Archive for the Open water Category
Thanks for all the requests asking for my personal account of my recent Cook Strait swim.
I wrote the following as I waited for my swim window…
Here I am two days out from my first tide window. Everything you read and hear about the difficulty in waiting for that swim window to open is true. No amount of willing will make the weather and tides conspire so patience is a must.
I remember reading one of NZ Multi Sport legend Steve Gurneys books talking about his process of resting up and being ready to ‘bounce of walls’ before the big event. This was my plan also. It’s tempting right now to get in the water and swim more miles, but I won’t. 30km last week, only 4.5km so far this week. Have I done enough swimming? Yes. Could I have done more? Certainly. Last year I completed 5x 10km plus competitive swims, the shortest was 9.7km in 12 C fresh water, the longest was 14km, my best a 10km sea swim no wetsuit in 14C . All in varying conditions. In November and December I joined my local swim club and took advice and feedback on stroke and technique , the more one learns about swim performance the more one learns they don’t know ( Beware the swim expert who claims to know it all). I pushed myself with a fun group of competitive swimming youngsters. It broke me down pretty good – I got a good flu before Christmas, but I listened to my body. Rest is an important part of training and recovery. So is listening to ones body. I’ve learnt that advice from all sources is valuable but the true expert on what is happening within me is me. I have learnt to trust myself and make decisions about my swimming. A plan is only as good as when it is written, a plan that is inflexible is no good to anyone. This year I have moved my training more to the open water, judging my pace (which sits at an honest 4km/hr for the long stuff in calm water). I can get in and swim that speed now in a heart beat. I’m comfortable in rough water, we trained a lot in horrendous windy, choppy conditions. I know I can hack 12C for a couple of hours at least, that shouldn’t be required on this Cook Strait swim at the moment. My biggest swim was last Monday, 6 hours/21.5km. Lots of rest since then, recovery 3km on Wed and a 5.5km open water on Friday.
Why have I decided on Cook Strait? I am a kiwi by birth, the toughest and most iconic NZ swim had the most appeal. Only 85 people that I am aware at the time of writing have succeeded in the challenge. The chance to work with legendary open water swimmer Philip Rush as my guide. There are many reasons. Much to ponder as I sit and wait (Not at all patiently) for the call …
Cook Strait Post Swim
It was actually another 15 days until I got the ‘Go’ call from Philip Rush at 5pm on Thursday 21 March – be at the Marina in Wellington at 5.20am the next morning ready to swim. A quick flight to Wellington and a pick up from former Olympic swimmer and all round good guy Murray Burdan. Back to his house for a miserly 3 hours sleep, my mind would not rest. Breakfast for me that morning 4 weet bix, a banana, four slices of toast. All food I had eaten and swum on many times before. We headed out to the Marina and got there promptly - after a wrong turn - at around 5.26am. Philip Rush had never specified which way I would swim but there was a general assumption it would be North to South. How wrong we were. My Cook Strait guide and escort team were Philip Rush – open water swimming legend, Chris (Captain), Byron (tactician) between the three of them they have over 60 years experience of Cook Strait swimming, when they spoke I listened. I also had my own crew of chief cheer leader, nutritionist and budding film maker Anna Marshall (she has swum Lake Taupo 41km) , Doug who had assisted me with many miles of swim training and took most of the photographs of my swim and Murray Burdan all around great guy and supporter. I knew my entire team would rather beat me with a paddle rather than let me back on the boat should I have doubts during the swim. I couldn’t ask for a better crew.
We motored over to the South Island. Philip greased me up, I only put grease on my neck, arm pits and crotch. I actually grow a beard to stop chaffing. For me it works. I took a look at the temperature gauge, 15.8.C water temperature. Some last minute words from Philip – breathe to the boat, DON’T look up at where we are headed (looking at land 2o plus km away can be psychologically devastating!) and a mention of a rock a couple of km’s out, evidently swims that pass one side are often successful, swims to the other side are not. Swim smooth and relaxed but make sure I get out past the rock. I dived in, the water was brisk and chilling. I had a slight ice cream headache. I am certain the fabulous NZ summer temperatures had weakened my cold water abilities slightly. Standing on the beach facing the North Island was a big moment. No mucking around. I had visualised this moment intently and had a very strong sense of determination to get across. Some may chuckle but I did regularly imagine myself successfully making this swim and how I would feel when I completed the crossing. I used that feeling often throughout the swim to provide drive and motivation.
