Jul 18, 2016

Hawaii Channel of Bones Swim - Doug McConnell & ALS

For those of you interested in watching live feed tracking the ALS team as we move across the Molokai Channel

July 25th - 30th is the swim window

Total time 16-18 hours

We will have the team on the escort safety boat (always very good practice), two kayakers with anti-shark devices and a whole bunch of sunscreen, food, and motivation.

Enjoy the swim

Consider donating at: http://www.alongswim.com/molokaichannel/

Link: http://track.rs/alongswim/

Jul 7, 2016

Affects of Fueling from Sugar or Carbs and Affects on your body

A Long Swim & One Stroke at a Time Teams
"Channel of Bones" Hawaii Charity Swim
July 25-31, 2016

First lets talk about health fueling when you swim - 

Two great video shorts on the affects of fueling your body using sugar based diet or carb based diet in easy and simple to understand terms.

The affects of these fuels, the timing, and amounts can act as a arterial inflammation agent. Review and consider the fuels used for open water and marathon level athletic events. Consider using natural foods as an alternative such as juices, fruits, peanut butter rather than dextrose based gels and Gu pacs.

Keep up the great adventures and remember One Stroke at a Time.

Catch our next adventure kayaking for friend and training partner Doug McConnell and the A Long Swim (ALS) team as we attempt to cross the Channel of Bones from Molokai to Oahu over some 18 hours of truly open ocean swimming. 

Eat Well, Live Well

Apr 12, 2016

The next big Adventure - Kaiwi Channel for Friend Doug McConnell and Team ALS

2016 is looking like an exciting year with swimmers from the US, Australia, Russia, Mexico, India among the swimmers to challenge Kaiwi this year.

To date Kaiwi has been conquered solo 37 times and 5  relay teams have successfully crossed the Ka'iwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu. If you are up to the challenge just send an email with your swim experience and an approximate date for your swim. We'll guide you from there.

1)   What is the distance across the Kaiwi Channel?
The shortest distance is 26 miles. From where most swims start to where we try to finish is 28.5 statute miles. When starting this adventure have a conversation with crew and boat pilot about how you want distances measured - nautical mph, kph or  statute mph. 

2) Where do we stay?
In Waikiki or near there. Lots of options depending on your budget but the cheapest prices are about $100 per night. Check travel websites. A few recently have used Air B&B. One night max on Molokai and this can wait till you get here. Options for the swim are to either spend one day/night on Molokai or fly over and go right to swim start. That can be decided in advance or when you get here.

3) Can we go over to Molokai on the boat instead of flying?
You can but it is not recommended.  Its really an awful boat ride. Most swimmers who tried regret it. Its exhausting and if you at all prone to seasickness, it really can adversely affect your swim.

4) Do we need Kayakers? 
Yes, they are mandatory.The Kaiwi channel is usually so rough that the boat isn't really that close. And even when it is, it isn't going in a straight line. Here you steer off the kayak. The kayakers can steer very straight and get feedback from the boat when a course correction is necessary. For both safety and steering we use two so someone on a kayak is always at your side. (This is where I come in).

Like other big swims, dehydration, guidance, moral support, sharks, food, and of course some man-to-man humor will be involved, groveling on Doug's part is usually included.

Our Host, jeff kozlovich giving some tried and true advice for the big swim and sage advice to those intrepid swimmers trying the big one.

Apr 8, 2016

The Biggest, Badass Swims in the World - The Oceans Seven

The Oceans Seven

Open Water Marathon swimmers take on risks, face death, and climb mountains before the sun rises, in the deepest dark of night, and face conditions that make the best roll-over and go back to sleep.

Self motivated, driven and battle tested, open water swimmers get the job done.

We swim with the sharks every day.

Oct 12, 2015

Early Marathon Swimming in USA

Early Marathon Swimming in the United States

Friendships cast in the belly of competition, team sport outlive today's trials and tribulations of fast paced life and distance for Steve Conder and Don Macdonald. 

In the summer of 1980 then standout high school swimmers, along with a third (Craig Kercher) and coach (John Gibson) who had all swum for Bryan Rathke's UN-defeated Goshen Redskin swim squad embarked on what would be their biggest swim challenge yet, joining the early namesakes of US open water swims like John Kinsella, Lynn Cox, and others albeit not at that level but certainly well ahead of a sport that today is exploding.

