“But the nausea and headache continued throughout the swim. It was just miserable’
It was Marilyn Korzekwa, exhausted but satisfied, who came ashore, 15 hours, 54 minutes and 07 seconds after entering Lake Nipissing, well before sunrise Friday morning.
Korzekwa began her 28km swim at Campbell’s Bay near the French River, without the benefit of a wetsuit.
Hamilton’s doctor set out to complete what she started in 2020, but was forced to cancel less than two kilometers from the North Bay seafront, due to wind speeds of up to 65km per hour and 10 foot waves that caused a Zodiac boat to capsize.
This time she was victorious. Coming out of the water on the beach near the large Memorial Drive garage, a smiling Korzekwa was greeted by a small group of cheering supporters who had gathered to cheer her on.
Battling leg cramps, she gladly accepted a chair to sit on and catch her breath.
“I haven’t been so ‘totaled’ since Lake Ontario,” laughed Korzekwa, comparing that swim to his Lake Ontario swim of 45km, south to north in 1983, and 46km north to south in 1984.
This time, the conditions may have been better, but she was physically under bad weather.
“The conditions were magnificent. The conditions were great except when I was throwing up. I really wanted to quit because I threw up twice. I threw it all up and it lasted about three hours,” a daring Korzekwa shared.
It turned out that the swimmer was battling a migraine.
“When I was throwing up, we tried everything. We tried motion sickness pills, we tried antacids, we tried changing my diet and nothing worked. And then I remembered I had a migraine pill so we tried that and it really helped. But the nausea and headache continued throughout the swim. It was just miserable.
Being sick meant she was unable to cut back on her feedings, a mix of carbs, some with protein, and Boost. All the vital nutrients for her to have the strength to propel herself through her nearly 16 hour swim.
“That’s why I got cold because I had no fuel.”
If one thing fueled her, it was knowing that she had a score to settle.
“I couldn’t give up because the conditions were so perfect.”
However, the winds picked up as she remained in the water, meaning completing the swim to the scheduled finish at Shabogesic Beach was out of the question.
“We had a bit of an easterly wind at the Manitou Islands, which caused blows to my face, which was annoying. But these waves came to an end. So we couldn’t make it to Shabogesic Beach as it was destroying my shoulders trying to fight it.
As she approached the last two miles, the same distance she had been forced out of the water the first time, she had a thought,
“Yeah, we’ll do it this time.”
Colleen Shields was the swim master representing Solo Swims of Ontario.
“I was responsible for supervising the swim, making sure it was a safe swim and that all the rules were followed and the crew was safe,” Shields explained.
“The weather was great until an hour ago. It got tough. We could see it building when we cleared the Manitou Islands but as we got closer we knew we couldn’t get into Shabogesic Beach (Marathon Beach) so we said it would be easier for her to come with the waves and body surfing. in.”
The rules do not allow Korzekwa to be touched until the Solo Swims official gives the word.
“She couldn’t be touched until she drained the water. It’s a channel rule and it seems to have trickled down to all open water swimming.
The Korzekwa race is officially in the record books.
“Yes, because I don’t think anyone else has done Lake Nipissing. It will go into our records,” added Shields who helped Korzekwa feed on the lake.
The swimmer was protected by boats throughout the journey.
“The Zodiac and the kayak were always on either side of her, very close,” Shields said.
“And in fact the motorboats were also very close, one behind and one in front.”
Korzekwa is confident that now that she has this albatross around her neck, Lake Nipissing will be her last long distance swim.
” I think so. I won’t be swimming for a few weeks, let me tell you yes, after these waves,” she laughed.
She was asked if there was another body of water on her bucket list that she wanted to challenge.
“No, not at the moment,” she smiles.
Korzekwa said she was proud to add Lake Nipissing to her impressive list of swims from around the world.
“I am a proud Canadian. Yes, very proud.
Before the day, the marathon swimmer received an email from Marilyn Bell, who at age 16 in 1954 became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario.
“And she said her dad had been stationed here for three or four years, and she thinks she learned to swim at Shabogesic Beach. When she was two or three, her dad took her there. So she thought it was really cool that I was going to be there.
Not only was the swimmer back to conquer the lake, but she made it a point to raise funds for the Nipissing Trackers again, after raising $75,000 in 2020.
Dylan Rivenbark, 14, is part of the Nipissing Tracker program at Laurentian Ski Hill.
With binoculars in hand, he watched enthusiastically as Korzekwa approached the finish.
“The money the swimmer raised is going to help people like me who have a disability to ski,” the excited teenager shared.
“What I love is that people like me go out and have fun like everyone else. It’s fun and it makes the kids smile. I use a bi-ski. My friend Lucas and my dad help me.
Donations can be made by following the prompts on the NADY (Nipissing Association for Disabled Youth) Facebook page.