“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
                                                                                                    – Babe Ruth

No question… We’re in the game.

Okay, I used a baseball quote and a futbol title. We’re Americans swimming the English Channel and it will all make sense in a few paragraphs.  Let’s just roll with it, shall we?

Curtis and I both knew we needed to go back to Dover and try again for France.  But there’s a danger in doing something so epic again.  Although our unfinished business (our strike out) was a constant reminder to get back in the game, we both knew it was going to be different and, on some level, I think that scared us a little.

There’s a whole field of neuroscience behind how we recall our positive & negative experiences and how those memories impact our decisions.  Our attempt 2 years ago was both disappointing and extraordinary all at once.  “Let’s just relive the extraordinary bits!” we would say, half serious.

It’s in our nature to want to re-experience what was fabulous, but there’s an emotional risk to that.  Memories can be selective; Our minds retrieve bits and pieces from before, and we create a narrative for next time that is often unattainable.

If you’ve read my last post, then you know we were thinking we’d go back to Dover and win a bunch of money in the casino again, we’d go back to the same pub, meet more friends, eat dinner in that little Italian restaurant with the really good wine list… etc., etc.

But “again” is different, and it’s taken me awhile to realize that “different” is exactly how it needed to be this time.

Puke and Swim:

Picking team members for a Channel relay is serious business.  If one team member goes down (either physically or mentally) they bring the whole team down.  There are no second chances.  You get one shot at crossing the Channel and that’s it.  This was a big deal for me.  It’s a huge investment of time and money, and years of training, and you get one swim window, one day to go, and one chance to make it across.  Choose wisely!

My recommendation is to find people with a strong constitution who will persevere under pressure.  If you know people who will cancel plans over a hangnail & a headache, those are not your people.

Fortunately, we found each other.  Looking back, I have to laugh, because how many people do you know who would think “Puke & Swim” is a perfectly acceptable motto and wouldn’t mind having that shouted at them from the boat as they were battling ocean swells and jellies? I love these guys!  They were all completely on-board with the madness and willing to do what it takes to get the job done.  I am so grateful for this team of Puget Sound Swimmers!


From left to right: Randy, Curtis, Heidi and me photographed at our final training swim on Vashon Island before heading to Dover.


4 Days in Folkestone

Our swim window opened on the Spring Tide from July 11th-19th.  We had a “slot 1”, meaning that we’d be the first to go when the weather shaped up, so we were all optimistic that we could go quickly.  However, it was also possible that we could be waiting around for 10 days looking for ways to entertain ourselves like last time.  But this time was different.

We arrived in London on Monday morning, July 9th, and by noon that day I had already received an email from Michael Oram, our pilot.  He said the weather predictions were looking good in the Channel and was wondering if my team and I had arrived in Dover yet.  I started to realize that this might not be a repeat of “10 days in Dover”.  I sat down and read his message again and my heart leapt a little.  The weather in the Channel was looking GOOD!

With no time for fancy lunches in Chelsea, we hopped a train out of London and headed for the coast.  We decided to stay just south of Dover in a small town called Folkestone.  (okay, new train stop too!) This whole trip was off to a very different start and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  We could be looking at “4 days in Folkestone” and then we’re done. This is what I mean about expectations and trying to recreate a previous experience.  Everything was feeling very different right from the start.  No shopping in Chelsea, no trips to France for dinner, no storms at sea, no “10 days in Dover” … What’s going on here??

Long story short, we only had time for 2 cloudy-morning swims by the Folkestone Harbour Arm.


The photo above was taken just in front of the famous Folkestone Triennial Bell,
shown here:


Just a cool bit of info on this bell… It’s a very large 16th-century tenor bell that used to hang in the Scraptoft Church in Leicestershire.  It was evidently removed for not being in tune with the others. (naughty bell.)

Currently, it is suspended from a steel cable strung between two 20m high steel beams, placed 30m apart.  A fine place to meet for a swim!

Anyhow, I digress!  We got… THE PHONE CALL!

The weather looked good, we’re going out Thursday morning, July 12th. Be at the Dover Marina by 5:30am and “we’ll have a nice daylight swim!” (to quote Michael).

And now to quote Heidi: “Squeeeeeee” !

Our little house in Folkestone was full of anticipation and excitement.  Curtis cooked spaghetti Bolognese. (This man has never let me down when it comes to food!)  We’re all old school, so we carbo-loaded to our heart’s content the night before our swim.

The World Cup

Before I fast-forward to 5:30am, I need to tell you about a little soccer game.

Wednesday night was the World Cup Semi-Final, England vs. Croatia, which brought a fortuitous serendipity to our Channel relay.  (I can write that now, looking back… but let me assure you, we did not think that at the time!)

Looking out from the windows of the house we rented, we could watch as the town prepared for a massive outdoor party.  “What the hell is going on??”  This place was about to erupt the night before our swim!  Don’t they know??  We’re swimming the English Channel tomorrow!

They were setting up an enormous TV screen and speakers down by the harbour and the crowds were already starting to gather.  Honestly, all I was thinking was “How the hell am I going to sleep through all this craziness?”

Our 4am wake-up call meant that I needed to go to bed around 9pm, and this party was going to be in full force by then.  Win or lose, we were in England, and this town was about to go nuts.

I made a plan.

I rarely do this, but I’m going to give a big shout-out to Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones.

Best. Ever. Invention.

Just pop in a fresh battery, flip the switch, and then… “whoosh” … I was launched into near-silence.  I couldn’t even hear the seagulls (and that’s saying something).  Sleep was assured!

July 12th, 2018

The taxis arrived at 5am to take us to the Dover Marina.  In a death-defying, no-speed-limits-here, why-didn’t-I-fasten-my-seat-belt, super-fast drive, we arrived early and waited for our pilot, Michael Oram to bring around his boat Gallivant.  Curtis searched for a Starbucks, but sadly, the marina did not have a single coffee shop.  (Someone could make a ton of money with a little coffee cart during swim season… just sayin’).


A Quiet Marina: 5:15am, July 12, 2018

After an unsuccessful coffee-hunt, we discovered that we were actually going out with Michael’s son, Lance, on his boat Sea Satin (Lance, I suspect, might have drawn the short straw after the game the night before).

After quickly alerting our friends and family to the boat change to get the trackers straight, we met our pilot and crew.  The serendipity I mentioned earlier was about to become crystal clear.  We met our observer on the dock, who was the sweetest woman you’ve ever met.  Then we met our pilot Lance and his crew of Jon, Paul, and Jason.  It didn’t take long to appreciate the combined years of expertise on the boat.  They were all professional, on-point, and serious about the task ahead.  Yet, they balanced all that with a charming and personable familiarity.  There wasn’t a shred of doubt that we were in the best of hands.

After a recap of the rules, we motored out of the Dover marina towards the beach that would be our official starting point.

Shakespeare Beach

Sea Satin made it’s way to Shakespeare Beach just before 7am for the start of the relay.  Lance brought his boat around as close to the shore as he could, and then as the rules state, the first swimmer (me!) has to jump off the boat:

(there I go, no fancy dive or anything, just a plunge!)


Next, I have to swim to shore:


Then, I have to walk up on the beach so that “my big toe is not touching the water” (per the rules) and wave my arms around like a nutter. (okay, nobody told me to do that.  Just excited, I guess!)


At this point, Lance blows the horn on the boat and that’s the signal to start swimming!  I’m off…


Our swim began at exactly 6:56am and my first hour had begun.

