Sep 25, 2010

500 Training Miles in the Bucket, A word on safety, Qualifying Update

Logged the 508th training mile today.

Open Water Safety.  After trekking 45 minutes down to Lake Michigan hoping to get a swim in at Tower Beach we arrived Marcia and her husband were there (Mark) and we or actually I should say, I, decided it was too rough. The wind was 20 knots from the North, Northeast and the whitecaps were on every wave 3-4 feet. Usually waves aren't a big deal and we can swim just out past the breakers but today the breakers were well out several hundred yards and although the water was 61f this was not a good combination without a safety boat. We turned around and drove back to Lake Zurich and got in a 2.4 mile training lap in 64f water which was a fast one at 54 minutes so a good day. Sun was out and that always helps.

Qualifying Swim Update: We continue to plan out or 6 plus hour swim and have most of the safety crews, boats lined up. We will be confirming the date based on water temperature as as of this morning its was 64f so just waiting.

Sep 18, 2010

Qualifying for the English Channel - So how does one go about this?

"If you set your goals ridiculously high and fail, you will failed above everyone else's success"...

Catching Up on the Past Few Weeks:

Its been a couple weeks since I posted anything and until this past week the mileage has been about half of the normal but I am back in full swing now logging 25k yards per week and will soon be scaling up to 30 plus. Boston was a great swim but taking a bit of break was well deserved.

Met with my coach, Marcia Cleveland and co-heart training buddy Doug McConnell this week to layout the next years training plan. Looks like once we complete the 6 plus hour cold water qualifying swim in the next few weeks (60f or below water temp is required?) we'll be back to normal training until April when we will do the Tampa Bay marathon swim (24 miles, ocean but warm water - purpose to check distance and ocean affects on body, mind and foods to eat, etc. without the cold so training can be adjusted). Will plan to be back in cold Lake Michigan early April as much as possible and then do another 8-10 hour swim late spring/early summer. August 2011 is the Channel so everything will build to this. I can't believe I have already put over a year into this! I remember when I started I could barely finish 2000 yards without being tired, go figure. I couldn't handle cold water, waking up at 5 am, eating really funky foods, etc. I have everyone to thank for tolerating me and this dream, the crazy schedule, time away, standing in the cold watching me swim or just sending wonderful email notes. Thank you very much.

English Channel Qualifying Swim:

Echoing my thoughts on how I got to this point, I now look forward to the next several weeks with a bit of trepidation knowing that lurking out there is the biggest test yet of my mental preparations but also physical. 6 hours minimum in water 60f or colder. I have previously written about other cold training swims and races but wrapping my head around swimming for 6 plus hours AND 60f is really tough. Today I was in Lake Michigan for an hour in 54f - 56f water, grey skies and air temps. hovering around 65f. It was bone chilling, burned like I can't even describe getting in but was able to calm down and focus on swimming as the time went on. Will do this again Sunday and as much as possible in the next days leading up to the fateful phone call from the coach...tomorrow is the day...

The basic plan is to start at 4am (yes, your reading correctly 4am, pitch black darkness and cold). Swimming the EC starts 24/7 so swimming in pitch black cold wavy water is part of the gig. Well I am about to be baptised in a big, big way.

At these water temperatures, hypothermia is a very real safety concern. We take great care to monitor each other. Also strangely enough what you eat as your fuel is critical. Your body is effectively consuming food to produce energy for two things, the swimming strokes themselves and the to generate heat! So this will be a very important part of our qualifying swim planning.

We are also having to plan for kayaks and safety people to be with us the entire time. They will have the authority to stop the entire swim if they fell we are in danger. They typically test you during a feeding stop by asking simple questions. Not being able to speak clearly and answer the specific question asked is a hallmark early sign of hypothermia. We can increase food intake quickly or stroke rates to compensate this but its a slippery slope once it begins. all of this is the purpose of doing this now, to test where I am, what needs more work. there is plenty of time to make mid course corrections.

From a mental standpoint, the deprivation of staring into blue green water for what seems to be an eternity is something I am not sure how to imagine? How do train for this? I think the best I can do is to layout a plan of swimming "x" times back and forth from the peer to the beach or something that can give me a mental goal that can be attached to the physical demands on my body. I suspect the emotional aspect of this "test" will become very evident and at some point I will simply have to buckle down and say to myself this it, its now or never, if you give up now what will you do next summer in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!

So as plans progress I will keep everyone abreast of plans. I hope to have some video and pictures of this and if I can find someone with great IT skills will maybe even try to to a live GPS plot so those of you interested can watch live or I guess while your drinking coffee.