Advice for 1st ever marathon swim

efthemesefthemes Member
edited November 2012 in Beginner Questions
Hello everybody.

I am new in marathon swim, but a veteran pool swimmer. In 3 weeks I will participate in my first ever openwater race. The distance is not so daunting, just 3.5k. I am very comfortable with this distance, but being my first race I have a tonn of questions for my preparation.

- As I always have trouble with my silicon cap, which tends to slip off in a regular basis, I was wondering if a neoprene cap with a strap could resolve this issue. My worry is whether this kind of cap is acceptable in races or not?

- From my reading in this forum, I conclude that it is "legal" to apply vaseline or any other lubricate on your body. My question is, if I really need to do so, for such a short distance?

- There is a pre-race worm-up. Is that reffering usually to a land worm-up? What kind of excercises are considered suitable?

- I usualy breathe every 3 strokes, but in openwater there are waves to consider. Should I breathe away from the waves and adopt a different breathing pattern on every direction change?

- Are earplugs necessary?

- What would be the best race strategy? Would it be better to keep up with the group or set my own pace?

That's a lot of questions, I know, but as it is my first ever event, I would like to be prepared for it.

I am very grateful to have found this wonderful community, just in time :)

Thank you for any answer!

Comments

  • NiekNiek Member
    edited November 2012
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • @Niek Thank you for the link! It contains alot of interesting information. But I still feel that I don't have all the answers I want.
  • @efthemes, we need a little more info to answer some of your questions. Where is the swim? What is the expected water temperature? Is the swim in the ocean, lake river, etc..? How many swimmers are competing?
  • NiekNiek Member
    edited November 2012
    The 10th Winter Sea Swim Race in Vouliagmeni Gulf, Greece http://openwaterswimming.eu/node/8009
    So that's in salt water with around 20º Celsius water temp. http://www.surf-forecast.com/weather_maps/Greece?over=none&symbols=surf&type=sst and a lot of participants.
    -I don't think a swimcap is obligated in Greece and otherwise some ducktape will keep it in place. A cap with strap is allowed in Channel rules. Neoprene is not!
    -The waves aren't normally that high there but it won't hurt to practice that skill. Breathing both ways is always better for your neck muscles and if there're big waves.
    -Some lubricant around the private parts won't hurt. Lubricants are only good against friction not against cold.
    -Earplugs are allowed. Necessary? is entirely up to you.

    I know it's not to big a distance but I reckon it's your first openwater sea swim and my advice to you is to take something to drink along in your suite.
    If only to rinse the salt water out of your mouth if the breathing went wrong.
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • If there are a lot of swimmers, stay away from the pack (this being your 1st OW swim). Set your own pace. You'll find that there will be swimmers all around you no matter what your pace is. You may find it easier to sight off of the swimmers around you instead of lifting your head to sight the course. In that case you will want to breath on that side more often.
  • @niek and @gregoc thank you so much for your responses! I will try my best to follow your advice :)
  • Hi efthemes,

    My background is 6x English Channel Solo swimmer, MIMS winner 2010, an experienced open water swimmer over 1-3km races and a swim coach.

    Here are my thoughts:

    Some of your questions will be answered best by contacting the race directors/organisers directly. As far as I am aware each open water race is allowed to set it's own rules. For example:

    "I was wondering if a neoprene cap with a strap could resolve this issue. My worry is whether this kind of cap is acceptable in races or not?" - ask them directly

    "From my reading in this forum, I conclude that it is "legal" to apply vaseline or any other lubricate on your body."- ask them directly. Chafing can be a real issue for some swimmers, especially in the salt water. I would definitely apply some as a precautionay measure whereever there is friction when you swim e.g. your underarms, neck region, your lower bather line.

    "There is a pre-race worm-up. Is that reffering usually to a land worm-up? What kind of excercises are considered suitable?" - Again, ask the organisers dirctly, usually an area is set aside for swimmers to warm-up in the water before the race.

    These are more a personal preference questions race organisers cannot advise on:

    "I usualy breathe every 3 strokes, but in openwater there are waves to consider. Should I breathe away from the waves and adopt a different breathing pattern on every direction change?" - If this is your first open water race, breathe in which ever way is comfortable for you. The more relaxed, comfortable and confident you are the more you will enjoy the swim, the quicker you will find a rhythm and the quicker your time will be.

    "Are earplugs necessary?" This is a very personal preference. They are no more necessary than they would be in your pool sessions. (e.g. if you are prone to ear infections and are using ear plugs in the pool then you should also use them in the open water)

    "What would be the best race strategy? Would it be better to keep up with the group or set my own pace?" Excellent advice from Gregoc: "If there are a lot of swimmers, stay away from the pack (this being your 1st OW swim). Set your own pace. You'll find that there will be swimmers all around you no matter what your pace is. You may find it easier to sight off of the swimmers around you instead of lifting your head to sight the course..."

    Great advice from Niek: "Breathing both ways is always better for your neck muscles and if there're big waves." always breathe bilaterally (both ways) if possible - it means you can view the other swimmers, the course and marker buoys on both sides of you easily.