Water conditions on the day were much better than all my training swims. Very lucky. We can control fitness and cold water abilities but not the weather. I felt great from the get-go. Philip and I had talked about taking the first hour to get into a groove. I can honestly say I felt great within the first 300M of the swim. The first few feeds came by very quickly. Philip and Anna in my immediate support boat gave me plenty of thumbs up to let me know I was on pace. Sharks, Jellyfish and deep sea monsters – I had considered them during training swims but today was all business. At around 1.45 into the swim I got a horrendous cramp in my left leg, seriously cramped. I had to reach down in the water and massage it out. I was well hydrated (I had a pee while swimming between each feed – its an essential skill) but I believe the lower blood flow to my legs and the cold water cause me to cramp. It has happened in my training swims and as per my training swims is happens early and then goes away. I fed every 30 minutes. I have used maxim in the UK but wanted to use easily sourced products here in NZ. I drank the neck of a bottle of powerade for the first couple of feeds and then had these diluted with warm water. I had an electrotyle tablet diluted with warm water and a very small amount of powerade at the 2 hour mark. After 2 hours I started with some solid food, bananas to start. I also used a carb protein mix called Sustagen, some bread and honey! And some lollies as the swim went on. I won’t tell you what I yelled out in the later stages of the swim when I spotted the crew eating meat pies
At the 2 hour mark I asked Philip if I was getting close to the rock , he laughed and told me I was way past it. Good news. At the 2.5 hour mark Philip turned serious and asked me how much I had in the tank? He said I was just over half way, conditions were great and I was on track for a good time. I told him I was 37 not 27, I wasn’t sure of my endurance but could guarantee him a good 2 hours of 4km plus pace. He encouraged me to lift me tempo for the next 30 minutes to see how I felt. I brought my stroke rate up from around 45 strokes to 55 strokes per min. For the next 2 hours I worked hard and with the encouragement of the crew and good conditions made great headway. Approaching the 5 hour mark I thought another big boat had gone past but then the wake stayed messy and didn’t subside. I was in one of the infamous Cook Strait tidal rips with an opposing wind. Washing machine time. Even with my pace we spent a good 30 minutes going sideways rather than forward. I had spent a great deal of energy in the previous two hours so found this period psychologically and physiologically very tough. My team kept encouraging me and I made of point of responding at times with crazy comments and signals when I breathed in order to keep my spirit up. I know this works for me, some would no doubt find it distracting and a waste of energy.
Philip made a suggestion at about 5 hours 30 min that I change my stroke. Again for some who are not comfortable this would be a no-no but I am comfortable with using slight alterations in technique to reduce pressure on back and shoulders while maintaining pace.
I’d broken through the rough stuff by now and was on the straight run for shore, Philip and Anna were cheering relentlessly, I hit the shore, my legs definitely would not work so I crawled up the beach knowing the clock doesn’t stop until I clear the water. Adrenaline helped me stand and I raised my arms, a personal victory. You can watch the closing stages of the swim here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCACOgQmRNc
Something that makes you hurt, sweat and endure that you face up to and beat provides one of the greatest senses of accomplishments on earth.
Some facts for the factoids out there …starting weight 101.7 kg , finishing weight taken two meals after the swim 98.5kg. Body fat 22% pre swim, Visceral fat 12% . Swim time 6 hours 15 min 15 seconds. 4th fastest crossing. 80th person to swim the crossing, 88th swim of the Strait.
For those who have not visited the website of late; Fit&Abel’s Dan Abel has grand plans of swimming Cook Strait this year. The support coming in has been terrific though not surprising. The global swimming fraternity are renowned for being such a fun, social and supportive bunch. The following is from Dan:
I have had loads of questions regarding the Cook Strait swim. Given that I am still waiting for suitable conditions for the swim I thought I would take time out to answer some of your questions…
Why are you doing this swim? Why not? It’s an age old adage but it’s applicable … because I can. Because I don’t want to get older and wonder could I have? Because I am a New Zealander therefore the Cook Strait is my ‘local’ swim. Because only 85 swimmers have officially made the swim to date. Because its rough, cold and tidal as anything, therefore a terrific challenge. It also happens to be one of the ‘Oceans Seven’, which is a list of seven global open water swims coined by open water legend Steven Munatones.
How far will you swim? It’s 26km straight line, swim distance on the day … it’s not quite a lottery but tides, fitness, swim pace will all impact on the total distance. Sure as eggs it’ll be further than 26km.
Who is helping you to swim the Cook Strait? Legendary NZ Open Water Swimmer Philip Rush has been helping swimmers successfully negotiate Cook Strait for decades. Philip was the first two way Cook Strait swimmer, holds the fastest three way English Channel swim 28hours 21 min (Wow!) His knowledge and expertise are second to none when it comes to Cook Strait. http://www.cookstraitswim.org.nz/ Philip will have two boats out escorting me and we will have a total support crew of around 6 people. A not insignificant amount of logistics are involved.
