. During the first weekend in July she had two long training swims in the lake. 

"My heaviest training weekend was just brutal. There was I think upwards of 20 km/h winds that whole weekend every day all day," she said. "So when the storm came I was pretty comfortable, I wasn't happy about it by any means, but any time I'm in chop, thank goodness now I'm pretty comfortable with it."

Still, the waves that hit on Saturday were bigger than the ones she had trained in. But with her goal still in mind, Tatlow said she just put her head down and tackled the stormy waters.

Tatlow says a marathon swim like the one she did on Saturday is just mind over matter. (Dionne Tatlow/Submitted to CBC)

"If you focus too hard on how miserable you are you're going to get down on yourself, whereas if you focus on getting through it and just persevering and trust in your training and muscle memory, you can kind of let yourself go from any discomfort and just push through," she said.

A long distance swim, although physically demanding, is also a mental marathon she said.

"I think you just go into a nice state of zen and you work on keeping kind of balanced in the water. Keeping your stroke form as good as it can be."

Persevering through the final stretch

I was looking for an excuse, and I didn't get it, so I put my wetsuit on and hopped back in and finished the swim.-Dionne Tatlow

Before the fifth leg Tatlow took a breather on the boat following along with her. Suffering from a sunburn and thinking the last seven kilometre stretch was going to be as difficult as the previous one, Tatlow secretly hoped this would be the end of her day.

But when the boat crew told her the wind was going down and the final crossing looked good, she knew she had to finish the swim.

"I was looking for an excuse, and I didn't get it, so I put my wetsuit on and hopped back in and finished the swim."

Fourteen hours and 55 minutes after starting the swim she reached the rocks at Hunter Narrows, all the way at the other side of Lac La Ronge.

But it wasn't all glory yet, the rocky shore had its own challenge.

"I tried to get up on the rocks but it was just too slippery to stand. So there's actually a pretty funny video of me kind of crawling up on the rocks and trying not to slip," she laughed.

Tatlow said it's hard summing up the emotions that were going through her when she finally reached shore. She was partly in disbelief that she had surpassed her own expectations.

There were stormy periods during Saturday's swim, but also some perfect conditions like these on Lac La Ronge. (Dionne Tatlow/Submitted to CBC)

While relaxing on Sunday, recovering from the previous days' feat and still hurting from her sunburn, Tatlow said she was elated.

"I said to my mother this morning, 'man, yesterday was the best day ever, I swam the entire day, that's all I did.' And she kind of laughed at me because she knows that's my ideal day."