Updated: Jan 8, 2020
By Mani Kowal
We all know that there can be challenges training when one travels a lot. Where can you workout? Is it safe? Is it possible? I find it most difficult to try to find a place to swim or bike. However, with a bit of effort and sometimes luck, it can lead to workouts in some amazing places.
I’ve been lucky to be able to swim in the Balearic Sea in water so clear that I was afraid of what I might see. I’ve run along the streets and parks of Hanoi, Vietnam at 4:30 in the morning and boy did I see some interesting things. I’ve even enjoyed running in Zimbabwe. I’m so grateful for each one of these experiences. These were outside the United States but recently I had the joy of experiencing Lucky Lakes Swim near Orlando, Florida.
When searching for a place to swim, while our family was visiting the Orlando area, I stumbled across a comment on Facebook that pointed me to this swim which turned out to be quite a gem. Here's my experience on that swim and I hope it will encourage you to investigate opportunities to swim/bike/run in new areas as you travel!
First of all, be sure to do your homework. You can find a lot of information online as I did for the Lucky Lakes Swim. Here I found:
Address - this is at the home of Doc Lucky
Actions needed to take - Sign Waiver (Print at home, oops) and use swim buoy
Start time - there are no early or late starts. 6:30 sharp on weekdays, 7:45 on weekends
Cost: Free but do make a donation to the Lake Cane Restoration Society
FAQs - This showed the creative side of this group. I found them funny!
Since this was my first Lucky’s swim, I built in plenty of time to get some coffee, find the place and get situated well before the start time. At first you may wonder if you are at the right place but you will see little clues around confirming you made it. On that day, I noticed a car with a Lucky’s Swim bumper sticker and the “swim shack” by the water. In that shack I could see many open water swim buoys hanging inside. As I waited for the others to arrive, I took in the beautiful morning light - you know, that moment when the sun hasn’t broke the horizon yet but it was getting lighter out. Your coffee has started to kick in and the world around is very peaceful. As an early riser I love these moments.
Around 15 min prior to the swim, I headed down to the water. As I worked myself towards the lake and on the other side of the house I was impressed with the set up at Doc Lucky’s home. There was a pool outfitted with basketball hoops and swim toys. Then right next to that fun pool was a lap pool. I thought, what a great set up! From there you could see a workout room on the front part of the house, outdoor showers and various Lucky’s Lake swim stuff set about.
I wandered down to the swim house to check for waivers. I loved all the little plaques, signage and set up by the water.
In the the little shack there had about 50 swim buoys hanging. My thought was wow, at some point they need this many buoys. Wow. Then I looked into the water and saw a bunch of huge fish! Check out the picture below. I had a small heart attack knowing that is clearly where we walk into the water. From the picture you can see these African Carp weren’t little pan fish. The were about 3-4 feet long and turns out nothing to fear but hard to know that when you walk up to the lake.
Before long, Doc Lucky came out from his home and quietly walked to the lake with his dog trailing him. Not much was said, others were there. It was a small group compared to the pictures I had seen on their Facebook page. I think people were waiting to swim that night for the scheduled “Midnight Movie and Swim”. A little fun fact, as they advertised for this event, they didn't disclose what movie they were going to show until that night. Turns out they watched Jaws and then went swimming. Not sure I could have done that.
Before I knew it, a small cluster of swimmers were at the water's edge, and some were getting in before the rest of us. It was a good thing because it got those big fish out of the way. The swim was a straight shot out with a few buoys along the way. There and back was 1,000 meters. I personally did three loops since we had an hour to get our swim in. I loved how there was a digital clock on the dock helping people keep track of the time. On this day the water was 88 degrees which wasn’t ideal but I was so happy to swim that far. I did experience sweating for a full hour after that swim which has never happened to me.
After the swim, I headed toward the house to rinse off at the outdoor shower. There I met one of the regulars, an older gentleman. We started talking about the swim. When he learned this was my first time, he asked me if I signed the wall? Did I get a log sheet? Then he scrambled to find all the usual goodies that a first time swimmer earned. When all was said and done, he handed me the following:
Lucky’s Lake Swim Patch
Lucky’s Lake Swim bumper sticker,
Log Sheet with link to site where you can purchase “Lucky’s Lake Swim Merchandise”
Various invites to upcoming events (underwater hockey, Midnight Movie & Swim, The Golden Mile, etc)
A Congrats card of what one needs to do next
After that, he found a magic marker and instructed me to sign the Wall of Fame. Whoever has completed one trip gets to sign the wall. Take a look at the lake side Wall of Fame in the picture below. Keep in mind this is only part of the wall. Now the Wall of Fame wraps around the house is under the eaves. It’s pretty cool to be standing in front of it thinking about all of these people from all over the world.
I wasn’t until later that I learned that first timers usually get their picture with Doc Lucky and a stuffed alligator on site.
What made this trip special was not the swim itself but seeing what someone did for an entire community of open water swimmers. Doc Lucky did a tremendous amount of work to make this happen and to build such a strong community and tradition. Even though I only swam there once, I appreciate all the work he had to do to make this happen. He’s positively affecting so many people in a positive way by creating various challenges and events. And let's not forget your donation goes to the Lake Cane Restoration Society.
Doc Lucky has helped to set up one special opportunity if you are willing to try it. I will return!
Seek out opportunities as you travel, or even in your own area. Or be a Doc Lucky and start your own! Enjoy!