I’ve got a theory: anyone who says they cannot find the time or place to train is lying to themselves.
Last year, I told myself I wouldn’t train for anything this year. Life being as unsettled as it is right now, how could I give the necessary effort to make any serious swim worthwhile? Look how well that worked out. This is Part 1 of 2 of my training for the Strait of Juan de Fuca. You won’t find any sets here. If you want that, check out USMS Forums, or ask a coach, or something. What you will find here are the basics of my approach to acclimatization, endurance, and how to do it without a permanent residence. In the next training post, you’ll probably see an explanation of how I’m scurrying to adjust for my plan’s shortcomings.
Last December, when I moved to Seattle, I knew I’d be travelling a lot. As I write this, I’m about to board my 40th plane of 2013. So finding a home team was out of the question. Even buying a monthly pool pass would be a waste of money since I spend less than 45% of my time in Seattle. Also, pools are hot and crowded (and gross). So I took to the Sound. Always free, always open, always empty, and always the perfect temperature to training for a cold-water swim.
The way I plan on accomplishing this swim is three-fold: brown fat, metabolism, be in shape.
The brown fat (which we’ll say represents my level of acclimatization) I’ve been working on since I first jumped in Lake Washington in January. And I’m working on it three or four times a week when I’m not out of town. Hot showers are the worst, and I break a sweat walking to the car on a chilly morning, so it seems to be working.
Metabolism also has three parts. First, stay fed. I quickly adopted a tow-behind water bottle filled with calories (maltodextrin and AminoX, mostly). Then, I started shoving a few Gu packs in my suit to snack on. During a typical training swim, I’ll consume about 500 cal/hr with more before and after. Second, vitamins. This might not be true, but I believe vitamin B boosts metabolism. Or at least, certainly doesn’t hurt it (and it’s miscible, so it’s very hard to overdose). Hence, my feed bottles contain crushed B-complex. I’d like to hear what my coworkers think when they see my crushing pills and mixing piles of white powder in the office lunchroom. My swim bag also contains gummy multivitamins and fish oil capsules. Third, move! When I move on land, I get hot quickly. Therefore, if I move fast in the water…you get the idea. Which brings us to
Be in shape. To warm up, literally, at the start of my cold water workouts, I jump in and swim as fast as possible until the cold numbs my skin. And when I start feeling cold later on? Swim faster! The product of these two is a fast-paced, survival-based swim. And this works! Despite minimal interval training, every time I jump in a pool I find my pace to still be over 4 km/hr. When I do want to work on something, in or out of the pool, it is usually getting my stroke rate up from 59-60 to anything over 60. Moving more means more calories burned means more heat generated means less dying in July. Right now, I feel like I’m in nearly the same shape I was before MIMS last year despite a very, very different training “plan”.
By the way, “Be in shape” is easier said than done when there is no coach, no workout, no pool, and no pattern to one’s life. This is where being opportunistic has come in. When I’m in Seattle, opportunistic simply means heading to the beach after work and on weekends. Everywhere else, it means exploration and adventure. Awesome adventure. There was the day in Abbotsford, BC where the wave pool was turned on for my entire pool workout. There was a 2.5k swim in Delta, BC when I high-fived snails for forty-five minutes because the water was so shallow (it was called Mud Bay, go figure). There was the gorgeous Kinsmen Centre pool in Edmonton, AB, and the time the fire department showed up when I took my to work out to the adjacent river. There were olympians at a pool in San Jose, CA, two-foot breaking waves in Lake George, NY., and instructions on igloo building from a stranger while warming up on a Vancouver beach. Opportunistic isn’t always convenient or ideal, definitely not repeatable, but it seems to be working. I could write a whole post on the merits and challenges of opportunistic training, but suffice it to say: it works for me for now.
After all of this, six months of swimming every chance and place possibly, I can get out of 50F water after two and a half hours and feel great! I am in shape, I have some brown and white fat building up, I have no excess fear for what’s to come.
I also have no idea where I’m sleeping Tuesday night, but today is Saturday and I know where I’m swimming in the morning. And it’s not in the same country I’m in right now.
