Kim Bowler - Lake Coeur d'Alene
Heyburn State Park to Tubbs Hill Beach
38.6 km (24.0 miles)
16 hours, 40 minutes on 24-25 July 2022
Observed and documented by Joanne Braun and Aida Patterson
- Name: Kim Bowler
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 39
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Liberty Lake, Washington
- Joanne Braun - Joanne has medical knowledge including CPR and First Aid training and credentials as a retired Nurse Practitioner and currently licensed as a Registered Nurse. She swam in the ocean off the coast of New Zealand for 8 years with a group of distance open water swimmers and currently swims with a local USMS team both in the pool and open water.
- Aida Patterson - Aida has a long history of organized open water swimming events in California, Idaho, Washington, and Canada. These include the Alcatraz Invitational, Lakes Del Valle, Berryessa, and Folsom, Santa Cruz Rough Water swim, Tahoe Relay, Across the Lake Swim, Flathead Lake Swim series, Whitefish Lake swim, Long Bridge, Columbia Crossing, and Penticton Ironman. She also has been swimming with US Masters Swimming for 30 years and currently practices with a local team in the pool and open water.
|Crowne Bell||motor boat||Hagadone Vertical Quick Launch Marina, Coeur d’Alene|
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (TYR Diamondfit), goggles (Speedo Vanquisher 2.0, AquaSphere Kayenne), silicone swim cap, LED lights for night visibility.
- Body of Water: Lake Coeur d’Alene
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: Heyburn State Park (47.354991, -116.761413)
- Finish Location: Tubbs Hill Beach (47.663574, -116.782016)
- Minimum Route Distance: 38.6 km (24.0 miles) (map)
No known previous swims of this route.
- Start: 24 July 2022, 16:04:00 (Mountain Daylight Time, America/Denver, UTC-6).
- Finish: 25 July 2022, 08:44:41
- Elapsed: 16 hours, 40 minutes, 41 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||70||75|
|Air Temp (F)||62||94|
Trackpoint frequency: 20 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Solid food: Kim will state at a “feed” time that she would like a “solid” food and specify which of the food items she wants. Then at the NEXT 45 minute feed time, the “solid” food should be ready and automatically tossed out, in a baggie, with the liquid feed bottle. Solid foods include: Cookie, ½ banana, Fruit Source bar, granola bar, boiled egg whites, plain cooked pasta
by Kim Bowler
I was first inspired to do marathon swimming while watching Sarah Thomas do her 4-way English Channel swim. I thought to myself, “I can do long distance. (Not the distance Sarah was doing)! I was built for long distance swimming.” I followed Sarah’s social media and when I saw that she was starting to coach swimmers, I thought “this is my chance, it’s now or never.” Once signed up to start training under Sarah’s guidance, I started to examine my choices for a “big” swim. I had to stay local for costs and had a couple lakes I was trying to decide between. Ultimately my decision came down to convenience. The owner of the boat I was using had the most perfect location for start and finish and practice in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Being the first person to complete this swim was a big cherry on top!
My day started relaxed and easy. Since we planned a 4pm start, I didn’t have to be anywhere until the afternoon. I woke up early, got some breakfast, then went back to bed and was able to get an hour and a half nap in. My husband had already loaded up all our gear into the truck by the time I was up again, so I just had to plop down on the couch and relax until it was time to leave. I felt calm, no nerves at all. Looking back, I think it was because I had envisioned myself finishing the swim so many times, I just knew I would.
We met the rest of the crew at the marina, where the boat was kept, at 2 pm. We all loaded the boat, did bathroom breaks, got snacks at the marina’s snack bar, and took pictures. The observer read the MSF rules. Because the south end of the lake was too shallow for the boat, we chose to have 2 kayakers, one of which would observe, escort me to a meeting point about 2 miles north to where the boat would be waiting. When the main boat was prepped, the kaykers, my “PR” person, and I headed south to the starting point. The whole trip south was nice. We just visited and didn’t really have any swim talk.
The start point was the first of multiple times we had to change our initial plans and adapt to the circumstances. There were several people playing at the small shoreline where I was planning to leave from. So, I had to start at a much rockier, steep portion of land about 50 yards down. I slowly, carefully picked my way up to dry land. Then when the whistle blew signaling the start of the swim, I slowly, carefully picked my way back into the lake. Not the most graceful start!
Then it was smooth swimming for about an hour and a half. I could hear the motors of the boats around me from under the water, which was unnerving. As they got closer, the underwater churning got louder and sometimes it felt like they were right on top of me. But overall, the water was such a pleasant temperature with only small ripples in the water and I was having a fabulous time. I decided that I was going to push the pace while I was in good spirits, the sun was up, and I felt good. I wanted to get as far as I could before night. I remember thinking how fast the time was going and was even smiling and giggling to myself as I fought through a particularly weedy patch in the lower part of the lake. I was so pleased when we met up with the boat in no time and ahead of schedule. Then we had to troubleshoot and adapt to some other problems.
