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Meet GTD Swimmer Katherine (Graham) Merkle

Water is her job, too

Greta Van Meeteren | December 5, 2011

Katherine (Graham) Merkle, 29, with Indy Aquatic Masters, is a civil engineer specializing in water resources—planning and designing sewers and wastewater treatment plants, drinking water systems, and storm water systems for municipalities. She really enjoys creating a vision for the utility for the city, town, or district that she is working for.

Between work, swimming, spending time with her boyfriend, occasionally helping him fix up his 80-year-old house, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, as well as still having some down time, she stays pretty busy.

Graham took swim lessons at age four, swam summer league at six, and started to swim year round when she was eight. At 16 she was injured and burned out, so she took 10 years off. She started Masters swimming about three years ago, after a running injury prevented her from continuing to run. Graham goes to swim meets two or three times a year. Indiana has their state meet in March and her team has generally gone to YMCA nationals in April too.

Swimming a major part of your life. “First of all, I enjoy it. Secondly, I've made many friends since I joined the team and we actually do get together on a fairly regular basis. Thirdly, I tend to be a bit high strung and anxious, so swimming usually keeps those under control pretty well. Plus it's a fantastic stress reliever"

Graham tries to swim five days a week. Her work schedule gets crazy sometimes and then she only makes three or four. Her team's practices are usually in the 3,000-4,000 yard range, some higher, some lower depending on the type of workout. When she swims on her own, especially training for the 10K this summer, she'll do an extra 1,000 yards or so.

She has always been a distance freestyler, but enjoys more middle distance events now and is a big fan of the 200 and 500 free. She is also enjoying breaststroke right now, which she didn’t swim a lot growing up.

Graham prefers pool swimming more than open water. "I need to know how far I've gone, how much I have left, what pace I'm swimming, what time it is, etc. Open water swimming for me just keeps going, and going, and going. I did both a 5K open water and the 10K postal this summer and would rather do the 10K postal again over the 5K open water just because the 10K was in a pool," she says.

She signed up for Go the Distance to keep herself motivated to swim the yards she needed to be able to do well in the 10K. Her advice for other GTD swimmers?

“Set a realistic goal and don't forget to factor in times you know you won't be in the water. Five hundred miles seemed challenging but doable when I set the initial goal. I only have 40 miles left to swim in December to hit it, so I'm on pace to do it. It was about 10 miles per week, and swimming five days a week at about 3,500 yards a day, perfectly doable. What I forgot to factor in were things like taper for Y Nationals, vacations, and the month my shoulder bothered me after Y Nationals this year that all reduced my yardage. I caught up again and got ahead and then got sick near the end of a vacation that kept me out of the water for almost a week, which then made me need to catch back up again." She is looking forward to making her goal of 500 miles and her swimsuit prize for making it.

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