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Originally published Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:59 PM

Swimmer completes 111-mile Sacramento River trek

San Francisco businessman undertook the swim as a fundraiser for Buena Vista Auxiliary, which promotes literacy for schoolchildren.

McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

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Jamie Patrick emerged from the Sacramento River soggy but triumphant after propelling himself on a 31-hour, 111-mile charitable journey.

"All in all, I feel pretty good. I'm very excited to be done," said the ultraswimmer, amid the cheers of sponsors, spectators and loved ones who greeted him when he reached the Tower Bridge at about 7:15 p.m.

"I had a difficult night, and didn't think I'd get through it, but here I am. It was a pretty magical swim," said Patrick, sunblock smeared across his ruddy face.

His meandering Sacramento River trek took him from Princeton, Calif. — a tiny town in Colusa County — to the Old Sacramento waterfront.

Before the ordeal, his team had projected that he would climb out of the river early in the afternoon on Aug. 20.

During the overnight leg, Patrick fought off indigestion and refused to quit. When he reached Verona in Sutter County, his wife, Terry, was ferried out to him, which buoyed his sinking spirits.

"How's Hadley, honey?" Patrick cried out to his wife. She wasn't able to bring their 5-year-old daughter along for the morale boost.

"She misses you!" Terry Patrick said.

When she fretted about the availability of a ladder at the end of the swim, her husband said, "I'm not too worried about it. I need to get myself there first."

As Patrick swam ahead, his wife said she lacks his grit.

"I'm happy when I run three miles, and I'm not much of a swimmer," she said.

Patrick, a 40-year-old San Francisco businessman, undertook the swim as a fundraiser for Buena Vista Auxiliary, which promotes literacy for schoolchildren. His wife said she has volunteered there for the past five years.

His second motive was to "bring awareness to (the issue of) clean water," he said. "If people take advantage of (the Sacramento River), hopefully they'll take care of it."

Patrick reluctantly wore a wet suit to protect himself from water pollution and possible hypothermia. And he worked out a special diet of rice balls, turkey and dried cranberries with a physiologist from Stanford University.

In 2005, Patrick completed a triathlon. Last summer, he swam the 22-mile length of Lake Tahoe twice in the Tahoe Double.

Patrick was accompanied throughout his latest journey by his "support crew," a rotation of 11 fellow athletes and friends.

Two kayakers stayed alongside him for motivation and communication. They also were responsible for supplying him with food and electrolyte-filled hydration.

On land, a four-wheel drive truck drove on one side of levee roads, assisted by an RV on the other side, scouting ahead for the unexpected.

A 36-foot-long recreational "mother ship" followed Patrick and served as a floating base for the rest of the team. The boat's driver was Stan Björk, who works with Patrick's father.

Midway through the course, Björk described Patrick's rally at daybreak.

"When the sun rose, so did his energy," Björk said. "It's not the current taking him down the stream. He's swimming this himself."

Also on the team was Dr. Eduardo Dolhun, who took blood samples from Patrick's finger every four hours. His nutritional intake changed according to those results. Later, he took medication to relieve his aches and stomach cramps.

Via a GPS device attached to him, Patrick's position in the river was documented every five minutes on his website, www.jamiepatrick.com.

More dramatic than his snaking red trajectory were the photos, videos and blog entries on the site.

Those updates, written by friend Morgan Christian, helped establish the uncertain tone of the trip. At several points, Patrick found himself dealing with maritime wildlife, in addition to his nausea.

One post, at 9:30 p.m. Friday, read: "It's a wild ride with a live jungle out here ... Bugs! Nasty bugs! 'These beavers are freaking me out!' Jamie yells from the river."

With the Sacramento River conquered, what's the next challenge for Patrick? Possibly an 88-mile swim from Africa to Italy.

As he states on his website, "I began swimming at age 7 and have not stopped. Swimming has brought me around the world, from Tahiti to South America, from Hawaii to Europe."

Now he can add Sacramento to that global list.

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