Attention spans are short.  I’m going to leave this here and figure out how to make the next 17 ½ hours interesting!  (and hopefully dig up some more photos in the meantime.)



I promised I would start by recounting July 12th, 2018 on Shakespeare Beach in this post, but that’s proving to be somewhat difficult.  There’s way too much backstory, and nothing will make much sense until I can provide more details from 2016.  (and honestly, this is the funny part… so you won’t want to miss this!)

I first need to introduce my partner in crime… my sidekick…my wingman… Mr. Swimmer Extraordinaire… Curtis Vredenburg!!


Curtis is my best friend and teammate who shares my last name as his first name, so I guess it’s understandable that everyone we meet is super confused about our relationship. Most people see us and think that we could be married, but somehow we laugh way too much when we’re together, so then they’re left wondering what’s up.  Fact is, we travel extremely well together and fortunately our husbands don’t seem to mind.


Curtis is the one who got me into this whole mess to begin with, so it’s important that I explain a few things.  We met ages ago when our kids were in a little half-day preschool together.  I spotted Curtis (new dad) standing alone across the playground as I was busy trying to navigate my way through groups of chatty new moms talking about breast feeding.  People have a way of finding each other in this life, and so you could say that we found each other that day.

In fact, you could say we saved each other that day.  We’ve been best friends ever since.

One evening, somewhere in 2014, Curtis and I were discussing the impending approach of his 50th birthday over a very nice bottle of Bordeaux.  He said he wanted to do something BIG.  Several glasses of wine later (or was that bottles?) we landed on swimming the English Channel.  “Why not? That’s BIG!”  “No reason. Let’s do it!”

It was as simple as that. Curtis turned 50 the summer of 2016, so that was the year we needed to make this happen.

Long story short, we found Trent Grimsey.  A tall, handsome Australian swimmer who holds the world record for the fastest channel swim at 6 hours and 55 minutes, completed on September 8th, 2012. (unheard of, and still unbroken!!) Turns out, after a bit of research, Trent had a gig where he would take one relay team across the English Channel every year.  Not only that, but he would swim with the team. (Um… Epic!!)  And not only that, but the team would get 6 months of customized training drills from Trent leading up to the relay.  And, if that weren’t enough, he provides personal coaching in the Dover harbour whilst in England awaiting your swim.

Dream. Come. True.

Condensing an even longer story, Curtis and I both managed to get on Trent’s team. We got serious about our swimming, trained year-round in the chilly Puget Sound for the next 24 months, and finally made our way to London in July 2016.  We wandered around with our suitcases and decided to spend our first night in the very fancy neighbourhood of Chelsea (as one does).  We recovered from our jet lag by drinking wine for lunch, going shopping and eating in the finest restaurants. (in that order).


Whilst in Chelsea

The next morning, after eating a “Big English Breakfast”, we took the train to Dover and it was time to get down to business.  We met Trent on the beach for an evening swim before dinner.  This was our first introduction to the Dover Harbour.  “Crikey!”  Trent would say… “It’s COLD!”  We had a few laughs, met some other Channel swimmers on the beach, and Curtis and I tried to keep up with the legend himself.


Meeting Trent Grimsey at the Dover Harbour

Afterwards, over dinner, we decided we would meet every morning at 7am in the pissing rain for swim drills in the harbour. (whose idea was that??)  But it was time to get tough and get serious.  (BTW, no wetsuits allowed in Dover.  1 swimsuit, 1 cap, and 1 pair of goggles. That’s it.)  Leave a towel on the beach and hope that it’s not completely soaked by the time you’re done.  Okay, we’re ready for this!

However, that evening Trent got a call from our pilot, and the news was not good.  The weather forecast called for high winds and rain for the foreseeable future.

In fact, the forecast was so bad that our pilot could say with 100% certainty that no boats would be going out for the next 2-3 days, so we needed to find a way to entertain ourselves.

Okay.  Deep breath.

This was a “good news/bad news” situation for us.  On one hand, our 8-day window was ticking away, but on the other hand we had the luxury of time to relive our fun in Chelsea!

“Really??” you’re thinking, “That’s where you’re going with this story?”

Here’s the deal: we kept to our 7am swims drills every morning, but Curtis would often remind me with an elbow nudge that “a lovely French meal is only 21 miles away!”  So one night we popped over to France for dinner.  Yup, just popped over to France (as one does).


Dinner in France

On other days we roamed around Dover, got our nails done, went shopping, and cooked amazing lunches in our apartment, and then took leisurely afternoon naps.  Life was good.

One evening we got lucky and won a ton of money in a casino and then promptly met a bunch of new friends, including a homeless man and his dog.  That ended well for everyone, including the dog. (The butcher down the street got a handful of our casino winnings in exchange for a sack full of freshly cut dog bones.)

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We won big!

Some nights after dinner we would join our new mates for a pint or two at the local pub. (Okay, full disclosure… our new mates were the bartenders.)


Our new friends in Dover

On another night we cheered on a local channel swimmer who was singing songs he wrote in a quaint little venue.  By the way, update on Tony:  He just “smashed it”, as they say, and completed his solo swim across the Channel (just yesterday!) in 17 hours and 13 minutes.  Talk about a Rock Star!!!


Our new friend Tony

Fact is, Dover was growing on us.  We amused ourselves as the days ticked by, waiting for a break in the weather.

If you’ve already read my previous blog post, then you know how it all ended.  We swam the Channel at the tail end of our window, but not to France.  In the end, I would say that we both remained positive and upbeat, and we had a great experience swimming north and south in the Channel with Trent and our other teammates.


On the “Optimist” with pilot Paul Foreman

The White Cliffs of Dover are truly stunning when seen from the water at sunrise.  I have memories of the sun glistening off the rocky coast and lighting up the cliffs, as if they were on fire. The timeless beauty of the scene will take your breath away.

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Sunrise on the Channel

I remember leaning over the rail of the boat as Trent flashes us a smile from the water.  I capture that moment on camera.

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Trent Grimsey, enjoying life!

Our 10 days in Dover had been good to us.  Of course, the weather wasn’t what we had hoped for, and we definitely struggled with feelings of disappointment from time to time, but overall we were in good spirits.

The hardest day was the day I left Dover.  It was the day after our swim window closed.  I’d picked up a few pebbles from the harbour earlier in the day and put them in my pocket, and then my family and I boarded the ferry to France to make our way to Normandy.  While on the ferry I walked outside to look at the water.  It was the first beautiful, calm day I’d seen all week, and the water was like glass.

I reached for the small pebbles in my pocket and this was the first day I cried.  I mean really cried.  I realized that I had been playing the cheerleader role for 10 days, trying to keep the team positive, and it finally caught up with me.  This was my tough day.  I felt like diving in and swimming to France right off that ferry.

The disappointment of not making it to France would creep into my thoughts when I least expected it.  Unfinished business has a way of keeping you up at night.  My family and I had traveled to Normandy for a relaxing vacation, but after several nights of tossing and turning, I knew I had a decision to make.  Securing a boat and a pilot is typically 2 years out and time was wasting.

Often when trying to decide on something important, I use the Jeff Bezos method of decision making called “Regret Minimization”.  (you can Google it)

Simply ask yourself 2 questions:

“Will I regret doing it?” or “Will I regret not doing it?”

And there’s your answer.

