Swim Across Lake Powell: Sarah Thomas Completes 82 Miles In 56 Hours


After completing a swim across Lake Powell in 56 hours, Sarah Thomas said that she was tired and beyond hungry. Thomas, 34, stated that despite spending months of training and envisioning the record-breaking swim she never expected to feel as exhausted as she did.

Thomas, a hospital recruiter, started training in April. The young woman said she did over 25 hours of swimming per week. At times, she swam more than 50 miles a week hoping to be ready to conquer Lake Powell, which is 82 miles long.

The swimmer accomplished her goal on Thursday with a group of 13 people on a boat traveling by her side. It took her a total of 56 hours to swim across the Lake Powell along the Arizona-Utah border. Thomas never stopped swimming, never took any rest, and never got out of the lake.

She decided not to take any breaks hoping to qualify for a possible record for an unassisted marathon swim. Thomas is hoping to take the title from Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel, who is the record holder for unassisted solo and open-water swim. She completed 77.3 miles off the Bahamian shores in 41 hours in 2014.

Instead, every 30 minutes, the experts traveling with Thomas would toss her a bottle containing liquid carbohydrate and electrolyte mixtures. She said that the combination of the liquids made it possible for her body to stay awake and complete the grueling swim.

The former member of UConn swim team said she mainly swam freestyle but once in a while did the backstroke or breaststroke to relax her muscles. After the swim, Thomas said she was not able to feel her body and had difficulties walking.

Thomas said her body was trembling and she had no appetite. She slept for more than 12 hours to recuperate and enjoyed an omelet cooked by her husband when she finally woke up. She said:

“This morning my husband tracked me down an omelet and some hash browns. I have to say it was the best food I’ve had in my life.”

Now, Thomas is waiting on the Marathon Swimmers Federation in California to verify her swim. Co-founder Evan Morrison said two independent observers, who monitored the swim, have already confirmed that everything was legit. Morrison said:

“They have the knowledge and the credibility. It’s not just Sarah asking her brother to come out and say ‘Oh yeah, my sister did this.'”

Morrison said that a federation panel composed of 16 members from all over the world will review the swim and announce their decision soon. Morrison said Thomas is “well-respected” and believes all will go smooth. Morrison added:

“So, in one sense it’s a different category. In another sense, 81.8 miles is longer than 77.3. If ratified, it will be the longest unassisted solo swim in any body of water.”

Thomas said no more marathon swims until the Cook Strait in 2018, but do not expect her to stay away from the water. She added:

“I may not be the fastest but I’m happy to keep going and going.”

Thomas took part in six marathon swims in the past six years including in Lake Tahoe and the English Channel. Lake Powell was not her first choice; she was hoping to become a record holder by swimming in the ocean off the California coast but came to the realization that a lake would be better suited. She explained:

“There are not a lot of lakes that are big enough and logistically make sense.”

The lake was indeed a better option because McCardel had to be hospitalized after her swim. McCardel received 15 jellyfish stings during her swim and was under doctors’ care for almost a week.