Is a 5K really the gateway drug to marathon swimming?

curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

I just completed my first 5K, the Fat Salmon Swim in Lake Washington. I am pleased with my swim. I came in roughly the time I expected. Paced it correctly and felt really strong the whole way. Swam no wetsuit in reasonable water temp. I think it probably was around 69F. I really, really, really had fun and enjoyed the whole thing. And already I can see myself doing that one again, but also I'm thinking that maybe, possibly... ok, probably I'm going to try a 10K. And so it begins...

I also have a 2 questions for those of you with more experience in this area. We sure had a lot of chop and wind during the race. I was bouncing around like a cork. I swim in a reasonably straight line and so I don't sight a whole lot. I had a great landmark to sight on. At one point I got nailed by some waves. I'm paddling away furiously and lift to sight and I was about 90 degrees off! Got corrected and zigged and zagged my way to the finish line. My question is how do you handle navigation when you've got a lot of forces pushing you around? Are you doomed to just have to sight more often or are there other tricks that can help you maintain course without having to sight every few strokes?

Second question. To prepare for this 5K, I slowly upped my yardage until I was doing 5K a day. It prepared me quite well to swim a 5K because basically I was practicing swimming 5K's. However, I don't see this as being so feasible for swimming a 10K. For one, I don't really have the time to be swimming 10K a day. But also, I just don't think this would be effective training. What are some of the recommendations for learning how to do a 10K? I will need to learn not only the actual swim part of it, but I will need to learn about nutrition and feeding. Can you point me to some links because I'm sure this has been asked, but I'm not the most perceptive person when doing research.

Thank you for any help and also for the inspiration to try this new, for me, sport.

tortuga

Comments

  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesMember

    Hello, @curly. Sounds like you got the bug. That's fantastic! If you search '10K training plan' on the forum you'll find a link to the training plan for the Dart 10K. I found it useful. There's plenty of advice on the forum and on loneswimmer.com. I came across another plan on a magazine, but for the love of me, I cannot find the link. IMHO, you're correct in that swimming 10K/day is not feasible. And you don't need to. I follow the rule of thumb of your weekly mileage 6 months out being equal to the length of your race, but I see that as a minimum. I love a long swim every other weekend and gradually increasing its length. It has worked for me. I'm sure others will offer their advice. Cheers!

    curly
  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest

    Sighting is a function of your body awarness of the conditions as well as peeking up ocassionally at large sigting points and learning how to trangulate ie looking back occasionally at starting point....experience is the best teacher....eventually you should have a intuitive feel of swell direction and have a contunial of that while swimming in the direction of your goal. You may want to bi-lateral breath to balance out your stroke and direction....if you can put in some inteval training on days of your busy schedule and then put in a long swim on the week-end or your open day you can begin upping the distance each week...if you are a marathon swmmer you should be just reving up at a 10K

    curly

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited July 2016

    Welcome to the club, @curly!

    Sighting every couple of strokes for 10km sounds, and I imagine is, pretty miserable. I would tend to either:
    - pick a crowded 10k so I could sight off someone who was willing to lift their head every couple of seconds for the duration of the event.
    - pick a 10k with strong navigational markers. (Shoreline, perhaps).
    - beg/plead/cajole some into kayaking for me so I could sight off them (if the rules allowed it), or, more likely,
    - invent my own 10k, possibly at a place and/or time meaningful to me, get a kayaker and/or a boat, and follow the MSF rules.

    The glorious thing about marathon swimming is that there are infinitely many "Point A"s and "Point B"s to swim between. :).

    For what it's worth, I think I once sighted for 2km. Everything else, I have had a kayak, boat, or immense number of navigation markers to sight off.

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    The gateway to marathon swimming for me was sucking at the 50 free.

    malinakaslknighttimsrootFlowSwimmersSpacemanspiffcurlybluemermaid9CamilleJaimiedc_in_sfrosemarymintswimdailytortugasuziedodsflystormsChrisgreeneKate_AlexanderChefKendpm50amkonetBigGuppy412
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    @curly, are you sure you swim straight? I only say that because I used to think I swam straight and then I got a Garmin and saw how my 5.3K point to point swim became a 7.7k swim due to my navigation. Horrible.