When will you start? That is the million dollar question. For those of you with any marathon swim experience or who have friends who have swum a big one you will know it is simply not a matter of having a start date. To actually start a swim you need tides, weather and your team to all be on the mark and available at the same time. Every season that I have been in the UK there have been swimmers who have trained for years to swim the English Channel, they have had their swim window and pilot boat booked years in advance only to spend weeks on the shore waiting for decent weather. For some it’s not to be, if you don’t get good weather in your booked swim period you miss out. Such is open water swimming. I am very hopeful we’ll get a good window here in New Zealand for the Cook Strait but you never know, I too may miss out. That’s Open Water swimming for you – mother nature always maintains ultimate discretion on your start time.
What is the expected water temperature? It has been 18C this year but the air temperatures especially during the night time have been nudging down in single digits. Expected water temperate will most likely be around 15 – 16C.
Do you eat? Absolutely. I could be out there up to 12 hours. I will take on liquid and other energy foods every half hour. All the supplements and liquids I use on the day I have tested during my training to ensure they work as advertised and don’t upset my stomach and make me sick. Getting the right balance of energy and hydration and maintaining it throughout the swim is vital.
Can you get on the boat? Not until I make it to the other side. No touching the boat until the finish. It’s all about having a level playing field for all who undertake such swims.
Will you wear a wetsuit? No. 25 August 1875 Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the English Channel. He wore a swim suit, cap and goggles. In the spirit of this swim and once again to maintain an equal playing field a true blue marathon swim adheres to the same equipment list.
What about the sharks? … yes they’re out there … guess what? They live in the ocean. There is something justified and poetic about entering the water and suddenly NOT being the top of the food chain anymore. It gives one much more appreciation about the world and our real place in it. I feel sorry for those that don’t have this experience. Having said that do I get scared? yup, absolutely. I have a super active imagination too which doesn’t help. But I love the outdoors and nature … the biggest fear is fear itself. Sharks aren’t stupid I’m sure they know you’d need to soak me in a good marinade and cook me for a good 6 hours before I’d be anywhere near worth eating . I am far more concerned about Jelly Fish than anything else.
Keep an eye on www.fitandabel.com and our social media Twitter @fitandabel and fb page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fit-Abel/196225367082495 where I or one of my team will keep you updated on the Cook Strait adventure.
We have some great partners and swim opportunities this summer and if the first few weeks are anything to go by we are in for an action packed summer of open water swimming. We have started our Open Water Technique swims and our Ocean Skills swims. It’s not a silly idea to get your stroke sorted before heading into the Open Water, we are passionate about personalising technique training to YOU which is why we also offer 121 swim lessons.
Man-made Pegasus Lake in is great condition and is a perfect newbie open water swim venue, minimal hazards and pleasant water temperatures http://www.pegasustown.com/webcam
We have coached Fitness and Technique sessions at Pegasus every Tuesday evening at 7pm. http://fitandabel.com/events-bookings/fitabel-summer-201213-series/open-water-fitness-and-technique-series/
Our other regular Open Water venue is Corsair Bay in Lyttelton Harbour. Check out the picture on the registration page and you will see how beautiful this location can be early morning or late evening. http://fitandabel.com/events-bookings/fitabel-summer-201213-series/sea-swim-fitness-series/ We swim here every Thursday evening at 6.30pm.
Our mantra for this summer for new open water swimmers: Race day is not the time to figure out that your wetsuit doesn’t fit right, you can’t swim in a straight line or you feel uncomfortable not being able to touch the bottom.
Fit&Abel will be providing the swim coaching services for a great outfit called Complete Performance http://www.completeperformance.co.nz/ they are a team of expert multisport and triathlon coaches. If you’re looking for some help out of the water, some run coaching or maybe a group to ride with, do look them up.
For those planning on using wetsuits in their open water this summer; Yes they help you float and cut down on drag so you swim faster, they keep you warm too. Get the right wetsuit and the right fit and you will love swimming in your wetsuit. Get it wrong and it can make your swim miserable. Try and size before you buy. Ask me if you need help or go to the Frontrunner store on Colombo St, Christchurch http://www.thefrontrunner.co.nz/ and ask for JC. He has the knowledge and the communication skills to help get you in the right wetsuit.
Last point from a slightly different tact; The South Island of New Zealand has some gorgeous open water swim locations. We would like to keep it that way. There have been some non-local weed species introduced to the waterways over the last few years. They are not harmful to us but are to the eco system. We don’t want any more and we don’t want to spread these new plants. If you swim in one fresh water location at a minimum allow 48 hours for your swim gear to dry before swimming in the next location, it needs to be bone dry. If you can’t wait 48 hours you must soak everything in a solution of water and 5% dish washing liquid to clean it properly. When you finish an open water swim check for any weed on your kit, clean it and dry.
