Marathon Swimming Nutrition: Art vs. Science

Marathon Swimming Nutrition: Art vs. Science

First, a Michael Pollan-inspired minimalist manifesto:

  1. Drink some carbs.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Some carbs are better than others.

One of the most daunting and mysterious aspects of preparing for a marathon swim is planning a nutrition strategy. And for good reason: Nutrition can make or break a marathon swim.

So, aspiring marathon swimmers often seek advice from their more experienced brethren. But how to sort through conflicting information and opinions?

The textbooks aren’t much better:

  • In Dover Solo, Marcia Cleveland recommends “warm, energy-providing liquids, followed possibly by some solid food, or energy gel.”
  • Steven Munatones’ book suggests to “try everything within reason: energy drinks, bananas, sliced peaches, chocolate, and cookies.” He also wisely notes that “what works for another swimmer may not necessarily work for you.”
  • Penny Lee Dean devotes a section to nutrition in her book, but in 2012 her recommendations are a bit dated.


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The “Freshies” – My 11 favorite open-water happenings of 2011

The “Freshies” – My 11 favorite open-water happenings of 2011

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.

With that in mind, here are the winners of the inaugural “freshies” (in no particular order):


Rob Dumouchel: New Year’s Day Polar Bear 10K.

6 miles through shark-infested, 53F (11.6C) ocean, from Avila Beach to Pismo Beach, CA. Quite possibly, the northern hemisphere’s first marathon swim of 2011.

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A northeast open-water golden age

A northeast open-water golden age

What an exciting time to be a marathon swimmer in the northeast US!

The region already hosts three of the nation’s four annual ultra-marathon races – the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, Swim Across the Sound, and the Ederle Swim.

Then there’s the recent spate of “record attempt” swims in the waters around New York City. In June, Liz Fry became the first person to complete a 35-mile “double Ederle” – from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, NJ and back. Last month, Lance Ogren took down the one-way Ederle record in spectacular fashion, shaving 58 minutes off the previous mark. Two days from now, David Barra will take on a double MIMS (twice around the island), in pursuit of Skip Storch‘s 2007 record of 20:56. And finally, at the end of September my MIMS nemesis Ollie Wilkinson (all in good fun, Ollie!) will race local NYC speedster Rondi Davies ’round Manhattan, challenging Shelley Taylor-Smith’s legendary record of 5:45.

Morty Berger and NYC Swim put a ton of groundwork and meticulous research into these swims, so it’s no surprise to see these new standards being set.…

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Quick Hits 3.15.11

Quick Hits 3.15.11

– I love that in Australian Masters Swimming, the 1500m backstroke is an actual event, with actual national records. And the 400 breaststroke. And the 800 IM. All strokes, all distances. And I love that the records for the their equivalent of the “postal” swims (3K, 6K, 10K, 30/45/60 minute swims) are part of the same database as the “regular” meet swims. Why don’t we do this in America??

Boy, I would’ve had a killer 1500m backstroke back in the day. There’s a funny story about that, actually. I was about 16, and my club team had a mid-season long-course meet in which I was supposed to swim the 800 free. We were right in the middle of hard training and I was swimming terribly at this meet. But there was no getting out of the 800 free. So, instead of swimming a slow time and depressing myself further, I decided to try something a little different. I dove off the block for the 800 and… turned over on my back. I had never done an 800 backstroke before, so I had no idea what a good time would be.…

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Short Course: The bad news

Short Course: The bad news

I recently noted an unforeseen benefit of doing long swims in a short-course pool: It’s easy to monitor your stroke count without counting!

That’s the good news.

The bad news?

Swimming for a long time without stopping in a short-course pool can increase the risk of tossing your cookies.

I assume this has something to do with flip turns, and I also assume it depends on what you’ve eaten recently. I didn’t have a problem in the One Hour Postal last year, but I occasionally do get nauseated during these swims.

It goes with the territory. Just ask Dave Barra, who did a memorably gruesome 30,000 SCY workout at about this same time last year.…

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In the News – Week of October 25

In the News – Week of October 25

The latest from Steven Munatones’ inimitable Daily News: