Katrin Walter - Lake Zürich two-way

Rapperswil - Zürich - Rapperswil

52.8 km (32.8 miles)

17 hours, 25 minutes on 18 August 2018

Observed and documented by Charlie Masding



  • Name: Katrin Walter
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 40
  • Nationality: Switzerland
  • Resides: Buttikon, Switzerland

Support Personnel

  • Carmen Kappler - pilot
  • Jan Freitag - pilot
  • Steffen Gruber - crew, feeder, kayaker
  • Charlie Masding - observer

Escort Vessel: Cyrus (Richerswil)

Swim Parameters

Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.

Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Lake Zürich
  • Route Type: multi-way
  • Start and Finish Location: Lido ‘Schlossbadi’, Rapperswil (47.227273, 8.812492)
  • Turn-around Location: Strandbad (lido) Tiefenbrunnen, Zürich (47.352377, 8.554609)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 52.8 km (32.8 miles)

Note: this is the same course as the Lake Zurich Marathon (International Self-Transcendence) Swim, but double the distance.


Two known previous two-way Lake Zürich swims:

  • 1986 Prafulla Nocker - 28 hours from Zürich Bürkliplatz to Lido Rapperswil – back to Zürich Bürkliplatz
  • 1997 Vedika Bolliger - 29 hours from Zürich Lido Tiefenbrunnen to Lido Rapperswil – back to Zürich Lido Tiefenbrunnen

Swim Data

  • Start: 18 August 2018, 04:21:30, Europe/Zurich
  • Halfway: 13:16:10 (8:54:40 first half split)
  • Finish: 21:46:45 (8:30:35 second half split)
  • Elapsed: 17 hours, 25 minutes, 15 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 25 25
Air Temp (C) 17.8 24
Wind (kph) 2 6

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Maxim every 30 minutes

Observer Log

Download PDF


by Katrin Walter

The idea of another long swim started after I returned from New York this year after successfully completing all stages of the 8 Bridges Hudson river swim. I guess there was an emptiness that needed to be filled and I knew I was trained, fit and healthy; who knows what happens next year.

The thought of trying to swim further and/or longer was not totally new to me. After finishing the Tampa Bay Marathon swim 2015 in 11:53 (37 km) I was already hooked with the idea of swimming longer but was hesitant with night swims and organisation / documentation, hence I switched to the multiday event 8 Bridges in 2017 / 2018. After 8 Bridges in 2017 where I DNF at stage two I spontaneously started at the official Lake Zurich swim event the same year in August organised by Sri Chinmoy and knew that after a good rest in-between 2 big swims I can perform well again.

With that in my mind and the urge to challenge myself and fill the emptiness it was rather quick to plan ahead. To me the only open point was where and when. It needed to be a weekend due to lack of vacation days left and it should happen in August since there is another Marathon swim planned in September. Since I live near the lake and train in it often it was more of a decision by heart, also the rest of the crew lives around the lake area which helped with the planning. Lake Zurich is a clean, beautiful lake with clear and drinkable water, often you hug the shoreline while swimming and you can watch the villas on the lake. In the distance you ccan see the mountains depending on the weather though. As with many lakes when the weather is sunny and warm there can be a fair amount of boats and you will need to be cautious to cross the ferry and the cruise ships. The water heats up in summer usually up to 25C unfortunately the likelihood of thunderstorms are also higher in summer due to the geographical location.

With my friend Carmen who immediately agreed to join this adventure I already found my boat captain and together with her partner even a Co-Captain including her sailboat ”Cyrus”. No events can happen without my partner Steffen, acting as crew and support and in general my “bridge over troubled waters”. With Charlie a well known, passionate and experienced observer I gladly found my crew within days and we picked the weekend 18th/19th of August as our favourite weekend, of course depending on weather conditions.

The route direction was planned according to the winds we usually have on Lake Zurich, it’s likely you have headwinds as of late morning on the first leg towards Zurich and then if you are lucky the tailwinds for the second leg of the swim. I wanted to start early, but not too early that we could still get some sleep in. Also my thoughts were to have the darkness in the beginning of the swim and make usage of the daylight as much as possible. Hence we planned to start at 4am. That meant for me 5-6 hours of sleep could be possible the night before the swim with getting up at 2am. I was planning with 8:30h for the first leg and 9:30h for the second leg with a total time of 18:00 hours. Feedings were planned every 30 min on Maxim, Gels, and Coke/ Red Bull if required.

So far this “experiment” was exciting and fun, I knew I wanted to achieve it and felt really convinced I can do it and best of all I didn’t feel pressured (by myself what happens easily in my head) since I was in the comfortable situation to tell myself that I reached my goal with 8 Bridges already and anything else is like icing on a cake :-)

Swim / Challenges

We started at 04:21am, a tiny little bit later than planned. I thought we meet at 03:30am and start at 04:00am which was a bit tight, but no big deal. I didn’t change early since the boat was not there yet. Carmen told me on arrival at the start that the motor had an issue but it’s sorted. Hmm, lucky I was now busy prepping and there was no time to panic and I had trust in Carmen when she says it’s OK it’s OK.

We needed to change the start procedure a little because Charlie couldn’t see us on the shore since the boat needed to be further away than expected due to the shallow water in the bay area. So Charlie had to be transitioned into the Kayak for the start.