Fine, you win. Here’s your workout: 200 w/u LCM, 8 x 1,000 @ 15:00 200 c/d
Updated June 17th, 2013 at 02:27 AM by andrewmalinak
Variety, adventure, helping others, and inspiration. Mix well, repeat.
Each year my swimming friends and I combine an open water swim with some down time. In 2012, we chose the St. Croix Coral Reef Swim. Although our 5 miles was shortened to 2 miles after Tropical Storm Rafael blew through the racecourse, it was a great experience. The host resort, the Buccaneer, was a fantastic place for the race and the down time.
Future swims on our list include the Bermuda Round the Sound race and Race for the Conch Eco-SeaSwim in Turks and Caicos. We’ve even thrown some chillier swims up for discussion: This year’s 9+ Mile National Championship is in Vermont, and there’s chatter about putting together a relay for Lake Tahoe someday, or trying Alcatraz, the Tiburon Mile, La Jolla, Big Shoulders, or even one of the races in Alaska. The beauty is in the variety.
A variety of open water enthusiasts have contributed to our 2013 open water issue. Author and swimmer David McGlynn writes about swimming across Death’s Door in Lake Michigan. He makes the excellent point that many open water swims start with a group of people standing on a shoreline looking toward a distant shoreline with an adventurous eye.
It’s no doubt that a sense of adventure led USMS members Roberta St. Amour and Denise Stapley to audition for the 25th season of Survivor, set in the Philippines. Their stories are in “Swimming Life” on page 6. Also in Swimming Life, Patricia Sener and her Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers turn adversity into adventure as they recover from Superstorm Sandy, finding ways to help others in the process.
Helping others is a mantra in the marathon swimming world, and successful swimmers consider it a point of pride to extend a hand and pay it forward. Contributing writer Elaine K. Howley, an accomplished marathoner and Triple Crown swimmer herself, has always admired the pioneering women who preceded her. In “Splashback,” on page 48, she looks at the accomplishments of the legendary Florence Chadwick and how she inspired others.
Inspirational is often used to describe pro triathletes and USMS members Jarrod Shoemaker and Sara McLarty, both of whom are featured in this issue.
However you like your open water, enjoy it, protect it, and help others enjoy it. You don’t have to live near the coast or travel to an exotic locale, although it’s a great way to spend a vacation. There are many lakes and rivers in landlocked states that are plenty exciting to swim in. There’s something special about being in natural waters, and it’s even more special when you share the experience with the people in your life who matter.
Updated September 8th, 2014 at 05:43 PM by Editor
This fall, I had the extreme good fortune to travel and meet USMS members and coaches in the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding communities. Each club has a unique flavor and each coach a different style. All were amazing. In speaking with the coaches and swimmers, I learned more about what makes our sport so special. During November, look for video interviews with swimmers and coaches from these clubs on our YouTube channel, at youtube.com/USMastersSwimming.
First stop was the Marin Pirates Masters, with Head Coach Cokie Lepinski and Assistant Coach Susie Powell. They brought a basket of Finis Tempo Trainers to the pool and we did the entire workout with them. The kick sets left my legs feeling quite rubbery, but the enthusiasm level was palpable and infectious—we had a great time.
The next day was with the Los Altos Mountain View Masters. Coach Jose Bonpua had both age group and Masters in the pool. While I swam in a designated Masters lane, he kept a sharp eye on me. When I thought he wasn’t looking and backed off a little, he encouraged me to drop to an interval I often avoid at my home pool. His attention made me feel like one of the kids, which, at 46, is a lot of fun.
Courtside Club, a tennis and sports resort in Los Gatos, has its own registered USMS club. Their coach, Dave Meck, normally coaches age groupers in Santa Clara, but zips over to Courtside to coach Masters as well. Most of the swimmers there don’t compete in meets, but their solid commitment to fitness, fun and their coach was evident.
The Strawberry Canyon Aquatic Masters practice at Cal Berkeley, whose aquatics director, Danksi Perez, also swims on the team. She spoke of a sense of community in the swimming world and how much having a team and structured practices means to her. SCAM had lanes to accommodate every level of swimmer, with printed workouts for each lane and Assistant Coach Jeremy Cohen manning the deck.