    In swims with good visible buoys I will sight every 10-16 breaths, depending upon how I'm doing. In other words, if I am constantly on line with that "one tree" that stands out while sighting every 10, I'll extend it to 12, 14, 16 until I lose the sight, then back down to 10.

    I'm terribly slow, so rarely get to follow a pack. I did a swim last year in Croatia with a pack of 4 who all swam at about the same speed. At one point I stopped sighting because every time I alligator-eyed I was still on line just following the pack. That was to this day my absolutely favorite 5k ever.

    @sharko brings up a good point. You can be on line with that easy-to-see navigation feature, but not be online with the start/last buoy/whatever. In some swims I'd see other swimmers coming toward me then moving away, like they were doing a long slow zig-zag. Upon further reflection, I wondered if maybe it was me that was doing the zig-zag. (This was before I got the Garmin)

    As for 10K+ training, the thing that works for me is to swim at least the distance of the race per week starting about 6 months out (as @bluemermaid9 says above), with a "long" swim about a month out. I don't really care about distance, although in a pool it is easier to do a workout based on distance than time. But I learned a long time ago that I need lots of "horizontal time" so that my back doesn't give me trouble during the swim. In 2012 I tried a 10K (8 frigging loops) on very little horizontal time. First 5K on par (1:45-ish), next 2 laps took just as long as those first 4 laps. MY BACK WAS KILLING ME. I lapsed into side-stroke at each buoy just so I could give me back some relief.

    The killer was that I was sked for a 10-miler a month later (Swim the Suck...highly recommended). So for the remaining month I just went to the pool and did a bunch of 90- and 120-minute swims. Basically, 3 or 4 x 30:00. The 10-miler was EASY. At the end of the 10-miler I felt like I could have gone another hour plus.

    For my most recent swim (13-ish KM at more than a mile above sea level), I did lots of horizontal time, but mostly 1:40 swims with only one (I think) two hour swim. My best week I swam a little more than 6 hours. I had plenty of time for my back to get used to it, and with my swim actually taking me 6:02, it turned out perfect. No pain in the back, and the usually-expected shoulder soreness the next day.

    Yes, 5K is the gate-way drug. Welcome to the addiction.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member

    I also swim reasonably straight, but if conditions are choppy, or there's a crosswind, it will knock me off course. The less ideal the conditions, the more you need to sight.

    If you aren't used to sighting, practice it, and get time sighting to train the muscles in your neck and upper back. I swam a 10k last summer, and after that, had a herniated disc in my back. I am not blaming that strictly on the swim, but I do think it was certainly an exacerbating factor.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    Thank you all for the great suggestions. Regarding swimming straight. When I was really young I used to swim with no googles and my eyes closed. Even racing I did this. I would pop my eyes open near the turns but that was about it. So I learned to swim really straight and I know exactly how far 25 yards is. I also bilateral breathe. However, as pointed out, the dynamic action in open water has changed the equation.

    Thank you @Sharko, I really like the advice to also look back at the start points. I was realizing later even though I was sighting on the landmark at the finish, I could have been anywhere because I was just looking at one point rather than where I was on the line. I will definitely use this advice in the future. I also realized that the safety lifeguards were all positioned in more or less a line and I should have used them as a guide. Instead in my dumb brain I was thinking they were moving closer or further away from me. Rookie mistake...

    I will also start to do more sighting drills to get some strength and skill in that area because I know I won't always have friendly kayakers to help me along the way.

    Regarding sucking at the 50 free. My fastest time in the 50 was actually a split in the 200. I don't have many gears... I love the thought of "just revving up at 10K". I certainly have a ways to go before I hit that point but I know the feeling of just revving up. It clicked in for me at around the mile mark and I felt I could go all day at that pace.

