Kim Bowler - Lake Pend Oreille (Buttonhook - Maiden Rock)

Buttonbook Bay to Maiden Rock Beach

19.5 km (12.1 miles)

9 hours, 2 minutes on 28 August 2021

Observed and documented by Robin Davis Harren



  • Name: Kim Bowler
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 38
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: Liberty Lake, Washington

Support Personnel

  • Chris Bowler - feeder & boat pilot
  • Jodi Penn - feed & boat pilot; kayaker


Robin Davis Harren

English Channel relay crossing in 2018. Training for a second English Channel relay crossing to occur September 2021.

Escort Vessel

Name Type Port
unnamed motorboat Hayden Lake, Idaho

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (TYR Diamondfit), silicone swim cap, goggles (Speedo Vanquisher)

Route Definition


One previous documented swim - Elaine Howley’s full-lengthwise swim from Buttonhook Bay to Sandpoint in 2014.

Swim Data

  • Start: 28 August 2021, 07:07:00 (Mountain Daylight Time, America/Denver, UTC-6).
  • Finish: 28 August 2021, 16:09:05
  • Elapsed: 9 hours, 2 minutes, 5 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 64 70.3
Air Temp (F) 48.9 78.8
Wind (mph) 0 15

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: I had pre-mixed 24 ounce bottles of water mixed with CarboPro or Carbo Max and NUUN electrolytes. The plan was to take 8 ounces of the water/CarboPro or Carbo Max/ NUUN mixture at each feeding. At the start, I swam for 1 hour straight then stopped at 1 hour for my first feed. At my first feed only, in addition to 8 ounces of water mixture, I took ½ of a hard-boiled egg white. Then I stopped every 30 minutes for the pre-made water mixture for the rest of the swim. I took 1/3 of a banana once. I refused the feed 3 times during the swim.

Observer Log

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by Kim Bowler

I was inspired to do this swim after watching marathon swimmer, Sarah Thoms, swim the 4-way English Channel crossing. I thought about marathon swimming for many months and concluded that “I think I can do it. I think I’m made for this.” I began seeking a coach and gathering information on how to do it and make it official.

The planning for the swim was very challenging for me. It is a self-supported swim, so I had to gather all of my resources myself. I talked to the only person I know with a boat who was happy to loan me her boat and be boat pilot but was not comfortable with taking her boat very far from her home. That is how I came to the choice of body of water. She lived on Hayden Lake, Idaho, but this lake is very small. We tried to make Hayden Lake work, but then it became unsafe to swim in the lake at all due to a harmful algae bloom that was in a whole northern portion of the lake. The next closest lake was Pend Orielle. Finalizing a location took a long time, but finally I made the decision that I’m not changing it again. For the remainder of the planning, I asked my coach and other marathon swimmers questions often about every detail that goes into such a large swim. I had many hiccoughs throughout the planning and the plan changed often. The date of the swim was also undecided until just days before the swim. Thankfully, I had planned on the whole weekend being free to do the swim in case of bad weather or unforeseen problems just like this. Two of my crew members backed out of the swim and the very last minute. I had to scramble to make it work so that my husband could be a crew member in their place.

The go-time was intended to be 0630. We had issues with finding my phone and getting started. I had already taken off my layers and applied my Desitin. The air temp was almost 49 degrees (Fahrenheit) so I was shivering while trying to troubleshoot the problem. Finally, we made the decision to just get in and get started. It was a relief to get into the 64-degree water!

I could see the bottom of the lake go by, the water was as calm as could be and not even a breeze to feel. I felt fabulous for a couple hours. Then I hit my first mental wall. We began to round Cape Horn and were faced with a strong headwind. My crew hadn’t told me, but our anemometer was broken, but estimated wind speeds were 12-15mph. Choppy water and waves pushed me and the boat around. I became very frustrated and suddenly uncomfortable. My right shoulder, which has been painful for weeks leading up to the swim, was hurting. My neck was tired of looking one direction toward the boat. My goggles were digging into my eye sockets. The crew had trouble keeping the boat where I could easily follow. There were large sticks floating all around that they had to navigate me and the boat through. I thought to myself, “If it’s like this the rest of the way, I’m in trouble.” At the next feed break, I switched to the other side of the boat so I could look the other way and give my neck and shoulder a break. I lifted my goggles off my eyes for a second. I refused the feeding because I was burping up the last feed still and couldn’t fit any more into my stomach. I also made the personal mistake of asking how far we had come. I was really hoping halfway, about 6 miles. When they told me only 4 miles, I became extremely discouraged. We kept at it for what seemed like hours. As we got around Cape Horn and began to get into more open water, I noticed that there weren’t any more waves, just choppy water coming right at me. I remember commenting to my crew that I just wish that the waves were going a different direction. After that, it was just swimming, looking down at darkness for a while.

I think I swam for a few hours just keeping with the rhythm. Swim, feed, swim, feed. At some of the feeds, my crew played pre-recorded messages from loved ones. One of my crew members got into the kayak. The lake became glassy again, I was so thankful for that.

My second mental wall came when I could see the end point, Maiden Rock. But it seemed so very far away. I never once thought I wanted to quit. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was going to finish. Other than my bum shoulder, my body felt good. It was the mental aspect that was struggling. I had been thinking for a couple hours that “I just want this to be over.” I also had a hunch that I was behind my personal goal time because the sun was already past noon and getting lower in the sky. I said with trepidation “OK, how many more miles to go?” Again, my estimate was wrong. I was hoping for 1 mile, but they said 2. My shoulder hurt so bad now that I had to switch from freestyle (crawl) to breaststroke for a brief time, maybe 50 yards. Then to help me rally, my crew/kayaker said a prayer. I relied heavily on God and my faith this entire swim and it was what I needed. The yelling “You got this!” and “Almost there!” wasn’t working, it was the quiet calm and peace of that prayer that got me to rally and finish this.

I asked again how far after a couple more feed stops. When they said 1.2 miles, my spirit was lifted. I knew exactly how far that was-it was the distance of the stretch of lake that I trained in daily. You know in cartoons, how a character is running down a hall to reach the door at the end, but the door keeps moving further and further away? That is how my last 1.2 miles was. It felt as though that end was never getting closer. When I was close enough to see the people on the beach, I pushed it. I wanted to “finish strong.” So I picked up my stroke rate, pulled with my hurt shoulder as strong as I could, got my heart rate up, and swam until I nearly scraped the bottom of the lake with my belly.

I had told my crew that when I take my first steps after swimming, I’m always dizzy so don’t worry if I pause for a moment while I get my balance. It was also a rocky beach so it was painful on the feet and unstable footing. But they were excited for me and worried that I had forgotten that I needed to get to dry land, so I heard them yell “Get out of the water!” Since I still had no balance, I just crawled out. I thought to myself though, “This isn’t a good look.” So once I could, I stood up. And with the backdrop of Maiden Rock and cheers even from random strangers watching me swim in, I finished my first marathon swim!


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