Macdonald, Conder and Coach Gibson welcoming
the beach after a successful swim.

Marathon swimming

A class of open water swimming defined by long distances (at least 10 kilometers) and traditional rules based in English Channel swimming. Unlike marathon foot-races which have a specifically defined distance, marathon swims vary in distance. However, one commonly used minimum definition is 10 kilometers, the distance of the marathon swimming event at the Olympic Games.[1]
As in all open water swimming, tides, surface currents and wind-chop are major determinants of finish-times. For a given course, these factors can vary dramatically from day to day, making any attempt to draw conclusions about athletic ability by comparing finish times from performances undertaken on different days meaningless.
One of the earliest marathon swims was accomplished in 1875 by Captain Matthew Webb, when he became the first person to swim across the English Channel. Similarly, perhaps the most famous marathon swim of all-time was accomplished in 1926 by Gertrude Ederle, when she became, at 19 years of age, the first woman to swim across the English Channel. In doing so, she demolished the existing world record for the crossing, by employing the crawl stroke technique.
The Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming includes three of the most well-known marathon swims: (1) 21 mi (34 kilometres) across the English Channel, (2) 20.1 mi (32.3 kilometres) between Catalina Island and the mainland in Southern California, USA, and (3) 28.5 mi (45.9 kilometres) around Manhattan Island in New York City, USA.
The Ocean's seven is a collection of seven channel swims: (1) North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, (2) Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand, (3) Molokai Channel between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii, (4) English Channel between England and France, (5) Catalina Channel between Santa Catalina Island and Southern California, (6) Tsugaru Strait between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan, and (7) Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa.

Competitive Friendship Builds Life Long Resilience

My friend Steve Conder whom I swam across Lake Wawasee and Syracuse (8 miles) in the early 1980's accompanied by our fellow swim team member Craig Kercher and coach John Gibson did what was barely even known back then an open water swim.

Back then we learned about fueling the hard way.

We began swimming together in grade school along with a whole bunch guys and girls (whom I will not try to name as I would inevitably miss someone accidentally, but you know who you are). These friends became all close and through our parents families included.

After high school we all went our separate ways. Many on to college or not but usually catching up in the summer. Years turned into 10, 20, and 30.  Social Media made it easy to get back in touch, catch up and realize his was the foundation to life long resilience. Warriors in the finest Redskin tradition competing against each other with the highest regard pushing each other well beyond our youthful character to become among the best in the State of Indiana's swimming tradition. Competitive spirit pushed us both to become our best, our friends and coaches (school and family) always supporting us to challenge the next thing, to push harder, to believe in ourselves. Little did we know these attributes would follow us for years. 

We have all shared in personal failures throughout life, felt sorrow for the friends, coaches and family we have lost, but I would say these teachings allowed us to stay on course, persevere and to realize there is no "I" in "We".

Oct 8, 2015

Determining Functional Swimming Threshold

Don Macdonald training in 58 f fresh water for the English Channel
with support team under watchful eye of Doug McConnell.

There are a number of training assessment methodoligies. Understanding, especially as we age, how to train effectively, efficiently, and safely is critical to a long life and positive outcome.
TrainingPeaks WKO+ automatically generates training stress scores (TSS) for bike rides uploaded from a power meter and for run workouts uploaded from a speed and distance device. Triathletes who use WKO+ and appreciate this feature often wish that the program could do the same for swim workouts. Unfortunately, the swimming equivalent of a bike power meter or run speed and distance device does not yet exist. However, you can calculate TSS for your swims manually using a method we’ll describe in this article.
Why not simply use the same calculation for swim TSS that is used for running, in which the metric of pace is also used to quantify the training load? Because water presents more resistance than air, so the physiological stress of swimming increases with increasing swim speed faster than the physiological stress of running increases with increasing running speed.
The simplest, if not the most accurate, way to account for this difference in calculating TSS scores is to weight the “intensity factor” of swim workouts differently than it is weighted for run workouts. Specifically, we suggest, it should be cubed as opposed to squared.

