Stroke of Friendship

A friend of mine recently asked who the next Guest Swimmer would be for Free Swim, and my response was, "I don’t know," but then, on second thought, I said, "Maybe I should ask Katie Hoff, one of the greatest swimmers of all time, right?" My friend was like, "Hell yeah!"

Katie Hoff: A three-time Olympic medalist and former world record holder, her legacy in swimming is legendary.

Her illustrious career includes representing the United States in multiple Olympics, where she showcased remarkable talent and determination. 

With a string of accolades and accomplishments, including numerous national and international titles, Katie's impact on the sport continues to inspire aspiring athletes worldwide.

I’m not exactly sure when I first met Katie, but I sought out her expertise early in our relationship. I was gearing up for Ultraman, and my swimming skills needed serious work.

So, I struck a deal with her – she'd give me lessons, and in return, I'd lend her a hand with a book and speech she was working on. It was a win-win.

Katie came out to my place in Connecticut, and we hit the lake for a swim lesson. And let me tell you, it was an experience and a half – I got way more than improved swimming skills, and we’ve become great friends. She’s the best.

So, get ready to dive into this Free Swim session with Katie Hoff, our Guest Swimmer.


To know Jesse is to love Jesse. But to know Jesse is also to fall prey to his competitive spirit and find yourself in the midst of a wild challenge.
Like many before me, I couldn't resist getting caught up in his antics. It happened on the eve of the Hell on the Hill event in Connecticut, and we were lounging on his deck overlooking the lake. Everyone was enjoying lemonade, the evening breeze, and a beautiful sunset when Jesse posed a challenge – that he and his friends, Kevin and Tim, could cross the lake before I could cross it there and back.
It didn’t sound fair, but remember, I taught him a few summers ago, and I knew how slow... I mean... how fast he was. Not one to back down, I stood up, stared across the lake, and gauged the distance with my eyes—I can do it.
“You’re on,” I said.
And then the next thing I knew, Coach Chris was getting roped into it too. Coach Chris, an Olympian himself, joined in on my side, and before we knew it, they started talking crap like they were pool rats.
Armed with his trusty workout stats, Tim pulled up their previous year's time, sparking the challenge to beat their group time.
The rules were simple: I would swim across the lake, and then Coach Chris would swim back before Jesse, Kev, and Tim would swim one way. The wager? Bragging rights!
Excitement grew as we prepared for the challenge; the live stream was set up on Instagram, adding to the pressure with thousands of people joining in on the fun.
So, Chris and I strategized, with me leading off and him anchoring, strategically positioned on opposite ends of the lake.
As the "buzzer" sounded, my adrenaline surged. I sprinted off, aiming to see them over halfway across before tagging Chris, who would then sprint to catch up. But swimming in open water presented new challenges.
Accustomed to the clear lines of a pool, I relied on my new friend Nate in a kayak for direction. Little did I know, I was unwittingly swimming extra distance due to navigation errors.
Damn you, Nate!
As I passed them on the lake, I heard Kevin scream, “You suck,” which made me laugh.
Not fair.
Despite the setback, we put up a fierce fight, but the guys edged us out by two minutes, celebrating their victory with a bit of smack talk. While the loss stung, it was all good fun, with playful banter and camaraderie filling the air.
With a rematch on the horizon, Coach Chris and I are gearing up for another shot at victory, eager to redeem ourselves and claim our title.
The lesson here is this—if Jesse ever sucks you into a crazy challenge, and he will, you must take it... but don’t underestimate him!

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