Didn't make BLS lottery--the fears and the hopes--and your thoughts?

dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
edited March 2016 in General Discussion

... and I could choose to lose hope, but that's not my reason for posting. Of course, I hope to try again... and again. Two issues confront me, though.

-1. I'm 65 this year. Last year, I scored a personal best in the Great South Bay Swim, and I plan to do it again this year. Yet I wonder how much strong swimming I'm going to have left. I hear of people doing amazing things in their 80s and 90s, so I refuse to lose hope, but I'm an "adult-onset" athlete and never was a star in any sport, even at the school level. Do I dare hope there's a BLS in my future and that I can swim fast enough to make the cut-off. The pace of my bay swim last year was approximately 36 mins /mile, which is in the range--but can I, as I age, possibly improve on that? In running, there's a definite slowdown as we get older (I see it in me, actually, although interestingly, my swim workouts stay stronger than the runs.

Those of you of ... a certain age--do you still find you can set goals for longer swims than you've done before? Or faster? I'm fortunate to have a terrific coach whose feedback on technique has been immensely helpful--as have his training plans--last two years I swam the Great South Bay, I improved both times from previous swims. Just wondering how long this can last. Of course, I have to also focus on the present and be grateful for the health to do what I'm doing. That's got to be the bottom line.

-2. Since BLS is out--and I'd have considered this even if I had gotten in--I have another 8 mile swim that I'm eyeing, the Valley Forge Marathon Swim. Benefits: close to home in a familiar body of water. Problem: I had to DNF this one last year due to unremitting pain in my left arm that made it, after a while, impossible to lift that arm out of the water. And while, in many respects, it's easier than BLS (almost zero chance of chop, warmer water (of course different strokes here--some might prefer it cooler... usual temp around high seventies/low 80s, goes down gradually through Sept./Oct.), I was surprised how hard it felt to swim 4 miles against even a fairly gentle current (it's out and back, so you're going upriver and back). I had been swimming shorter distances with no problem--barely felt any current. As I got closer to the turn-around, I pushed my pace as hard as I could, and then thought I'd have an easier time going back. No. The wind shifted and while I was swimming with the current, the wind was against me.

I got to 7 miles, which was my longest distance on record, but looking back, I realize I made some mistakes that probably cost me the finish--maybe assuming the river would be so much easier, for one. I know swimming 8 miles in relatively calm fresh water is a whole different animal than swimming 8 miles in salt water, possibly chop, possibly tricky cross-currents, etc.

My coach says it's a good thing to get a full 8 miles in this kind of setting, though, before taking on BLS, and I have to agree, so my disappointment about not getting in is mitigated by the fact that I may actually need more time.

But honestly, I have to admit to some worry--will I run into the same problems as last year? Will my age start working against me? Sometimes I feel as if I could be a kid and swim forever, but that scary thought keeps coming back... how long can this last?

I'm excited about swimming and the opportunities to try new challenges--and return to old favorites (as the saying goes, you don't step in the same river twice, so in effect it's all new!). But yeah, scared sometimes too.

Thoughts on any of this? Many thanks!

Comments

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member

    I am also an adult onset swimmer, the nice thing about that is that there is so much scope to improve speed through technique that you can counteract your body slowing down. I'm certainly faster now then I ever was in high school.

    I think there were at least two swimmers in their 60's who beat me in the BLS last year, and when I swam Rottnest in 2013 at the age of 45, I was beaten by an 80 year old swimmer, so I would I say there is definitely hope :)

    That all said, preparation is key. Swim in rough water. Swim in cold water. Swim for hours. To me the BLS feels similar to a 10km swim, so find a long course pool and crank out some 10ks as part of your training. Take a swim vacation to somewhere with 60F water and spend time learning just what a lovely temperature that really is and what fun swell and chop can be.