The plan was to meet the boat and while I was taking in a feed, the 2 kayakers would hop in the boat, deal with the kayaks, and we would move again. Instead, the crew was having trouble getting the first kayak deflated and hadn’t put on the drag anchor we needed to keep the boat at my speed. So, I continued to swim on with one kayak while the boat pilot followed us so the observer could see me and the rest of the crew fought with the kayak and drag anchor. The boat crew prepared to pull up beside me to let the other kayaker on when suddenly the drag anchor line snapped. So again, I just kept swimming with a kayaker while the observer watched from the boat and the crew tried to re-attach the drag anchor. Finally, everything seemed to be working well and at the next feed time, the boat pulled up, the kayaker climbed on and attached the kayak to the boat, and I drank my usual feed. After that, I hit my first mental and physical rough patch.
I still intended to stick with my secret goal of pushing the pace until it became dark, or until I started feeling tired. So, I was swimming strong, I’m guessing around 2 miles per hour. But the boat wasn’t keeping with me like we had practiced leading up to the swim. It was either too fast or too slow, and despite an hour and a half of struggling, they could never keep it right so that I could be guided by it. I would push hard for about a minute, then get out of sight of the boat and have to drop my stroke rate to almost nothing for the boat to catch up. I was getting so frustrated. I stopped once and shouted to the boat crew “Can we go any faster? I just can’t go this slow.” Literally, I couldn’t even pull that slow and mentally, I had a speed goal I was trying to reach and this erratic pacing was not working. They kept telling me that they were “working on it,” and told me that when I got ahead of the boat to just keep swimming and it would catch up. That was miserable because then I had to sight off of the mountains ahead and was worried about getting so far ahead of the boat with other boats still whizzing around me. I was discouraged when it was obvious that the main boat speed wasn’t going to be ideal for the rest of the swim. I was thankful when the crew suggested that, as it got darker, we would need to use the kayak for sighting. At the next feed, when the sun had gone down but it was still light out, we changed to my night goggles and I asked if I could have that kayaker. While I took my feed, my husband jumped in a kayak with the GPS unit and my phone, which was doing the tracker, and we settled in for a long night.
I didn’t know what to expect from the night. I had never swum at night and had so many questions. “Would I be scared? Would I hallucinate? Will I hit logs because we can’t see them in the darkest dark? How dark will it be with a waning moon?” When it was finally very dark and the stars came out, I was in heaven. The night was peaceful. Calm. I laid on my back as much as I could during feeds to enjoy the view. The sky was so crystal clear, I could see all of the beautiful stars including constellations, shooting stars, and a satellite. The crew even pointed out Jupiter to me! I enjoyed every minute of the night!
I hit another hard patch that lasted a couple hours and I blame my crew! (I say this in a fun, joking way, but it is also the truth!) I was starting to groan and grumble near the end of the night. I was struggling with keeping any liquids down, due to an underlying reflux condition, and had to focus hard just on breathing between burps and swallows. I started refusing feeds and meds, not because I was nauseous, but because my stomach was full and “backing up.” Then the crew said to me “You’re doing great! You should be seeing daylight before you know it!” I swam 45 minutes straight chanting “You can do this,” over and over in my mind. Forty-five minutes came and when I was given a medication syringe, I remember thinking and saying “It’s only 4 o’clock!?” I knew the time my meds were due, so I was mad when it was only 4 am. I struggled with some sort of feed amount, gave the syringe back full, groaned, and swam again. This time singing my favorite old Christian songs and praying. I prayed God would help me, prayed for family and friends, praised God for good weather and no lightening, until another feed came. At this point I was cranky. I said to my husband kayaking next to me “Where is this daylight that was promised to me two feeds ago!” He said it was getting lighter, that it was just hard to tell. I thought to myself “Yeah, right.”
Finally, I noticed the daylight myself and we settled into another quiet routine: my husband kayaking beside me, the boat behind us, and I knew each feed time was just minutes away when I saw the boat come alongside the kayak and stop beside us. After skipping a couple feeds, I was feeling better.