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    curly said:

    Regarding sucking at the 50 free. My fastest time in the 50 was actually a split in the 200. I don't have many gears...

    My fastest 50, and 100 we're splits in the same race of the same 200. Nothing like getting 3 PRs in one swim.

    My first 5K was in Ft Lauderdale Beach back in April 1995. By August I was second at the Atlantic City 37K. All that really mattered in the end was that the swimming wasn't in the pool. I didn't have a progression from 5k to 10K, amd on.

    Chris

  • OwainOwain UKMember

    Hi I am training for a 5k sea swim end of August. I am on a 3 swim / week routine doing a mix of 3k and 4k straight swims in both short course and long course. I always take a bottle of my own mix of drink and find I need it at least after 3k. Now the 5k sea swim is fast-approaching I am thinking "how do I get my drink?". So I am after some useful advice please on how I can take on the fluid during the OWS.
    Thanks for the advice. Owain

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    Powergel (and probably some other companies) make tiny flasks that you can fill with whatever you need. I've tied one to a suit before, but I think there are belts runners wear.

    I usually would skip taking anything with me for a 5K. Some courses will have aid stations along the way.

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    @Owain, I would suggest you "drink up" prior to the start. Have you tried a pool swim of, say, 4K w/o water, but with a lot of water prior to starting, to see how you do?

    tortuga

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    One factor to consider is water temperature. I always drink lots of water in the pool because I'm hot the whole time. Swimming a 5K in a lake, let's say at 68F, I haven't been bothered by thirst. When it's warmer than that, I notice being thirsty in the last 1K, but not so much that it bothers me. Salt water tends to make one thirsty, but again, the temperature will most likely be colder than your pool. If you find that you're going to need a sip of something, go toobs are small enough to tuck in your suit and soft enough to squeeze with a cold hand. http://www.humangear.com/gear/gotoob

    If I was going much further than 5K without an aid station, I'd take these with me: https://shop.gatorade.com/sports-fuel/sports-fuel-drink

    Like Mike suggests, try drinking more before you start, although not too much. You don't want to be bothered by needing a pee stop midway.

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member

    My gateway was beating my then-husband (now ex) in our first 10k. It doesn't get any sweeter than that.

    curlysuziedodstortugaJenAswimrn62flystormsrosemarymintwendyv34dc_in_sf
  • OwainOwain UKMember

    Thank you! I am doing a 4.5k this Sunday eve so will knock back most of the bottle before I start and see how I do.

  • OwainOwain UKMember

    I ended up doing a 5k this eve. I probably made the mistake of not eating enough - only had a small breakfast and started my swim around 4pm after only having a banana and knocking back around 500ml of my drink. But the swim went well. I didn't stop at all, 3k split of 57:42 and finished the 5k in 1:38 so slowed a bit last 2k. I've never been that keen on energy gels, drinks etc but may try one next time and see if it helps.

    tortugaIronMike
  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    @Gabriel: I believe that our bodies are designed to adapt, strengthen, and overcome limitations. :) It's how we survive. :) I've found trigger point injections extremely helpful.

    This might be a helpful resource. http://www.allanmcgavinphysio.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Swimmers-Exercise-Program.pdf It is designed by physiotherapists who are very knowledgeable about swimming.

    And if, after you've exhausted every avenue, you find you can only do breaststroke, well... Swim breaststroke. :) I know it's not the same, but it was good enough for Captain Webb... :-)

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    Owain said: I ended up doing a 5k this eve. I probably made the mistake of not eating enough - only had a small breakfast and started my swim around 4pm after only having a banana and knocking back around 500ml of my drink. But the swim went well. I didn't stop at all, 3k split of 57:42 and finished the 5k in 1:38 so slowed a bit last 2k. I've never been that keen on energy gels, drinks etc but may try one next time and see if it helps.

    Were you as thirsty at the end of this one as you were at the end of your other longer swims?