Determining Functional Swimming Threshold Speed

Training stress score calculations in running and cycling are scaled according to the individual athlete’s current functional threshold pace (running) and functional threshold power (cycling), which correspond roughly to the lactate threshold running pace or cycling power. The lactate threshold can only be determined through laboratory testing, while the functional threshold is determined through field tests that are known to yield roughly equivalent results.
Similarly, the functional swimming threshold pace is a stand-in for the laboratory-determined swimming lactate threshold pace. There are two approaches that are most appropriate for the determination of swimming FTP. The first is the straightforward timed effort, where you swim as far as possible in a given time (e.g. 30 or 60 minutes). So, if you swim for 30 minutes and cover 1000 meters, then you can use the value of 33.3 m/min. as your FTP. Since the actual FTP is closer to the one-hour effort, it might be more advisable to perform a 60-minute test, or to take the value obtained for 30 minutes, multiply by two and subtract 2.5 percent (as most trained swimmers swim roughly 2.5 percent slower in a 60-minute maximal effort than in a 30-minute maximal effort). So again, if you cover 1000 m in 30 minutes, your 60-minute FTP would be 1900 m/hr or 31.7 m/min. This may seem like a minor difference, but due to the resistive aspect of swimming, small differences can have a substantial impact.
If you are not inclined to perform such long, exhaustive efforts in the pool, you may alternatively perform a critical velocity (CV) test. This method consists of two test efforts at different distances (200 m and 400 m) separated by a complete rest. Because complete rest is required for the results of a CV test to be valid, it is best to perform the first all-out effort at the beginning of one workout (after warming up, of course) and the next at the beginning of another. Record the time required to complete each effort and simply plot the results on a graph as distance vs. time. The slope of that line is your critical speed. Alternatively, a simple equation yields the same result:
Critical speed = (Distance of longer test swim – distance of shorter test swim) divided by (Time of longer test swim – time of shorter test swim)
For example, suppose you swim your 200m test swim in 2:02 (2.04 minutes) and your 400m test swim in 4:21 (4.35 minutes). Your critical velocity, then, is (400m – 200m) ÷ (4.35 min. – 2.02 min.) = 86.6 meters/min.
The results of your critical speed determination should yield a result that is very close to a 60-minute test or a laboratory-determined lactate threshold pace. Either of these results can then be used as the FTP for determination of TSS and performance modeling.

Calculating swim TSS

Now that you know your swim FTP, you can easily calculate the TSS for any swim workout using the following procedure:
1. Measure total distance covered for the workout
2. Determine time to cover total distance (not including rest periods)
3. Express distance vs. time in m/min to obtain normalized swim speed (NSS), which is analogous to the normalized power and normalized graded pace in cycling and running, respectively
4. Divide NSS by FT to obtain IF
5. Swim TSS = (Intensity Factor cubed) x hours x 100

For example:

Once you have determined the swim TSS, you can manually input values in Training Peaks WKO+ and then use the program’s analysis features for swimming as you do with running and cycling. Let’s look at an example of a specific workout. First, let’s suppose that your swim FTP is 75 m/minute. Next, let’s suppose you complete the following workout (remember, rest periods are not counted):
Warm-up: 200 m @ 3:20, 30 sec. rest (3:20 total)
Drills: 4 x 50 m @ 1:00, 10-sec. rest (4:00 total)
Main set: 10 x 100 m @ 1:15, 20-sec. rest (12:30)
Cool-down: 200 m @ 3:20 (3:20 total)
Total workout distance: 1,600 m
Total workout time: 23:10 (or 0.386 hours)
The average pace for the complete workout is 1,600 meters divided by 23:10 (23.16 minutes or 0.386 hours) or 69 m/min. The intensity factor for the complete workout is the average pace (69 m/min.) divided by the athlete’s functional threshold pace (75 m/min.) or 0.92. To cube IF, multiply it by itself three times (So, in this example, 0.92 x 0.92 x 0.92). So the TSS for the workout is So the TSS for the workout is 0.778x 0.386 hours x 100 = 30.1.
There are some important limitations of our do-it-yourself method of swim TSS calculation to bear in mind. First of all, although this simplistic approach can be effective, it should be noted that by simply tracking distance and time swum, the effects of rest periods on the sustainable efforts are neglected, whereas in cycling and running they are not, because power meters and speed and distance devices capture coasting and non-movement as part of the workout.
Similarly, our rough-and-ready method of calculating swim TSS lacks the exponential weighting of higher intensities that is done automatically with pace and power in the digital calculation of normalized cycling power and normalized graded pace, and which is an important means of capturing the exponentially greater stress imposed by higher intensities. That being said, the cubed weighting of the IF counterbalances this limitation to a certain extent.
These calculations ignore the differences between different swim strokes and the rather substantial differences in efficiency that result from good or poor technique. Finally, the impact of flip turns and push-offs is essentially neglected using this approach.
Still, it’s a lot better than nothing, which is what triathletes interested in logging their swim workouts on WKO+ have had up to this point!