New Zealand summer is here, it is time to get swimming Open Water.
I spent the majority of my swimmer career competing against and comparing myself to other swimmers. There are many factors that now entice me to open water swimming , one of the big draw cards is a desire take on and beat my toughest critic and competitor – myself. That is one of the reasons I can relate to the challenge that fellow open water swimmer Kate Willoughby is about to embark on as she sets out to become the first to ‘swim around the world’. Kate will be taking on that toughest of swimmer partners – her own mental spirit and fortitude.
Kates swim has caught my attention for a number of reasons. Kate will be swimming around the world, not the actual globe, but the group of man-made Islands off Dubai that comprise Islands representing countries of the world. Apart from battling the elements it can also be very challenging to get permission to do this type of swim. Others have tried for swim approval and failed. Open Water swims are heavy on logistics and planning. This is an oft overlooked point when discussing marathon swims. The fact that Kate has even gained permission from the relevant authorities is testimony to her commitment to making this swim happen.
The vast majority of the time when open water swimmers talk about ‘acclimatising’ to water temperatures for a swim we think of cold water swimming , think English channel 14C water . Kates swim stands out as unique as she will have to endure water temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius for her approximate 30km, 12 hours swim. Her first training swims resulted in moderate heat exhaustion and vomiting. Now Kates drink bottles come out of the boat freezer fully frozen! This will also be Kates first full marathon swim. She is preparing for the swim while putting together her own team, holding down a full time job and doing the necessary training. There are have been a number of notable open water swims happen in the world this year and Kates looks set to be one of them. Follow her preparation and swim (scheduled for 21 Nov) at http://www.swimaroundtheworld.me/
Thanks to Simon for sharing his account of his recent ‘Little Red Lighthouse Swim’ Hudson Rover, NYC, 22 Sep…
I write with beer in hand, reflecting on having recently completed my first 10km (10.2 if you must ask) swim down the mighty Hudson river in New York. 2 hrs 33 total swim time, resplendent (in my opinion) sans wetsuit in ‘kiwi’ branded speedo’s and with a gel pack for the in-swim pep talk and company. Swimmer 208, Wave 3. A summary of events follows…
Race guidelines were to take your own water if you wanted it. Some of our TBec swim squad members may have seen my ridiculous lido green canvas £3 ‘fanny’ pack (US name) containing a £30 H20 bladder fail to do the job at swim squad 48 hrs out from swim time. Unfortunately, the kiwi no 8 wire ‘can do’ approach didn’t appear to make it to London with me this time. F&A’s last minute offer of the ISHOF Safe swimmer float (as seen on TV and used by swim around the world’s Kate Willoughby) swimmers buddy/float, it was perfect and welcomed.
Come race day in New York on the edge of a tan brown Hudson, in the absence of any FAQs and knowledge that there ahead been a pre race web conference (as only the yanks would do that) I noticed a distinct lack of drinking vessels near any swimmers, it appeared through conversation that others were going sans hydration. I had been eating plenty of pizza and hydrating well, so I followed suit.
All shapes and sizes were partaking in the 300 strong field. A stunning day on the Hudson, water temp was 20 C, warmer than air at that stage of the morning, a blessing after the frigid TBec Lido. It was perfect.
I was parched early on and remained that way until the end. I went wide in the Hudson with F&A’s wise tenant of ‘the strong currents are always out in the middle of the river young swimmer’ sharp in my mind, high elbow, calm hands entering the water, nice controlled breathing. It was early and my form was nothing short of Spitz’tacular (self visualisation/delusion was key) 1hr 20 mins later I was thinking about burgers and beers and my style was definitely more Mick Jagger than Mark Spitz. I rolled over at that time and summonsed up a sugary gel. As a true amateur, I gulped in more of the Hudson than I did my gel, my frantic struggle to get the damn thing down the hatch with one eye on swimmers overtaking me.
I was now even more thirsty than before. As I took off again my Spitz form returned..I cant believe I ever doubted myself ‘I am an amazing swimmer, sure I swallow lots of water but my arms feel great, my kick the strongest its ever been’ and so the sun beat down down……the swimmer I had been attacking for the last 40 mins was the same swimmer that would never get further or near’er to me, no matter what I changed in my technique. Without naming names, no.171 (go to NYC swim website to see the final race times/numbers/names) was the constant, the irritating constant reminding you ‘that no mate, you aren’t getting any better’ like at swim squad, we all have them, you know who I am talking about. I was happy I wasn’t getting any worse.