I also had Warren Miller in my head: “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do!”  At this rate, I thought, I was looking down the road at being 2 years older, so I felt multiple pressures of time, aging and regret minimization.

The answer was clear.  I needed to make another go for France.  Not knowing where to start, I looked up Trent Grimesy’s pilot, Michael Oram with the CS&PF (Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation).  Trent set his world record with Mike, and I needed some good juju for my second attempt, so I decided that Mike was my juju.

That night, just less than a week after our Channel swim, I sent Mike an email inquiring about open slots for the 2018 season.  (I did not know yet if this was going to be a solo attempt or another relay, but my main goal was to reserve a boat.)

The good news is, I locked in dates securing a 9-day swim window on a Spring Tide, slot 1, from July 11-19th, 2018.

I was thrilled, but it was still 2 years away, which seemed like an eternity.

“What do I do now?” I asked.

“Train and Save” said Mike. “Train and Save.”


More to come…




English Channel, Take 2!

Posted: August 1, 2018 in Uncategorized


Whatever I thought I knew about swimming the English Channel, I was wrong.

I’ve been looking at a piece of paper for the last 2 years that says I’m a bad ass.  Okay, I’m lying, it doesn’t say that.  It’s an official certificate from the Channel Swimming Academy that certifies my English Channel relay from 2 years ago.  My team of 5 went from St. Margarets Bay to Broadstairs and back to St. Margarets Bay.  We swam north and south, following the beautiful white cliffs of Dover the whole time.

26 miles in 9 hours on August 7th 2016.

I hung this certificate over my computer in my office so I could catch a glimpse, retrieve a memory, or think about one challenge as I tackle another.  I love this piece of paper, it has motivated me many times to ‘keep on keeping on’.


Storms in the mid-channel that year prevented us from swimming across to France.  We spent 10 days in Dover waiting around for the weather to change, but our pilot was hesitant.  With no foreseeable break in the weather, our only option was to go home with nothing, or swim up the coast to Broadstairs and back.  The team was from Australia and the US, and we had all traveled a long way not to swim.  We chose Broadstairs.  At 1:33am Dover time, the first swimmer jumped into dark waters of the Channel and we were off.

The rest of the story is my second book, coming soon.  But the moral is: Stay positive and never, ever give up!

Flash forward to July 2018, I found myself on an airplane headed for Dover again.  Yes, swimming the Channel is addicting.  Okay, I’m lying again.  (Not about the addiction part. Swimming the Channel is highly addicting, just ask anyone who’s done it.)  But I did not just “happen” to find myself on an airplane.  No, I have been planning this since I woke up from my long 18-hour sleep after my first relay 2 years ago!

I took all my experience from my first relay with me this year on the boat, along with 24 more months of year-round open-water training and drills, but it could not have prepared me for what was about to happen.  As challenging as my first relay was, looking back, it was a walk in the park compared to crossing the Channel.  I can honestly say that nothing compares to swimming across the busiest shipping channel in the world and trying to find solid ground on the other side just after midnight.

It’s hard to know where to start, so perhaps I’ll start at the end.  WE MADE IT!!

It’s unbelievable, really.

42 miles and 17 ½ hours later, we landed.


Our gift from our pilot, Lance Oram

Let me first say that it’s not like landing on your favourite beach in the US.  (you see what I did there with the “u”?)  Anyhow, the French don’t leave the light on for you.  This is the Cap Griz-Nez.  (translation: Cape Grey Nose).  It’s rocky and rural, and evidently uninhabited by anyone with electricity.  After consulting with everyone on the boat that night, we suspect that the entire French coastline had a single 40-watt bulb flickering in the distance.  It’s pitch black, there’s one tiny lighthouse on the cape, and maybe a lone house somewhere south of the Cap Griz-Nez with a small candle in the window… oh wait, it just blew out.  Where the hell is France???  No really… I mean “Where the hell is France??”  I was told to swim strong for 30 minutes and I’d be touching French rocks.  Well, that didn’t happen.

My fifth leg of the swim was my hardest leg.  I jumped in the water at exactly 10:56pm and sprinted hard, but the in-shore waters of France are unforgiving.  They smack you in the face from the right, so you try and breathe left. Then they smack you in face on your left, so you’re doomed either way and end up swallowing a bunch of salt water.  But you’re sprinting, so there’s no stopping to cough.  “Puke & Swim” was our motto… and so it goes.  I was told to exert every last ounce of energy within me to battle the swift and changing tide.  “Dig deep, swim strong, give it your all and sprint hard for 30 minutes!  You can do this!”

“Yes, I can do this” I thought. “I’ve got this.”


Game Face.  (part quiet meditation and part panic)

But this tide will sweep you off the coast so fast, just when you think you’re nearly there, a swimmer can get pushed past the Cap to somewhere up north.  Somewhere where it gets increasingly more difficult to recover and get to shore.  This was our moment right now, and I had 30 minutes.


I’m going in: 10:56pm

I battled the waves in a full-on sprint mode, my mind racing with a million thoughts: “Surely it’s been 30 minutes by now?  Where is everyone? Why am I not feeling little grains of sand under my fingernails yet? I’m sure I’m close to shore? Is it shallow yet?  Am I on the sandbar? These feel like breakers crashing over my head… I can’t see anything, where am I? Was that a jellyfish?  Shit, yes it was.  Wait, how many jellies are out here? Why am I not on shore yet?  How long has it been?  I should be scraping my knees on the rocks.  Did I pack Band-Aids? I should have eaten more food. I’m so confused. Am I going to die out here?  Did I pay my life insurance bill last month? What if my glow stick falls off in the waves, would they ever find me in these dark waters? Why did I only wear one glow stick? That was stupid, this is no time to be thrifty.  Why am I not getting any hand signals?  Oh right, I can’t see anything out here!!  …and where the HELL is France?”


Somewhere near Cap Griz-Nez

Ahh, this was quite unlike the first 16 hours of our swim.  Occasionally I would think to myself, “Who’s idea was this anyway?” Oh yes, it was mine.

Finally the horn on the boat sounded.  People were yelling stuff at me.  “Did I make it?? Had I arrived in France??  Where’s the champagne?”

“Get on the boat!!” they yelled.  “The little boat?  Why would I get on the little boat?” I was so confused and disoriented.  The waves had knocked my brain around for an hour, I had no idea what was happening.  “No, get on the big boat, Randy’s in!!”  Randy’s in?  What happened to 30 minutes and you’ll be in France?  Wait, what?

“Hurry!!” they all yelled.  And then it clicked.   I had swum my hour.  I was done.  Channel relay rules give you only 5 minutes to transition.  I needed to get to the boat, and fast!  One final push, one final climb up the ladder and my part was over.  My fifth leg was the most exhilarating swim of my life.  It was also the most challenging, the most fun, the most jellies, the most painful, the most confusing, and the wildest ride of my life!  And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


Randy getting in for his 5th leg to take us to France!

Randy got in just before midnight, and took us to shore sometime around 12:25am, for an official time of 17 hours and 29 minutes.  While on French soil, Randy grabbed a few rocks from the shore for all of us to bring home.  (Pockets? He shoved them in his budgy smuggler!)

I look at those French rocks every day, as I plan our return trip to Dover in 2020.  Yes, it’s addicting.

This was, without a doubt, the most challenging thing I have ever done, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.


From left to right: Randy, Curtis, Heidi and me photographed at our final training swim on Vashon Island before heading to Dover.