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • OwainOwain UKMember

    Not really. I had some mild cramping towards the end and just managed to pull myself out the pool afterwards, and can feel it still in my arms, but not that thirsty afterwards.

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    Well that's good! That shows, hydration-wise, that you can do the 5K without needing a water station. Now to work on the muscles. ;)

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • pavlicovpavlicov NYC USASenior Member

    Owain said: Not really. I had some mild cramping towards the end ....

    Mild cramping is usually due to not enough electrolytes. Your hydration might have been fine with respect to amount of fluid but you probably sweated out more salt than you took in. I suggest you try electrolytes. UCAN hydration works the best for me.

    flystorms
  • OwainOwain UKMember

    I did a 3k today in a 25m pool and went pretty much hard all the way doing it in 53 minutes. I was conscious of some leg muscles threatening to cramp with around 10 lengths to go. Is there a natural electrolyte option? I will look at UCAN.

    Jbetleyflystormsdpm50
  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    @Owain said: Is there a natural electrolyte option?

    Bananas?

    Bananas are as beneficial as sports drinks, study suggests https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529113258.htm

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    JenA said:

    @Owain said: Is there a natural electrolyte option?

    Bananas?

    Bananas are as beneficial as sports drinks, study suggests https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529113258.htm

    I gotta say, after my recent long swim, I got a cramp (4 hours after the swim) in my calf that wouldn't go away. Before bed I ate a banana and 600mg of ibuprofen. In the morning cramp was gone. No soreness either.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • tortugatortuga Senior Member

    Recent research suggests a shot of vinegar or eat something spicy hot for cramps

  • NiccNicc TennesseeMember

    Well, I have finally swum two 5k races, within 2 weeks of each other, and mentally at least I certainly have the bug to push on for longer distances. Or, well, I guess I should stay I still have it, because I've been intrigued by the thought for a year or two now and the 5k experience cemented it.

    The first race, the Splashville 5k in Nashville, had very warm water (88F!) and I was so slow, but felt fine, physically. The Big Shoulders 5K in Chicago was nearly 20 degrees cooler, which was great...except for the cramping. One foot cramped moderately for about half of the first lap of the course, then a little while after that cleared up the calf in the same leg cramped strongly enough that I had to just stop kicking all together. I seem prone to that, though. In training swims, even with an electrolyte drink on the pool deck, if I didn't cramp a little near the end of the workout, I'd probably have a calf cramp when I got out of the pool, always in my left leg. I had bananas the night before and the morning of both races, but still, cramps. Oh well...I include pull work without a pull buoy in most of my workouts, so letting my legs drag behind for a while while a flexed that foot to loosen my cramp was not a huge new thing.

    Looking forward for me, my concern is speed. Comparing my results to the rest of the field, I was at the slow end of the average range in both races. In other words, if you forget about the handful who are a lot faster than everybody else and the handful who are far slower, among that big, middle chunk I tend to have one of the higher times. Should I try to work my way into being more firmly in the middle of the pack (or better) before moving up to longer distances, or just press on with setting increasingly longer goals for myself and try to ratchet up my pace simultaneously?

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    For me, taking a dose of magnesium the night before does the trick for preventing cramps.

    Work on your technique. That will make you faster and able to master longer distances more easily. You can blow yourself up with hard workouts or really overdo the distance, which will make you somewhat faster/more able to go further but, (unless you are a very young person), eventually, technical mistakes will cause you pain and possibly injury. During my recent long swim, the last 90 minutes were spent focusing entirely on my technique, as my arms were killing me and I needed my core to do more of the work.