As we approached George Washington Bridge (circa 9.5km) swimmers were rolling onto their back to look up at the bridge and doing backstroke to take in the view. My backstroke is about effective as a fanny pack on a long distance swim. I pounced on the opportunity to attack no.171 once again. Swearing and inhaling the Hudson all in one glorious moment. Picture your favourite WW2 war movie, with an allied mustachc’ioed pilot (me) & spitfire attacking an enemy destroyer (no 171) from the air. The current, which was allegedly a lot less favourable than in previous years for the first 3/4 of the race kicked in. Up until now, at several stage’s it felt like I was going with a current backward. But not now. The last 1km was the most pleasing/easy ever. The current also meant a lot of swimmers over’cooked landing on the finish line and had to swim back against the current to finish.
In the soup at the finish line, red cap no. 171 would finish before me. Damn, but good on her. I finished ahead of most of my pod. The leader did it in 1hr 48 (13 others < 2 hrs, of those 5 > 42yr, 12th was 57yr..inspiring) I came in 177 out of 300, 15 DNF. Hard to know truly how good a swim for me it was, I chatted with others and we agreed it was choppy ‘n slow for most of the early to mid section, but super quick at the end.
Thrilled with the result, one yr ago was my first OWS > 3k. One massive burger and a few beers later I slept solidly for a good few hours. Hats off to any swimmer doing anything more or up to a 10k. I aspire to be one of you ultra distance people! It’s a few days on and I am still in NY on holidays, eating big…fries with everything including salads.
I am still a swimmer who has plenty of drag creating habits to unlearn. Plenty of work to do yet and plenty of time. Thanks to F&A for the swim squad tuition over the London summer. All the while I have your ‘young swimmer, to swim faster you must swim slower’ ringing my mind. Training continues…
Nb: No illness experienced post passively drinking ghe Hudson, unlike the Bridge to Bridge’
And so draws to a close an historical summer in London. Not that London is short of historical but this summer has certainly been one for the books. London 2012; Some of the most competitive and entertaining Olympic swimming ever, both in the pool and to my surprise the Serpentine delivered an amazing event in the 10km open water. The support and noise at the Paralympics has been at least equal to the Olympics. For us part time swimmers we have had a plethora of swim events, many unfortunately were postponed or cancelled due to the wettest summer in the last century; how ironic that as I write it is 26C 79F. One of the best swims for me was the 14km Bridge to Bridge. You can read more about this swim in my article in an upcoming publication of Outdoor Fitness Magazine www.outdoorfitnessmag.co.uk . If you are interested in the bridge to bridge swim it will be happening again 11 Aug 2013 http://www.henleyswim.com/bridge-to-bridge/ .
The biggest highlight for me this summer has been introducing SwimTreks www.swimtrek.com open water swim coaching program at the Iconic Tooting Bec lido, very big (92M long) beautiful and with its own culture of friendly swimmers. Tooting Bec is the perfect place to start your transition from the pool to the open water. I am really sorry to announce that our Tooting Bec private lessons are sold out for the rest of the season. Booking for the next summer will be open in Feb.
Where to for Fit&Abel from here? New Zealand bound for the southern hemisphere summer, with a full program of open water coaching and clinics plus this February for those who also like to bike and run a real chance to have some fun with WildTri. WildTri is a Queenstown http://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/ based camp showcasing the best New Zealand has to offer, beautiful landscape , fantastic off the track swim locations, biking and running. To bring you WildTri I have teamed up with ex National swimmer, triathlete and now ultra-distance runner Tom Macdonald to bring you you WildTri.
WildTri is based on our shared passion for the New Zealand outdoors and our current level of sporting focus which is balanced; the chance to share a good solid day of training followed by a ‘de brief’ over great food, wine and company. Tom knows Queenstown like the back of his hand. WildTri clients will be treated to the best dining on offer to help replace energy burnt during a days swim biking and running. You’ll be joined on these evenings by some former world champs and world record holders. A chance to get to know and learn from the best, enough said hope to see you there http://fitandabel.com/events-bookings/wild-tri-2013/
You’ll also see me about in New Zealand helping athletes prepare and compete in the State NZ swim series http://www.oceanswim.co.nz/ and the Epic swim http://www.epicswim.co.nz/ . You might even see me in the water at some stage.
Whatever your swim goals over the next 12 months, make sure you plan ahead and prepare well. If you have questions or need some help please check out what we have on offer http://fitandabel.com/events-bookings/ or drop us an e-mail email@example.com
Now get out there and get swimming. That’s a wrap.