I had the best team and will love these guys forever.  Without Randy, Curtis and Heidi, there is no way I would have made it to France.  They are all dedicated open-water/cold-water swimmers who will get the job done every time.  I have the utmost respect for them, and I am so fortunate to have had them on my team.

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Sea Satin.  (affectionately referred to as Sea Satan!)

We also got lucky to have the best pilot and crew.  Besides expertly navigating a Spring tide on a grey day in a busy Channel, Lance Oram and his crew on the Sea Satin encouraged us, took photos, reminded us to put the kettle on, and they even let me scavenge dinner leftovers off their plates.  (Yup, you could say that makes us all friends now!)

Looking back, there are a number of things I would do differently next time, but that’s a post for another day.  There’s much more to say.  In fact, I’m sure there’s a book here somewhere!  But because I’ve started at the end, I will have to go back to the beginning where it all started on Shakespeare Beach in my next post.

Thanks for following our journey!

Peace out,


p.s. Thanks to Jon Miell for all the excellent photos!  Very much appreciated.

10 Days in Dover

Posted: November 1, 2016 in Uncategorized


It’s been 3 months since I landed in Dover, and now looking back I’m not sure where summer went. My 10 Days in Dover were Epic. I have so much to share with everyone, which is the hardest part about sitting down to write.

Where do I begin to tell you about August 2016? For over 2 years I had been preparing to swim the English Channel, and it always seemed so far away. Then, before I knew it, I was on a flight from Vancouver Canada to London England, and then on a train headed to Dover Priory station.

Let’s start there… stay tuned!

My mother-in-law is British, and sometimes she says things that sound so perfectly British with her accent, that her words will linger with me for days. For example, not too long ago when I was stuffing myself with BBQ ribs she had something perfectly brilliant to say:


Picture this… there I was, with sloppy fingers and mounds of messy, used napkins all around me. (not her good linen ones, fortunately!)  Finally, I patted my big belly and said I couldn’t eat another bite.

My mother-in-law took one long look at me, shook her head, and said: “Kate. You’ve got to swim with the body you’ve got, and stop this nonsense!”

“This nonsense” being the over-eating I was doing to try to gain weight.

She was right.  And I knew it.  I was not going to tackle the English Channel by stuffing myself with BBQ ribs. (but they were delicious!)

From my previous “donut” post, you will remember how I was tracking my weight-gaining progress. (I’ve added July here.)

January: 130 lbs.
February: 132
May: 136
June: 137
July: 139

I’m nearly at my goal of 140 and I’m happy about that, but I quickly realized that there was no way I could eat my way to becoming shiver-proof.  I still get goosebumps, and I still shiver, and so I’m stuck with this body I’ve got.

What I needed to do was figure out this “cold-water acclimatization thing.”  So I picked up The Chanel Swimming Manual by Geoff Cox, and read it again.  and again.  with a highlighter.  I was determined to figure this out.

Probably the most important drill I did was straight from the Manual (page 102, taken from the Channel Swimming Academy, Acclimatisation Brief).  The drill involves going through 3 acclimatisation cycles, getting in and out of very cold water three times over a period of 5-8 hours, with a 30-40 minute swim each time, and warming up for about 1-2 hours each time out.  (no warm showers either… just a towel and warm clothes to mimic being on a fishing boat, not a yacht.)

It’s true, your body will not want to go back in the water, but you must force yourself to do it.  The book says you will be pissed off.  The book was right. But do it anyway.

Moral of the story?  Hard work pays off, and it’s important to be grateful for what you have. My body allows me to do many things that I enjoy, both in & out of the water, and I am fortunate for all the experiences I’ve had.

Now it’s time for dinner… 🙂



The body is capable of so much more than we think.  I’ve been obsessed with how I’m going to get my body ready to swim in 60 degree water with no wetsuit.  I’ve read lots of books and researched many acclimatization techniques.  But today, a week out from the start of my swim window for the English Channel relay, I’ve circled all the way back around to what I knew from the start.  The mind-body connection is strong.

Yes, it’s important to do the cold water drills.  But equally important to recognize the roll the mind plays in all of this.  Every time I think about the risk of getting hypothermia during a cold water swim, I think to myself, “I’m not going out like that. That’s not me. No way.”  I don’t even take that thought into my subconscious brain.  I reject it immediately, and I say it out loud if I have to, “Absolutely NOT!”

One of the greatest sources of strength we have is to tap into the unlimited reservoir of imagery.  A technique used by the top athletes in the world, when we visualize the feeling we want, our body responds.

Start by visualizing exactly what you expect from your body, from start to finish.  If you can recall an event from your past when you had strength and success, tap into that. It’s as if you’re saying to your brain, “Forget what you know, trust this feeling I’m sending you.”

Funny thing is, as I begin this process, sometimes a sneaky smile rolls across my face because it feels like I’m up to no good.  (It’s that smile you get when you’re about to go skinny dipping in someone else’s pool!)  It feels like I’m about to do something clandestine, because I  know the secret code or something.  But this is the secret code!!

When we allow our mind to tell our body what we expect from it, our body will respond.


Today I sunbathe, absorbing the warm rays of the sun deep into my skin.  I capture this moment, and save it for later when I will need it for a training swim.  Like tomorrow… when I jump in Puget Sound for a sub-60F swim.

So now that I have a plan for tomorrow… it’s probably time to tackle the jellyfish.  I need to figure out a way to minimize my “freak-out” response.  As always…I’m open to your suggestions! 🙂

Peace Out,


My Daily Donut Diet

Posted: June 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

My “Daily Donut Diet” is over. The gluttony had to end.


Here’s the deal: I’m still on my quest to gain a few extra pounds of “seal fat” before my English Channel swim in August, but the sugary carbohydrate treats have not been serving me well, and I’m looking for new ideas.

Before you roll your eyes, let me put this out there… I’ve heard all the “poor baby can’t gain weight” comments.  But just as people struggle to lose weight, the opposite is true too. The body likes a comfortable plateau.

To be honest, my inability to gain weight has been difficult for me, and I’ve had some pretty shitty days.  As passionate as I am about open-water swimming, I’ve had days when I struggled to get my head in the game. I found myself questioning my passion (and competence) for cold-water swimming.  Questioning the very sport I love!  What!??  Yes, I’ve had bad days where I wanted to throw in the towel altogether and leave my sport.  On one very bad day, I screamed at my training partner that I never wanted to see the lake again. Then I swam a shitty 1/4 mile and went home. (shivering all the way).  Training like that will not get me across the English Channel.

Attitude is everything… and while it’s true that I’ve been on a diet that most would envy, I was struggling to gain weight and my attitude was not improving.  I was on the “eat anything and everything you want” diet, but I made myself ill in the process.  My energy levels suffered, my moods suffered… and my workouts suffered.  Surprise!  (well, maybe not)


On a side note: The Southern Banana Pudding ice cream is pretty amazing!

But even if you do have a very good reason for needing to put on weight (such as, to prevent a trip to the ER with hypothermia!) it just doesn’t add up.  Or, as my father likes to say, “It doesn’t compute.”  You simply cannot eat junk food and expect to perform well as an athlete.

It’s the same rule I use for mixing cocktails: “Good in, Good out”.  Food is the same way, and I honestly don’t know why I thought it would be any different.

