While Pleasanton's Stoneridge Creek senior living community offers its residents a range of fitness opportunities, its facilities might not be the first that come to mind as the daily training grounds for record-setting open water swimmers.
But that is what they have been for Susie Krause over the past several years and three competitions in the Lake Tahoe Sharkfest.
Organizers of the annual 1-mile open water swim near the northeastern shores of Lake Tahoe emphasize that the endeavor is for experienced swimmers only, specifically those who are able to swim a mile in a pool in 40 minutes or less -- something that has come easily to 81-year-old Krause as the result of her daily fitness routine at Stoneridge Creek.
"I started doing it three times a week in our pool here, and I would swim a mile each time," said Krause, who set the record on Aug. 13 by becoming the oldest woman to ever complete the Sharkfest, with a time of 43 minutes, 13 seconds.
Her son, who lives and works near Lake Tahoe, was the one who initially encouraged her to put her swimming skills on display at the open water swim six years ago.
"He came up with this idea of doing the Sharkfest, and that's how that came about," Krause said. "And here I was 75 years old at the time."
That was 62 years after Krause's first and only open water swimming competition when she was 13 -- which she won, despite approaching it as a casual experiment. However, growing up in the pre-Title IX era during which there was no women's swimming team for her to compete on as a teen led her to put her skills to use in synchronized swimming.
"It's more of an artform, but it's difficult," Krause said. "There's a lot of sculling and going underwater and slips and turns and so forth. I really enjoyed synchronized swimming, so that was more my expertise."
But timed, competitive swimming is in Krause's blood.
"My father had been a very good swimmer on the Yale team back in the 1920s," Krause said. "He was on the intercollegiate champion team in 1923, and he was very good at doing the breastroke."
Decades later, Krause learned to swim with her father via his strong breaststroke abilities.
"I would swim on his back, and he would do the breaststroke and then I would let go and he'd just kind of let me paddle along," Krause said.
Krause's own children, including her son, were also drawn to the water.
"Our son and daughter were both on the swim team, and they were both competitive swimmers when they were young, and then our daughter did some swimming in high school," Krause said.
Both of her children are also Sharkfest competitors, with her grandson joining their ranks for the most recent event.
"My son took second; before he had taken first in both of them," Krause said. "Our grandson last-minute kind of signed up, and he'd been on a swim team for about two summers. We got a first, a second, and a third place in this last Sharkfest. It's been a family affair."
While it had been five years since Krause last competed in the event for her second time at 76 years old, she said that she felt physically up to the challenge for the most part, with one exception being the elevation at Lake Tahoe and its impact on breathing.
"Strength wise, I felt physically really strong, really in good shape, but the thing that's difficult is here I'm in a much lower altitude, and up in Tahoe I go up to 6,000 feet to do the swim," Krause said. "I had to breathe every stroke instead of every three or four strokes."
Krause said that the most recent Sharkfest would likely be her last, given the difficulty she faced with the altitude change compared to past years. However, she continues to challenge herself at the pool in Stoneridge Creek, as well as taking advantage of the other fitness facilities and a wide range of classes on a daily basis.
This has included an "Oceans 7" challenge -- meant to replicate 150-mile distance and time spent swimming the seven open channels that are the peak of many open water swimmers' careers -- within the Stoneridge pool, which Krause was eight miles from finishing upon speaking with the Weekly on Sept. 6.
"That's kind of been motivating me, and kind of keeping me challenged and so forth, and that's another thing that I did to keep me in the pool and swimming the laps," Krause said. "I'm probably doing as much physically as I used to, except I'm doing classes which I never used to do. Before, I was cycling and kayaking and skiing and running, and I played a lot of tennis, did that kind of thing, and I never really went to a gym until I came in here."
WIth her daily presence at the Stoneridge fitness facilities, Krause said she aims to inspire her neighbors at Stoneridge, and that she is hoping to pass the Sharkfest torch on to her granddaughter.
"I've got a granddaughter who's also been doing some swimming, and maybe I can hand it over," Krause said. "I try to encourage people here because a lot of people are very supportive of me and they've been saying that I've been an inspiration to them. So I'm just trying to encourage people to keep exercising and keep going."