Training for marathon swims: Pool vs. open water

Training for marathon swims: Pool vs. open water

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. In my experience, convenience promotes consistency — and consistency promotes results.

What do you inherently enjoy? If you have access to a high-quality Masters pool squad with good coaching and fun lanemates, this may tip the balance towards the pool.…

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Interview with Coach Mark

Interview with Coach Mark

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.

Here’s an interview he just did with SwimSwam:

[youtube_sc v=17YQaTIwePo w=600]

Mike Lewis (author of other hard-hitting works of journalism) does a pretty good job keeping the conversation relevant to open water swimming, given the irony that Mark coaches mostly sprinters.…

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Some miscellaneous items

Some miscellaneous items

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 DolphinsIt 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!

And here’s a follow-up article in the Santa Barbara Independent with some gorgeous photography.

The same Independent writer also recently did a cool story on his hiking explorations of southeast Santa Cruz Island – near where my big swim in September began.…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 5: The Test

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 5: The Test

In case you missed it…

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.

Video still courtesy of Element 8 Productions

At 5:30am, we were halfway across the channel – 8.3 nautical (9.6 statute) miles to go. At 5:45, the first hint of grey appeared on the horizon: nautical twilight. And it changed everything.

As any Catalina swimmer knows: The dark thoughts, the “witches,” are inseparable from the literal darkness of the night.…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 3: Demons of Doubt

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 3: Demons of Doubt

In case you missed it…

From the beginning, something just felt… off.

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.

I made 1.3 nautical miles of progress in the first hour - an incredibly slow pace for me. Possibly there was a head current near the island; but my constant zig-zagging didn’t help. I would bump into the kayak; Mark would yell at me; I’d try to adjust left but then get too close to the boat; Dave, Rob, and Cathy would yell at me; I’d try to adjust right; rinse & repeat.…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 2: Drop Dead Conditions

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 2: Drop Dead Conditions

In case you missed it…

Ventura Harbor. 9pm, September 14th.

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? Ugh.

Not to mention, the film guys were already on their way over to the island on a sail boat from Santa Barbara (a 4.5-hour trip). Would I call them and tell them to turn around?…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 1: Prologue

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 1: Prologue

Was it inevitable?

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.

The shadow is Santa Cruz Island – largest of the eight Channel Islands, 19 statute miles offshore from Oxnard, the closest part of mainland California.

Looking out at Santa Cruz Island from the mountains above Goleta. New Year’s Day 2012. Photo by Vanessa.

The Impetus

A few months ago two local filmmakers asked: Would I be interested in being filmed for a documentary about marathon swimming in the Channel Islands? Would I help shed some light on this odd global subculture of people who swim across 3,000-foot deep ocean channels in the dead of night wearing nothing but a speedo, cap, and goggles?…

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Catalina Channel swim (final report)

Catalina Channel swim (final report)

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



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The Crew

The Crew

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.



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Anne Cleveland (CCSF observer)
- IMSHOF inductee
- double English Channel crossing, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

Barb Held (CCSF observer)
- Catalina 2010
- Tampa, MIMS 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Grace V. (paddler/pace swimmer)
- winner, 12.6-mi Distance Swim Challenge

 

 

 

 

Neil V. (paddler)

 

 

 

 

 

Garrett M. (crew)
- washed-up former Yale water polo player

 

 

 

 

 

Rob D. (crew)
- RobAquatics.com

 

 

 

 

 

Mark W. (crew)
- 2008 Olympian, 10K open-water

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda H. (crew)
- MIMS solo, 2009/2010

 

 

Big race today

Big race today

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.

There’s a live webcast here.

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.

Best of luck to both of them.

UPDATE: Alex Meyer and Sean Ryan took top two, with Gemmell, Warkentin, & Frayler close behind (not sure about order). Mark led for much of the race but Meyer and Ryan pulled ahead into the finish.…

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