For 24 years, the Reston Masters Swim Team has hosted a lake swim Memorial Day weekend, 22 of them taking place at Lake Audubon. The event is one of the only times each year that swimming is allowed in the lake. Shirley Loftus-Charley has participated in every one of those swims, dating back to her time living in Reston. Despite her decades of experience, this year was a first for her.
"I live in Afton now, my son lives in Lexington and my daughter lives in Charlottesville, and this is the first time we’ve all been in the same swim together," Loftus-Charley said. "It was nice to be together as a family for an event like this."
All three family members placed in the top 15 of the non-wetsuit division in the one-mile swim, with Shirley Loftus-Charley finishing 13th, her son Craig finishing eighth and her daughter Amy finishing fifth.
"For a while Amy was swimming right next to me, and then she just took off," said Craig Charley, who finished with a time of 23:10.
Amy Charley said she hadn’t participated in the swim since she was in high school.
"I think I did a few when I was younger, but this was probably my best finish," said Amy, who finished in 22:39.
Hundreds of swimmers gathered at the lake Sunday to participate in the annual Jim McDonnell Lake Swims. The races are named after McDonnell, one of the team’s founders who died of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1998.
Many who live around the lake set up chairs along the hillside next to Twin Branches Road or on their community dock if they have one, and it’s part of their Memorial Day weekend tradition.
"Like fireworks on the Fourth of July or the tree lighting at Christmas, this is just one of those events that comes at a certain time every year," said Janet Malone, who lives nearby. "It’s so much fun to watch the swimmers get into the lake and make their laps. My kids are already begging me to sign them up, but it will probably be a few more years."
Rebecca Franklin of Charlottesville is no stranger to open water swims, and she said her friends told her she just had to try Reston’s.
"I thought it was great, the water temperature was great, and even though my goggles got a little fogged, I was able to clean them up," she said. "I’ve done a lot of open water swims, but this one didn’t have any pressure, and it was a beautiful lake to swim around."
The one-mile swim, which was one lap around the perimeter of the lake, was first, followed by the two-mile swim. For Franklin, the one-mile swim was just a warm-up.
"I’m ready for the two-miler," she said as the last finishers from the one-mile swim were coming in. "It’s not over for us die-hards."
More information on the Reston Masters Swim Team, as well as a complete results listing from this year’s Jim McDonnell Lake Swims, can be found at www.restonmasters.org.