Training Advice Needed!

ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
edited July 2012 in General Discussion
This summer, my big swim was to swim the English Channel. So, I trained my butt off, went to England, and then sat in Dover for 10 days and watched the wind blow. When I got home, my boat captain emailed and said he had someone drop out and I could have the spot if I wanted to come back. I thought about it for a few days, and have decided to go back. But, this leaves me with a training problem I've never had before: How do I best prepare to go back in TWO weeks?

Prior to leaving for England, I was training a minimum of 60,000 meters/week. I rested one week before going to England (swam about 35,000 meters that week), and then swam about an hour per day in Dover harbor for the two weeks I was there. I took three days off while we were in London before coming home (proably the longest amount of time without swimming in 8 months). I've been swimming since I've been back, but feel like a big pile of jello. I haven't lost much speed, but feel like I've lost fitness.

What can I do over the next two weeks to get back into fighting shape? Swim massive amounts of yardage? Focus on intensity? Little bit of both? Never having been in this situation before, I'm open to advice or suggestions from any of you who might have been in a similar situtation for whatever reason.


  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    You were ready... and you ARE ready!
    This is a game of waiting, and few people get to swim at their ideal moment. Trust your training; its great that you might get another slot this season!

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    Don't get me wrong- totally pumped up and thrilled to get a shot this year. Now, I'm just about a million times more nervous about it than 3 weeks ago.

    3 weeks ago: confident that I'd destroy it.
    Now: worried about pain management. :-)
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    Yes, I agree with Dave - trust the training! I know from experience that "questioning" what you have done can cause stress, and stress causes the "pile of Jello" feeling! You have the training under your belt, and the extra time off could make it a slighty rougher journey, but YOU WILL GET THROUGH IT! Just accept it, and know that you are much tougher than the Channel! You (and I) both know that! Pain? Please, we LIVE FOR IT :) WWCLD? Stay hydrated, chest out, chin up and JUST KEEP SWIMMING! Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited July 2012
    I don't think you've taken enough time off to lose much fitness. The pile of jello feeling could be due to travel & stress. You have a huge training base, and it's still there - you just have to find your feel water again.

    I doubt there are any textbook answers for what you describe. It's an unusual situation, and you'll have to improvise. You've been swimming forever - you've put in the 10,000 hours that qualifies you as an "expert." Trust how you feel, and what seems right.

    If it were me, I'd approach the two weeks as a sort of inverted "V." Build up distance over Week 1, then taper off over Week 2. Keep intensity higher than usual - I find it's better for maintaining good feel for the water.

    So excited for you to get this second chance!
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin

    It's an unusual situation

    No disrespect Evmo, but I wish that were true. In fact for EC Soloes it's very common, I've known the one person get weathered out four times. It's so common I'm writing a blog post about it that I'll post soon after I restart the blog next week.

    The weather, the waiting and the resulting stress is probably the least understood aspect of EC swimming by those who haven't gone through it and part of the overall challenge, like the NC, Molokai, Gibraltar or Cook that way.

    Sitting in Dover & Varne, day after day, waiting, watching forecasts, going to the beach, talking to pilots every day, staring off the Varne cliffs at dawn, mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening, visiting the Castle, Canterbury, Folkestone, France ... again, watching the TV Weather, listening to the Shipping News, visiting every weather website, and still not having an answer, is punishing, all the while wondering if your year or two years of training and preparation will be wasted and you will go home without a swim this year, because that happens swimmers every year.

    At 2 weeks out, I'd consider a couple of 3 or 4 hours swims then taper back down again holding one hours swims and you will be fine, "your body remembers" as Lisa Cummins frequently repeats to me.

    The good news is the EC weather has changed finally as you know, and this week has seen a lot of Soloists get out and the jam start to clear. Best of luck during the swim but remember it's not luck that will get you there, or what happens in your next couple of training days, but all the training and commitment you have already input! The World's Most Popular Open Water Swimming Blog

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    I had a three and a half week gap between when I was supposed to swim (in 2010) and when I actually got a chance to go. Like the others have said, if you were ready three weeks ago, you still are - I'd just do a couple of moderate swims - 4-5 hours - to recover that sense of being at home in the water, then just tick over with an hour or two each day until you get the go ahead.

    The hardest part of the whole thing for me was the stress of not knowing, raging control freak that I am. This came to a bit of a head on day 10 in Dover, as the wind still howled; I remember that there was some crying, and then, in a state of distraction, I accidentally threw the keys to my campervan out with the rubbish, and eventually had to be saved from myself by my partner who drove down to Dover, took me out for fish and chips and persuaded me to get a grip and head home to wait. In that whole time (and for two weeks before I was supposed to swim), I didn't do more than four hours in one go, but the training was in there somewhere and I honestly don't think I suffered for the delay on the day.

    My point is: (a) I am no model for the good emotional management of a delayed swim; but (b) if you've done the work already (which you obviously have), ticking over is fine. It's a bit of a leap of faith, but it's all still there.

    It's so exciting that you've got another chance - good luck!
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    Actually, the odds are pretty good that you are BETTER prepared right now. Most studies have shown that it takes a minimum of 6 weeks to have any real detraining effect and that usually means the person doing next to nothing. In swimming, the real issue is technique and since you have been doing a decent amount of swimming in the mean time, that isn't an issue. Right now most of the micro-traumas you had from the more intensive training have healed, your glycogen is not depleted and you probably have been sleeping better. You are ready; it's just that you need to not overthink it. Jim Ryun once set the world record in the mile right after an illness that kept him from running for 3 weeks.

