Newbie marathon swimmers often wonder how they should allocate their training time between the pool and open water. There’s no simple answer: It depends on a variety of factors unique to the individual. A few questions to ask yourself:
What’s the target swim? Distance, water temp, conditions, etc. The further outside neutral conditions your target swim is, the more open water you’ll want to incorporate into your training. (To train for cold water… swim in cold water.)
Are you training to finish (regardless of time), or are you training to race? The more speed matters in your target swim, the more high-quality interval training in the pool you’ll probably want to do.
What’s most convenient? If you live next to a safe body of open water, but far away from the nearest pool, this may tip the balance towards OWS.…
As I mentioned, Mark Warkentin (2008 10K Olympian, crew member on my Catalina swim, crew member on my Santa Cruz Island swim, and all-around good guy) was recently named head coach of the Santa Barbara Swim Club, the team we both grew up swimming with. Mark has been on the job a couple months now, and by all accounts things are going great. The future of swimming in Santa Barbara is bright indeed.
It’s a typically slow time of year for my swimming related endeavors. And so it’s been here at the blog, too! A few brief updates:
Exciting times at the Island of the Blue Dolphins.
San Nicolas Island is the real-life location of the beloved children’s novel The Island of the Blue Dolphins. It is also the only one of the eight Channel Islands that has never (to our knowledge) been swum to, from, or around. Possibly because the distance between the island and the closest point on the California mainland is more than 61 miles.
Anyway, the island is now owned and operated by the US Navy. Recently, an archaeologist in the employ of said Navy made an exciting discovery: the long-lost cave in which the “lone woman” immortalized in Blue Dolphins apparently made her home in the mid-19th century!…
Sometime between 2 and 3 in the morning, I had decided to spare everyone another (potentially) 10 hours of needless unpleasantness, and end my swim. I was just waiting for the right time; a convenient excuse. If Mark or Cathy or Rob or Dave had said at some point that night, “Evan, it’s pretty rough out here. Maybe you want to get on the boat and go home?”, I can’t say I’d have insisted on continuing.
It’s a testament to the loyalty and intestinal fortitude of my crew and observer that I never got that chance. Three hours later, I was still swimming.
The chop disagreed with my stroke – pounding me randomly, from odd angles, making it impossible to develop any sort of rhythm.
The moonless night completely disoriented me. Shortly after the start we had a snafu with the glowsticks on Mark’s kayak, so it was insufficiently lit. He tried using a camping headlamp, but it was so blindingly bright that it seemed worse than the darkness.
It was a constant battle through the night – especially the first few feeds – to maintain a consistent distance from the boat and kayak. They were getting blown around by the wind; I was getting knocked around by the chop; and I had no depth perception to adjust to it.…
ME: “How does the weather look?”
CAPT. FORREST: “Dogshit.”
He wondered whether perhaps I wanted to postpone the swim to another day. “What are your ‘drop dead’ conditions?” he asked. “It’s blowing 10 knots right here [i.e., in the harbor]. It’ll be worse out there.”
Here lay the dilemma: My crew and observer were here now. Dave and Rob drove down from SLO; Mark from SB (where he has two kids under the age of 3); Cathy from SF. We could, theoretically, delay for 24 hours – Cathy didn’t go home ’til Monday. But it would suck. I had already dragged these people out here in the middle of the night. Now I was going to send them all home (or to a hotel) and say we’ll try again tomorrow?…
There the island sits, tauntingly, every time I wade into the ocean. It dominates the southern horizon - as prominent a feature of the Santa Barbara landscape as chaparral-covered mountains, tile roofs, and beach volleyball. On clear winter days it’s a textured, multi-hued shadow. On hazy summer days it’s just a faint, misty outline. In the depth of June Gloom it disappears from view entirely – but I know it’s there, somewhere.
My Catalina swim has been marinating for more than three months now, so I figured it was time to put this one to bed. Previous posts have covered my star-studded crew, a video, my GPS tracks, and my fear of deep water. Now to the swim itself.
You may have already read Rob’s account, but here it is again for those who missed it.
A Long Swim: View of San Pedro Channel and Catalina Island from Pt. Vicente. The island is barely visible in the distance. The white speck shows my location at 8:06am (an hour before I finished). Photo Credit: Mom
No ultra-marathon swim is possible without support – and the selflessness of a marathon swim crew is one of the most beautiful aspects of our sport.
I couldn’t be happier with the motley collection of folks supporting my Catalina swim. The sheer aquatic talent and marathon swimming experience on the Bottom Scratcher this Wednesday night will be something to behold! I’ll be in good hands.
Anne Cleveland (CCSF observer)
- IMSHOF inductee
- double English Channel crossing, 2004
The USA Swimming Open Water National Championships are this weekend in Fort Lauderdale, FL. I would have posted this earlier, but I didn’t realize the 10K is actually today – actually, 5 minutes from now! – to give athletes a rest day before the 5K on Sunday.
The 10K main event is effectively the “Olympic Trials” for London 2012. “Effectively” because the top 2 Americans at today’s race advance to the FINA World Championships in Shanghai, and the top 10 from that event advance to the Olympics. Steven Munatones explains the full process here.
A couple friends-of-the-blog will be competing. Mark Warkentin will be trying for his 2nd straight Olympic berth in the 10K; and fellow Masters swimmer Adam Barley will race the kids in the 5K.…
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.…
First, to be clear, the use of pulling gear for motivational reasons (as Mark described) is probably only relevant if you’re a distance/marathon swimmer who trains enough volume that mental fatigue is an issue. Or perhaps (as I described) if you’re just having a bad day of training and pulling gear means the difference between getting through a workout or bailing out early.
If you’re a sprinter and/or stroke specialist, pulling equipment probably isn’t too useful, aside from certain types of drills.
But Mark is a marathon swimmer, and so am I – so that’s why I wrote the post.
Second, I want to highlight one particularly important quote from Mark’s interview:
To make up for the lack of swimming I do a lot of running, cycling and kicking to make sure that I have strong legs and I do a lot of core work to make sure that my abs are ready to handle the body position requirements for a race, so it’s not like I only do pulling sets.
As Chris Anderson described in The Long Tail, the internet has made possible a previously unthinkable wealth of content for niche interests – e.g., Masters and open-water swimming.
Here are two great examples from the past week:
First, Rich Abrahams. The consensus “swimmer of the meet” at the recent Masters Nationals in Atlanta, Rich threw down a 49.4 100 Free and 22.1 50 Free. Fast times for anyone, but guess what? He’s 65 years old. In other words, not just fast, but almost-unbelievably fast.
How did Rich do it? Through several candid posts on the USMS forums and a video interview with Swimming World, you can gather hints. The most interesting nuggets, to my mind:
his focus in practice on lots of race-pace swimming
his approach to dryland training:
focus on overall, balanced strength rather than swim-specific strength
one long workout Sunday morning, one shorter workout Wednesday (providing several days recovery between each)
the importance of long-term consistency (i.e., over several decades)
his preference for swimming with 1-3 like-minded training partners, rather than with a team