The first kilometres were peaceful and quiet, calm water and I easily found my rhythm. I can’t remember what I was thinking or doing until shortly before Meilen which is around halfway of the first way. I was in my happy place feeling like being in trance. Towards Meilen I was told we would lose our online tracker at some stage as they couldn’t find the re-charging cable. This brought me right into the “real world” stopping often asking “did you check this bag, maybe that bag, by the time the tracker falls out please ensure to call my parents as they would be concerned..stuff like that”. I know this is not a big deal but my head kept spinning around that topic and I couldn’t find something else to think about to distract me.

Right on time when stopping again to ask something really unimportant I heard someone shouting from the Ferry dock at Meilen. It was a friend stopping by to say hello and waving and I was so surprised by Sandro’s appearance that I honestly forgot about the missing cable and it literally clicked in my head.

I focused on passing the big Ferry boat and then thinking for a while of the unexpected visitor; smiling and drifted off again into my happy place where I managed to stay until round about Küssnacht. Around this area you leave the shore line and swim in more in the open water and you feel the headwinds stronger and the water is a bit rougher. Also in this area you can see the finish line or in my case the halfway point at Lido Tiefenbrunnen, which of course doesn’t come closer. Seeing the end of a swim in the distance causes troubles in my head, it’s known to me but apparently I cannot handle this very well.

The good thing at this point was that we were all close together at this stage, the Kayak towed at the back of the boat. I could see the whole crew and they seemed to get along well, making a relaxed impression. What I didn’t know at this stage was that they had motor issues again earlier on while Steffen was kayaking next to me. I saw them in the distance zigzagging across the lake and at one point I made a comment to them if they were doing a sightseeing cruise. Well, they tried to sail towards Zurich with the wrong winds for them. At some point they found the problem and fixed the motor in the water by diving and cleaning.

When approaching the halfway point the next surprise visitor appeared! Martyn came all the way from Rapperswil to Lido Tiefenbrunnen to say hello and wishing me good luck for my return leg, telling now it will be all good with the light tailwind on the return leg. I remember thinking that this was twice the finish for me already in 2014 and 2017 but not today. Not that I was utterly tired or in pain but this is the end of the yearly scheduled event, that’s when you are done and now you have to do it all over again.

Until now I’m not sure if it’s easier to swim a long one way marathon swim or do a two way, where you know exactly what you still have ahead. I guess I need to find that out one day, most probably sooner than later ;-). Martyn send me of with “Go get it girl” - spirits lifted again and after a 45 seconds of rest and a short but much appreciated pep talk we were on the way of the second leg.

Carmen and Jan tested different sails to match more or less my speed. I asked about my time for the first leg and was not really happy with 8:54h. I’m not sure if it was light headwinds or me mentally drifting away most of the way. I really love being in that happy place, this is when you forget the time, distance and your surroundings but I also know I’m faster when I stay focused.

At this point after round about 29 km it was becoming harder to go into this happy place, the first leg time was slightly bothering me. So, I wanted to make up some time, an utterly annoying habit! I started counting strokes, asked for some gels to help providing additional power, watching my arm movements. I felt fast(er) the winds helping as well. The boat with the big sails next to me, so big and impressive, me feeling so small.

At one point Steffen swam with me shortly, he said “you are too fast” which was a good sign. Sad, he couldn’t swim with me, but in my head the translation was “yes you are still fast”. Actually the time stamp in Meilen proved my feeling right we were faster. I was shortly pleased with myself.

Suddenly I felt weaker which usually comes along with grumpiness. I tried to stay calm but it was getting complicated in my head again. Also I started disliking my drinks. Still took them, but it was difficult to get them down. I kept stopping more often to ask where I am and about the elapsed time. I started drinking Coke for a push but it didn’t provide the expected help.

Now I was feeling the already covered distance and time in the water and was getting impatient to get to the end and out of the water. Going into happy place was not working anymore. I think my pace was not even radically dropping as was my stroke rate, just the feeling. The nice sunset was passing by; I didn’t really realize it anymore. This beautiful sunset we had on the meanwhile quiet lake again was not able to get my attention and lift my spirits, very sad.

Towards the end of the swim for the last 10 km give or take, my memories got blurry. I still stopped frequently and asked questions but I can’t recall details. Finally I could see the castle located where the Lido Rapperswil is. The castle was lighted up nicely but I couldn’t guess any distances. Actually, I know the rough distance of the bay area towards the Lido or castle but somehow this information was missing in my head or blogged. Unfortunately, I was also unable anymore to break down the last patch into smaller sections like just thinking forward until the next feed or just telling myself one stroke after the after. But at no point during the swim I wanted to quit or exiting the water, deep down I was still determined to finish and didn’t lose confidence. There was no question about that even this might sound abstract.

Finally I saw flashing lights from the finish, I had no idea who that was at that stage, but I noticed that someone on the boat was answering to those lights. I instinctively knew I had to swim towards that light. Suddenly I was there; Martyn and his wife were there to welcome me! He and Steffen provided some light to help me finding my way out of the dark water, there are lots of sharp stones. I managed to stand up after a couple of tries, feeling a bit like a toddler on his first steps or drunk. But suddenly it was done; I was back at the start. – 52.8 km in 17:25:15! The second leg of the swim was actually faster than the first we did it in 8:30h.

I’m so happy for the support and help from Steffen, Carmen, Jan, Charlie, Martyn and his wife as well as Sandro who were there for me when I needed them to accomplish my longest swim up to date.

I might be a good swimmer but I’m honestly bad with showing how deeply grateful I am and what their efforts and time spend on this adventure really meant to me. It’s now my turn to give something back!

After a bad and short night sleep my spirits were lifted by reading all the kind and supportive messages during and after the swim from around the Globe, unbelievable this community! Thank you all!


Click to enlarge.