The 15th annual Tampa Bay Marathon Swim is this Saturday! TBMS is – I think it’s fair to say – the toughest organized swim race in the United States.
Five minutes before the start of TBMS 2011. Photo by Distance Matters
New this year, the race will have live GPS tracking. I’ve also agreed to provide some color commentary on the official TBMS Twitter account – follow @DistanceMatters if you’re interested. For those following the GPS tracking, here are two paths from last year’s race: mine, and Bob Needham’s (1, 2, 3).
Current weather forecasts call for a 60% chance of rain (possible thunderstorms), with 10-15mph winds out of the SSW. That’s a favorable wind direction, but let’s hope the lightning stays away.…
Best I can tell, I lost about 1 pound of body mass during the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim. Actually – probably closer to 1.5 pounds, but we’ll call it a pound. Marathon swimmers often lose substantial weightover the course of a swim, but most of this is water loss that is soon regained. I estimate that I lost a little over a pound of body mass – that is, fat (and possibly some protein cannibalized from my muscles). For convenience, we’ll call it a pound of fat.
Some back-of-the-envelope calculations:
Losing a pound of fat requires an energy deficit of 3,500 calories. I consumed 2,800 calories during the swim. That puts my total energy expended during the 9-hour swim at 6,300 calories — 700 calories per hour.…
Without a team, a 24-mile swim doesn’t happen. Simple as that. And the swim’s success – it’s efficiency – depends on the quality of the team. Long swims are isolating experiences: A swimmer and his thoughts. But there’s an irony: The longer the swim, the more you utterly depend on your support team.
So any discussion of my experience in Tampa Bay must begin with my team.
The Team (L-R): Kathy, Carl, Pat, Michael, Kim… Frankland Bridge in the distance. (Photo Credit: Distance Matters)
NOTE: I wrote this as preface to my Tampa report, but it got a bit long so I decided to put it in a separate post. It’s not really specific to Tampa, anyway.
What’s a marathon swim? Without any historical reference point (as for marathon runs), there are various definitions. The official FINA and (as of 2008) Olympic distance is 10K – which has the virtue of similar finish times as marathon runs. Penny Lee Dean sets the bar at 16 miles. Ted Erikson says 10 miles. Steven Munatones, as usual, wrote a nice overview of the issue.
I’m not really interested in debating what is or isn’t a marathon swim, though I do think:
It must be in open water.
It should be nearly impossible (or at least very difficult) to finish without refueling mid-swim.
Some people do the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim as a “warm-up” for one of the triple crown swims. And it makes sense: Tampa is early in the season, 8 weeks before MIMS and more than 3 months before high season for channel crossings.
But thinking of Tampa as a “warm-up” might tempt a person to take it less seriously – and that would be a big mistake. TBMS is one of only four annual organized ultra-marathon (25K or longer) swim races in the U.S. (along with MIMS, Ederle, and Swim Across the Sound), and it may be the toughest. While water temperature is not usually a factor, pretty much everything else is. Glancing through the archives, tide changes and rough seas seem to be the two big ones.…
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.…