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Chris Bieri, Forum Communications Co., Published June 06 2012

Athletes train for a marathon in the Red River

GRAND FORKS – Robert Treuer figures he has consumed his fair share of Red River water in the past six weeks.

Treuer, 46, is one of about 10 competitors scheduled to swim in the Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test, a marathon down the Red River scheduled for July 21.

Treuer spent more than two months swimming in pools before moving on to river workouts.

“I’ve probably drank gallons of this water,” said Treuer, the only local athlete signed up to compete. “I’ve been swimming in it since late April. I’ve probably done between 12 and 15 river swims.”

The race, which will run nearly 27 miles, is scheduled to start in Grand Forks and finish in Oslo, Minn., in conjunction with the town’s summer festival Oslo Days.

Treuer took three hours to make a 7½-mile trek through the Red River on Wednesday after a 1½-mile pool warm-up. In total, his workload for the day was just less than 16,000 yards.

Since starting training for the event, Treuer’s schedule has gone from intense to insane, even for an athlete experienced in extreme races.

He started swimming about 8,000 yards a week in the pool and has graduated to between 45,000 and 50,000 a week. He is still planning a river training swim next week of nearly 30,000 yards, the farthest he will go in a day in preparation.

“When I decided to do it, I thought it was hard,” he said. “Now that I’m training for it, it seems a little crazy.”

,strong>An open field

Race organizer Andy Magness, who also has planned other adventure and extreme races under the Extreme North Dakota Racing series, said the swimming field is bigger than expected.

“The response to the swim has been more than we hoped for,” Magness said. “We initially thought Robert was going to be swimming and we’d get two to three other people. I think we’re at about 10 swimmers now.”

Included in that group, according to Magness, is Chicago-area swimmer Dan Projansky, who will attempt to maneuver the entire course using the butterfly stroke.

Another notable competitor is Darren E. Miller, who is attempting to become the first person to complete the “Ocean’s Seven,” which includes seven channels or straits from different areas of the world.

Magness said one swimmer may be coming from as far as Malaysia.

“For us, the exciting part is going to be the people out here swimming, which we didn’t think was going to happen except as an exhibition,” Magness said. “Now it’s going to be a legitimate competition.”

,strong>Challenging

Treuer, from Grand Forks, said he has competed in 25 races, ranging from sprint triathlons to ultra-level winter bike races.

As someone who has only been swimming for five years, he said this race will be the toughest.

“The mental challenge, from a sensation standpoint,” Treuer said. “You’re face down in the water for 12 hours. You only get to breathe every 2 to 3 strokes.”

The race is the second-longest swim event in the country, according to Magness, but being downstream makes it seem shorter than the actual yardage.

“This is longer, but it’s easier because you have the current,” he said. “It’s probably a 16- to 18-mile swim with the current speed.”

Treuer, who is self-employed, has been training with former UND swimmer Shaun Seaburg on both mental and physical aspects.

“It’s a real challenge,” he said. “There’s an unknown. I don’t know what’s going to happen … I’m 46 years old, my intent is just to do the race. There’s some younger world-class swimmers coming that I wouldn’t even fantasize being able to compete with.”

Other categories

Magness said the event has been cleared by city officials on both sides of the river and already has been insured.

Each solo swimmer will have a devoted canoe following them for safety and assistance.

Aside from the solo swim category, the race also offers a relay swim, and opportunities in canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

The solo swimming event will be capped at 15 participants, but Magness said he is still hoping for more local competitors.

Magness said the river swim provides freedom a pool can’t offer. The organizing group also is trying to promote non-motorized use of the river, which isn’t as dirty as perceived.

“It doesn’t smell or taste bad,” he said. “There’s sediment. If you want the crystal clear water, you have to go someplace else.”


Chris Bieri writes for the Grand Forks Herald