    In addition, I would also suggest 'Polo' drill in the pool so you can practice 'sighting' other swimmers in fron of you, sight any swimmer in your lane in front of you for 3-4 strokes and then do normal freestyle for 3-4 strokes to rest for a little bit and then repeat this for a few laps with rest at each wall.

    If you are training up specifically for a longer swim which does not allow neoprene caps like Catalina or the English Channel I wouldn't suggest wearing one in this race.

    Hope this helps :)

    Chloe McCardel
    www.chloemccardel.com
  • @chloemccardeldotcom
    Thanks a lot Chloe! It sure did help! All my questions are answered in a very structured way.

    I do appreciate the time and effort you spent responding to my inquiry. I will try my best to follow your valuable advice.
  • anytime :) Here is my email if I can be of further assistance: chloe@chloemccardel.com
  • I think you've got a good set of answers here but one thing that hasn't been mentioned is your tolerance to cool water and also whether or not you've spent any time in training practising in open water. Niek mentioned the expected water temperature will be around 20 degrees. Most experienced open water swimmers will find this quite tolerable, if not pleasantly warm (typical temperatures for English Channel swims are 15-17 degrees). However, if you are not used to it, it will feel significantly cooler than most swimming pools (in the UK, typical pool temperature is around 28-30 degrees). If you have any opportunities I would recommend swimming at least once in open water before your event so you know what to expect when you enter the water. 20 degrees shouldn't cause any problems if you keep moving, but you may feel chilled after 30-40 minutes. Make sure you have a warm drink and some warm clothes waiting for you when you finish.

    Secondly, if you are only used to pool swimming, being in open water for the first time can be a little disorientating or even frightening - you can't see the bottom, you've got waves and chop and other people may swim into you. The more you experience open water conditions the less daunting (and more enjoyable) they will be.

    Good luck.
    Simon Griffiths
    (www.h2openmagazine.com)
  • @SimonGriffiths
    Thank you Simon for your comment. You are right about the thing that I am not used to such low water temperature. I will have a trainning session the weekend before the race, at the place where it's held. I am anticipating my reaction to the cold water, as I have only pool experience. I hope it will be alright.

    I think that the orientation is going to be the major issue to me, as a pool swimmer. I will try to work out a way to solve this problem, so that I can enjoy the race. More Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

    @Niek @gregoc @chloemccardeldotcom @SimonGriffiths You guys are great! Thank you so much for you advice and suppot!
  • Look for landmarks. Buildings, trees, towers etc. that are directly behind the buoy you're going to. Those are usually better sighted than the buoy.
    Look at the rest of the pack and follow them.
    Ask the escorts for directions.
    Google
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • As Niek says, look for landmarks. This can also be done before you enter the water. Try to imagine what things will look like from water level. If you're heading directly away from shore and there's nothing to see ahead you can also look back to check you're holding the right line.
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    Have fun. This is an addiction you'll enjoy and isn't bad for you. The first few I did I got anxious around the start and thought "Why did I do this? I paid for this?" But now, I never think that. I think how much fun I'm having and at the finish I think about the next race. I love this sport.
  • @SimonGriffiths I will try to spot landmark during my practice race on Saturday. I 'll see how that goes.

    @IronMike To tell you the truth I have 2 goals for this race. 1st to finnish it and 2nd to finnish it under 60min. As you can see, I have no goal to enjoy it. You are right it should be my no1 goal. I promise, I will try to enjoy it as much as possible! :)
  • NiekNiek Member
    edited November 2012
    @efthemes Read the (lousy) translated (with Google) funny story of sighting during a swim in Israel. http://openwaterswimming.eu/node/8159
    Hope you'll do better your first time. ;)

    To be honest. With a few exceptions she didn't do so bad. In her mind she went everywhere but the right way.
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • @Niek :)) Really funny story! I sure hope to do better ;)
  • Yestarday I had a test swim, where the race is going to take place. I had some very interesting findings

    - Water temperature is not an issue.
    - I can do better without my always-come-off silicone cap. I will not wear one!
    - I MUST apply lubricant around the private parts, as @Niek suggested.
    - I have a HUGE issue with orientation.

    My last finding was the most important one. Suddenly @Niek 's story is not that far apart from my own. I kept finding myself disoriented.

    I tried landmarks, but I was messing up my pace by constantly lifting my head to spot the course.

    I tried the wave lines on the sand bottom. This had even worse results. I ended up way off course.

    The only way to be on course was to follow another swimmer and hope that (s)he is not as disoriented as me :)

    I really hope to finnish this 3.5k race under 4K :)
  • NiekNiek Member
    edited November 2012

    I really hope to finnish this 3.5k race under 4K

    Brilliant. :-))
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • @efthemes....

    Notes from one of my briefings for the Alcatraz Invitational...by the way I have always recommended a bubble cap with a strap which is EC legal...hope some of the information is helpful:

    Swimming Equipment
    • Wetsuits…..I know that most of you will be wearing a wetsuit and that is fine…but please try it on before the Invitational!!!! Every year we have swimming that jump from the boat and the first words we hear is “I can’t breath” or my wetsuit is too tight around my neck or chest….if your wetsuit is too tight do one of two things get a more comfortable one or unzip it a bit around neck and chest…remember the water will be more than 60f this year and that is pretty warm for a wetsuit.

