Reader Athlete: Bethany Bosch

Age: 29

Residence: Wallingford

Family: Chocolate lab, Guri

Occupation: Consultant/Inspector

Primary sport: Swimming

In 2011, Bethany Bosch was the last swimmer to finish the Kingdom Swim in Newport. She was thankful organizers didn’t pull her out of the water since she had exceeded the seven-hour time limit. Vowing never to finish last again, she worked hard enough on her technique that she qualified for the right to swim the English Channel this fall.

VS: When did you start swimming?

BB: I was on the Rutland Rec Department swim team as a child, but I was not very fast. I was on the team for three or four years and nothing beyond that. I didn’t even realize there were teams in high school and college. In 2010, my friend was training for a triathlon and I offered to swim with her. Once I jumped in the pool I started to wonder how far I could go and I steadily increased my swimming until one day I did 400 laps in the pool and thought, “maybe I should train for something.”

VS: Is that how you started doing long distances?

BB: Most people do competitive pool swimming and maybe a few shorter open water events, but I jumped in the deep end. Three or four months later I did the 8-mile swim across Lake Champlain with the YMCA and that was my first event.

When I completed that successfully I thought I could probably do 10 miles and if I could do that I could do 15 and if I could do that I could probably do the English Channel. I’ve thought about the Channel since I was a little kid. I never really thought it was possible because I thought I was a terrible swimmer, but it’s a good time in my life to do it since I don’t have family commitments.

In 2011, I did the 10-mile Kingdom Swim. There’s a seven-hour time limit and I was so nervous because I knew I wasn’t fast enough so I spent the whole swim working as hard as I could and being stressed out and wishing I had trained better and worrying about being pulled out of the lake. It wasn’t until I reached the second to last buoy that I realized they would let me finish. I knew I had gone over the seven hours and I figured the beach would be empty except my family. I wasn’t even sure I could stand up after swimming that long, but when I got out of the water the hillside was full of people at the award ceremony and they gave me a standing ovation. It was an incredible moment. I came in last, but these people were cheering for me. I also thought to myself that I wasn’t going to come in last ever again.

The two fastest finishers came over to congratulate me. They did the race in four hours and I took 7:43, but the guy began coaching me and helping me improve my technique and my stroke. A lot of swimmers are so generous with their time and their information and they pay it forward. Meeting him was one of the best things to happen out of that race.

VS: Tell us about your trip to Ireland.

BB: I raised the most money of anyone doing the Kingdom Swim, so I got a prize which was the payment of camp fees for a distance training camp in Ireland, which is run by Ned Denison. They hold a qualifying swim for the English Channel where you swim continuously for six hours in water that’s 61 degrees or less. I saved enough money to fly out there and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. It was hard, but it was so worthwhile. The water was 55 degrees so only eight of the 50 people at the camp did the qualifying swim. I had never thought of myself as an athlete before, but here I was at this elite camp with all these Channel swimmers.

VS: I understand you planned to swim across Tampa Bay this year. How did that work out?

BB: The swim started in a sheltered area, but then there was an awful wind and the waves picked up. I was okay but my guide boat was taking on water and other boats were sinking so the Coast Guard started pulling swimmers out of the water and pulling boats to shore.

My boat captain decided to pull me out. I got on board and was feeling pretty sad, but I realized that it was still calm in the bay so my captain said I could keep swimming if I wanted to. My Garmin didn’t work part of the time, but I swam for 14 hours for 21-22 miles, which was almost the distance for going across the bay. I wanted to swim 20-plus miles in salt water to see what it was like and I did that. I also wanted to swim with dolphins and towards the end a dolphin came by and I could hear it singing.

I think of that swim as a real accomplishment. It wasn’t a recognized swim, but it was a great achievement to be pulled from the water and then get back in and keep going.

VS: When will you swim the English Channel?

BB: I’ll be going sometime between Sept.1-6 of this year. You go over and wait until the weather is good. There’s one person ahead of me so as soon as they finish, it’s my turn to say yay or nay. I’m feeling very confident, but you never know about the weather. There is no pool in Rutland so there isn’t a big swimming community for adults. I’m trying to use my Channel swim to gain attention to that. We’ve started Intrepid Athletics, which is a non-profit for getting a community-minded aquatic center built in Rutland.

VS: I understand your dog, Guri, is also quite the swimmer.

BB: I was working in the Kingdom and Phil White suggested I do the Lake Willoughby race, which is 4.75 miles, so I had Guri come with me. She swam the length of the lake right next to me. It was so funny because she got out and she was bounding around. How can you not be tired after that, but she’s only three or four so she has a lot of energy.

VS: Is there an aspect to distance swimming that others might not realize?

BB: One of the key points about swimming is that it’s a community thing. All of my swim training is made possible by my friends, my family and my church, and people who are willing to kayak with me. It’s an amazing journey, but it’s definitely not something I’m doing by myself. That’s a surprising aspect of swimming for some people. You need more than pool time and other swimmers. You need people who appreciate you and what you’re trying to do who help you make it happen.

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with her partner Bryan and two cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”