Katie Benoit: Playing the Open-Water Waiting Game

Katie Benoit has completed three of the Oceans Seven open-water swims. A full-time police officer and working mom, she swims to raise funds and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. As she prepares for swim #4 – she leaves for Ireland on July 16 with a tide window from July 18-26 – she reflects on her preparations, fears (giant jellyfish!) and hopes.

It seems things before every major race tend to be very similar. I always wish I had just a little more time to train. I never feel prepared enough.

Katie Benoit (far left) on a recent trip to Wellington Lake, Colorado, where she swam in 55-degree water. It’s all part of the preparation for her Oceans Seven swim #4, crossing the treacherous North Channel later this month. Also pictured, from left to right: open-water swimmers Cliff Crozier of Colorado and Kimberley Chambers from New Zealand, and Oceans Seven achiever Darren Miller.

One of the difficult things about open-water swimming is that there are no guarantees. Every swimmer's worst fear is to fly halfway around the world just to sit on the beach waiting for better weather. Carbo-loading – eating lots of carbohydrates the day before the event – becomes tricky if you don't know when the big day is going to be. We call it the open-water waiting game.

The North Channel, like every major channel, holds its very own set of challenges for swimmers. The 18-mile stretch between Northern Ireland and Scotland, the North Channel is most feared for its cold temperatures; water temperatures linger around 52 degrees, and it has been swum successfully fewer than 30 times. Lion’s mane jellyfish, commonly around 10-30 feet in size, linger all over this stretch of water. While inconvenient, their stings do not tend to lead to more serious complications (or so we hope).

I find myself partially excited about the upcoming adventure and partially wondering what I was thinking. To be honest, I don't even really like to take cold showers. Lots of my cold-water training was done in my Endless Pool, which I kept at 59 degrees in an unheated garage all winter. On top of that, I had the opportunity to swim in some 55-degree water at 9,000 feet in the local Colorado mountains. Nevertheless, I wonder if it will be enough.

To ease the pressure, I have scheduled a ‘back-up’ swim in late August. I am hoping to be the second person to complete a 42-mile course down the length of Lake Constanz (aka Bodensee) in Germany. It never hurts to have a back-up plan...

At this stage, all the major training has been done. My job will be to keep my mind in the game and wait patiently for my opportunity. I can't wait for the adventure to get started.

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