Katie Pumphrey swam across the English Channel. That involves a lot of training and a lot of eating. Check out what Pumphrey needs to eat on a normal day just to keep her strength up. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

It's show time for Katie Pumphrey, the artist and chronic pain-sufferer from Baltimore who is preparing to swim the English Channel. Sometime between Aug. 8 and 13, depending on the weather and tides, she'll slip into the water off Dover, Britain and try to reach Cap Gris Nez on the coast of France, 21 miles away, about 12 hours later. The shifting currents make it very likely that the distance will be greater than that.

Her training for one of the world's most difficult endurance challenges complete, there's little Pumphrey can do except pack, taper the length of her practices and rest for the big day. The 27-year-old painter and swim coach has been training for two years for the swim, a goal she set for herself after discovering that intense exercise helped with the mysterious pains that her doctor believes are caused by fibromyalgia. She also has raised the more than $15,000 needed to finance the effort.

[Chronic pain drives woman to take on the English Channel]

Her efforts peaked during one eight-day stretch in June when she swam 60,000 meters. She often spent three or four hours in the water during her two daily training sessions.

"It’s all been a lot harder than I thought [it would be]," she said recently. "It’s a long time to stay focused on something...I’ve had fun training. I’ve had fun working with people I love to do this. But it’s also asking people you love to sacrifice things. And that’s hard."

Pumphrey also had one problem many of us would envy: eating enough to keep her weight up. At 5 foot 5 1/2, she weighs 150 pounds, with enough body fat to help keep her warm in the chilly channel water.

Eating with abandon has its pleasures, Pumphrey said, including ice cream every day. But "sometimes I was just so tired that I didn’t’ feel like eating. Chewing was an effort sometimes. It was hard to cook something after I was done. Or to eat enough to go and swim again." (Yes, I'm sure she waited a half hour before getting back in the water.)

[Think your workout is hard? Consider Katie Pumphrey's week]

I asked Pumphrey to keep a food diary during a tough training week and videographer Whitney Leaming, who has been tracking Pumphrey's progress with photographer Jonathan Newton and me, made the cool video of one day's nourishment that you can see above.

Her daily intake ranged from a paltry 3,228 calories to an impressive 4,612. (An average American woman consumes about 1,785 calories per day, though an active woman in her 20s can handle 2,400, according to government guidelines.) That big day included three breakfast tacos, a sausage omelet, Indian food dinner and, of course, ice cream. (The whole week's menu, with calorie counts,  is below, in glorious or excruciating detail, depending on your perspective.)

Other pleasures: doubling up on doughnuts, a latte or cappuccino instead of coffee and (I'm not making this up) hamburgers with peanut butter and bacon.

Breakfast is her favorite meal. It can include fried or sweet potatoes, eggs over medium, bacon, sausage and occasionally a pancake.

"I’m hungry, then I eat, and then I’m hungry not much later," she said.

Only 1,538 people have completed solo swims across the channel, 477 of them women, according to the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation. (In contrast, more than 4,000 people have summited Mt. Everest.) We'll let you know how Pumphrey does.

Katie Pumphrey - Diet during monster week of training

Monday
16oz Coffee w/cream [45]
Cliff Bar- white chocolate macadamia nut
[260]
Banana [100]
-SWIM->3 Vanilla Bean GU [300]
6oz Cappucino [90]
Ham, egg, & Chedder on Biscuit [500]
Oatmeal [170]
Greek Yogurt, Vanilla - w/ granola [300]
Dried Mango [260]
Brown Rice, green beans, chicken [340]
Peanut Butter Pretzels [150]
-SWIM
Kale Salad [200]
Burger w/ peanut butter, bacon + potato
wedges [600]
2 beers (Flying Dog Easy IPA) [252]
[3,567 total]

Tuesday
16oz Coffee w/ Half&Half [45]
Kashi Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola Bar
[120]
-SWIM-> 2 Vanilla Bean GU [200]
16oz Iced Coffee w/cream [40]
Dried Mango [260]
Breakfast Burrito [690]
Dried Mango [260]
Baked 3 eggs, sweet potatoes, yellow
onions, spinach, cheddar cheese, avocado
[1,076]
Strawberry Yogurt w/ vanilla blueberry
granola [300]
Peanut Butter Pretzels [300]
-SWIM
Spaghetti w/ meat sauce [740]
1 Beer (In Heat Wheat) [138]
Ice Cream - Ben & Jerry’s, Half Baked [405]
[4,574 total3]