    At the end of the day, if you prep for a 5h cold rough swim, and you manage to swim 5h in cold rough water, then it doesn't really matter if you finish at the L street bathhouse or on your support boat. I attempted Rottnest again last year, and I was not mentally or physically prepared for the 9 hour swim it was going to be (horrible conditions last year) and pulled myself at 5h. My regret was not that I did not finish, my regret was that I did not finish because I was not sufficiently prepared.

    evmogregocbluemermaid9jendutdpm50

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    Terry Laughlin, of Total Immersion, speaks about his personal experiences improving as an aging Masters swimmer in this video, starting at 2:25, from not making a one-meet-per-year swim team as a youth, to setting national records after turning 55. He sets the expectation of continual improvement throughout a lifetime, and specifically has experience with "adult onset" swimmers.

    dpm50MaryStella
  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    dpm50, thanks for bringing up this question, it's one I've asked myself constantly since I started swimming at 62. You and I are (and have been, literally) in the same boat. Though my time improvement over the last year and a half has been stubbornly, incrementally small, it is happening, so I take heart. For me, I think it's helpful that I don't have a specific swim I have my heart set on. I just keep signing up for longer and longer swims, and if at one of them I feel like the pleasure I get out of it is outweighed by mental or physical stress, I'll back off and know I've found my limit and just swim there. I know that neither of us have found that point and at our age, how flippin' great is that!!!

    dpm50
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Thank you all for the encouragement! When it comes down to it, I suppose, there are no guarantees and we have to keep doing what matters to us, even as the stories change (maybe for the better, maybe not, but as we keep nourishing the soul, we'll keep being in a good place to flow w the changes.

    MaryStella
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    @swimrn62 ... yes, that was a nice ferry ride across the bay last year! :)

  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    True that! A beautiful sunrise it was.

    On the same thread, I've been really inspired by the 61 year old woman who won last year's CIBBOWS 10K Triple Dip, and, in the same 10K, and over an hour later, the 71 year old who beat out a 61 and a 62 year old.

    dpm50
  • jendutjendut Charter Member

    @dpm50 I have been beaten to shore by many folks in their 60s and I am not so much an adult-onset swimmer :) I (as a coach) agree with your coach that completing 8 miles is a good idea before BLS is attempted. I also (as a swimmer who has done BLS multiple times) know that the distance/pace are only part of the challenge of that swim (cold, salt water, and self-belief are other facets). Perhaps you could try a different long target swim this year? Kingdom Swim in VT offers several distances which could be good; there is a Potomac swim of 7.5 miles, and Lake George often has a 10K. Anything from 6-8 miles either with no tide assist or with neutral (out and back) forces will give you a good base AND more importantly, confidence.

    As an aside, if you struggled with discomfort in one arm, you should have your Open Water form evaluated as there likely is an imbalance in your stroke which might take a simple fix.

    rosemarymintgregocdpm50MaryStella
  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesMember

    @dpm50: Last year I had my first DNF ever. Water was ridiculously warm and my body couldn't take it. So I got out. I always thought I'd be heartbroken if I ever got a DNF. But I wasn't. Well, maybe a little sad. But if I hadn't gotten out on my own accord, rescue might've had to do it. That thought made me feel better. After I recovered, I continued to train. Then I had an injury that ended my running career and put me out of commission for months. I missed two swimming races, but that didn't bother me as much as I thought it would because I persuaded my doctor to let me swim as long as I didn't kick. That made me the happiest girl in the world! I eventually got rid of my cane and now I'm looking forward to my first 10K swim. I suppose the point of this story is that setbacks will occur, but being smart about training will contribute to a long swimming career. There'll always be swims, coach says.

