Battling the Brine

Battling the Brine

An old friend informs me (and he would know – he swam the 10K at the 2008 Olympics) that the dehydration I experienced in Miami may have been more perceived than actual. Saltwater in the mouth and throat can induce craving for fresh water even when your body is adequately hydrated. More important, he suggests, is energy. While I did stash a gel pack in my suit (and consumed it at the 5K mark), he says he’d actually take 3 or 4 during a 10K.

In any case, don’t drink the saltwater!

One important issue I didn’t mention in my race report is chafing. I didn’t mention it because, I suppose, it’s one of the few things I did right that day.

Saltwater is highly abrasive, and without preventive measures you can develop some nasty irritation – even on a short, half-hour swim. Anywhere your skin rubs together – especially in the armpit region – is vulnerable.

The solution? A liberal application, with rubber gloves, of a mixture of 50% anhydrous lanolin, 50% vaseline. Vaseline has good consistency and is easy to remove, but less staying power in a long swim.…

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Race Report – Nike Swim Miami 2010

Race Report – Nike Swim Miami 2010

Results posted here.

Two weeks ago a trip to Miami was not even on my radar. Then out of the blue an old college friend (both roommate and swim team-mate) emailed me about doing a relay for the Swim Around Key West. Sadly I had another commitment that weekend, but out of curiosity I went Googling for other races in South Florida (he lives in Miami) and — lo and behold — there’s a race in Miami April 17th!

Catch up with old roomie and his family? Escape from Ohio in April? Start my O.W. season 6 weeks earlier than planned? It was a no-brainer.…

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Increase effortlessness, not effort

Increase effortlessness, not effort

I want to expand for a moment on the concept (discussed in the previous post) of increasing effortlessness rather than effort – within a set and over the course of a taper.

In a typical swim taper, in which athletes are preparing for events of 100 or 200m (or at most 1500m), it’s common to gauge the taper’s progress by monitoring pace times in practice. Over the course of a taper, a swimmer’s times on “pace swims” of 50 or 100m will tend to get faster.

In races of more than 30 minutes (~1.5 miles), however, it becomes less important to hit specific pace times than it is to modulate effort. This is especially true of swims 10K and longer (2+ hours).

That’s why, in preparing for tomorrow’s 10K, I’ve focused less on swimming a faster pace, but on how much effort I’m expending to swim a given pace. That’s what I mean when I say: Don’t increase effort (to swim faster), but rather, increase effortlessness (to swim the same speed with less effort).

Pick a pace time – in my case, let’s say 1:15 per 100m.…

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Readying to rumble

Readying to rumble

T-50 hours or so until the aperitif for Open Water Season 2010. I’ll train right through most of my summer schedule, but I wouldn’t dare attempt a 10K unrested. So, I’m taking the week off from weightlifting and doing 3 days of below-average swim yardage. In these last few swims I’ll focus primarily on “feel,” not the clock. If I can swim “effortlessly,” the pace will take care of itself.

To help me build into a 10K feel, I’ve been doing (after a brief warm-up) a set of 12×100 LCM on descending intervals. I start with 2 on 1:45 and lower the interval by 5 seconds every 2 — so the last 2 are on 1:20.

My aim is to swim the last 2 at approximately 10K effort and speed, and to swim the first 2 no more than 5 seconds slower than the last 2. So in my case, I might swim the first 2 at 1:19 (giving me 26 seconds rest), and the last 2 at 1:15 (5 seconds rest).

Most important, my pace should descend by more than my effort.…

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Strength training and swimming: Things to consider

Strength training and swimming: Things to consider

A teammate asks, regarding my strength training routine:

Would you recommend something similar for me (only been swimming 1.5ish years very haphazardly), or do you think the benefits are only for those who have slowed their pool gains down significantly?

My answer: “Yes, but….”

Yes – because:

  • Weightlifting and calisthenics are good for you, both in promoting strength and general musculoskeletal health, and in preventing injury.
    • If you learn to deadlift properly, for example, you’ll never throw out your back lifting a heavy box.
  • Getting stronger will, in general, help you swim faster. At least, a little bit faster (see next point).

But – because:

  • Strength training is a “low leverage” activity for improving swimming speed. The highest leverage, by far, is in swim technique.
    • So, unless your technique is already in the range of excellent-to-perfect (and even Olympic swimmers are constantly working on their technique), strength training is not the most efficient method of swimming faster.
  • My routine involves several “free weight” exercises – which are the best way to lift weights, but also potentially dangerous. In doing squats, deadlifts, overhead press, and bench press, you must use proper lifting technique, or your efforts may easily backfire.


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Strength training for open-water swimming

Strength training for open-water swimming

Notwithstanding this post’s title, my strength training routine – which I started about 6 weeks ago – is only partly tailored for open water swimming. It’s a balanced, total-body routine designed for strength, simplicity, and sustainability.

Strength means not designed for maximum muscle mass (the former helps swimming, the latter does not).

Simplicity means using only a few basic gym equipment, and that I can remember the routine easily without writing it down.

Sustainability means giving myself the best chance of consistently doing the routine over the long term. It’s integrated seamlessly into my everyday life, and it’s brief (no more than 30 minutes per session).…

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There (should be) no running in swimming

There (should be) no running in swimming

Should swimming events involve running? Unless it’s part of a triathlon, obviously not… right?

Yet often, they do! You won’t see any running at the Olympic 10K open-water event. In Beijing, competitors started by jumping off a floating platform, and finished by slapping a floating touchpad. At sub-elite level events, though, it’s fairly common to both start and finish on a beach.

Of the six open-water events on my summer itinerary, only two – the 2-mile Cable swim in Virginia and the 6K in Colorado – have in-water starts and finishes. The rest will require negotiating a stretch of sand at some point. The Columbus Open-Water Swims start and finish on the beach.

This matters to me because I have a hip replacement and am really not supposed to run, ever. Do the few seconds I lose on a beach-start really matter in a 20, 30, or 60-minute race? Sure, it matters less in a longer race, but actually yes, it does matter.

It’s not just the time lost entering the water, but also the time lost from poor positioning.…

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