Just for fun… here’s an idea of how painfully slow my weight gaining has been since the start of this year:

January: 130 lbs.
February: 132
May: 136
June: 137

Problem is, I feel like most of that gain has been muscle weight.  I’ve been consistently chasing new PR’s powerlifting in the gym with my trainer.  (This year I broke 200 lbs on my deadlift and got to a 160 back squat.)  Those are both much heavier than last year…so I know there is muscle weight in there.

But where’s my SEAL FAT… and how do I get it??  A few more pounds over the next few weeks would definitely help my cold water tolerance in the “No-Wetsuit” zone!

Okay, I’m off to eat to some pasta and an avocado now and maybe I’ll double-up on some protein powder… but I’d love to hear your ideas!





On Memorial Day, I have committed to match my power with my purpose:  This August, I will be swimming the English Channel on a 5-person relay team from England to France.  Afterward, I will be touring the beaches of Normandy to show my respect.  It is my wish today, Memorial Day, to honor those who braved these same waters before me on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

It is with much thought and consideration that I have chosen the Navy SEAL Foundation as my charity for my English Channel swim.

The History: Elite Special Forces (Underwater Naval Combat Demolition Teams and ultimately those who became known as the U.S. Navy SEAL’s) were the first men to be sent into enemy territory on a stealth nighttime mission.  It was their job to prep the beaches of Normandy to ensure the success of the landing forces.  With a casualty rate of over 50%, it was the single deadliest day in Naval Special Warfare history, but their bravery and fortitude contributed to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi control.

My Story: Many have asked me why I have identified with the Navy SEAL’s and chosen the Foundation for my charity.  It’s really about fortitude for me.

Long-distance open water swimming is a unique mix of hard work and meditation, wrapped in an odd cocoon of sensory deprivation.  To be alone with your thoughts can send your mind to strange places.  Add to that ocean swells, currents, and the various aquatic life one might encounter along the way, mental fortitude is essential.  Even harmless seaweed can shock a swimmer into a panic attack if the conditions are right.

When my mind starts to wander off into dangerous territory, my tactic has always been to visualize myself as a stealth Navy SEAL.  It works every time.

I don’t really remember when I started imagining myself as a Navy SEAL, but I just know that it works for me.  I know my strokes get more powerful as I begin to visualize.  I can feel my mind take on the imagery and my body begins to respond with strength, fortitude and perseverance.  Just the other week when I was swimming in Puget Sound, I was going for a personal record with no wetsuit.  The water temperature was 51F/10C, and the air wasn’t much warmer.  It was gray and cloudy that morning and I needed to get 45 minutes in the water.   At about 30 minutes in, I started to slow down from the intense cold.  I had lost feeling in my fingers and my feet, and my mind was going to that panicky place.  Just then I heard what I thought was my friend shouting: “You’re a Navy SEAL!!”  My brain took that in, I smiled inside and calmly said to myself: “Yes I am.”

I persevered for the whole 45 minutes, achieving my PR.  As we were drying off I thanked her for saying that.  She laughed and said “Oh, I didn’t say that!  I saw you slowing down and I shouted “How do you FEEL???”

All I can say is, the mind plays tricks on you in the water.  I heard what I needed to hear. And it worked!

I have a tremendous amount of respect for what it takes to become a Navy SEAL.  From my little part of the world, as I train in Lake Washington and Puget Sound to prepare for the English Channel, this is my salute to you on Memorial Day.

By the way, if you’re still reading, and you’re interested in supporting the Navy SEAL Foundation, I’ve started a Crowdrise page here:

Six years ago this past March I started writing Kettlebellhell.  Throughout that time, I’ve had months where I’ve been busy blogging about the power of kettlebells, and then I’ve had months (sadly) with no posts at all.

For all my kettlebell fanatics, I just want you to know that I’m still crazy about kettlebells. However, for the next few months I’ll be blogging about my next adventure: In August 2016 I’ll be swimming the English Channel on a relay team.  Along with my coach, Trent Grimsey, there will be 3 Australians and 2 Americans on my team, and we will be swimming from England to France through the busiest shipping channel in the world.

I hope you will hang in there with me during this epic journey!  I will need all the support I can get.  Kettlebells are still an important part of my workout and I’m certain I wouldn’t have reached this point without them.  Kettlebells continue to give me a level of fitness confidence that allows me to say “YES” to a new challenge.  (I’ve blogged about this before, so I know you know what I’m talking about!)  With kettlebells, we just say “Yes, I’m ready!”

I know my strength will get me through the choppy seas… but I need to get to work on the other 90%… mental fortitude.

Stay with me!


Skinny Bitch Acclimatizes

Posted: May 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

They told me it couldn’t be done, and that was motivation enough.

I’m doing this.


In 10 weeks I’ll be swimming the English Channel with 4 teammates in a relay event. Today, I’m on a mission to prove that by taking the proper steps towards cold-water acclimatization, the skinny bitch can acclimatize!

The thing is, I’ve been “the skinny one” all my life.  I’m in the 99 percentile for body fat, meaning I’m classified as having “Essential Fat Only” at 12%.  This is not helpful for open water swimming events.

2 years ago when I announced I was going to swim the English Channel (which is often considered a swimmers ‘Mount Everest’) many people responded with disbelief.

“You’re waaaayyyy to thin” they would say, “gain some weight… eat more donuts.”

“Don’t you know you’re not allowed to wear a wetsuit when you swim the Channel?!”

“Yes. I know.”

“When are you going to lose the wetsuit?!” they would ask persistently.

“Soon.” I replied.

This year, on March 15th, I lost my wetsuit.  Well, I didn’t actually lose it.  I ceremoniously washed my entire collection of wetsuits with my special neoprene soap, I hung them all to dry, and then I said goodbye and packed them away in the depths of my basement closet. That was a tough day.  I love my gear.

I’ve been acclimatizing ever since.

As someone with “essential fat only”, I’ve chosen a sport that requires me to swim in cold water without a wetsuit.  I’ve already experienced stage 1 and stage 2 hypothermia, and I’ve been dangerously close to stage 3.  So it’s time to fatten up.

I’m keeping a fitness log, a food diary, swimming logs, temperature notes… you name it. It’s all very interesting really.  And just when you thought it would be easy to pack on a few pounds… it’s actually not.

Now if you’re reading this and you’ve ever been told “No way!”, then stick with me through these next 10 weeks of my journey.  I’m going to take you through the highs and the lows of training for something that seems unattainable.  And we’ll see if it is.

Peace Out,

Truth in Powerlifting

Posted: February 4, 2016 in Uncategorized



Powerlifting has become my “yoga”.  Through it, I have gained a philosophy that I can apply to life and business.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned since working with my personal trainer is not to beat myself up over failure.  He says, “You can’t PR everyday, Kate.”

I know this.  (I think.)

But I definitely get caught up in the challenge and the excitement of hitting a new personal record.  It’s exhilarating.  (Although, disappointment can often be crushing.)

They say “the higher you fly, the further you fall.”  I believe it.

After one great success, we want to strive for another.  The thrill of a new challenge is what drives us all.  When we’re caught up in the moment, we forget that we’re not always going to make great strides every day.  Some days are normal days.  (Really?)  Yes… and some days… we even fail.

Failure is a lesson, and you can’t let it hold you back.  We need to remember that we won’t hit a new personal record on every attempt.

This is true in business as well.  When we shy away from new ventures for fear of failure, or lack of time or resources, we are not giving ourselves the chance to succeed.  But knowing that it’s impossible to PR every day gives us the space (and time) we need to get the job done without beating ourselves up in the process.