This article was reprinted from and co-written by Matt Fitzgerald and Stephen McGregor, PhD. 

Sep 16, 2015

The Lure of the Monster - Dying for what You Believe In

I am haunted by my English Channel experience


There is not a day goes by that I do not think about returning, seeing if I could cheat death, even by just little bit. After spending most of my life swimming, years training she is a cruel mistress and maybe, just maybe, may take me yet. 

One recent such account is Gino Deflorian, as recounted by EC legend Kevin Murphy, 34 time EC swimmer who similarly has almost died himself. Here is the story.

Gino Deflorian has already been swimming across the English Channel for eight hours. The sun is shining, the air is clear and the water is calm and flat, but the conditions are deceptive.

He is swimming freestyle as reliably as clockwork, consistently taking 54 strokes per minute. When he lifts his head to breathe, he can vaguely make out his destination on the horizon, Cap Gris Nez, a promontory on the French coast.

Deflorian is wearing a latex swimming cap, an ordinary swimsuit and goggles. His shoulders and armpits, neck and crotch are coated with lanolin, to keep his muscles flexible and prevent chafing. According to the rules, neoprene is not allowed. If he succeeds Deflorian, 24, will be the first Swiss swimmer to swim across the Channel.

The Rowena, a blue fishing boat accompanying him on his route, is chugging along next to him at 1.6 knots. Deflorian isn't allowed to touch the boat or a person. If he does he'll be disqualified and will have to get out of the water. An inspector on board pays close attention and keeps track of times, coordinates and Deflorian's stroke rate.

The captain's son is urinating over the railing at the boat's stern, and Gerard Moerland, Deflorian's coach, is sitting on a green camping chair on the port side, observing his swimmer. He ignores the ferries, the container ships and gigantic oil tankers as he focuses on Deflorian, making sure that he doesn't start slapping the water instead of gliding through it. If that happened, it would be a sign that something is wrong.
"Am I worried? Of course. Constantly," says Moerland. He looks at his stopwatch, and then he shouts: "Captain! Food!"

Pale Lips
It's time for a boost of energy, which happens every 40 minutes. As the boat slows down, Moerland tosses Deflorian a bottle and a bag attached to a rope. The bottle is filled with Coca-Cola and the bag contains a roll with Nutella. Deflorian turns over onto his back and allows his body to drift. He can hardly get the bag open, because his fingers, wrinkled and white down to the middle joints, are shaking so badly. His lips are pale.

The English Channel is brutally cold, although on this Tuesday in late August the water temperature is 16.8 degrees Celsius (62 degrees Fahrenheit). Water conducts heat 25 times as efficiently as air. The Channel is literally sucking the life out of the swimmer.

"Gino, how do you feel?" Moerland asks.
No response.
"It's getting cold," he replies. "And my triceps hurt."
"Okay. That's what we trained for. Just keep swimming."

Deflorian forces down the last bite and starts swimming again. He's swum 25,326 strokes since 9:25 in the morning, when he began his journey on a pebble beach at the Samphire Hoe park, directly at the Eurotunnel.

Deflorian keeps swimming. Now he's up to 25,410 strokes. Standing at the helm of the Rowena is the captain, known as the pilot, who is guiding him across the Channel. "He's gradually beginning to suffer," he says. "The demons of the Channel are trying to get to him." Deflorian keeps swimming. 25,912 strokes. 