    You WILL do it!

    Good Luck,

    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • SharkoSharko Sonoma County, CACharter Member
    I watch the intensity of many of the EC aspirants training at the South End and I wonder what they are is as if they don't train until they drop they are not training enough....I think many are over training and in danger or injuring themselves. Most marathon swimmers I have known have the ability to keep going once in rest and the build up of reserves/glycogen should be a good thing for a marathon swim...a few suggestions I used from a trainer before my swim is 1) just before you go over do a visualization your are swimming in the Channel and see how it feels 2) When your captain calls do a visualization you are swimming and see yourself crawling up on the French shore 3) do some alternate nose breathing just before you jump off the boat to saturate you muscles with 02 and to relax 4) swim easily and smoothly for the first couple of hours stretching it out...and then just hold the pace and leave a burst to push through the tide at the end.

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

  • KNicholasKNicholas ArizonaCharter Member is as if they don't train until they drop they are not training enough....I think many are over training and in danger or injuring themselves.

    I could not agree more with this statement. I may be the lowest mileage marathon swimmer on the planet that I know of when I read what the others are doing on a montly basis.

    I recently read that the average monthly mileage of some very experienced open water swimmers in California was at the 100,000 meter per month range. I'm more like a 75,000 - 80,000 meters per month during peak training. Of course that includes 90% pool workouts including fast and tiring intervals but I marvel at how much I perceive everyone else is training. Despite my comparatively low mileage, it has carried me through a number of successful swims including Catalina, MIMS and the Kingdom Swim.

    I'm 45 and I hope to be swimming for the next 45 years. I don't want to be injured and I've never had shoulder surgery. I want to keep it that way. I'm fine with not grinding myself physically so I can be better mentally. Yes I'll go do the 10-15 mile training swims so I know what it feels like (and which I agree is absolutely necessary) but I don't think its essential to do those monster types of swims week in and week out. I'll go as far as to say it could be counterproductive.

    I am cheering for you to make it. Take confidence in your not so distant massive training. If you were doing 60,000 meters/week (240,000 meters/month), you have what it takes man.
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    Thanks for all the tips- headed back on Wednesday. Had a few good training swims the last few weeks (nothing crazy!) and am feeling better. Weather forecasts are looking good, too!
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin
    Bunch of Sandycover swimmers are there this week again, all staying in Varne. keep an eye and ear out for the Irish...and best of luck. Forecast for Weds to Sat is very good! The World's Most Popular Open Water Swimming Blog

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited August 2012
    KNicholas said:

    I may be the lowest mileage marathon swimmer on the planet that I know of when I read what the others are doing on a monthly basis.
    I don't think its essential to do those monster types of swims week in and week out. I'll go as far as to say it could be counterproductive.

    I too am a relatively low-volume trainer. My enjoyment of swimming tends to decline precipitously above about 25km/week (as does my ability to do my job, to have a social life, etc.).

    However, I'm under no illusions about this approach. I "got through" Tampa, MIMS, Catalina, and Ederle last year on fairly pedestrian weekly volume (interspersed with occasional big training swims). But there's no doubt my marathon swims would have been faster and less painful if I had, say, doubled my weekly volume.

    It's a trade-off that works for me - but it's still a trade-off. And I wouldn't recommend it to others unless they're very experienced swimmers and fully conscious of the trade-off.
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
    You can't say "got through" with the results you had, Evan. ;)
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    @IronMike I really do believe "more is better" in training for marathon swims (assuming no negative effects on either mental or physical health, which I know is a big assumption). If I were getting paid to do this and had 3-4 training partners, I'd totally be doing 60km/week. But I'm just not in a position to do that right now.
  • bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
    edited August 2012
    evmo said:

    I'm under no illusions about this approach. I "got through" Tampa, MIMS, Catalina, and Ederle last year on fairly pedestrian weekly volume (interspersed with occasional big training swims).

    Just "got through" Ederle? Now you are just playing head games with everyone you beat that day and in the years before you set the record. That's the last time I'll ever swim slow just to make you feel better.
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited August 2012
    bobswims said:

    Just "got through" Ederle? Now you are just playing head games with everyone

    :-) I can get away with stuff 'cause I'm young(ish) and have shoulders of steel. Still a bad idea, though!
  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited August 2012
    Congrats to @ssthomas on her successful English Channel crossing in 11:23, thus completing her Triple Crown. So glad everything worked out for you in the end!
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin
    Congrats @ssthomas! The World's Most Popular Open Water Swimming Blog

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    It worked out just fine! And if not for a 'shitty tide' (to quote the boat captain) I woulda been done an hour sooner. But that's cool- I got an extra hour in the channel, and how many times am I going to do that? :-)
  • KNicholasKNicholas ArizonaCharter Member
    Glad to see you crossed the channel Sarah. Congratulations! I watched the Tampa swim and couldn't believe the weather ended that one early. I've been swimming with a swimmer who use to train with you in CO, Shauna N. and I can see her following your footsteps. Again, nice work.
  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    @knicholas- Shauna is an amazing swimmer, our sport would be lucky to have her cross over into the longer and colder stuff. :-)
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