    As far as going faster in a 5K, part of that is strategy and the other is willingness to suffer. Be well hydrated & fueled prior to the start. Don't go out too fast, but don't be too pokey either, it's not a 10K. Get into a steady pace that is slightly uncomfortable. Obviously, try to find a good navigator who is slightly faster than you to draft. If you are fortunate enough to find this person, it should be a challenge to stay with them and every effort should be made to do so. Many times, you will end up by yourself (or you'll tire of following someone who seems to want to go to the burger shack, not the next buoy). It's easy to space out when you're alone, if you want a faster time, don't space out. Concentrate on keeping up your speed. If you zone out, your body will slow down to a comfortable pace. Try picking up the pace for 24 strokes, or sprint for 48 after each corner. Try to catch up to someone ahead of you. Once you have passed halfway, consider speeding up. Make it gradual. As you get to the last half mile (or whatever your tolerance may be), try to ratchet up the pace. The last few hundred yards should be building to your top speed. Imagine that you want to make anyone trying to catch you regret the day that they put on a swim suit.

         ;) 
    
    tortugaflystorms

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    Very helpful. Thanks @wendyv34. I'm going to swim the 6K Mercer Island swim in a week or so. So sticking with the theme of this thread, the 5K is apparently the gateway drug. 6K seems pretty doable and should be fun. Stroke by stroke I get reeled in...

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    I know of a 7K up in Canada, for next summer...

    Have fun!

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    wendyv34 said: I know of a 7K up in Canada, for next summer...

    Have fun!

    Next summer I want to get up to the 10K level. I have been building up my body fat mental state to get to the point that I can confidently swim that distance.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WAMember

    I swam a 6K - ish yesterday. Lake was calm and beautiful. It was a non-competitive small group swim. There was a great team of escort paddlers and the swimmers were all terrific. I swam skins as did a few others. There was a group of swimmers that must have had outboard motors because all I saw was froth and wake and then they were gone. I found myself in a small group and we had fun messing with each other and ultimately I think we all swam faster than if we were alone.

    I had a great "race" with one guy who swapped the lead with me multiple times. Eventually I passed him for good and was starting to think I was fast. I sighted up ahead and saw one of the kayakers and so I figured I would try to reel the next guy in. I picked up the pace and after a while I sighted again and saw I was getting closer. Heh, heh, heh... I have always been a strong finisher and this was going to be something. I looked again and he was maybe 50 yards out.

    That's when I realized that the kayaker was stopped at the finish and marking the way in. Oh well. I finished proudly anyway. The super fast guys and girls were already there, dry, feasting on chocolate and bananas. They were nice enough to congratulate me on my swim. "Nice swim" they said and I knew that tone. It's the same way I used to congratulate older guys when they finished. Now I'm the older guy...

    But the great thing is that I absolutely loved the swim. I'm now setting my sights on the 10K distance. I am more confident of my swimming after a summer of 5K type swims. I'm more comfortable in the colder water and have definitely improved in that regard.

    So yes, apparently a 5K is the gateway drug to marathon swimming. I expect to join the ranks of true marathon swimmers next summer. Now it's back to the pool and stupid flip turns...

    JustSwimflystormsIronMikedpm50
  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNMember

    I've found that 10ks are so much fun. They are just long enough you have to work for it, but short enough to not take over your life with training.

    dc_in_sfswimrn62curly
  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    @wendyv34 said: For me, taking a dose of magnesium the night before does the trick for preventing cramps.

    Tiny caveat here: magnesium can have a laxative effect. I'd definitely practice dosing well in advance. :)

    JSwimpavlicovdpm50swimdaily
  • Well, I swam my first 5k and I am hooked. Did the "Open Water Festival" at South Padre Island Tx last weekend. While I completed it, I now know how much I have to learn. My fitness was there but had no idea how strong the tidal current was going to be, nor how to deal with it. I think it pulled me about a quarter mile off coarse, needless to say I struggled to get back then had to work to catch up. Going to shoot for a 10k next year, but not before doing much more open water. Found a lake in Houston (1.5 hours from me) to work out in weekly and hopefully can meet some like minded folks to get some input from.

    curly
  • Good read, the Old Marine in me was just trying to do a bit of "Kentucky Windage" . Lots to learn, Thanks

    IronMike
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    Toad said: Good read, the Old Marine in me was just trying to do a bit of "Kentucky Windage" . Lots to learn, Thanks

    Happy belated birthday Marine, and happy veterans day!

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

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