forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit. – The Aeneid, Book 1
Last year I undertook an ambitious program of marathon swims:
- in April, the 24-mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim;
- in June, the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim;
- in August, a 20.1-mile solo crossing of the Catalina Channel;
- in October, the 17.5-mile Ederle Swim from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Manhattan.
While I usually keep my personal life out of this space, in this case it’s essential to understanding my experiences this year. I undertook this schedule of swims while going through a divorce (a process that began 4 days before MIMS), and while moving 2,100 miles from Chicago to California.
Yep – it was an interesting year.…
End-of-year list-making: It’s not just for music aficionados, film buffs, and the New York Times Book Review. Why not open water swimmers, too?
So, here are my 11 favorite open-water “happenings” of 2011 (“happenings” because they’re not all swims).
The list is, admittedly, U.S.-centric – America is where I live and what I pay the closest attention to. While I greatly admire (for example) Nejib Belhedi’s 1400K Swim Across Tunisia, I have no unique insights to add to what others have already said. Perhaps Donal or somebody can make an international list.
The list also reflects my own personal biases. I readily admit, I couldn’t care less about “stunts” in which the promotional efforts are more impressive than the swim itself. Sorry, but I find such things distasteful and think they degrade our sport.…
The blog has been rather text-heavy lately. This post should fix that.
The Santa Barbara Ocean Ducks gather Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Goleta Beach County Park, and Sundays at Butterfly Beach in Montecito (plus Saturdays in the summer). It’s a diverse, friendly group of folks, and even this late in the year you can expect to see 8-10 of us in the water during the week; more on the weekends.
Typically we head out in groups of 2 or 3 according to speed. There are a variety of possible swim routes. Here’s one of my favorites (click to enlarge):
Goleta Beach to Campus Point
From our meeting place next to the shower head (west of the restaurant and pier, east of the restroom), we make our way beyond the surf line, 100-150m offshore.…
Previously, we’ve looked at some general stats on Catalina Channel finishing times, and the growth in participation since George Young’s pioneering swim in 1927. What about gender differences? (Taking a page from Katie’s playbook…)
From 1927-2004, there were 90 successful swims by men and 44 successful swims by women (a ratio of 2.05 to 1). From 2005-2011, there were 80 successful swims by men and 49 successful swims by women (a ratio of 1.63 to 1). So, the gap is narrowing…a bit.
Here, again, it would interesting to see the data on failed swims. Is the ratio of men to women the same for failed swims as for successful swims?
Side note: I decided to split the data-set at 2005 because it offered similarly-sized groupings, and because this was the year when there was a surge in popularity of Catalina Channel swimming (possibly due to the advent of the “triple crown”).…
In the last post I bemoaned the lack of credible science about marathon swimming. One is reminded of the William Goldman quote about the movie industry: Nobody knows anything.
Here’s a good example. A few days ago a Facebook friend linked to an intriguing-looking article. Published on a science-y looking website (“Your one-stop resource for longevity, health, exercise, nutrition, and scientific articles all to help you live a longer, fuller life”), the article is authored by marathon swimmer Don Macdonald.
One section seemed of particular interest: “Nutritional Demands of Open Water Endurance Swimming.” An excerpt:
Nutritional endurance demands biochemical changes of your body. The basic calculation for the amount of calories burned while swimming is 2.93 calories per mile, per pound. I weigh 207 pounds, and therefore burn 14,556 calories in a 24-mile swim, (2.93 calories x 24 miles x 207 pounds = 14,556 calories).
In my experience, the day before a marathon swim is almost invariably a hassle. Just when you most need to be resting, you find yourself running around an unfamiliar town in search of various items you forgot to pack. From Tampa in April, to MIMS in June, to Catalina last month, I’ve gradually streamlined the process – but there always seem to be last-minute tasks. And even the most experienced marathon swimmers will tell you it’s almost impossible to pull it all together without the help of a friend or significant other.
