I did a great event this summer in Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA of all places. It is a down-river 27-mile race called END-WET. Race director Andy Magness puts on a real community event with an impressive grassroots effort. The whole town comes together and volunteers to help the swimmers get to the finish in Oslo, MN.
This past year was the second year END-WET has been held, and the race, hospitality (I was housed by an exceptionally welcoming family, the Pecks), and pre- and post-race gatherings were so well run with a down-to-earth feel. The 100% success rate that the race has enjoyed throughout its tenure speaks to the excellent organization and attention to safety.
Despite the long distance of the event, it was one of the most exciting races I've participated in. After about the halfway point, I was passed by fellow competitor Sandra Bergquist. She and I engaged in a back-and-forth battle for nearly two hours before I was able to take back my position. I then raced Karen Zemlin, who had led the whole way. I passed her with about a mile to go and expanded my lead, only to make a tactical error on my approach to the finish which ultimately allowed Karen, who made a much smarter decision, to take back her lead. Karen, myself, and Sandra held the podium at 6:58, 6:58, and 7:01, respectively. It was so exciting to race these strong women, they brought out the best in me and I couldn't have made such an effort had they not been nearby. I had a great time seeing a different part of the country, and definitely want to come back next year.