    Like you, I'm an adult-onset swimmer. When I started, I had the urge to compare myself to the ex-college swimmers in my Masters team, but soon realized how silly that was. My focus is to improve from the swimmer I was yesterday. Having been sidelined by injury, I concentrate on the process of improving technique more than ever. Patience and yards, coach also says. I also think about how fortunate I am to have the ability to swim in open water and to live near the ocean. I don't think I'd enjoy the ocean more if I were faster than I currently am. I'd love it just the same.

    dpm50Bridget
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    @jendut , thanks for the perspective! You raise some excellent points. I've decided that the Valley Forge Swim willbe my choice 8 miler, since it's close to home (no hotel or airfare to worry about, and in fact just a couple public transit rides from where I live--and and RD I know. In addition, as an out-and-back swim, it includes swimming against a current as well as with it. I think this is the way to go for me now. I also plan to repeat the Great South Bay Swim which although a little shorter (5.4 or 5.5 miles) is going to be a great training swim for the longer one, plus, I've done it four times, with a personal best last year. (I just happen also to love the swim--great people organizing it and benefits some very worthwhile organizations).

    Since I won't be traveling to Boston (I did last year for the relay and loved it), I'll focus more on increasing distance, getting stronger, and as you suggest having my o.w. technique evaluated more in depth (the coaches always oversee our group swims and give really helpful feedback, but maybe a one-on-one session would be a good add-on to that. (BTW, a friend recorded my 500 free recently and I looked at it with some shock--OMG, THIS is what my coaches have been getting on me about! True, I've had them videotape in the past, but when they videotape, I think I swim more smoothly.) ;)

    I had an awesome chiro guy work on my arm--he was merciless with the graston tool and all those other sports massage tools of torture. But it DEFINITELY helped!

    @bluemermaid9 -- I grateful last year that the kayaker and the safety people felt that I should stop, let it be my decision. I told them I wanted to keep going, but after a few strokes, I knew the handwriting was on the wall. And I also was thinking that at the rate I was swimming those waiting at the finish would have a LONG wait, which I didn't want to impose on them, even if they were willing.

    Now that BLS is out, I'm actually feeling better about it--freed in a way to look at other possibilities not only swimming but overall life-related. I have to ultimately ask what's best for me in the long run--er... swim. :) That saying about accepting what you can't change, changing what you can, and knowing the difference.

    Overall, I'm gateful for the swimming coaches and friends I've met through this sport and the chance to train with some truly wonderful people! When I first started w/ my group, I never thought I'd be swimming in the Schuylkill River, and certainly never expected to swim 7 miles there! :)

    bluemermaid9Bridget
  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    @dpm50 - come to NY for the 10k in the Hudson on 9/10. that will be a super fun and yet still challenging swim! the signup isn't open yet, the swim is with NYOW. this could set you up nicely for stage 6 in 2017 - just another option that's semi-local.

    dpm50
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited March 2016

    Thinking of that NY 10k. I'm assuming I'd need to find a kayaker? Did 2 Bridges and must say, the Hudson is brutal when you swim against its current. Is this one an out and back or with the current entirely? Oddly I never thought it was that hard to swim in the Schuylkill upstream until I had to do it for 4 miles! Even though I didn't feel it pushing against me, it was affecting my pace. (The Hudson I definitely felt -- even some whitecaps swirling around. The Schuylkill was deceptive. ... it didn't feel hard, and I was shocked at how slow my progress was.)

    Overall, though, the more practice I can get even in intimidating looking bodies of water, the better prepared I'll be.

    But wow, a stage of 8 Bridges? Well, life is full of surprises! :)

  • "Those of you of ... a certain age--do you still find you can set goals for longer swims than you've done before? Or faster? I'm fortunate to have a terrific coach whose feedback on technique has been immensely helpful--as have his training plans--last two years I swam the Great South Bay, I improved both times from previous swims. Just wondering how long this can last. Of course, I have to also focus on the present and be grateful for the health to do what I'm doing. That's got to be the bottom line."

    Longer swims - Yes!

    Or faster - Yes (hopefully!)

    How long can this last? - Let's find out!