Sometimes I think I need a Post-it note on my computer that says:

“You can’t PR every day, Kate!”

This also reminds me of the importance of recovery, but that is another post for another day! 🙂


“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
                                                                                                    – Babe Ruth


Peace Out,


Featured image

Former UCLA basketball coach, winner of ten NCAA national championships, John Wooden coached his players to be mindful when putting on their socks: “If you don’t put on your socks properly you get a wrinkle, and when you have a wrinkle, it causes a blister, and when you have a blister, you can’t run and jump properly.”

Mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword lately, but despite its overuse, I still find myself advocating for it every day.  In the age of multitasking, telling someone to single-task puts me in a pretty unpopular position.  But just the other day I read an article about the “myth of multitasking” and it made me feel better about my position.  Neuroscience tells us that most of us cannot multitask, and our brains can only “switch-task”.  (Turns out that only 2% of the population has the cognitive flexibility to multitask).  So although it feels like we’re doing several things at once, we are instead caught in a constant state of switch-tasking, never paying full attention to any one thing, and therefore, not doing any one thing well.  Studies show, performance suffers when multitasking, up to 40%!

I thought about this in terms of swinging kettlebells.  When we really focus on our workout, and we pay full attention to our swings, we will get the greatest gains.  Call it mindfulness, call it awareness, or call it Zen… but anytime we can go from feeling frazzled to feeling focused, we will perform better.

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s important to commit your mind to your workout.  Don’t try and multitask in the gym. I saw a guy on a leg press machine once, trying to finish his novel.  Really?? Guaranteed he was not making any gains, he was just going through the motions. If your mind and your body are not connected to the same goal, your body will not respond.  Your performance in the gym will absolutely suffer.Featured image

Here are 3 ways you can bring mindfulness to your fitness:

  1. Honor the Time you Dedicate to Fitness
  2. Set Goals
  3. Keep a Training Log

1. First, honor the time you have dedicated to strength by putting away all distractions and fully committing your mind to how you want to perform over the next hour or so.  Ask yourself if you are truly paying attention to what is important to you.

2. Next, what strength goals have you set for yourself? Set a series of goals: I like to set goals for strength gains, as well as use various races and competitions as goals. For example, my secret goal for my deadlift is 200 lbs by the end of 2015. (whoops, not a secret anymore!)  But every weekly gain gets me closer to my end-of-year goal.  Also, back in 2014 I committed to swim the English Channel in 2016.  Planning such a large goal so far ahead gave me the luxury of time to place smaller monthly goals on the calendar to move me closer and closer to my big goal.

3. Finally, keep a training log.  A fitness diary will keep you mindful of what you’re doing every day, and see where you’ve been and where you’ve made gains.  I like this one: http://www.amazon.com/The-Ultimate-Workout-Log-Exercise/dp/0547592124. Each page is broken down into strength and cardio sections, as well as an area for flexibility and nutrition notes too.  I particularly like that this one has a “Weekly Wrap-Up” section at the end of each week, and you rate yourself based on whether you met or exceeded or goals. (or not!)  This is key to planning out what you need to be doing and when.  (This log is good for 6 months, so buy several at a time and log your long-term goals.)

Now, put on some music, grab a few kettlebells and get to work!

Here’s your Workout:

10 sets of 20: figure 8’s to a hold.  (that’s 10 on each side, with minimal rest between sets) 200 total in about 12 minutes, depending on what weight you choose.

You shouldn’t need too many songs… maybe just 3 good ones that will keep you in a good rhythm:Image result for the doors

The Doors, Backdoor Man
Nickelback, She Keeps Me Up
Awolnation, Sail  

Those three songs will be just short of 12 minutes, which is about all you need for this workout.

Happy Swinging!



CrossFit Open 15.1

Last month I competed in the CrossFit Open, and I was surrounded by athletes who were pushing the limits of their abilities and endurance. One day, when the going got tough, I picked up a few pointers from a guy who’s currently ranked 28th in the world. It took me a minute, but then I said to him “How many people are 28th in the world… in anything?”  It’s impressively mind blowing! So we talked about what that meant for him.

I went home and started thinking: despite his unassuming manner, it’s obvious that his physical strength gives him the confidence to excel in other areas of his life, not just at the gym. And then it hits me… Here is someone who is truly ‘grounded in his strength’, which is an important key to business strength.

Here’s the deal: when I’m not physically training for something, I’m training corporate executives on how to communicate with strength and confidence. Both require effort, determination and enthusiasm. Over the last 20 years working with business exec’s on public speaking, there’s one thing I know for sure: Nearly everyone would rather be in the audience than on stage giving the presentation. And quite often their reluctance has to do with low levels of confidence.

Microphone at conference.
Strength builds confidence, it’s as simple as that. So I coach my clients to get ‘grounded in strength’ before walking on stage to send confident messages to the brain exactly when they need them.

The problem is, many people have a hard time identifying their strengths, and therefore have nothing to draw on when the going gets tough.

In fact, in any evaluative situation where stress levels are high (whether they are on stage delivering a speech, in a conference room negotiation, in an interview, or in some kind of competition) it’s important to be able to project strong levels of confidence… but that confidence has to come from somewhere.

(Certainly if you and I were 28th in the world in something, our confidence would stem from that. Since we’re not, here’s the workaround:)

Identify your strength in a few activities, and then identify where you’d like increased strength:

1. Is there anything you’re doing right now that you do well?
2. Is there anything you’re doing right now that you’d like to do better?

Notice that the questions ask what you’re doing “right now”. Don’t pull from something you did 30 years ago and expect a surge of confidence. It’s important to pull from your current, present-day activities, and then write these two things down on a piece of paper, side by side. Take what you do well and let it help you perform better in the areas you want to improve. Basically, use the strength from what you’re strong in to give you confidence in what you’re not.

For example: I just hit a new PR on my bench press this week. Rocked that! But when I got in the pool for a 2 mile workout I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. After 60 laps my shoulders were screaming at me. But you can’t quit at 60 when 66 is 2 miles, so I needed to find that last bit of strength. I pulled from my success earlier in the day, got my brain wrapped around that feeling, and I finished.

This example uses athletic activities, but it’s easy to translate this to the business world: Bring your strength from one area, walk into that stressful situation and use these exact words:

“I did that. I can do this.”

I’ve used this technique myself and I’ve shared it many times in my professional training. Once you are able to identify your strength, you become better equipped to handle pretty much anything that gets thrown your way. This is not an arrogant confidence, but a strong, genuine confidence.

This is the foundation to becoming “Grounded in Strength”.  Good Luck!


Whether you’re a cyclist, swimmer, runner, skier, paddleboarder, kayaker, CrossFitter…whatever your sport… kettlebells will make you a stronger one.

I’ve been swinging kettlebells for over 5 years now, mixing it in with all my other activities, and I can absolutely say that they have improved my game across the spectrum of activities I’ve taken on (which has been all of the above).  Due to the pure simplicity of them, anyone can work a few minutes a day into whatever else they’ve got going on.

