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.

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).

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.

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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