A Change of Plans

After some careful consideration I’ve decided to not try for Catalina this year.

At this point I have not trained enough, having only swum some 207 miles so far this year, and with only one 2 hour open water swim my cold water preparation is nowhere near adequate for someone as untested as I am. This has been due to a combination of work, personal travel, illnesses and all the other usual excuses, but the simple fact of the matter was that I did not sufficiently prioritize training. Andrew Malinak has a great post on training for a marathon swimming on his blog that I think sums up the most important lesson learned this year – train harder.

I still have the Boston Light Swim queued up for the end of July, but I think I am in decent shape for that, however it is a little disappointing to not to extend myself significantly on the marathon swimming front this year. I may look at organizing an Anacapa Island swim if I can sort the logistics out, which would at least get a long cold water swim under my belt, but even for that I need to up my time spent in the Bay.

I don’t think I truly realized the magnitude of training that is required for Catalina at the start of the year. But having seen a friend train for the English Channel and the volume of hard work he has been putting in, I was clearly off the mark. Still a good learning experience, and the 2015 season is not that far away – so plenty of motivation to keep my training up.

A Lost Week

The week I was in Illinois for work I managed to squeeze a little over 10 miles in three sessions in at the Recplex including one on Thursday morning. I overheard a couple of folk talking about cameras while getting changed after the Thursday morning session, turns out the day before two people had been arrested for setting up hidden cameras in the women’s locker room at the facility! Bizarre stuff!

When I got back from the trip I managed another hour in the Bay on Friday before work intervened and made swimming impossible for that weekend and the rest of the following week. I did manage to get two triple coves in over this past weekend, so my two week total was pretty much only equal to my goal for one week :(

We don’t always control our schedules, so yet another important reminder to swim whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Given the inaccuracy of goal setting so far, picking something more achievable: Swim as much as possible!

Swimming with Friends

A SERC member who I also swim Masters with convinced me to join a group of swimmers down at the club early on Saturday morning. I’m not a morning person and generally only make exceptions for special occasions, but since I really needed to break the one hour barrier in the Bay I duly set my alarm and was down at the club first thing in the morning.

It ended up that another swimmer in the group and I were a pretty good match for pace so stayed together for almost the whole time I was in. The great thing about swimming with someone else was that it allowed me to push myself further without worrying that I was putting myself at risk. When I started getting the claw after an hour I elected to keep swimming and see how well I could handle it, and because the other swimmer was trying for two hours I was encouraged to stay out there as long as I could.

It looks a lot warmer than it is...

It looks a lot warmer than it is…

In the end I did three inside-outsides and kind of an abbreviated cove for around 1h 40m in the bay, and was fine when I got out and into the showers. The experience taught me that getting the claw was not the red flag that I’d perhaps been treating it as.

On Sunday I went down again with the intention of doing three coves with a friend, who unfortunately was unable to make it due to the parking/traffic issues associated with a half marathon that was being run in the area. With my new found confidence from the previous days swim I was able to crank the three coves out, though again definitely clawing up on the last one. 1h 20m in the water, may have to start wearing a watch as I would have probably tacked a flag on the end of the set to make sure I was over 90 minutes.

Pool swimming was interrupted by work on Monday/Tuesday but I managed to catch up with a long set on Wednesday and am happy to have broken 15 miles (~10 pool, ~5 Bay) for the week, though only managed 3 of the 4 hours I’d originally planned for the Bay.

Next week in Illinois for work, but staying up in Wisconsin to be near the Recplex, so hoping I can get 10 miles in the pool again, and try for another 5 or so in the Bay on the weekend.

A mile a day…

This week I finally managed to reach the 1 mile per day metric with 89+ miles swum in the 89 days so far this year. If I am to be successful with the Catalina swim this year I need an awful lot more swimming than that, but nice to have caught up somewhat on a fairly slow start to the year.

Weekly totals were a bit short of my goal with 13.5 miles swum and only a couple of hours in the bay. If I’d managed to get in the water Friday (which was actually a gorgeous warm and sunny day) I’d have hit my goals, but really put off swimming for no good reason, and instead had a cold and grey day for my first bay swim of the week. A good lesson in getting in Bay swimming whenever the opportunity arises and not letting small things get in the way.

I had wanted to try for a triple cove this weekend, but the water on Saturday seemed a lot colder than last weekend and I was developing the start of a claw on the second lap so pulled out after completing it. I must confess the swim spooked me a little so I was much more conservative on Sunday and did a single cove, then just messed around, but ended up with a similar amount of time in the water and felt much more comfortable. The flag buoy thermometers has gone missing which is the one that gets most often checked so didn’t get a temp report for Saturday, on the Sunday swim I stopped by the thermometer on the Balcutha and saw that it was 56F.

I am thinking that I will need to start substituting a Bay swim for Masters training at least once or twice a week in order to get more Bay time in, so goal for next week is still 15 miles but 4 hours of Bay time.

My right arm and weekly training

In Illinois this past week for work, finally managed to make it to the Recplex across the border in Wisconsin on this trip and got some swimming in.

I’d previously emailed the coach of the local Masters group and got permission to join them for a practice, most of the sessions are very early in the morning (5:15am) but they do have a practice in the afternoon on Tuesday’s so on my first visit to the Recplex I joined that session.

