Swimming over 24 miles, the length of Lake Coeur d’Alene, in a little less then 17 hours is no easy feat. In fact, as far as anyone knows, it had never been done until now.
Kim Bowler, 39, is a registered nurse who lives in Liberty Lake. Over the past two years, when Bowler wasn’t at work or enjoying her time with her husband and their children, she was busy preparing for the swim of a lifetime.
Bowler started her swim at 4 p.m. in Heyburn State Park on July 24. It wasn’t for another 16 hours and 38 minutes, just before 9 a.m. the next day, that her swim came to a close at Tubbs Hill Beach.
For Bowler, swimming is an integral part of life. Since she was a child, she was a part of a swim team and swam frequently in her backyard pool.
“I’ve always loved the water and everything about it,” Bowler said.
Despite her undying love for the water, the preparation taken before the swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene was anything but easy.
Bowler has spent the past two years training with swim coaches and going through long-distance swimming workouts to prepare herself. Sarah Thomas, one of Bowler’s coaches and a renowned open water swimmer, described the past two years as difficult for Bowler because she had to balance work, family and training.
“(Bowler) definitely has that mental and physical fortitude to stick things out and to accomplish the dreams that she has set for herself,” Thomas said.
Bowler is quick to share credit with her team. While Bowler swam, her crew followed along in a boat, and her husband, Chris, joined her in his kayak for most of the trip.
Bowler’s team of six was vital to her success. The team was assembled based on personality and the skills they would provide, including medical and boating experience, as well as being attentive observers.
The team looked out for dangers, such as floating logs or other boats. Their close watch of Bowler’s swimming environment was one less thing she had to worry about.
“Every one of them I know and love,” Bowler said “I was just so thankful to have that kind of team supporting me the whole way.”
Apart from some choppy waters, the conditions were the best she could ask for, Bowler said. Most of the time, the water temperature remained above 70 degrees.
About every 45 minutes, Bowler said, she would stop and get some nutrition from the boat while she treaded water. Sometimes, she would also eat bananas and other sources of food while she floated on her back.
Bowler says her thoughts varied greatly throughout the swim.
At the start, she believed that the swim was fun and that time was going by quickly. About halfway through, Bowler started to think about how awful the swim was and how she would never want to do it again. Toward the end of her journey, Bowler really started to push herself and kept telling herself that she could do it – that she had to do it.
Bowler says she had to prove to herself that she could swim the length of the Coeur d’Alene. A lot of the belief she has in herself came from watching Thomas swim the English Channel four ways.
“I am the first person that ever swam from England to France to England to France, and back to England without stopping,” Thomas said. “So that’s an English Channel four-way, is kind of how we call it. And I did that in September of 2019.”
Thomas describes Bowler as having a quiet confidence to her, and she wants everyone to know just how incredible Bowler really is.
“Just to see her, kind of stick it out and make it happen, it’s just really incredible,” Thomas said. “She’s pretty amazing.”