The English Channel is to long-distance swimmers what Mount Everest is to mountain climbers: the biggest legend their sport has to offer. The strait between England and France measures 33 kilometers (21 miles) at its narrowest point. It's also one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, with about 500 ships passing through it every day. Swimming across the Channel is an extreme experience, a test of will and a personal challenge.

A Purgatory
It isn't an exclusive adventure by any means. By the end of 2012, 1,341 swimmers had conquered the Channel, and more swimmers attempt the crossing each year. There are about 300 in this year's season, which lasts from June to September, but only one in five swimmers makes it. There are eight deaths on record. 

"The only thing that counts is getting there. That's the lesson the English Channel teaches you. It's a purgatory. If it were easy to make it across, it wouldn't do anything for you. When you've made it, you're a different person afterwards," says Kevin Murphy, the so-called King of the Channel, who has swum the Channel 34 times, more than any other man in history. 

Murphy, born in 1949, was a fat child who wasn't good at soccer, so he began swimming instead. A row of certificates documenting his achievements hangs in the hallway of his apartment in Dover. He has swum across Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Scotland, and he has crossed the channel between Ireland and Scotland. "But you only get to be a real hero when you've tackled the Channel. It beats everything else," says Murphy.
He has had to be rescued from the water when he lost consciousness, he has had surgery on both shoulders and he suffered a heart attack. Murphy is a wreck. He hasn't swum in seven years. "Mentally, I can't handle the loneliness in the water anymore," he says. The Channel got to him in the end. 

Those hoping to swim across the Channel must register with one of two organizations. Murphy is the honorary secretary of one of them, the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation. To receive permission from Murphy to embark on the swim, swimmers must provide proof of having swum for six hours nonstop in water at a temperature of no more than 16 degrees Celsius. The rule was established five years ago. "We're thinking of increasing it to eight hours," says Murphy. "Because of Susan."

'Possibly a Heart Attack'
He's referring to Susan Taylor, a British woman who died in mid-July, less than two kilometers from the French mainland and after 16 hours in the Channel. Murphy was her mentor when she was at a training camp on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca in April.
"I never would have thought that she would have problems." Taylor had to vomit because she was exhausted and had swallowed too much salt water, Taylor's brother, who was on the support boat, told Murphy. She wasn't far away from the French coast and didn't want to give up. She stopped swimming freestyle and switched to breaststroke, but after 10 or 12 strokes she said that she could no longer feel her legs. "She only took two more strokes after that," says Murphy. "I suspect it was hypothermia or dehydration, possibly a heart attack."

It's been nine hours and 20 minutes, and Deflorian is still swimming, 29,538 strokes so far. It's time to eat again. Eating is the only respite for the swimmer, whose body becomes a crisis zone. The cold is like a small rodent eating its way inside. There have been swimmers whose core body temperature was a life-threatening 31 degrees Celsius when they reached their destination.

This time the crew tosses Deflorian a honey-flavored energy bar and a sports drink, which consists of 90 percent carbohydrates. He burns about 800 kilocalories an hour, the equivalent of one-and-a-half bars of milk chocolate or eight-and-a-half slices of whole grain bread. "You can't eat enough to compensate," says trainer Moerland. "You need reserves."
Body fat is a swimmer's lifesaver in the English Channel, because it insulates the body, provides buoyancy and supplies energy. For weeks, most swimmers fatten up with an agonizing diet consisting of large quantities of bacon, pasta and nuts. Women are more successful at crossing the Channel, because they typically have more body fat than men.
Deflorian is 1.85 meters (6'1") tall and weighs 92 kilograms (203 lbs.). He has only 14 percent body fat. He isn't obese, just stocky and barrel-chested. "He's shaped like a whale," says Moerland, "but he could certainly use a little more fat around his ribs. The movement should keep him warm."

Painful Stings
"Everything okay, Gino?" Moerland asks. "Can you pee?"
"Yes, but it's hard to get it out."

When the undercooled lower abdomen becomes too cramped, the swimmer has trouble urinating. Swimmers are often forced to give up because their bladders feel like they're bursting and they can no longer endure the pain. Some become seasick while swimming in waves up to one-and-a-half meters high, while others contend with painful stings from the lion's mane jellyfish.

