(As posted on the Marathon Swimmers Forum, January 6, 2015)
At the risk of sounding like an overly positive person or boastful, I have to admit that I had a wonderful 2014 – a year that will be hard to top. Met and spent time with some great people and created wonderful lifetime memories. I did a swim that was the first under MSF Rules, had never been done, and I was told was impossible to do (St John – St Thomas; incredible feeling to complete a swim that has never been done – tingles still). And a swim that I thought was impossible to do (3RMS in Pittsburgh).
The year of 2014 was a full year - completing five significant marathon swims. (Including the two swims in 2013, completed seven marathon swims in 15 months.) Became the 93rd person to complete the Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming and the 8th person to complete it in less than twelve months (11 months 5 days).
Originally the goal was very simple: swim the English Channel. It took four years to turn a dream into a goal and then turn a goal into an accomplishment. I thought I would be done with this crazy amounts of swimming thing. But now I am addicted. Addicted to the sense of joy and accomplishment that comes from striving to do something you thought was beyond you. Addicted to being in better shape at 54 than I was at 44 and, most likely, 34 and even 24. Addicted to the marathon swimming community - wonderful, wonderful, wonderful people in this sport. I have gotten closer to friends I already had and I now have friends around the world that I would not otherwise have.
In 2014 I have a few swims planned. The first is a triple crossing of St Thomas/ St John (USVI) scheduled for January 18th. Then June 28th a lap around Manhattan. Three weeks later, on July 19th one length from Catalina island into the mainland.
For as long as I can remember, even before I learned how to swim at age 13, I have dreamt of swimming The English Channel.
The English Channel is slightly less than 21 miles straight across, but as far as I know, no one has ever been able to swim straight across. It is not atypical to cover 30 miles during a swim.
During the swimming season, the water temperature bobs around 57 to 63 degrees F. And, no, you are not allowed to use a wetsuit. You can use a swim suit, cap, goggles and ear plugs. (No MP3 players or anything else that would help you keep pace either.)
It is now 40 years since I learned how to get across a 25 yard pool and I am trying to join the Half Century Club: the 57 people, who were over the age of 50 when they successfully swam across The Channel. In total, there are only about 1,700 people and about 300 Americans who have successfully
Remember you asked for this! Based on what you have done, you don't need my help. If I come across as anything other than trying to be helpful, I apologize. These are just my opinions.
In my opinion there are two things you have to train for. One, the cold. Two, being able to swim the same speed for a long time. I think your question is about the swimming, so that is where I will focus.
I don't know if you have read: Gold in the Water. But, I recommend it. It is the story about Santa Clara Swim Club swimmers preparing for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. One key take-away for me was the coach's focus on a repeated standard set. In today's world, coaches spend a lot of time trying to be creative - trying to keep the swimmer from becoming bored. (I guess it the entertainment age.) They come up all kinds of workouts that never repeat the same set. This coach believed that you had to have a standard set to truly measure progress. The clock doesn't lie.
Since I live in an area that doing EC-like swims are completely unnatural to people, I work out alone. As you may have experienced in life, it is easyto fool yourself. I believe creative sets allow the truth to hide. The clock doesn't lie.
At some point I learned that, because of the dramatic tide changes The Channel, swimming the EC is nothing like almost every other swim. The captain has to guess/ estimate the best time and place for you to leave the UK. He makes his decisions based on what he believes you can do. (On this swim, I was about 15-20 minutes late to a spot and it cost me about two and a half more hours of swimming. On my failed attempt in 2012, my time was dead on target. I did a straight-line measured 18 miles (French inter-coastal) in exactly 9 hours (I then hit the tide coming against me at 2mph and was stopped at 12 and a half hours just a half mile from France.) I believe that on the first swim the captain, for understandable reasons, underestimated me and we hit the flow off of France three hours too early and on the second swim (the "successful" swim), it was my fault for missing by 15-20 minutes.)
I also believe that you are training for the end of the swim, not the beginning. But there is a risk at the beginning
I know you think the goal is for you to get used to cold water, but since you don't have access to cold water, the goal is not to get used to the cold water. You are not trying to get used to anything. You are going to change your definition of cold. You are going to change what feels cold to you.
There is a difference between danger and discomfort. You have to be willing to tolerate a lot of discomfort (starting right now) to change what feels cold to you.
Before we continue, I admit that I am not a scientist.