Keep calm & swim on

Katie Blair, of Huntington, traveled to the island of St. Lucia for a 41-mile swim that started on Tuesday, Oct. 13, taking nearly 30 hours to complete.
Katie Blair, of Huntington, traveled to the island of St. Lucia for a 41-mile swim that started on Tuesday, Oct. 13, taking nearly 30 hours to complete. Photo provided.

By KATELYNN FARLEY During her middle school years, Katie Blair, originally of Mannheim, Germany, and currently of Huntington, picked up swimming. She joined the German junior national team in triathlon, doing it professionally in her early twenties.

Blair moved to the U.S. in 2003, living in Colorado Springs, Colo., prior to her move to Indiana.

During her time in Colorado Springs, where she attended Colorado State University for graduate school, Blair met a group of marathon swimmers that were training for an English Channel swim. Blair pinpoints this as when she found her passion for swimming. She started with 10k swims in Colorado Mountain Lakes, participated in swims around Key West, and eventually participated in the English Channel swim.

“These days, I am pushing the limit of distances I can cover continuously,” Blair says.

Most recently, Blair embarked on a trip to the Carribbean island of St. Lucia for another long-distance swim. Factors like water temperature, safety from predatory animals within the water and the overall beauty of the island all came into play when choosing this most recent long-distance swim. She also credits the event organizer for the location choice.

“Event organizer Suz Dyson was willing to put something as crazy as a 41-mile swim together, where many event planners hesitate,” Blair says.

For this particular swim, Blair was slated to start on the island of St. Lucia, swim to the island of Martinique, and then turn around and swim back to the island of St. Lucia. The swim was estimated to take 30 hours. To prepare for the swim, Blair swims six to seven days a week. She says that the Huntington Parkview Family YMCA swimming pool has been her main training pool, and that she also trains in open water in the Indianapolis area.

“I swim shorter morning swims during my work week and longer open water swims, e.g. six hours a piece, on the weekends,” Blair says.

On Oct. 13, at 1:15 p.m. EST, Blair took to the water in St. Lucia. In total, the swim distance was 41 miles. Blair ended the swim just five miles short of the coast, with a total swim time of 29 hours and 10 minutes.

According to Blair, she was put on a strict nutrition schedule during her swim.

“I feed in the water every 30 minutes. I use protein shakes, gels, bananas and coconut water.”

For safety precautions, a large team was available on a catamaran and a dingy to assist during the swim. Several of the crewmembers were rescue divers.

Though Blair was unable to finish the swim, she notes that she is pleased with the distance covered, and completed the goal of assessing if she can go further.

“We are needing to find ways to control mouth and tongue swelling due to jellyfish and saltwater,” Blair says. “A navigation mistake took us off course, and combined with tongue swelling, [this] led to the abortion of the swim five miles off the shore of St. Lucia on the way back from Martinique.

“We did not make the goal of a double channel crossing, but I am still glad I added a crossing to my resume. I am encouraged by how well I recovered from this distance. There have been important lessons for the next adventure.”

According to Blair, the two biggest obstacles she found during this swim were jellyfish at night and intense sun during the day.

Other long-distance swims were mostly day long activities in much cooler water, including a 23.8-mile Lake Erie crossing in 2019, a 26-mile swim across Lake Memphremagog in Vermont, in 2015 and the Triple Crown of Open water Swimming.

Other locations have included a swim around Key West in 2017, a 24-mile swim across Tampa Bay in 2015, a 26-mile swim across the Hawaiian Molokai Channel in 2013 and more.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and other athlete’s interest in some of her swims, Blair finally had some free time to finish up the project of publishing a book.

“The book idea had been lingering for some time, as other athletes wanted to know more about my swims. COVID-19 finally freed up the time to finish the project,” Blair says.

The book was published in September, after having been in the works for about a year. The book, titled “Lessons from the Water”, is available on Amazon.

The book details adventures that Blair has experienced as a swimmer, along with life lessons that she has gained along the way. She leaves her readers with this message at the end of the introduction to her book:

“In a world that is all too removed from our natural struggle for survival, it is our connections with nature and our acceptance of the high and low tides of life that make us truly human.”

Blair’s next plan for a long-distance swim is to travel back to the island of St. Lucia in 2021, hoping to complete a 77-mile swim around the island.