Considerations For A Long OW Swim

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From left- Serdar, myself, and Baha, on our first evening, as we return from a training swim at a beach only accessible by boat taxi.

The 7.1 km (or so, with currents and navigation) swim is tomorrow!

Baha was not able to get a spot in the race on the registration day, though he was ready on the phone and diligent for the whole 2 hours until registrations were filled. However, he has been persistent in checking since, and yesterday he discovered a break- they suddenly allowed 20 more swimmer spots and we rushed down to the city office to see if he could get in. Yep! So our little team is set now.

I will swim with Serdar to help us keep focus on energy conserving technique and keep an eye on our navigation. We estimate that it will take 4 hours for him.

Here are my considerations for tomorrow:

1) Hydration- I’ve gone 3 hours without water intentionally, but had water nearby if I needed it. 4 hours in the sun is tough. We are told there will be kayakers among us keeping an eye on the swimmers, but we all know it will be thin and much of our safety is up to us. Immersion in water, and in pleasantly cool water will mask our need for hydration, so with me escorting at this pace I will have time to keep a kayak in sight and flag one over (I hope) when we need our fill.

The burning of the salt on the tongue and mouth is just something sea swimmers must get used to. I have heard of no remedy for it. It was tolerable at 3 hours last year. I will find out what it is like after 4 now. The sea is particularly salty in this section of the Med.

2) Radiation- 4 hours in the sun is tough. The water should be a pleasant cool temperature (far enough away from the underground rivers flowing from the mountains so we won’t freeze), but that sun will be harsh. I will soak my back in lotion 2 or 3 times over the course of an hour before the race. In 4 hours there is a chance it will wear off. Fortunately I have my base tan already.

3) Temperature- Serdar doesn’t have my speed, but he does have much more acclimated body for cooler water. He has been swimming in the sea year round without a wetsuit. He will be going at his normal pace, while I will have to keep an eye on my core temperature staying with him. I am inclined to think that the water way out there in the channel will be normal sun-warmed 24 C which I should be fine in, but if it were in the zone where cold fresh water flows to the surface from underground rivers, my body will be confused and I will get chilled at anything lower than my race pace. Though I have come to love cool water swimming being cold is real suffering for me.

4) Fuel- We are tanking up on water and calories today and tomorrow morning. None of us plan to eat during the race- we don’t have a friend in a kayak to hold snacks for us so we don’t have that option anyway. My challenge fuel wise is to balance slower pace and keeping body temperature high enough. If I swim ahead and back from time to time I will turn a 7km swim into a 9+ swim and that will be testing my fuel tank by increasing distance.

However, a built-in aspect of TI training is that my stroke quality is so deeply embedded into my neuromuscular system that there is not ‘bad’ stroke to fall back into. I tested this last year intentionally, to see what happens when I bonk (body loses energy and mind has a hard time focusing), and I was encouraged to see that although I lost my strength to accelerate and I slowed tempo to increase rest in my glide time, my streamline position and firm catch did not diminish even in depleted state.  

5) Sore joints – I’ve got my aches like most people, though not because of poor technique anymore. The left shoulder gives me some problems from time to time and I have to be careful not to sleep on that side. It’s not the joint itself, but what I suspect to be tight myofascial tissue that runs back under the scapula to my spine. It’s something I need to get some deep tissue therapy for, to lengthen that fascial meridian- at least that is my theory right now. When it comes it starts to create a reference pain (irritation) over the shoulder joint during the stroke cycle, particularly during the recovery phase. In that moment I’ve got to problem-solve the tense muscles under the left scapula in order to relieve it during a swim. I have done this successfully before. Again, it’s all a part of the practice- managing every detail of the body like this.

Then there is the tendency for stabilizing tendons in the elbows and wrists to get sore sometimes as I am working on conditioning my joints for longer swims. Like when you’ve been writing too much with a pencil or holding the steering wheel too tensely, too long. I haven’t swam 7km this season yet. So I need to remain conscious of giving my tendons a rest in the stroke cycle. This is another feature built into the TI stroke technique- to turn off all that can be turned off, so that only what needs to be working, the fewest muscle units, are doing only what absolutely needs to be done. Every movement as economical as it can be.

One immediate disaster would be if I forgot to put vasolene under my arms before jumping in. Oh, that would be painful. I would have bloody armpits in 40 minutes and salt in the wounds. Don’t let me forget that.

Side note- I am mentally planning out a little hydrodynamic floating survival pack I would tow behind my one longer swim where I would be away from my gear- a little baby shampoo for the goggles, a water bottle, an energy bar, a little vial of  vasolene, and a vial of heavy sun lotion (that can be applied while wet) are the first things that come to mind. Maybe a little bright orange pirate flag as well just to give a bit more visability to boats. Some one was telling me about a wireless toy boat that would follow behind faithfully like a dog- now that would be a cool gadget- as long as it had enough power to stick with me in the waves.

There will probably be a few other things that will come up. Open-water swimming is all about adapting and problem-solving. I look forward to telling you my observations afterward.

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One response to “Considerations For A Long OW Swim

  1. Pingback: Good Food For A Long Swim « Smooth Strokes·

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