    Grateful for the health to do what I'm doing - Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Also turning 65 this year...and loving swimming more than ever...working on speed (tired of coming in last or next-to-last...those extra hours can be a drudge!)...working on distance...and working on lessons learned from last year ... after doing the entire 8 Bridges course during 8 days...119 miles ... took me 2+ months to overcome the deep deep fatigue that set in a week after the swims

    So learning new techniques, studying up on improving speed & reducing fatigue, and taking a more relaxed, but still intense approach to swimming

    And eager to get started on a new season, new adventures, new people, old friends...the things that make OWS unique and fun and challenging

    There's no doubt that aging changes things - but some of those changes are for the better, and some are just a set of new challenges that bring new perspectives and new insights...as they should! "Ain't life grand!" Feel so lucky to have found a sport that accommodates those changes and teaches me new (often humbling!) lessons every year! And brings me close to a worldwide community of like minded maniacs!

    So your questions are great, and hope that this season and onwards bring you new and challenging answers!

    Bridgetdpm50
  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    @motivate99, finishing 8 Bridges is amazing at any age, wow, super inspired by you!!

    dpm50Bridget
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    All 8 Bridges @motivate99 .... inspired also! Wow! Thanks for the thoughts!

  • You're welcome! Good luck with your upcoming season, and let us know how tin works out!

    dpm50Bridget
  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    BLS-- Boston Light Swim? I've had an eye on that one for many years.

    @dpm50, I had a DNF last year and was heartsick, and felt close to the same situation this year- same 10K- but knew on lap 3 that if I had to get out at 7.5 this year, I would be ok with it as I had stayed focused and swum as well as I could have-- last year, I had lost focus, and essentially blew it. Big difference.

    One thing I need to keep in mind for ME is that for longer swims, I may need to do local training swims outside events. There are fabulous swims out there, but between travel and entry fees, it just isn't always an option. Fortunately, a fabulous lake is just a few minutes from me. Slowly, I'm building a network of other swimmers and kayakers who are willing to head out for an afternoon adventure.

    You want a good workout? Tow a 10 year old on a floaty doughnut. I used fins to keep up with other swimmers, and think a raft might be better, as she liked shifting from arms and legs over the sides of the ring, to dragging her legs down through the bottom. In a raft, she could read, had me stuff from a cooler, . . . and be very visible to boats! ;-)

    dpm50IronMike
  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesMember

    Towing two floaties with a teenager in each is the most fun workout I've had this year.

    dpm50JustSwimBridget
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Now, as I look to next year, then, Ill need to hire some teenagers for training purposes! :)

    Bridget
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited September 29

    Btw, thank you @Bridget Brian @bluemermaid9 for your thoughts.

    An update....finished the Valley Forge swim last year, very slowly. This year, I had another DNF, but I wasn't too upset abut it. There was a wicked fast current at the turn buoy about 6.5 miles into the swim, much faster than last year at that same point. Not too long before that, there was a series of buoys marking a channel keeping us out of a shallow, rocky section. There was a pretty strong current at that point too, but it was so able and didn't last too long. Then came a stretch if easier current, normal upstream, nothing too much. But then, as i got closer to the turn to go back downstream forr thhe last time, wow! Pretty much felt like swimming in place. But I was determined to make it around the turn, and after 4-5 tries, one of which had me pushed under the buoy but not around it, I finally made it. I heard later that other swimmers had similar experiences and that someone had to be pulled b/c they couldn't get around the buoy.

    But having made that turn, I felt very depleted, nothing left in the tank. I also felt queasy. The kayaker urged me to eat, but I was reluctant b/c I didn't know if I could hold it down, but finally took a couple potato chips (they helped last year, but not this year). I also began feeling chilled. Prior to that, water temp wasn't an issue. I was pretty comfortable (temp was around 68-70f so notat all cold).

    So I had a feeling the writing was on the wall, and it was time to pull out. No one made the decision for me. I just felt the need to listen to my body and live to swim another day. Of course, hindsight being what it is, I have to admit, I asked myself later if maybe I could have continued. But I refuse to give in to regret. I had reached my limit as I perceived it that day, and of course can learn how to tweak some training and nutrition, as well as mental state to allow me to go further.