Next stop was inland, due east. At Davis Aquatic Masters, I arrived just in time to find out that it was sprint backstroke week there—anathema to a distance breaststroker—but I persevered and learned more about the stroke I love to hate. Head Coach Stu Kahn welcomed his group with a video of Aaron Peirsol looped on a poolside TV cart, and instructions on what to pay attention to in the video and in the water during the main set.
Lastly, another Marin County team, North Bay Aquatics, welcomed me to their Saturday morning workout at a local high school. Assistant Coach Michael Sugrue kept me honest as my stroke fell apart on a descending set that I started too quickly.
Special thanks to all the coaches and swimmers I met for embodying the spirit of USMS and providing great Masters swimming experiences in their communities.
Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:54 AM by Editor
<-- Love this!
So I had decided to take a long weekend and travel out to Oregon to visit my friend! We had a white water rafting trip with her church group!
I arrived Thursday night around 11 PM, woke up in the morning and we went out to the Pacific beach in Lincoln City. It was approximately 70-80 degrees outside and VERY foggy! The water in the ocean yesterday (so I was told) was 53 degrees!!!! I was totally prepared though; I wore my old lycra jammers that were a touch too large and my swim trunks over top. It was so cold that I actually went numb!!! I managed to swim in it for approximately 10 minutes though! I would walk out in the water until it was about up to my chest and then swim up the waves as they came crashing down on me. It was an awesome experience because as the water would be SO cold as it came over my head my whole body would tighten up and I couldn't breath at all! It was so much fun! Then when I would walk back on shore - I would notice that I couldn't feel anything in my legs and would sometimes be stomping into the ground or kicking into the slightly higher ground. (That's how I figured out my legs/feet were so numb!) After I finally got out and dried off, we grabbed a small bite to eat and took a hike up and down the coast. Around 4:30 PM the air and sky finally cleared and we were able to see the cliffs off in the distance.
Fortunately - I'm already relatively tan from my earlier meets in the year (the P.R. 1500 and the Badger State Games) and I wasn't burnt too bad from the ocean. My friend however, was lit up like Rudolph's nose! Poor girl... we still had to do the White Water Rafting the next day!
Today (7/10) We went white water rafting. I was up at 5 AM PDT (7 AM CDT, so it wasn't bad for me) and we got in the car and drove 2.5 hours from Salem to Maupin and the Sage Canyon River Co to raft down the class 2/3/4 rapids of the Deschutes River! We had a blast! White water rafting was NOTHING like what I thought it was going to be though. I fully expected to get in the water and have about an hour complete adrenaline and paddling my off until we broke the the other end of the rapids and were just done for the day!
I was completely wrong. We ended up spending about 90% of our time just floating lackadaisically down the river. Then there was that 10% of the time where our boat was completely flooded, often times we were @ risk of being thrown out and we were trying to paddle amidst the serious waves. Those parts were a complete blast!
There was one part - where after we rafted through it, we were told to get out of the raft, walk back up stream along the bank and then jump in again and go through this part called "Elevators" - what an awesome time! I did learn something though and I figured I'd share it with the rest of you:
NEVER EVER WEAR RUNNING SHOES WHEN TRYING TO SWIM!
It was a fun experience yes. The ride down the rapids was a blast. Then when I was trying to kick and swim my way back to the shore line (the water was some 15-20 ft deep) my shoes would just catch water and pull me with the current. If it weren't for the fact that they're my only shoes that I have here this weekend I probably would've just tossed them. It was VERY annoying!
So lesson learned! Good times were had by all! Lots of water fights between rafts as well!
As much fun as it was though. I'm not entirely sure that its something I'm going to go out of my way to do again. I did have a great time, its just not what I was thinking it was. I'm thinking had it been that 1 hour of super intense adrenaline pumping paddling and constant rapids, I'd be all about it. Spending a day on "lazy river meets occasional small waterfall".... meh... I'll save my money and go to a swim meet instead (I could be at the Carbondale IL meet this weekend!)!
Thanks for reading!