Most people resort to writing a checklist at some point. The list will vary slightly between swims – and swimmers – but there are common themes. My list reflects hard-earned experience over three 20+ mile swims in a single season.…
A few more volleys in the debate, from:
First, thanks to Scott for the generous mention of my post from a few days ago.
In Dave’s response, he emphasizes maintaining a clear distinction between channel-rules swims and performance-enhanced (i.e., wetsuited) swims, but stops short of agreeing with Scott that wetsuited swimming “isn’t swimming.” An important question remains:
If wetsuited swimming is “swimming,” what specifically distinguishes it from channel-rules swimming, and how does this affect how we judge achievements in each category?…
UPDATE 9/8/2011. Please read my follow-up post.
UPDATE 9/12/2011. Another follow-up.
“What’s Wrong with Marathon Swimming” is the title of a recent op-ed/essay/rant by Scott Zornig, president of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association. Zornig’s piece, distributed through the SBCSA mailing list and Facebook page, has sparked some interesting discussion – but frankly, I haven’t heard many opposing voices. Shows who my friends are, I s’pose.
Three issues, basically, moved Scott to wield his poison pen:
- Wetsuits. Specifically, the use of them during marathon swims.
- Bootlegging – i.e., attempting a marathon swim without paying dues to the relevant governing body to have it officially observed and ratified.
- The misuse of the media. In particular, people who use the media to promote and glorify marathon “swims” in which traditionally accepted Channel Rules are not followed (e.g., wetsuits).
Recovery drinks are expensive. My go-to “branded” recovery drink – Hammer Nutrition’s Recoverite - retails for $50/tub. That works out to $1.56 per serving (2 level scoops of powder, mixed in 10 oz water), which might not seem like a lot, but multiplied by 5 workouts/week and 52 weeks/year adds up to $405.
Chocolate milk, of course, is a perfectly acceptable alternative. And at $2.99 per half-gallon, the cost per 10-oz serving goes down to $0.47 ($122/year, a 70% savings). My favorite supermarket-bought recovery drink, though, is Silk Soy chocolate milk – at $3.99/half-gal, still only $0.62 per 10 oz).
Two downsides to chocolate milk: refrigeration and expiration (and therefore, more frequent shopping trips). Powder-based drinks such as Recoverite travel better and, in my opinion, taste better at room temperature.…
An excerpts from an interview with Kevin Murphy, the real “King of the English Channel”:
I don’t regard myself as a great swimmer. What I’ve got is an overwhelming ability to keep going, physically and mentally; I’ve got this obsessive willpower to keep going. As a swimmer, there are lots of people who are much better than me; there are a lot of swimmers who are a lot fitter than me. But the point about what we do is… I like to say that 50% of it is willpower; 25% swimming ability; and 25% fitness. The only thing about it is, the fitter you are and the better swimmer you are, the less it hurts psychologically.
Kevin was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1977 – and the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2009.…
The 2011 open water season hasn’t even started yet, but I have an important announcement to make regarding my plans for 2012.
I call it the “Four Lakes, Three Rivers, and a Canal” Swim.
Mid-June of 2012 I’ll set off from the mouth of the Chicago River and swim 375 miles north to the Straits of Mackinac. From there I’ll swim the 250-mile length of Lake Huron to the St. Clair River, which will lead me (via Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River) into Lake Erie. I’ll then swim 250 miles across Lake Erie (hugging the Canadian shore) to Buffalo, where I will enter the Erie Canal. From there it’s 360 miles to the Hudson River near Albany. Finally, I’ll take a 140-mile “victory lap” down the Hudson to New York City!…
Note: I wrote a follow-up review of the Swimsense in May 2013.
The FINIS Swimsense Performance Monitor is a watch that, through various marvels of technology, monitors your pace, lap count, and stroke count as you swim.
