'Behind every success, there are multitude of failures, false starts, unplanned circumstances, unexpected situations and unsuccessful attempts'
Doc would be proud of the form, Elbows Up!
I 'retired' from my swim at 4 hours and 45 minutes yesterday short of the 6 hour minimum objective for this trial effort. Good news is I fought the good fight in pretty cold conditions and mentally had more than enough in the tank to keep going. Today I believe a combination of factors treated me to a lesson. On the bright side, I have plenty of time to "punch my ticket" as Doug likes to say. next time I will be relaxed and even more confident.
When I began this journey it was with the intent to share publicly just that, my personal journey, to cross the English Channel. My intent to share openly (despite the council of some very accomplished coaches and fellow swimmers) the successes, failures, challenges and lessons learned along the way both physically and mentally is not without its caution. A point well taken, however I am not deterred in revealing these sides of this wonderful sport in the hopes that through my experience a few might take a dip, take a chance and explore there own dreams wherever they lead.
As mentioned before, my effort ended at 4 hours and 45 minutes. The combined water temp and air temp early that morning started at around 56f-ish water and 45f-ish air. Ultimately this proved too big a hill to overcome combined with what I believe was an equally important nutrition/feeding challenge of not being able to consume enough calories and electrolytes per hour necessary to fuel the huge energy requirement of my body to both stay warm and swim. I'll explain a bit the overall physiological impacts and others feel free to add in replies.
The up side is my conditioning was not in question nor my mental state. Not sure which came first but not being able to pee early perhaps due to feeling full or simply the cold shutting down my muscle usage in "that area" what ever the reason, just wasn't happening easily. Anyway feeling dreadfully full made me not want to consume additional feeds easily after the first hour or so. This is probably the underlying reason for cramping in my legs and then the onset of shivering much later that followed and I will describe as the day progressed. My high carbo feed source is made up from (maxim 100 mg/hour (4 scoops) rate) with protein (25 mg/hour rate) and Gatorade pro electrolytes powder (two scoops equal to one 8 12 oz. standard bottle by volume). I take in 8-10 ounces of this mixture every 30 minutes. I had previously used this mix ratio successfully in my Boston Light House Race where I ran the 8 plus miles in 3 hours, partially tide assisted. Thus, I do not believe the nutrition itself was a problem. I believe the inability to feed fully created a calorie deficit and it's a slippery slope going forward to make this up whiling expending these huge amounts of energy. One addition to my feeding scheduling new was drinking warm tea in tandem during my feed stops. In retrospect this probably took up valuable stomach space displacing very important calories and the desire to drink other foods. This is an important lesson, in the future warming my carbohydrate mix kills two birds with one stone, getting food plus warmth. I really do not believe the cramping was related to anything other than depletion of food sources and electrolytes in my body. My god I have swum almost 600 miles this year alone preparing for what lies ahead?
It was not easy stopping. But in the end I knew it was the smart and safe thing to do. Swimming back out and having things get worse was not something for myself nor my wonderful crew of volunteers to wrestle with in deep water. Hauling my big ass into a canoe, as Red correctly pointed out earlier in the day during or safety talk was not a task for the faint of heart!
I typically swim around 2-2.5 miles per hour so give or take 10 miles for 4:45 time is probably fair. But the experience swimming for such a long period of time in that cold of water is priceless and I consider a huge success. In retrospect, I feel the combined water/air temperature experience has made me a much stronger athlete. Learning to listen to my safety crew, would perhaps have made a difference starting later? The experience with feedings while seemingly a small thing turned out to be huge thing. Stopping completely for feedings does not work for me. It was a necessary failure to learn now as this marathon swimming is more than just the English Channel for me…yes I am hooked
To my safety crew and volunteers. I cannot thank you enough. You give me hope, encouragement, counsel and kept me safe doing something that probably most folks consider nuts anyhow. But this is what I do, these are the people I like who do this. Am I addicted to open water swimming, you bet, there is nothing like bobbing in the middle of a lake watching the sun rise with not another living sole around (except for who is swimming with you or crewing near by). Bill and Red, thank you very much for supporting me, what a wonderful surprise. The rest of the McConnell clan thank you for kayaking and feed stops, next time I will eat a bit more. Eric and Lex as fellow triathletes and swimmers I hope you enjoyed this experience and your kayaking workout, I'll swim with you two anytime. Lindo, thanks again for the wonderful access to Lake Zurich and your hospitality. Being awarded an official hat certainly was a nice touch. Marcia the coaching is what got me to this point and its been a great experience, I have learned so much and appreciate your time and effort. Lots more to come. Laura, Marita and everyone else thanks for the warm wishes. Doug what you said to me on the pier privately meant the world and Jennifer thanks for supporting my crazy dreams.
I am already thinking of where I can go a get another one in, anybody care to join?
Oh, one more thing. I read recently that my former teammate from Goshen Craig Kercher got in some good distance swims in the recent indoor 5 and 10k swim, congrats. Lake Travis would be a fun one to do together?