We got to a point in the swim when I started wondering how close I was. I told myself before this swim that I wouldn’t even think about where I was or how far I had come until sunrise. And now it was here, and I started to want to know. I went for another 45-minute swim trying to calculate and guess about how much farther I had to go. At the next feed, I told the crew “I think I’m ready to know how much further it is.” One of the crew members, Robin, was hanging over the edge of the boat and asked, “Are you sure?” I guessed about 6 miles left. If it was less, it would be a huge morale boost and I would love it. If it was more, I would be discouraged and hit a mental block I would have to talk myself out of. It was a gamble. I told them yes, tell me. It’s amazing how fast our brains can work. In a brief moment, as I saw Robin begin to lift one hand, my mind already thought “The number is just on one hand!” Sure enough, they told me only 4 more miles to go! I began to cry tears of joy, my husband in the kayak was crying and saying “Yea, only 4 more! You’re almost there!” And the crew was cheering and shouting “You have already gone 20 miles!” Then my husband and I looked at each other and he said, “Let’s finish this.” And I nodded and began swimming again. I tried my best to pick up my pace, or at least pull stronger with each stroke, but my muscles were definitely fatigued.
After a couple of feeds, (that’s how I measured all of this time-just getting from one feed to the next), a couple of people in my crew were asking if they could support swim. I thought I would want a support swimmer along the way, but during all this time it never crossed my mind. But I was too tired to care now so I just said yes. One of the worst decisions about the whole swim. I [hated] having a support swimmer. She always stayed behind me, but because I didn’t know where she was, I felt crowded or boxed in. This pushed me too close to the kayak and I would have to make a quick turn and several strong pulls to get further away from the kayak again. Then I’d get mad because that’s energy wasted to make those quick turns. I was immensely relieved when she got out of the water and I knew another person couldn’t get in at that time.
Then the crew told me it was the last feed before I was done. Unfortunately, this didn’t give me the big mental or physical boost I had wanted. I was ready for it to just be done. The wind was coming at us from the side with a stronger force than it had all swim. This made it much wavier/choppier. At this feed, I heard Greg, the boat pilot at the time, shout to Chris, my kayaker, that he has to aim for the middle of Tubbs hill (which was right of the beach and finishing spot) because of the force of the waves and winds that were pushing the boat.
I could see Tubbs Hill, but not the beach I was to land at. Every time I looked forward while swimming, a wave was blocking the view. But now I was trying to race the clock. I knew I was ahead of my estimated 18 hours, and I wanted to get under that time by as much as I could. The waves were really rolling us around as we got just a few hundred yards from the shore. I still couldn’t see ahead of me and I didn’t know yet that there were people there cheering for me. Finally, at the last maybe 50-100 yards, I could see the beach and a small crowd on the left side of it. It occurred to me that I didn’t have a plan for what part of the beach I was going to get out at, so I just steered myself away from the crowd so that it was spacious, and it was at the forefront of my mind that I didn’t want anyone to touch me! It struck me as funny that, as I was swimming in, I saw the small crowd start moving as one over to the spot I had swum to. Then suddenly, there was the ground, little pebbles flying past me below. I swam as far as I could before it was too shallow, then stood and walked up the beach. I thought I would be dizzy or wobbly but had no trouble at all. I wanted to flex my muscles or do something cheeky but with the crowd watching and cheering, I just turned to the lake, raised my arms, and waited to hear the whistle that was to officially end my swim. Then I turned to greet the small crowd. I was covered in Desitin, so no one wanted to hug me-but a few did! And I got a lot of fist bumps!
The beach I finished at was remote. The only way to get to it was to swim, hike, or boat to it. Once my wonderful supporters began to hike back out, I was able to sit down on a large rock and rest. I began to feel dizzy and nauseous. I used a flotation device as a kickboard and kicked back to the boat. That’s when my crew told me that I finished the swim in 16 hours, 38 minutes. Thankfully we were close to the marina the boat started from so many hours ago. By the time we made the quick trip to the marina, I was holding a barf bag and trying to not throw up. I plopped down on the dock very awkwardly and, still covered in Desitin, stayed there for at least 30 minutes while everyone else emptied the boat, loaded their cars, and went home. We couldn’t locate the wipes we packed to wipe the Desitin off, so we did the best we could with a towel, lined the car seats with garbage bags for me to sit on and headed home. I felt much better but was so excited for a hot shower and bed! I thought I might even fall asleep in the shower!
While I was showering and sleeping, my designated “PR” person had already booked 3 interviews with the local newspapers and local TV station! I woke up just 3 and a half hours later, did a phone interview, then we all went to dinner to celebrate! It wasn’t until days later that I had time to relax and review all of the social media comments, the pictures and videos from the swim, and the observation log from my swim. We discovered, thanks to video recordings and saying the time with almost every video, that the swim time was actually 16 hours and 40 minutes. Someone had done the math wrong when they told me the time almost a week ago and we didn’t catch it until after all of the news interviews were already done. I was still pleased that it was less than 18 hours. I had so much fun and all of the rough times during the swim had disappeared so quickly that I was already planning my next marathon swim not even a week out from this one. I am so humbled by all of the attention and I’m so proud to be able to say I’m the first person to swim the full length of Lake Coeur d’ Alene!
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