I still maintain that for interval training, nothing beats a pace clock. Doc Counsilman’s ’50s-era invention will never go out of style. For long steady-state training, though, a watch that monitors laps, strokes, and pace might be nice. Personally, I can’t keep a good count after about 40-50 (more if the pace clock is large and digital).
In my case, it’s no idle question: I’m doing some long swims this year, and steady-state training is a regular part of the training diet.
But with niche products like this, one inevitably asks: Does it work?…
Last weekend I did a rather epic pool workout (as you know if you follow my Twitter feed). An unexpected excuse came up for a quick trip to Santa Barbara, and given my current lack of long course or open water options in Chicago, I decided to use the opportunity for a pre-Tampa training swim. The Rec Center at UCSB has a beautiful outdoor 50m x 25y pool that – conveniently – is open for LCM lap swimming from 9am to 8:30pm on the weekends.
Despite a chilly morning, it turned into a gorgeous day. With cloudless skies, a light breeze, and mid-day highs in the 60s, I actually worried about getting sunburned. When the front door opened at 9am I went straight to the pool to claim my lane – second from the bottom of the picture, with the best viewing angle to the pace clock.…
Many open-water swimmers seem to have origin stories. A moment of revelation when one identifies – in a powerful and lasting way – with the experience of being in open water. In reality it’s usually more of a process than a single moment, but often there’s a particular event that seems to crystallize that process and lend it symbolic meaning (perhaps only retrospectively).
One of the great legends of open water swimming, Lynne Cox, turned her own origin story into an award-winning book. Cox’s story, too, was a process – but she also describes a moment from which the rest of the moments in her incredible career seem to flow. In 1971, she entered the Seal Beach Rough Water Swim and, as a 14-year old, won the women’s race and beat all but two of the men.…
Among swimmers, runners, cyclists, weightlifters – really, any athlete in a quantifiable sport – it’s common practice to keep a training log. In high school and college, I kept a log only sporadically – and I really regret it now. I’d love to look back on some of the sets I did in those days.
Since I got back into swimming a year and a half ago, I’ve been much more conscientious about keeping a log, and I think it’s really helped – motivating me to get to practice, and helping me gauge progress. I split my training log between two documents: a text file where I write what I did in each workout (sets, intervals, times, etc.), and a spreadsheet where I log the total distance I swim each day.…
Five months until MIMS! In the meantime, some data porn for your enjoyment (click to enlarge):
The NYC Swim website has MIMS results as far back as 1915, but the modern version of MIMS as an annual marathon swim race began in 1982, when Drury Gallagher founded the Manhattan Island Swimming Association.
The chart above shows every MIMS finishing time from 1982-2010 (black dots), along with the slowest, fastest, and median time of each year (blue, green, & red lines, respectively). Only participants in the annual MIMS race are shown – no solo attempts (e.g., Shelley Taylor-Smith’s record swim of 5:45 in 1995).
Despite my best efforts, the 2010 open-water season is now over! Like Rob, my original plan was relatively modest compared to the end result (though it seemed ambitious at the time). At first, I aimed to run the gauntlet of USMS open-water national championship series – North Carolina, California, Colorado, Virginia, and Indiana – and finish off the season at Big Shoulders in Chicago.
As the year wore on, I found excuses – one by one – to add more events. For the Nike Swim Miami, it was an excuse to visit an old college roommate. For the Cascade Lakes Festival, I got to meet up with my parents and visit my grandmother. For Madison, the drive from Chicago was too short to pass up.…
Summer’s almost gone in Chicago. The winds are picking up; white caps on the lake are a little more frequent; the morning temperatures have a little more bite; the evenings a little less light. Soon, the lake will turn over, bringing the cold depths to the surface, and the air will fail to warm them.
So, it’s about time that I write about my favorite little corner of Lake Michigan: the cove formed by the southern face of Promontory Point and the 59th Street Pier, with the 57th Street Beach in between. “The Point” has been used by long-distance swimmers for decades, who appreciate its several unique features:…