Moerland came prepared. He has brought along acetaminophen for pain, an antihistamine, caffeine to combat fatigue and cinnarizine for dizziness and nausea.
"Come on Gino, let's go!" Moerland shouts. Deflorian keeps swimming. 29,545 strokes.
In the one minute it took him to eat, he has drifted 120 to 150 meters away from the boat. The tidal current in the English Channel can range up to six knots and can flush away a swimmer like an empty bottle.

That's the reason why no one is able to make it France in a straight line, instead following a curved route. First the high tide pushes the swimmer in a northeasterly direction, and then the ebb tide pushes him back to the southwest. Swimmers who make it across the Channel have in fact swum at least 44 kilometers.
Deflorian is swimming near the bow of the Rowena, where the pilot can see him. For the swimmer, the pilot acts as a guide dog of sorts. He decides when the swim will take place and which course to follow. 

Deflorian's pilot has been working as a fisherman for 40 years. He catches crabs, mussels and snails, but working with Channel swimmers is much more lucrative. He charges £2,300, or about €2,735, per crossing. In weeks when the currents are especially favorable, there are routinely three swimmers a day or more attempting to cross the Channel. The fisherman could never make that much money catching mussels.

Too Risky
There are 13 officially approved pilots. Some are booked four years in advance.
Deflorian has now been in the water for 10 hours and 25 minutes, still swimming at 54 strokes a minute. The sun is setting behind him, and in front of him there is a full moon above Cap Gris Nez. Seven other swimmers are in the water today. Because of restrictions imposed by the French coast guard, no more than 12 support boats are allowed to cross the Channel each day. Because the French coast guard believes that swimming across the Channel is too risky, it barred swimmers from starting the crossing on its coast 20 years ago, but it still tolerates swimmers coming from England.

Moerland is standing at the railing, waving his arms and shouting: "Come on, Gino, come on!" The pilot, glancing at the radar screen and the map on his monitor, says: "If all goes well, he'll be there in less than an hour. But if it doesn't and he hits a wall, the current will push him past the cape."

But Deflorian doesn't hit a wall, lifting one arm after the other, meter by meter. 32,940 strokes. He's as stoical in the water as he is on land.

A year ago, Moerland asked Deflorian if he was interested in swimming across the Channel. The two men know each other from their club in Uster, a town near Zürich. Moerland is from the Netherlands, a country with a long tradition of long-distance swimming. He has coached swimmers in four Olympic Games. Deflorian has been a competitive swimmer since his youth, and he's talented, "but he would never make it to the World Championships or the Olympics," says Moerland. "The English Channel is just the right thing for him."

'I'm Hungry'
"It's not about anything for me," says Deflorian. "I just want to swim from England to France."

They arrived two weeks before the planned date of the crossing. Deflorian practiced in the Dover harbor basin every day, along with a group of other swimmers: two female students from Chicago, a heart surgeon from Cape Town and a 70-year-old Japanese man from Hiroshima.

Then it became windy, with gusts of up to 6 on the Beaufort scale, and Deflorian had to wait. Besides, the Japanese man was still ahead of him. Two camera teams, one on board the Rowena and one in a helicopter, filmed his progress. He gave up after 12 hours, five kilometers from his destination, because the strong current prevented him from reaching land.

The Rowena stops 1,160 meters (3,805 feet) off Cap Gris Nez, because the water is getting too shallow. A rowboat accompanies Deflorian for the last kilometer, because he still isn't quite there. Some swimmers were so exhausted that they couldn't complete this last, short stretch of water.

It's getting dark, and Deflorian keeps swimming. "Yippie!" Moerland bellows, jumping up and down on the deck. Then Deflorian drags himself out of the water and onto the beach. When he pulls off his goggles, his eyes are set deep in their sockets. Finally, he stands on the beach and raises his fists to the sky. His mouth forms a thin line, as if paralyzed, but then he manages a smile. He's made it. After 11 hours and 6 minutes in the English Channel. And after swimming 35,100 strokes of freestyle.

Reprinted from der Spiegel