    At first, I really wondered if I wanted to try anymore maratHon swims, but not in the sense that I was discouraged, just....did I want to commit more time and training to something like this. What was I looking for as a swimmer? Shorter open water events? Pool meets? Nothing wrong w such swims, but as I reflect on the experience, I feel as if there's still more I want to accomplish in marathon swimming. I look upon the epic swims that frinds are doing w a mix of admiration and wistfulness, but I also have to be in touch with what best fits me.

    So I'm thinking something double digit miles, not a lot longer than the 8 miles, but 10-12, maybe. I take these things in baby steps. Maybe too much so. It's not like I have forever! But I also don't want to rush things so much as to risk injury and be set back even more. As it is, I needed PT on my shoulder earlier this year, plus a cortisone shot. Thankfully, I haven't had any recurrence of the injury.

    One encouraging sign: My kayaker tells me that until the turn, I was ahead of last year's pace, and I certainly felt stronger for a good part of the swim. I was also feeding more efficiently, not stopping as long. So despite the DNF, the swim was in a way, a success.

    One thing I'm learning about OW swimming is that, unlike running, you can't think the same way about speed. In a road race, sure conditions can vary. It can be extra cold or hot or hilly, but generally speaking, even at my slowest, I'll still be faster than the fastest 10k swimmer. In a swim, there are SO many more variables, so many possible permutations that a time is only a small piece of the whole picture.

    Now, though, while deciding on marathon swim goals, I decided I'd set a modest pool goal, one also outside my comfort zone: swim 100 fly in a meet. I'm getting an idea that if I strengthen my butterfly, other strokes, freestyle in particular, will be stronger, and that might carry over into stronger distance swims. Of course, I'm interested in your input again, if you're so inclined.

    This is a great forum, and I love hearing your stories and advice. You help me raise the bar on my swimming, and I'm grateful for that.

    Solobluemermaid9
  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    dpm50 said: Btw, thank you @Bridget Brian @bluemermaid9 for your thoughts.

    Greetings, and you are most welcome!! Love hearing about your swims.

    I'm going to fill in around a few of the points you made that I feel bear another look-- Thank you for humoring me. :-D

    An update....finished the Valley Forge swim last year, very slowly. This year, I had another DNF, but I wasn't too upset abut it. But I refuse to give in to regret. I had reached my limit as I perceived it that day, and of course can learn how to tweak some training and nutrition, as well as mental state to allow me to go further.

    Every day is different, and every body of water is different- often from itself! I'm sure we have all gotten into a body of water and felt like we got out of a totally different one. Paying attention and learning from your experience is important- however you decide to use that knowledge.

    At first, I really wondered if I wanted to try anymore maratHon swims, but not in the sense that I was discouraged, just....did I want to commit more time and training to something like this. What was I looking for as a swimmer? Shorter open water events? Pool meets? Nothing wrong w such swims, but as I reflect on the experience, I feel as if there's still more I want to accomplish in marathon swimming. I look upon the epic swims that frinds are doing w a mix of admiration and wistfulness, but I also have to be in touch with what best fits me.

    I felt that way at the end of my Lake George Solo. I had a great plan, life happened, and my plan was adjusted a bit. I went forward with the best I could do at that time in those conditions. I did it. What struck me at the time, as I staggered in the last miles, was that I was sick to my stomach, worried that vomiting would panic my novice crew, and I felt utterly drained. Not to the point of thinking I wouldn't make it-- I didn't have your currents to contend with-- and the storm had passed. But a big part of swimming for me is the joy of my surroundings and feeling like I can go forever. I do not swim to feel miserable, and would just as soon not feel quite that way again. Having said that, I understand your wistfulness, as the lake is calling me. . . and I absolutely know that if I could gather another team, and find the swim time to train, I could be stronger for the duration- applying what I learned. I'd like to try that-- but there are many swims out there. We shall see. . . My first big swim was 8 miles in 1999. I am much stronger now. I see no reason why I cannot continue to gain power as a swimmer. I don't mind not being fast-- but I do like to feel strong.

