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 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.

Another long set and some lessons learned

With the C3 swim fast approaching I’ve really needed to increase my weekly swimming distance. For Rottnest I was getting in 20-25km a week, and this past summer it has been any where from 0 to 15km.  The last two weeks I’ve managed get in a little over 20km each week by adding in a long workout at BAC on Sunday. As per my last post in the previous week I knocked out a 9km/3hour workout, and this week I managed a 12km/4hour workout.

While doing the long sets I’ve noticed that after about two hours my shoulders start to hurt, and my speed definitely decreases over the duration of the workout. I was able to counteract the pain in my shoulders somewhat on this last workout by concentrating on ‘toning’ (as my coach would say)  my butt and core and working on initiating the stroke from my hips.

This tends to suggest that I have a tendency to overuse my shoulders/arms, and it is only when they start to hurt that I notice and am able to actively counteract that tendency.

Definitely the goal for this week during my shorter Masters workouts is try and deemphasize the shoulders from the start (though on the faster intervals it sometime tricky to do anything except concentrate on making the time), and see if I can carry that through to next Sunday’s long set.

One of things I do like about pool workouts versus open water is that sometimes there will be someone either in my lane or the lane over who is near my speed. If my set synchronizes with theirs, then there is a great opportunity to play with technique, as you can then immediately see the impact of small changes on your speed as your position changes relative to theirs.

This past Sunday I had a great opportunity when a guy in the lane over was going a hair faster than me and pushed off the wall at the same time. I managed to pace him for at least 500m (before my 30 minute set break), having to really work at my technique to keep up (I was at the 10km or so mark in the workout so really didn’t have the energy to just power through).

What that set showed me is that I am definitely lazy with my body position when I don’t have an external stimulus (like a pace swimmer). I was able to keep up better when I dropped my head somewhat and increased the ‘tone’ in my core – getting a more horizontal position in the water, and also being a little more aggressive with my kicking.

The level of physical effort involved in keeping up with this other swimmer was not excessive (I considered not stopping at my 30minute break just to take advantage of the opportunity more), but there is definitely a mental effort to keep everything right when there is no visible feedback.

While preventing shoulder pain is my top priority from a technique perspective, there were some pointers this week on how I can ultimately improve my speed.





Back to the Long(er) Sets

While I was training for the Rottnest Channel Swim this winter I spent a lot of time down at Burlingame Aquatic Center which is located at the Burlingame High School.

BAC has a fabulous outdoor 50m pool which is actually configured in the long course orientation most of the time (unlike USF). They also have a ~7 hour window open for lap swimming on Sundays making it pretty much the ideal spot for cranking out a long set.

During the summer break unfortunately this perfect setup is partially spoiled by a chunk of the pool getting dedicated to recreational swimmers, the net result of which is that I kind of fell out of the habit of doing my Sunday long sets.

School is thankfully back in session, and BAC is back to its normal schedule, so I finally got down there this weekend to crank out a long set. I deliberately set the bar fairly low (3 hours/9km) since it has been a while since I have done one of these and didn’t have my head back in it (long swims are psychological as well as physical).

When I started I had the lane to myself, but after a while I was joined by another swimmer. Something that completely drives me mad is when someone gets into your lane without letting you know. As I’d been by myself for 20 minutes I was swimming in the center of the lane, first thing I know about the new swimmer is when I nearly slam into him coming back down the pool. I think there is a body of swimmers who just assume you are circle swimming no matter what, which seems odd to me, but I have been wrong about pool etiquette before.

In any case we settled into the aforementioned circle swimming (despite only being two of us), and my lane mate at least proved polite enough to make way for me when I caught up with him.

I’ll often use the other swimmers around me as motivation, so in this case I decided I’d not take my first stop until at least he left the pool. This approach frees me from having to either clock watch or count laps and lets me zone out and have the time pass by. After ~50 minutes my lane companion got out, and I knocked out another few laps to bring my first interval to ~1h:20m and 4200m.

Because the pool seemed to be getting busier after my lane mate got out I just swam on one side of the lane, hopefully making it obvious to anyone else that they could split the lane with me. This still ended up with me colliding with the next swimmer getting in – Is it really that hard to watch someone for 2 minutes to see what pattern they are swimming?

The rest of the workout I just did 1km intervals (and a closeout 800m) to get to my 3 hour (and 9km) goal. Definitely slowed down on the latter intervals but overall my pace was on the 20m/km mark. Will try and target a 4 hour set next week.


Did a quadruple circumnavigation of Aquatic Park (aka “Quad Cove”) for this first time ever today: 3.34 miles in ~1h:57m. Not a long distance particularly, but the longest (distance/time) I have done in “cool” water (low 60’s). Hoping that this continued acclimation will carry on into winter and let me do at least an hour in “cold” (low 50’s) water.

Interesting contrast to last week’s Bay Bridge swim – roughly twice the time for only little over the same distance.

Quad Cove

It’s the journey not the destination…

The first open water swim I ever signed up for was the 2010 Alcatraz Sharkfest. At the time I signed up for the swim I had never swum more than a half a mile and that was roughly 25 years earlier. By signing up for the swim (late in 2009), I hoped that it would serve to motivate me to actually train and really accomplish my goal of losing weight and getting into shape.

Some 7 months of training later the day of the swim arrived. I along with some 800 others marched down to two ferries in our wetsuits and headed out to Alcatraz. Unfortunately it was one of those days where the San Francisco fog lay like a blanket over the bay, and we could not see Alcatraz let alone the end of the swim (Aquatic Park). The Alcatraz swim was cancelled and we all headed back to Aquatic Park for a make up swim.

I remember at the time initially feeling terribly cheated; I’d spent all this time swimming in pools and doing laps of Aquatic Park for this event and now it was all to be just a quick race around one of the piers. I didn’t even bother doing that swim, I’d spent enough time swimming in Aquatic Park the past couple of months it just didn’t seem like a fitting climax to the journey I’d been on.

Eventually though the realization dawned – I was 25lbs lighter, and had gained the ability to swim a couple of miles freestyle. The whole point of signing up for the swim had really been to achieve this destination, this improved self. What’s more I had enjoyed the process – I’d found something that I could continue to do hopefully the rest of my life that would improve my health and fitness, and it was fun

I still use the trick of signing up for longer swims to push myself, to make myself get in the pool or the bay on those days when I just don’t feel like it. The end goals are still important to me, but I make sure to remember that I actual enjoy the journey along the way.