    • Goggles….Try out your goggles and make sure they seal (you don’t want to be looking out of half full goggles and having to take them off time after time to see as your sighting is very important for this swim. If they seal and are comfortable then the next thing is to clean them with warm soapy water to get all of the oil and dirt off of them. On the night before the swim put a drop of dish detergent or baby shampoo on the inside and smear it around and wash it off clean…this will keep the goggles from fogging while swimming…you can also put a drop of baby shampoo in the lenses and clean the day of the swim rinsing with water. When you jump off the boat depending on how you land your goggles may be ripped off your head so you may want to put an hand over them or as some swimmers do is put the goggles around their neck and then put them on their head when they are clear of boat (Try jumping off a diving board or off a pier and see what works best).


    • Ear Plugs…..Most of us use Mac’s earplugs to keep the cool water out and have found that they mold to your ears well. Please bring yours and we will be providing all of you with an extra set (Please don’t have them in when El Sharko is giving you the race briefing though…he might not like that)

    • Cap and or Thermal Cap…If you are a skins (no wetsuit) you might consider wearing a thermal cap as there is heat loss through the head and you will stay warmer wearing one…try it out ahead of time and you will be putting on our yellow latex caps over the top.

    Night & Morning Before The Swim

    • Eat a normal high quality protein meal and veggies the night before the swim (100 of you will welcome to purchase a BBQ dinner the night before the invitational)

    • I recommend a hearty meal before swimming in the Bay…I like a big bowl of steel cut oats a couple of hours before I swim…gives a slow release of energy (complex carbohydrates) for the duration of a swim like this.

    • Consider hydrating with fluids having Cytomax or Maltodextrin or just plain water before walking down to the boat.

    • If you think you will be in the water for more than 45 minutes you may consider stuffing a pack of Gu in you suit and using it ½ to ¾ way across
    • The Alcatraz swim will be approximately 1.5 miles when considering the currents so I would expect that you should be training at least a 2 mile distance to allow some crabbing (swimming against a current).
    • There is going to be a lot of energy on September 8th at the sign-in, briefing and on the boat with 1000 swimmers and their guest so I would encourage those of you that have not done the swim or are nervous about the swim to practice a relaxation technique I employ before my big swims. It is a breathing technique known as alternate nose breathing (cover one nostril and breath in through the other deliberately and excel through the mouth, do this say 8 times and then switch to the other nostril) This will relax you and saturate your muscles with O2. I would be doing this while walking to the boat as well as just before you jump.

    • When it is your turn to jump at “The Rock” try to relax when you hit the water...move away from the boat and take a couple of breaths…please don’t hyperventilate from over excitement as this is a very constricting action…again relax…take a look at your surrounds, “The Rock” and then start swimming and consciously breathing normally. The water is going to be a balmy 60f (we swim year round in 50f water so you can swim in this water no problem).
    • If you do not have experience sighting I would suggest you not try to follow the swimmer in front of you as they my be zig zagging…I would suggest that you get a feel for your direction by occasionally looking at the landmarks we will point out before the swim and look at the landmarks on your breathing side which should either be the Golden Gate Bridge to your right/west or the Bay Bridge on your left/east. A practice swim in choppy open water would be good sighting practice.

    El Sharko
    "I never met a shark I didn't like"
  • @efthemes What was your time? How did it go? How many km did you swim?

    Questions, questions.....
    Results 3,5km - 10th Vouliagmeni Winter Open Water Swim
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • The results are finally out!

    But lets take it from the top. The weather was good and the water temperature around 20C, which was not an issue at all.

    At the starting line I was in one of the last places, in order to overview all the others and work myself from there (beginner's state of mind, I guess).

    I wore no cap, so I didn't have to worry about it coming off. The water temp was ok, so I had no reason to wear one.

    As all of you adviced, I put lubricant on my armpits, shoulders and private parts. It sure was a life saver :).

    It was a 2 cyrcle triangular shaped track. So, I mentally divided the whole race in 6 parts, which was something that helped me keep going.

    My major problem was the 3rd and 6th part orientation. For some reason (maybe because of the waves) I found myself totally disoriented on those parts. I may have added 200m-250m to the race, because of this (@Niek). During the other parts of the race I had no trouble what so ever and actually I was swimming straighter than most of the other guys.

    My time was 1h 00m 44s, which is my exact initial target! I was 16th in my category (31-45 years/male/no wetsuit) and 43rd overall. The total competitors where 117, so I guess I did OK for my first time.

    @IronMike I had alot of fun and look forward for my next race!

    @Niek @gregoc @chloemccardeldotcom @SimonGriffiths @Sharko @IronMike Thank you so much for the advice and support!!!
  • NiekNiek Member
    edited December 2012
    EYƟYMOƩ nice report. Not bad for a first time.
    And sighting you can practice in a pool. Google:sighting in open water
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    Freaking awesome time! That is great. You've been bitten by the OW swimming bug and now you'll be mad when you come to a time of the year when there are no races!
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