    Now, though, while deciding on marathon swim goals, I decided I'd set a modest pool goal, one also outside my comfort zone: swim 100 fly in a meet. I'm getting an idea that if I strengthen my butterfly, other strokes, freestyle in particular, will be stronger, and that might carry over into stronger distance swims. Of course, I'm interested in your input again, if you're so inclined.

    I'm looking at a pool meet in a few weeks-- also planning some fly. I did a 25M fly last fall, and a 50Yd fly last spring. 100 fly in either measure is beyond intimidating. :-) I'm going to do a 100IM, maybe a 200IM. But I must admit, the mile in the pool Monday was a slogging stagger through wet velvet. I'm hoping to be back in the lake over the weekend before it gets too cold. (The sun just came out!!!!)

    This is a great forum, and I love hearing your stories and advice. You help me raise the bar on my swimming, and I'm grateful for that.

    You are doing your bit on that front. ;-) Great to read your posts. Ever swim in NY? ;-)

    dpm50
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited October 11

    Thanks, @Bridget! Most helpful! I've done several swims in NY, actually....Grimaldo's Mile, Triple Dip mIle (have to get more comfortable w ocean swims before I go longer there, but CIBBOWS is a wonderful group. Also did 2 Bridges 2.5k in a fast flowing Hudson, after a bout w the flu... made it to the first bridge and almost to the 2nd but they pulled me just before the 2nd. The fact that I was fine w that tells you how tough a swim it was.

    More later.....

    Bridget
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Two other NY swims: --Great South Bay Swim 5 finishes, one dnf. Most recent finish this year in wind, rain, and chop. Weirdly, I loved it! --Stars and Stripes Aquathlon (no longer being held.... wish it could be resurrected!

  • EllisEllis Baltimore, MarylandMember

    I missed out on the BLS lottery in 2017, but was lucky enough to find a spot on a BLS rely of like minded old men (I'm 67). The rely experience was exceptional. Got to make new friends, share the cost, and learn the course and race day routine. We had a very early start (0600) and were rewarded with a magnificent sunrise at the start. Also, in April 2017 I did the Swim Around Lido Key. It was a glorious 7 mile swim in crystal clear mid 70 degree water. It's a great early season motivator to keep the winter yardage up. Good luck with your 2018 plans.

    dpm50Bridget
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited October 19

    Ellis said: I missed out on the BLS lottery in 2017, but was lucky enough to find a spot on a BLS rely of like minded old men (I'm 67). The rely experience was exceptional. Got to make new friends, share the cost, and learn the course and race day routine. We had a very early start (0600) and were rewarded with a magnificent sunrise at the start. Also, in April 2017 I did the Swim Around Lido Key. It was a glorious 7 mile swim in crystal clear mid 70 degree water. It's a great early season motivator to keep the winter yardage up. Good luck with your 2018 plans.

    Thanks for the good wishes!

    "Old woman" here--but I was a kid of 64 when I participated in the relay two years ago. We had a great team and really enjoyed the race--and cheering on the other swimmers too! A friend of ours was doing the solo, and we happened upon him around 5-6 miles into the race... that was a riot!

    I'm now looking at swims with easier time limits, as I'm "velocity challenged," ha! Swim the Suck is one on my list b/c of the current assist, plus I've heard good things about it. I'm thinking if I want to move up to double digits, I should start gently. I have no illusions, however, that I'll get a free ride. There have been years when the current assist is almost negligible, I understand. (I've experienced such "current assist" when the wind is blowing the opposite direction of the current--with one arm turning to mush.... not a pretty sight. When I began swimming one-armed, the kayaker politely suggested that I might be cooked. After first resisting,I agreed with her a few weak strokes later.)

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