The afternoon session is lightly attended (I was one of four swimmers), but it did mean that the coach was able to individually tailor the workout to the different speeds of the swimmers, so got a decent swim in of ~2,500 yards in and backed it up with another 2,000 yards by myself.

The coach pointed out that I was entering the water early on my right arm, which may finally have identified the mysterious difference between my left and right arms that is causing my right shoulder problems. It definitely makes sense in that I had previously noticed that I would see my right hand more often than my left, but had previously attributed it to head position, cross over etcetera and never connected to the much more obvious (in retrospect) early entry issue. I am definitely focusing on that for the moment at least and will see if it clears up my right shoulder aggravation.

Came back to the Recplex the next night and cranked out the very imaginative workout of swim for an hour, rest a minute, then repeat. Getting in ~7k yards. Definitely a nice pool, will consider staying closer to it next time I am back that way to see if I can get a morning session (or two) in.

With a Masters session at USF on Friday and another hour in the bay on Sunday managed another 11 miles. Not terrible for a travel week and sorting out a new pool but have to step it up moving forward.

Goal for this week is 15 miles and at least 3 hours in the bay.

Boston Light Swim and Weekly Training

The Boston Light Swim came on my radar last year as an interesting swim to get my feet wet (so to speak) with longer cooler water swims with water temps in the high 50′s to low 60′s (i.e. pretty much standard San Francisco Bay temperatures during summer). The swim sold out last year in 9 minutes (there are only 20 spots for solo swimmers) so I ended up doing C3 instead.

This year the organizers switched to a lottery system for entries, so I decided to throw my hat into the ring, despite having already committed to swim Catalina three weeks after BLS. I figure it will be a fun warm up for Catalina and a good test of dealing with cooler water (though I plan to have done longer swims in the bay by then).

On Friday I got the email that I’d been one of the lucky ones to get a spot, so excited to have this on my swim calendar for the year.

Managed to get in 16,500 yards in the pool this week and an hour in the Bay for a total of 11 miles. Short of the 15 miles I was aiming for, so am thinking I will have to start pushing my pool sets from 4,000 to 6,000 yards to make sure I get a good base in each week.

Off to Illinois for work this week. Have identified a pool to swim in, the challenge will be that my best opportunity to get to it will likely be the morning sessions, and I have never been an early riser, something I think will have to change if I am to ever hit the ~20 miles a week I’ll need to be doing by June.

Back in the Bay and Catalina thoughts

Despite all my good intentions to actually swim through winter this year, I’d not actually been in the Bay since December 28th. No real good reason – the Bay has been unusually warm through winter this year so cold was never really a factor, just the usual impediments tossed up by life masquerading as excuses.

This past Saturday however the weather in San Francisco was gorgeous, and I’d heard reports from others that the Bay was up to 55F (which is my threshold for not having any anxiety about getting in when I haven’t been swimming cold water regularly), so I popped down to the South End to grab a quick swim.

Winter? Not in San Francisco...

Winter? Not in San Francisco…

On the way down I noticed a lack of swimmers in Aquatic Park, which was unusual given the amazing conditions, turns out it was the annual SERC St Patrick’s Day luncheon so the club was packed with people decidedly not swimming. The shower/sauna in the Men’s locker room was also still out of action due to retiling, though the Dolphin Club has kindly offered theirs up for use, so having got instructions on the directions/etiquette of using the DC facilities I got changed and headed out into the Bay.

Since this was my first swim in a while, I only intended to do a single cove and then see how I felt, possibly extending to a mile. Before I was even half way around I knew I was in for a double, the water was crazily warm for this time of the year. Roughly 52 minutes and 1.6 miles or so later I got out a very happy man.

At a very gross level, the two barriers for succeeding in a long swim are the ability to swim the distance, and the ability to tolerate the environmental conditions (principally cold, but also swell, chop, salt water, fauna). The first can be reasonably trained for in a pool, but really the only way to know if you can survive a cold ocean swim is to swim in a cold ocean.

My previous long swims (Rottnest, C3) have taken place in water that was ~70F, and the experience of those swims has taught me that I am perfectly comfortable at that temperature. I’ve booked a boat for a Catalina Channel swim on August 16th, a swim that is both longer (21 miles vs. 12 miles) and colder (60F-70F) than anything that I have done before. The distance I am not worried about, it is simply a matter of knuckling down and putting the weekly miles in, but the cooler temperatures is something I don’t know how specifically I’ll react to.

In the 4 years I’ve been swimming in the bay I have done many swims in the temperature range of 50F-60F which is colder than Catalina, but they have all been shorter swims (1/2 hour to 2 hours) which don’t really translate into the kind of steady state tolerance that I will need.

The good news is that my booking is for the warmest part of the year with water temperatures averaging in the high 60′s, the bad news is that if I am unlucky the water temperatures could still dip into the low 60′s, and the last few miles are typically a few degrees colder due to a cold upwelling as you approach the coast.

So a big part of my training between now and August will be to get in as much time in Aquatic Park as I can. The water temperatures will be cooler, but my thinking is if I can crank out a 6-8 hour set in the chillier Aquatic Park then I should be set for Catalina (at least temperature wise).