As many of my readers know, when I’m not blogging about kettlebells, I’m usually rambling on about some race or event I’m training for. Whether it’s the Big Climb or the Fat Salmon, the Tough Mudder or the Alcatraz Swim, kettlebells will enhance your sport, guaranteed.  And I don’t say that lightly.  In the last five years I’ve noticed one HUGE difference:  I say yes!  I’m up for a challenge.  You know what I’m talking about… someone says “Hey, do this race with me” and in the past I would question whether I was up for it or not.  But not anymore.  Kettlebells have given me the confidence to say yes. With the right amount of training, I’ll be up for it!  I can’t tell you what a great feeling this is… and it has added benefits:

When we find ourselves saying yes to experiences we never thought possible, our lives become fuller and more meaningful. (my next post!) But with those new experiences we have the opportunity to meet new people.  (Take swimming, for example.  I just started swimming seriously two years ago, but I have found this to be one great community of people!  Especially those that call themselves “wild swimmers”.  These guys swim in the lake or the ocean, often year-round in any kind of weather.  They are tough and exceedingly inspiring!  They are also down to earth, quick to laugh, and they love to have a good time.  What more could you ask for?!)

So what new sport or activity have you been wanting to try? Just add kettlebells! What activity would you like to perform better? Just add kettlebells!

IMG_7613 (2)

Let’s get going!!  Here are the 10 basic movements I started with years ago that got me hooked:

1. Two-Handed Swings

2. Single-Handed Swings

3. Hand-2-Hand Swings

4. Clean and Press

5. Goblet Squats

6. Side Rows

7. Around the Worlds

8. Figure 8’s

9. Walking Lunges

10. Stage 1 Get-Ups

If you’ve been swinging kettlebells for awhile, and want to get stronger at a particular sport, focus on those muscles used most in that sport.


Since we’ve been talking about swimming, let’s use that as an example.  Most of my races this summer were open water swims so I selected a few kettlebell movements that would help my lats and delts:

Overhead Tricep Lifts while lying on the floor (engaging my lats)
Bent-Over Side Rows
Power Plank Rows
Suitcase Swings
Turkish Get-Ups (to standing, adding presses into each stage of the get-up.)

Even just these few movements helped my stroke become more powerful and I was able to move more water out of my way.  When you’re racing in the open water, especially with significant chop, moving water is the name of the game.  But it’s also a mind game: You have to trust in your ability, or you will fail.  An athlete who adds kettlebells to their training will have the added confidence in their core power and will be better equipped to overcome not just the physical demands, but the inevitable psychological obstacles that crop up in open water.  (Yes, that’s probably another post right there!)  But whatever the demands of your sport, you can’t go wrong with added core power.

So work a few kettlebell movements into your exercise routine, and no matter what sport or activity you take up next, you’ll be stronger and better at it!



My Epic Alcatraz Swim!

Posted: September 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
The jump to start!

The jump to start!

“Epic” is a word that I think is often misused.  For instance, my kids get a high score on a video game and call it epic.  I suppose it’s all in your perspective, but for me, the Alcatraz Invitational Swim was, indeed, epic.  I’d like to take a break from the kettlebells for a moment and tell you about a fantastic experience I had “escaping the Rock” swimming in the San Francisco Bay chop.

Yes, the Alcatraz swim was finally here!  Sunday, September 14th, 2014.   I’ve written about race days before, but this race day was like none other.  Sure, we had the usual adrenaline rush, but I get one of those before I walk on stage to make a speech.  The difference is, I don’t ever think I’m gonna die on stage.  Yes, this day was something else.

From a pre-dawn check in, we had several hours of pacing around until it was time (9am) to start the long, slow walk (barefoot) to the marina.  Nearly 800 swimmers followed a bagpiper from the South End Rowing Club to the dock where two ferries were waiting to take us out to Alcatraz.  Though there were no handcuffs, there was something about walking down the street in our bare feet and being corralled onto ferries that seemed a bit doomful. Ominous.  We passed many people getting their morning coffees and newspapers who no doubt had never seen a sight like this! We were off to the island and there was no turning back now.

Once on the boat, there was a mix of anxiety and pure excitement everywhere, you could feel it.  We were biting our nails and drinking our last bit of water, and then at one point I remember a bunch of us doing the celebratory “End-Zone dance”, even before the race had begun!  Yes, this was a pre-race high like no other race.

As the ferries got into position and turned off their engines, 800 swimmers had to jump into the San Francisco Bay in the space of 5 minutes before the currents pushed the boats astray.  I didn’t think it was possible, but everyone jumped in 3 at a time.  Holding my goggles to my face, I took a deep breath and jumped in.  As if in a world of slow motion, it seemed like forever until I surfaced.  How deep was I?  Then my next sensation was how beautiful the water was beneath the surface.  It was a light crystal green color, just like a gemstone.  It was also super salty, and it reminded me of eating oysters on the half shell.  Then, sort of shockingly, my undersea fantasy world suddenly ended and I surfaced into a mass of swimmers.  More swimmers were jumping in, so I had to quickly start swimming away from the boat.  I found my friends, we all gave each other a nod, and we took off!


This race could have gone either way.  We all figured it would either be really hard, or it was going to be OK and our months of training would pay off.  Having never done the Alcatraz swim before, none of us knew quite what to expect, but that morning the weather turned out to be on our side.  It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco, and the 16 mile-an-hour winds that were predicted never seemed to materialize.

I can say now, without a doubt, that this race has reinforced my love of swimming!  Here’s why:

One of the suggestions given to the group during the pre-race instructions was to stop at the half-way point and do a 360.  “Take a minute to look around you”, they said.  “Take it all in!”  (They reminded us that chances were pretty good we weren’t going to “win” the race… only one person out of 800 wins… so most of us should not worry about our time.)  “You’ll never get a view like this again!”  So I took their suggestion, I stopped and treaded water, and spun myself around. It was Epic! (and I mean really epic!)  When I began swimming again, I got myself into good swimming rhythm.  I would breathe every third stroke, and sight every third breath.  During my sighting I would see many people stopping and taking in the views as I had done.  I just can’t tell you how incredible it felt to be somewhere so beautiful, while accomplishing something so challenging, and everyone around you was appreciating the moment right there with you!

At one point while I was sighting ahead, I saw a woman smiling at me.  A bit unexpected, she was just hanging out treading water right there in the middle of the San Francisco bay!  I couldn’t resist her huge smile and so I called out to her… “Well hello there!”  We talked for a bit, I can’t really remember what we said, but she was simply amazed by the beauty all around her and wanted to share it with someone.  I just happened to be there.  Yes, it was striking.  The sun was shining on the Golden Gate bridge, just like a post card.  We had left Alcatraz in the dust (dust?) and the San Francisco skyline was waiting brilliantly ahead of us.  Oh, and the SFFD had stopped all boat traffic, so one of the most amazing sights was looking up at what was probably hundreds of sailing boats all lined up, waiting, as if showcasing their beauty for all of us to see.  I am so glad I got to share that moment with a fellow swimmer.

I never saw her again, but the few moments we shared together in the bay reminded me why I swim. I swim because of the community of swimmers.  They are all superb human beings, glorious athletes, and most excellent comrades post-race!  (Oh yes, now that is another story altogether:  The Post-Race Celebration in SF!)

In the meantime, I’ll share with you my post-race photo of “Team Puget Sound”.  (Just three of us this time, but after all our stories, I think we may have a bigger contingent next year. Come join us!)

