Mackinac Island Swim

August 31st, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

What do you consider a “long” swim? Anything over a mile? How about 2 or 3 miles? Or have you ever done a point to point swim? Is it crazy to swim 8.2 miles around Mackinac Island? Yes it is. Crazy, exciting and beautiful!

The event starts on the shoreline in front of the Grand Hotel and then goes clockwise around Mackinac Island to Mission Point Resort. (Optional to swim around marker buoys near the harbor to make up for not being allowed to swim through the harbor itself.) Water conditions could be wavy and rough or flat, cold or not as cold but crystal clear and rocky. You could stand or reach shore quickly if you wanted a standing break.

A storm blew through the night before the race bringing 4-6’ waves but luckily calmed down by race start. Lake Huron was an enjoyable 68*. 237 swimmers entered the water two by two. Miles 1-2 had a gentle head on current. That current increased over miles 3-4 and then disappeared for miles 5-8, except the last 350 yards from finish. There it pushed you to the final buoy and I had to dig deep to make the final surge back to the finish line. Garmin officially recorded 13,532 yards, about 1000 yards shy of 8.2 miles. Views of the Island were beautiful and you could use various points to sight. The crystal clear water allowed you to see all the rocks and boulders and old logs beneath the surface, along with numerous tiny fish. Oddly enough M-Dot had road construction in the middle of our swim course. They were unloading rocks from a barge at mile 3.5 to repair the road that goes around the Island.

Training for this distance meant swimming 10,000+ yards, broken over 3-4 swims weekly since February with a lot of emphasis on technique. It also meant getting into open water by late May to acclimate to cold water. Long continuous swims started in June at 2 miles and increased mile by mile up to 7 miles in August. If I could go back I would add a few 3 mile pool swims in before hitting the open water.

Are you up for the challenge of a distance swim? There’s actually a few in Michigan. Swim to the Moon offers distances from 0.5 miles to 10,000 yards through a few connected inland lakes. Mackinac Island Swim can be taken on by individuals or relay teams. The Mighty Mac Swim across the Straits of Mackinac will hopefully return in 2021. It’s a 4 mile swim but is more like swimming 5+ miles due to the currents and there is no bottom to touch for a break. 

If you do take on a long distance swim I recommend starting with technique improvement. Bad form over miles and miles could cause a major injury. Follow a solid training plan or work with an experienced coach who can improve your technique and give you an individualized plan. Also, swim in conditions that closely match your event and practice your nutrition.  Happy Swimming, Coach Dawn 



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