7 Things You Could’ve Done in the Time It Took Cynthia Aguilar to Swim Lake Tahoe

Lead Photo: Photo by Thomas Barwick
Photo by Thomas Barwick
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Imagine doing something for 13 hours straight. That’s how long it took Cynthia Aguilar to become the first Latina to swim the length of Lake Tahoe – a total of 21.3 miles. Aguilar finished the swim earlier this month in 12 hours and 58 minutes. Lake Tahoe, which is on the border of East California and West Nevada, is the second deepest lake in the United States.

“It took longer than I thought it would,” Aguilar, 39, told This is Reno. “I have an ability that when I start swimming, I manage to blank my mind. There are moments when you say, “I can’t do it anymore,” but there goes the mental strength because if I give up, I would have to start from scratch. I better keep swimming.”

Aguilar fell in love with swimming as a child, but only recently began doing it competitively. She trained for the swim across Lake Tahoe for the last 12 weeks in Mexico City with her swim coach Fernando Quintana.

“We realized that despite being a lake, the conditions are very changeable,” Quintana said. “There was always the possibility of not making it, but Cynthia is a very disciplined swimmer.”

Now, Aguilar plans to continue her pursuit of what is considered the Triple Crown of open water swimming by swimming the 20.5 miles of the English Channel between France and England.

To give you an idea of how long it took Aguilar to swim across Lake Tahoe, here are seven things someone can do in those nearly 13 hours.


Smoke a 15-pound brisket

Next time you hear about someone swimming across Lake Tahoe, set up a barbeque pit at their final destination and smoke some meat. Someone who just swam 13 miles is bound to be pretty hungry once they get out of the water. What better meal to serve them than some tender brisket tacos with a little pico?


Drive from San Diego, California, to Santa Fe, New Mexico

There would be no time to stop halfway in Phoenix to visit the Musical Instrument Museum, but if you drove straight from point A to point B, the 830 or so miles between the two cities would take you approximately 13 hours to get there—assuming you drive the speed limit.


Work a 12-hour shift (plus the commute)

Whether you’re laying brick on a new house or filing paperwork in an office, a 12-hour shift at work is a long day. Add to that a roundtrip commute to work and that’s about as long as it would take for someone to swim north to south across Lake Tahoe. We didn’t even include a lunch break, so eat at your desk.


Read Before Night Falls and Like Water for Chocolate from cover to cover and watch both films

If you read the 1992 autobiography Before Night Falls from Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas and then watched Julian Schnabel’s 2000 film of the same name, that would be the amount of time it would take a swimmer to hit the 8-hour mark in their Lake Tahoe swim. Add a quick read of Laura Esquivel’s 1992 novel Like Water for Chocolate and a screening of the 1992 film by director Alfonso Arau, and that would be considered by most as a full day of some great literature and cinema.


Watch 1/5 of the episodes from the first season of Jenni Rivera: Mariposa de Barrio

Someone could get through about 19 episodes of Netflix’s first season of the telenovela, which is a staggering 91 episodes long. After a 13-hour swim, however, we’re not sure someone would want to binge another 72 episodes with you, so hit pause for a bit. Or at least bring lots of popcorn.


Listen to all of Gloria Estefan’s 14 studio albums

If someone started listening to Estefan’s debut, 10-track 1989 album Cuts Both Ways and went straight through all 14 of her studio albums to last year’s Brazil305, someone could have themselves quite a swim. That is, of course, assuming you don’t start listening to “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” from her album Let It Loose on a loop.


Climb and descent Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó

Mount Chirripó, the highest mountain in the Central American country of Costa Rica, has an elevation of 12,536 feet. Pack a lot of water and snacks if you decide to ascend the mountain through the rainforest, which should take around eight hours or so at a steady pace. The descent will take less time. Just keep your eyes open for those funny-looking tapirs on the trail. They bite.