Peace Out,


Diana, Kate and Curtis

Diana, Kate and Curtis


For the last two summers I’ve been swimming in Lake Washington at dawn. I get up at 5am, have a bulletproof coffee (https://www.bulletproofexec.com/how-to-make-your-coffee-bulletproof-and-your-morning-too/) then take myself down to the lake to swim a mile or two. Although this is an excellent workout, I have noticed a bit of a decrease in my muscular definition in the summer months when I stop some of my other training.  (This is a very good reminder to keep up the kettlebells year-round!)  There is really no substitute for weight-resistance training. Moving water out of your way is good work, but moving cast iron around is certainly a great complement to swimming.

Anyway, I’ve signed up for the “Escape from Alcatraz” swim, it’s fast approaching and I want to go in strong.  (I need to bring my A-game to battle the chop and swift currents… and maybe a few sea lions).   How?   Shoulder strength:

After talking to a buddy of mine (a former CrossFit trainer and currently a kettlebell fanatic like me) he suggested Turkish Get-Ups for my shoulder strength. His suggestion was to do 10 getups in 10 minutes. I gave him a funny look.  10 in 10 minutes?  That seems kinda slow.  “If I can knock one rep out in 20 seconds, are you suggesting I wait around on the floor for another 40 seconds before starting my next rep?”

“Kate, it’s not about the speed!!”   Take it slow, increase the weight, do a press at every position stop.

Hmmm… Alright. I tried it. This is hard for me… but I like it, and I could definitely feel it the next day.

I have also revisited some videos I love on shoulder safety:

Jason C. Brown practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he’s very familiar with the ways kettlebells can improve his game. In fact, in this video, Jason calls attention to how important it is (as a fighter) to protect your shoulders and your joints at all costs. This resonated with me, because as a swimmer, I feel the same way… No shoulder injuries before Alcatraz!

I’ve always liked these videos, they demonstrate two great variations on the Turkish Get Up:

By the way, as a side note… A friend of mine recently reached out to me, post-Achilles surgery. He’s working with a physical therapist to get back out there, but I’m thinking this is great for him too, because you can stop a TGU at any time, you don’t have to go all the way to standing. For example, start on your back, go up to elbow (do a press), go up to hand (do a press), switch your feet and gently roll onto one hip (as shown is video 2, but stop before you kneel.) (do a press), and then reverse those three steps back down again. When he’s feeling stronger, go up one more step, maybe kneeling, or even try a side-plank position. After a few months, perhaps up to standing. But the great thing about the TGU is that you can modify it for your needs.

My suggestion is to time yourself on a “typical” TGU, and then slow it down from that.  I’ve been doing 20 reps in 10 minutes (10 left, 10 right) and that still feels a bit slow to me, but I’m adding the press, which is good work.  Everyone’s got 10 minutes… that’s just one long song and your shoulder workout is done. (Guns n’ Roses November Rain just about makes it!)

Let me know what you think… I’m off to put in my 10 minutes and jump in the lake!



Abdominal “crunch-time”

Posted: June 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’m modifying this workout as we speak… stay tuned!

Cast Iron Strength

Cape Cod beach at sunset, Race Point Beach

OK, we’re counting down to the beach… 2 days left!

I had a nice hill run this morning which was a good warmup for an abdominal workout when I got home.

Here’s a list of a few of the exercises that make up my “crunch time” to the beach:

1. The Plank

2. Kettlebell sit ups

3. The Plow

4. Russian Twist  (some people do these standing, other sitting…)

5. Bicycle Sit-ups.  (If you’re not sure what those are, ehow will show you how:) http://www.ehow.com/how_459600_do-bicycle-situp.html

Here’s the routine:

Start with a good stretch into a forward bend.  Then step back into the plank pose and hold that position for 60 seconds.

Roll onto your back, grab the 8KG kettlebell and do 20 kettlebell situps.  Repeat these two exercises, alternating Plank and Sit-ups.

Then, from the sit up position, roll back into a shoulder stand inversion, legs straight up, and then throw back into the Plow position just for fun!  This should…

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Yoga meets Kettlebells

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized




It’s 10:00pm, I haven’t gotten my 20 minutes in yet, and I need to do something inside (tomorrow I’ll get out in the yard again) but I’m thinking this is a perfect night for a yoga/kettlebell mix.  By this, I mean flow.  Each exercise moves into the next with an even, smooth transition… and no breaks.

Music: Hendrix

Here we go:

1. Kettlebell Situps… do as many as you can, at least 1 minute.

2. Situps transition nicely into the seated Russian Twist.

3. Then put the kettlebell aside, and flip yourself over into a 1 minute Plank Hold.

4. Fall into a Cobra position to give your lower back a good stretch.  (you’ll need this if you’ve been doing a lot of traditional swings)

5. Now transition into Downward Dog, hold for a good all-around stretch.

6. Next… the Extended Squat (perfect if you’ve increased your running with the nice weather.) Step forward (feet more than hip-distance apart) hold your feet, and squat down.  Bring that into a deep squat, then stand up… still holding your feet…adding a good hamstring stretch.  This is hard to describe, so here’s a link: (http://www.coreperformance.com/knowledge/movements/deep-squat-to-hamstring-stretch.html)  Each time down you should be getting into a good deep squat, and each time up you should be waking up those hamstrings.  Do at least 20 of these.  If you’re not grunting by now, you’re not doing these right.

7. We’re almost finished with the first round… stand up, grab your kettlebell again, and do a Standing Twist.

8. You can move from the Standing Twist nicely into a few Around the Worlds.  Done.  (with the first set)

OK, Water Break… then get back on the floor and start your second set.

Let me know what you think…








20 minutes a day... starts today!

The sun is shining, and the new lounger is waiting… 20 minutes of kettlebells everyday. Today, it will be the swing and release, with a flip and squat. Do it, Do it!

Image  —  Posted: May 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

Swim, Bike, Run… etc.

Posted: April 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

My new training program for the Alcatraz swim and a few triathlons this summer is shaking out to look something like this: 7:3:2:1

7 x per week: Kettlebells
3 x per week: Run
2 x per week: CrossFit and Swim
1 x per week: Bike

My thinking is this:

Because Kettlebells are best everyday, I can add just a few minutes to my daily routine to stay strong and work all muscle groups. I’ll just vary the size of the kettlebell depending on the day. Sometimes light… stay with the yellow.  Other times push it with the green and red bells.

Running, ideally, I’d like to do 3 times a week. (I’m not sure if I can pull all this off, but today was a good example of a time crunch: It was 10:13, and I had a noon meeting that I needed to prepare for, and I still needed a shower! Most days I would have looked at the clock and said “no way… no time for a run!” But today, I said, hey… I’m trying to get in my days… I can do 2 miles. Who doesn’t have 20 minutes? So out the door I went, back by 10:30… shower, prepare for meeting, out the door by 11:45. Boom! Done. I love my new thinking… all runs don’t have to be epic!)

OK… CrossFit and swimming work well for me twice a week.

I’m not an avid biker, so once a week for a good long bike sounds reasonable to me.

Here’s how it would shake out:

Monday: Kettlebells and Swim
Tuesday: Kettlebells and CrossFit
Wednesday: Kettlebells and Long Run
Thursday: Kettlebells and CrossFit, Run
Friday: Kettlebells and Swim
Saturday: Kettlebells and Long Bike
Sunday: Light Kettlebells and Short Run (my rest day)

The lake is still full of snow melt and 50 degrees… so I’m not swimming yet… but I’ll try everything else, then add that in when I can tolerate the temps.  It’s an aggressive workout schedule… we’ll see how long I can keep it up.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  Do it with me!?