Wednesday
16oz. coffee w/cream [42]
Banana [100]
-SWIM- 2 Vanilla Bean Gu [200]
16oz coffee w/cream [42]
Eggs w/ Spinach, cheddar cheese, and
bacon [440]
Vanilla Greek Yogurt & Granola [270]
-YOGA -90minHotyoga
16oz Latte [190]
Leftovers- Steak, brussel sprouts w/ onion,
bacon, brown rice [680]
Trail mix [190]
Thai Food-> Chicken Panang w/brown rice,
Pad Thai [1,342]
Sticky Rice w/mango [270]
[3,566 total]

Thursday
16oz coffee w/cream [42]
banana [100]
cliff bar- white choc. macadamia nut [260]
-SWIM
16oz Breve [426]
Greek vanilla yogurt & granola [270]
Leftovers- Steak, brussel sprouts w/ onion,
bacon, brown rice [580]
Ice cream- cherry & chocolate chuck (local)
[400]
Trail mix [190]
-SWIM
Sausage Mac & cheese [300]
Brussel Sprouts, onion, mushrooms [260]
Ice cream- cherry & chocolate chuck (local)
[400]
[3,228 total]

Friday
16oz coffee w/cream [42]
banana [100]
cliff bar- white choc. macadamia nut [260]
-SWIM
Omelet w/sausage, ch. cheese, green
onions, avocado & potatos [740]
6oz. Cappucino [90]
-YOGA -90minHotyoga
Toasted Coconut ice cream on sugar cone
[400]
Trail Mix [190]
3 Breakfast Tacos-> tortilla wrapped
scrambled eggs w/ spinach, onions, cheese,
avacado, hot sauce [720]
Greek vanilla yogurt & granola [270]
Peanut Butter Pretzels [300]
Ice cream- chocolate peanut butter [300]
Indian Food-> Rice, Nan, Chicken mascala,
Lamb X. [900]
2 Beers (IPAs) [300]
[4,612 total]

Saturday
16oz coffee w/cream [42]
Crepe w/banana & peanut butter [220]
Crepe w/ bacon, cheese, & herbs [300]
Leftover Indian Food [500]
Ice cream-> chocolate cherry chuck (local)
[300]
-SWIM- 2 Vanilla Bean GU [200]
Peanut Butter Pretzels [300]
Greek vanilla yogurt & granola [270]
BBQ Chicken Pizza w/ kale & onions [990]
Ice cream-> chocolate cherry chuck (local)
[300]
2 Beers (IPAs) [300]
[3,722 calories]

Sunday
16oz coffee w/cream [42]
cliff bar- white choc. macadamia nut [260]
-SWIM
12oz. Cappuccino [160]
Scrambled Eggs w/spinach & cheese [450]
Potatoes [170]
Oatmeal w/brown sugar & dried cherries [300]
Chicken Sausage Links [130]
Quinoa w/grilled asparagus, sweet potato, beets [360]
Dried Mango [160]
Ice cream->Coffee chocolate chuck (local) [200]
-SWIM
Peanut Butter Pretzels [300]
Chips & Salsa [120]
Watermelon Salad w/onion, basil, dressing [120]
Corn on cob w/butter [100]
Baked Mac & cheese [420]
Bbq pork spare ribs [560]
2 beers (Dales Pale Ale) [390]
Ice Cream - Ben & Jerry’s, Half Baked [270]
[4,512 total]

 

Read more:

Yesterday’s coffee science: It’s good for the brain. Today: Not so fast…*
Scientists have synthesized a new compound that ‘mimics’ exercise. Could a workout pill be far behind?
Next stop for IBM's Watson: Your local CVS pharmacy
How you talk to your baby now can impact social skills later
Why DARPA is paying people to watch Alfred Hitchcock cliffhangers