With a unicorn floaty in tow and a Sunday to spare in search of a good memory, spring UW-Madison graduates Gleb Tsyganov (‘21) and Daniel Miller (‘21) swam 3.5 miles across Lake Mendota.
The idea was born two weeks prior, while the two enjoyed a quintessential summer evening in Madison: a pitcher of beer on the Union Terrace at sunset. The spring graduates contemplated their impending moves to the West Coast, and their last summer in Madison.
It wasn’t until last weekend that the two committed to the idea, heading to Walmart late Saturday night to buy snacks for their adventure and an inner tube so boaters would be able to see them. Walmart had two inner-tubes left, and Tsyganov and Miller were left with one flat floating device and one unicorn.
Heading back to the terrace Sunday morning, Miller and Tsyganov spent the next 5.5 hours swimming across Lake Mendota to Warner Park Beach.
“I think it's gonna be really fun to look back on as probably one of my main, weird, strange things that I did in summer of 2021,” Miller said. “It'll probably be one of the things when I come back to the terrace I'll be like, ‘Oh yeah, look I swam there after I graduated my senior year.’”
Much of the journey was spent simply swimming and listening to music, especially because the exercise made conversation difficult. Despite the unicorn floaty, the swim wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, Miller said.
“It was taking long, way longer than we thought, so we were kind of demoralized at the start,” Miller said. “But then eventually we made it out and we turned around, we saw that we were actually kind of far away from the terrace. We knew we were in it for the long haul for sure. And then basically at that point we just kept going, literally as hard and far as we could.”
While the flat floaty made for a more leisurely swim, the person responsible for pulling the unicorn floaty with a rope needed to put in a lot more effort, Miller said.
“[The unicorn] one was brutal, and that one you [were] pretty much hardcore swimming the whole time, so my head was underwater, most of the time,” Miller said.
Near the end of the swim, the wind began to pick up and the two turned towards shore in hopes of asking someone to climb out of the water in their backyard. But, on their way to shore they realized the water was shallow enough to stand, and decided to walk the last quarter mile.
“That was just probably the best feeling I've ever had, actually being able to stand on something after five hours,” Miller said.
Though the trip had its low points, the five and a half hours that the two spent in Lake Mendota will be a memory they carry with them as they shift into their next phases of life. Both Tsyganov and Miller will move to Seattle in August for work.
“We were kind of wanting some story to take with us,” Miller said. “And I mean, I don't think I'll be back in Madison that often. It was kind of like a fun last thing to do in the city.”