BEYOND THE BLACK LINE:
A Reflection on Swimming the Length
of Lake Tahoe

Since the age of four I have spent an unimaginable amount of hours in the pool—staring at a black line. My deep love for the sport led me to being a swimmer at UC Berkeley, where we won two NCAA Titles and I also had the honor of representing team USA at the Pan American Games in 2011. After participating in swimming clubs and testing out open water swimming, I realized I was ready to embark on a bigger undertaking – to solo swim of the length of Lake Tahoe, 21.3 miles in 68+ degree water.

Training consisted of a rigorous 10 months of daily activity including swimming, cross fit, running, and skiing. My yardage increased roughly 5k per week, from 15k-20k-25k-30k-35k-40/45k-50k-45/40k. Some commented that I was over training but I wanted to be performance ready. I didn’t want to just finish the swim – I wanted to conquer it. To prepare your body for an elite performance, it takes smart training, nutritious fueling, consistent recovery, and adequate rest. As crucial as it is to train for optimal physical performance, it’s equally important to be mentally prepared. I was fortunate to have a large team of people encouraging discipline and giving me the motivation to go on.

I didn’t want to just finish the swim –
I wanted to conquer it.

September 8th 11:23pm: anti-climatically I waded into the water and then dove into the hardest challenge yet – my swim. The first three hours went by quickly with each feed ranging from 10-20 seconds, occurring every 30 minutes. After 4.5 hours I became frustrated – I hadn’t spoken to anyone and the conditions were increasingly becoming rough. At the halfway mark I realized there was only an hour or two until daybreak so I improved my mood and swam on. At the six hour mark I was on pace to go 9:30, only 10 minutes slower than the overall fastest time swimming the length. I asked my crew to notify me if I ever dropped to a 9:20 pace. An hour later, I did. At that point I realized that if I held a 23-24 minute per mile pace, I could possibly break 9 hours. With that new goal ahead of me, I increased my kick, stroke tempo, and stopped taking feeds for the remaining 2.5 hours. It paid off – I landed on the beach 8 hours and 56 minutes later with my hip flexors so cramped all I could do was fall to my knees, cradle my face in my hands, and smile.

As I plan future swims to lead me beyond the black line I think of the great companionship, like PR Bar’s, supporting me every step of the way, making the next journey even more exciting and encouraging.

Next scheduled swim: English Channel in June 2018.

– Catherine Breed, Freestyle Swimmer