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Liberty Lake woman is the first to swim the length of Lake Coeur d'Alene

39-year-old open-water marathon swimmer Kim Bowler swam the length of Lake Coeur d'Alene in less than 16 hours— and there's more than meets the eye.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — On Sunday afternoon, Kim Bowler began swimming at Heyburn State Park.

Twenty-four miles later, she stopped.

The Liberty Lake woman was reportedly the first person to swim the length of Lake Coeur d’Alene, finishing on the shores of Tubbs Hill to the cheers of a small crowd of supporters, including her two children Monday morning.

It took the 39-year-old open-water marathon swimmer 16 hours and 38 minutes to complete her quest, reports our partners at the Coeur d'Alene Press.

When she returned to solid ground, Bowler was proud — and tired. She stood up, smiled and walked to shore. Then, she turned around, looked out on the lake, held her hands to her face, and cried.

"I come from a family of criers," she said late Monday afternoon in a phone interview with The Press.

After receiving congratulations and talking to friends, Bowler headed home to recover, joined by husband Chris, also deserving of a rest as he paddled much of the route alongside his wife in a kayak.

"I was excited to get home and sleep for a little bit," she said.

Bowler, a U.S. masters swimmer who trains at the Kroc Center under coach Mike Hamm, followed marathon swimming federal rules, which meant no wetsuit. She could wear a swimsuit, goggles and cap, nothing that would aid buoyancy.

She wasn’t allowed to intentionally grab on to any kind of support, such as a kayak or a boat.

Even while taking nutrition — 8 ounces of a carbohydrate/electrolyte drink or a banana and granola bar — every 45 minutes tossed to her in a bottle, she had to tread water at the same time.

It went smoothly, said friend Anna Love, which isn’t surprising.

She noted that Bowler swam 12 miles last year in Lake Pend Oreille, from Bayview to Maiden Rock, as a tune up.

“Over the last few years, Kim has really embraced her love for open water swimming and has spent countless hours and many swims building up to this moment,” Love wrote. “She is doing all of this while being a spouse, parent, friend and registered nurse. She isn’t just following her dreams, she is chasing them, and making history in the process.”

Bowler set out from a rocky beach at Chatcolet Lake, with kayak escort before crossing under the Chatcolet Bridge, a short stretch of the St. Joe River, and into Lake Coeur d’Alene, eventually meeting up with her boat support team.

It was a beautiful 90-degree day with calm waters.

"It was really fun starting," she said.

But it got tougher.

Physically, she held up, other than the annoyance of getting caught up in weeds early on and tired arms.

Several times, mentally, she wanted to quit.

"The hardest part was getting over the discouraging thoughts," she said.

"I'm just sick of swimming," went through her head. "This stinks. I want it to end."

But her team rooted her on and she rallied.

"There were four or five big moments when the crew really need to cheer me on and pep me up," she said.

Bowler planned to sight off the boat at night, but couldn't, so husband Chris was beside her to keep her on course.

Night swimming was new.

She saw a shooting star, the water was like glass, and it was calm and peaceful — until she bumped into a log.

"Now I'm ready to see the sunrise," she said, laughing.

Howard Burns, one of the support crew, said Bowler was tough throughout.

Her final steady strokes, still strong, brought her home to Beacon Point at Tubbs Hill. It was 8:44 a.m.

Bowler isn't sure what's next, but ideas are brewing in her head. There are other lakes to conquer. For now, she wants to enjoy this one. Later Monday, she was still in a bit of disbelief she had done it.

"This was the one I really felt I want to check on my bucket list," she said.

Bowler is also coached by Sarah Thomas, also a marathon swimmer and the first person to complete four consecutive crossings of the English Channel.

She praised her coaches, family and support team.

"I could not have done this without them," she said.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.

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