A Conversation with Swim the Suck Competitor Kent Nicholas

Kent Nicholas with his son, Luke.
Kent Nicholas with his son, Luke. Kent Nicholas
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When Kent Nicholas signed up for Swim the Suck last year, it was because the event had everything he was looking for: a long swim distance, a unique location that he’d never seen, a diverse field of swimmers, and social events that put the event over the top.

Here, we sat down with Kent to further discuss why he thinks the Swim the Suck is such a special event.

You’ve competed in Swim the Suck before. What will you do differently this year? What will you hope to do the same?

Last year, I came in just before the race, so this year I want to get into Chattanooga earlier. I’m arriving on Wednesday with my wife, Candy, and my twelve year old son, Luke. The big difference for this year is having more time to enjoy Chattanooga; there are so many things I want to share with my son, starting off with a boutique bed and breakfast with exposed brick and large sunny windows—the Stone Fort Inn.   It was built in 1909 out of brick and limestone, and it serves one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever tasted.  I’m a big fan of a big breakfast and this place hits the spot.

What else will you do with your extra time in Chattanooga besides eating some great breakfasts?

We’ll swim, play, visit some landmarks. Right after we arrive, we’ll head out for the 5th Annual C.O.W.S. 1 mile Snail Darter swim. I’m excited about this swim more for Luke than myself. He’s 12, but he’s not a stranger to open water swims. He won the mile swim at the Kingdom Swim a couple years back, he’s swam Alcatraz a few times, and he’s been competitive at the La Jolla Roughwater Swim in California.  I’m not sure if we are out to swim it together as a team or if he just wants to bury me in his wake like he did at Alcatraz this past spring. Either way, it will be nice to jump in the water and get wet. Afterward, I may challenge Luke to a ping pong tournament over at Clyde’s On Main. We’ll also hit the Haunted Caverns at Ruby Falls.

Will you do any socializing with friends and competitors from other parts of the country?

This year’s Swim the Suck has some familiar names from around the country, such as Stephen Key, Chris Greene, Patty Hermann, Greg O’Conner, Cheryl Reinke, Mark Spratt, Paula Yankauskas, and the infamous Reptile (Tom Linthicum). I’m hoping we’ll have a chance to get together before the swim at a cool place on Thursday night like The Flying Squirrel—one of my favorite places from last year—or somewhere else. When you can meet up with open water swimmers from Texas, Vermont, San Francisco, Georgia and Indiana at one event, it’s a good time.

Do you have any pre-race routines or superstitions you’d like to share?

The night before a swim I am a little superstitious. I typically eat only Italian food and my wife and I share a bottle of red wine. That’s all I’m prepared to share.

What is your hope or expectation for this year? Are you swimming for fun or competing?

Do I have any expectations? Sure, I want to better my time and swim the last half stronger than I did previously.  I feel like I’m in a little better shape and I know the course a bit better.  I’m hoping for a sunny day but whatever mother nature delivers I’ll just be happy swimming downriver.

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