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Swimmers go to great lengths

Alex Cape swims 94 kilometres in Lake Cowichan, coming just shy of a world record
Susan Simmons

After putting her body through hell for more than 48 hours and falling just shy of a space in the record books, Alex Cape isn’t spending any time wondering about what might have been.

Cape and Susan Simmons set out last Friday afternoon to conquer three lengths of Cowichan Lake, a 105-kilometre swim expected to take 50 hours.

“We faced some pretty ugly waves right off the bat on Friday afternoon. Susan was feeling nauseous and not holding any food down,” said Cape.

The physical exertion and choppy water eventually took their toll on Simmons, who pulled out after 44 km, but Cape kept on going.

She made up a lot of ground on the calm waters early Saturday morning, but the winds picked up again Saturday afternoon.

“We faced nine hours of brutal waves coming right at us, three and four-foot waves. We were just getting pummelled,” said Cape, who grew up in Saanich and now lives just over the municipal boundary in Victoria.

Sleep depravation may have been the only thing keeping Cape from packing it in.

“I think if I had been a bit more lucid, I would have been demoralized.”

But Cape soldiered on, getting encouragement from her support crew, which by this point now included Simmons urging her on from a kayak as well as joining her in the water.

“I was just there to make sure she didn’t go under and to help her keep her focus,” said Simmons, a Victoria resident who works and trains in Saanich.

“I couldn’t have done it without her,” said Cape.

But as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning the waves picked up again and Case was struggling and was hallucinating.

“There were some times I was pretty desperate and suffering. I was hearing stuff and then I realized it was me, I was whimpering because I was so cold.”

In order to have a marathon swim count, a swimmer must enter and exit the water under their own power. At 94 kilometres into her journey, Cape’s support crew suggested she walk ashore at a safe beach. “Otherwise it would be another four or five kilometres before there would be another safe beach access.”

That left her just 2.5 kilometres short of the world record of 96.5, but Cape believes she may have equalled the record for a woman swimmer.

But earning a spot in the record book isn’t what started Cape on this journey. It was Simmons battle with MS and her decision to swim across Cowichan Lake two years ago. The pair returned last year to swim across the lake and back. The reason behind the three swims was to help Simmons get across her message for those with MS.

“Her message is you don’t have to get the diagnosis and give up on life. You can still manage the disease,” said Cape, adding that message was expanded this year.

“Everybody is valuable. We wanted to say to everybody and anybody, get outside and do something.”

The pair were joined on the start of their swim by Special Olympic athlete Aly White.

“She had a goal to swim five kilometres and she swam 6.5 so she did great,” said Simmons.

The pair are accepting donations for the MS Society of Vancouver Island and Special Olympics Victoria. You can still contribute at