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Posted: September 11, 2019

Adventurous spirit led to memorable 70th birthday

College of the Rockies People: Their Courage, Curiosity, and Contributions

Kathleen Bouzaara

College of the Rockies Administrative Assistant Kathleen Bouzaara (or Kae as she’s known by her colleagues) has never shied away from adventure. After graduating from high school in Kimberley, she travelled to England to work as an au pair before moving on to a job as a nanny in Germany. After a brief return to Canada for college, she returned to Germany for an additional four years of employment as a secretary.

Bouzaara began working at College of the Rockies in the early 1990s, remaining for a decade before embarking on her next adventure, teaching English in China. She spent five years in Changchun before returning to Cranbrook and rejoining the college.

In 2018, Bouzaara, an avid CBC radio listener, learned of the Interior Savings Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna through an interview with a 69-year old woman who was planning to take part. Following the completion of the event, she heard another interview, this time with a 70-year old woman who had finished the swim despite a really strong current. Bouzaara, who would celebrate her 70th birthday in 2019, had found her next adventure.

“As someone who has spent a lot of time swimming, I thought it was maybe something I could consider trying,” she said. “It would be a nice way to mark my 70th birthday.”

The Interior Savings Across the Lake Swim is the largest and longest-running open water swim event in Canada. The 2.1 kilometre swim takes place on Okanagan Lake and was recently recognized as one of the top swims in the world by The 2019 race marked the 71st edition of the event.

Before exiting the water, Kathleen (green swim cap) thanks the event volunteer who helped keep her on course during the swim.

Already a regular at the pool at Western Financial Place, Bouzaara trained by gradually increasing her laps from her standard 50 or 60 up to 90 to 100.

“I figured I would need to be able to do about 90 laps in order to be able to complete the race,” she said. “So I slowly worked my way up to being able to complete 100, just to be sure.”

When the weather allowed, Bouzaara would move her training to JimSmith Lake, her favourite place for lake swimming due to the lack of boats.

The Across the Lake Swim took place on July 20, 2019. Nerves and anticipation made sleep the night before near impossible. The morning of the race, Bouzaara rose to cool and drizzly weather. Participants had to wait to be transported to the starting point with only their swimming cap, goggles, and timing band, making it a chilly start to the day. But once in the water, Bouzaara felt at home.

Thanks, to her training, successful therapy on a sore shoulder over the winter and spring, and calm waters, she successfully completed the swim in 1:32:19. Her biggest challenge was staying on course.

The finish line at the Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna, B.C.

“I tend to swim to the right so was happy to have a very nice volunteer reminding me to adjust my line of direction,” she said. “I thought I would need about 90 minutes to complete the swim so I was really happy with my time, especially considering I didn’t stay on a straight line.”

Bouzaara’s oldest son, Sascha, also completed the swim. They were met at the finish by a dozen family members including her younger son Ned, and her two grandsons Fynn and Micah.

“I knew they were coming but it was very heartwarming to have Sascha take part in the swim and to have the rest of the family at the finish line,” Bouzaara said. “I was thankful to have them all there.”

Kathleen, post-race, shows off her event towel.

Post-race, they had a mini family reunion over brunch at a nearby restaurant.

“Everyone else had breakfast. Sascha and I had beer and a salad,” Bouzaara said.

Discussion has already started about next year’s race.

“Sascha is definitely thinking about it,” Bouzaara said. “We learned things this year that would make it easier next year. I think for me, again, it would depend on the condition of the lake, but it’s definitely a possibility.”

Lead image: Kathleen celebrates completing the swim with her sons Sascha (left) and Ned. Photos submitted

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