Fat vs. Fast

Fat vs. Fast

There’s an old saying about cold-water marathon swimming:

Either be fat, or be fast.

Is it oversimplified? Probably. Crass? Definitely. But there’s a kernel of truth worth examining. Thin swimmers have made it across the English Channel, but they’re usually fast. Slow swimmers have made it across the Channel, but they’re usually… carrying a healthy layer of bioprene.

The common factor: Core temperature must be preserved. Either generate heat, or retain it. Fast swimmers are good at generating heat. Fat swimmers are good at retaining it.

In the English Channel (from what I gather), it’s considered prudent for non-overweight swimmers to put on some weight, even if they’re “fast.” A Channel attempt is expensive and, unless your name is Petar Stoychev, just getting across is the main priority. Bioprene increases the probability of success.

But at what cost? How much does the extra weight slow you down? Swimming is a gravity-less activity, so obviously it matters less than in running or uphill cycling. Further, the flotational benefits of fat may improve your body position in the water.

In running, the rule of thumb is 2 seconds (faster) per mile per pound (lost).…

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Marathon Swimmers Forum after 20 days

Marathon Swimmers Forum after 20 days

Since its beta launch March 7 and its public launch March 12, the Marathon Swimmers Forum has attracted 230 registered members (and many more who benefit from its content anonymously), and over 23,000 page-views.

It’s already a remarkable community – vibrant, diverse, and global. The Forum brings together some of the most accomplished and knowledgeable marathon swimmers in the world, and puts them in the same “virtual” room with swimmers who may be attempting their first 10K swim.

The quality of the content is astonishing, and has exceeded even my own high expectations. As for quantity, well… no interpretation is necessary:

marathon swimmers forum stats
Forum Participation Statistics: March 6 - March 27

A Tale of Two Posts

The Forum recently benefited from “mentions” by two of the world’s best-known open-water swimming promoters: Steven Munatones, founder of Open Water Source and the Daily News of Open Water Swimming; and Paul Ellercamp, founder of Oceanswims in Australia. We appreciate their help in getting the word out.

Steve and Paul’s respective posts are an interesting study in contrasts. Donal and I provided no “press release” verbiage, aside from our initial blog posts, so their choice of words is their own.…

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A business idea: Super Swedes

A business idea: Super Swedes

These are swedish goggles:

swedish goggles

Swedes are only goggle I’ve worn since 1992, and are among the most iconic swim gear ever. Their sleek, minimalist esthetic transcends both time and nationality. Their simple construction renders them both disposable and indestructible. Here’s an interesting history of swedes (the goggles, not the people) from Malmsten AB.

So popular are swedes among competitive swimmers that Speedo was forced to offer Speedo-branded swedes (with original Malmsten lenses, naturally) so their sponsored athletes could wear swedes at the Olympics without being in breach of contract!

Swedes’ functional minimalism cuts both ways, though. They’re cheap goggles. The lenses scratch easily. The latex straps rarely last through more than a month of regular chlorine exposure (I opt for an after-market bungee strap).

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s this:

blueseventy carbon fiber goggles
Blueseventy carbonRZR goggles

The ultimate in superfluous luxury. Carbon-fiber frames? Anti-scratch polycarbonate lenses? It can be yours for $100 – same price, incidentally, as 25 pairs of swedes. There’s an appealing sort of geek cachet to goggles made from the same material as an airplane fuselage. I’d never buy them, though.…

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Watch and Learn

Watch and Learn

Chris Derks is a pretty OK swimmer — course-record holder and four-time winner of the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, 2004 MIMS champion, competitor in numerous pro races, and owner of an 8:32 English Channel crossing in 2001.

Yesterday Chris posted a video of his English Channel swim to the Marathon Swimmers Forum. It’s a quirky video – 30 minutes long, with random cuts to other races, and ending in the middle of a conversation (apparently Chris plans to upload the rest separately) – but I enjoyed it quite a lot. Chris is one of the best in the business, and it’s a rare treat to see him in action. Also, I dig his taste in music.

Check it out:

A few of my favorite parts:

  • 0:35 – Cool postcard shot of the marathon swimmer and… is that a battleship?!
  • 0:50-3:37 – Interview with Chris. Background & motivations. “I still want to race against kids who are half my age, and beat them…beat them hard.”
  • 3:38-5:47 – Nearly indecipherable interview with his coach.


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Announcement: The Marathon Swimmers Forum

Announcement: The Marathon Swimmers Forum

Donal Buckley and I are pleased to announce a new online community: marathonswimmers.org.

marathon swimmers forum

After a brief “quiet launch,” the forum already counts some of the most accomplished and knowledgeable marathon swimmers on the planet among its members. Whether you’re a current marathon swimmer, an aspiring one, a retired one – or just curious – we invite you to join their ranks.

Ask questions (there are no dumb ones). Discuss the latest exploits – from Dover, Manhattan, L.A., and Hawaii… to Perth, Wellington, Tarifa, and the Sea of Japan. Announce your friends’ swims and cheer them on.

marathonswimmers.org

2012 will, in all likelihood, be the most historic, exciting year in the history of marathon swimming. Follow it on The Marathon Swimmers Forum.…

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Freshwater Swimmer… in print!

Freshwater Swimmer… in print!

When I cracked open the latest (February/March) issue of H2open Magazine a few days ago, I did a bit of a double-take when I got to page 15:

h2open magazine, page 15

My humble, minimally-marketed, emphatically anti-populist marathon swimming blog is one of H2Open’s “favourite” OWS websites! Many thanks to Simon Griffiths and his team for this recognition. I’m truly hono(u)red.

Here’s a zoomed-in view:

Freshwater Swimmer in H2open magazine

And for good measure, here’s the front cover of the magazine.

h2open magazine

If you’re not already subscribed to this excellent publication, I urge you to get on that – stat.

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Water temperature in the Catalina Channel

Water temperature in the Catalina Channel

There are 14 years of publicly available data on the surface water temperature in the Catalina (a.k.a. San Pedro) Channel – via NOAA and CDIP. Unfortunately, that’s all it is – data. No summary statistics, no long-term charts – nothing particularly useful if you’re just looking for a simple, big-picture view of trends and cycles in sea temperature (perhaps to inform your upcoming swim across the channel).

So I decided to make one myself:

Catalina Channel water temperature, 1998-2012

NOAA buoys take readings every 30 minutes. Over 14 years, that works out to almost 239,000 observations. Don’t try this on an old computer! For a smoother line, I calculated a weekly average. Same data – just prettier.

If you really need more detail, I also made an interactive chart with daily-level resolution (5,044 observations). Keep in mind, Javascript is required to view the chart, and it probably won’t look good on mobile devices. If you’ve ever used Google Finance to view stock prices, the chart format will look familiar.

Summary Statistics by Day of Year

Sea temperature varies by season, but there are also year-to-year variations.…

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