Cook Strait Swim, New Zealand

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Marine life encounters

 I've been asked on several occasions about my marine life encounters during my 18 year open water swim career. What started off as a fear of the unknown (always wondering if a predator was lurking below me), turned into one of the most enjoyable experiences of my lifetime.  I've had dolphins swim around me in the Catalina Channel, inquisitive sea lions and seals nearby.  I've heard the sounds of whales echoing in the distance while swimming the Strait of Gibraltar and the Pacific Ocean. And moments before the start of my Catalina swim at midnight, my crew and I heard a whale spouting water through its blowhole nearby.  I've had several small curious fish touch my fingertips while swimming Tsugaru Strait in Japan. My encounters with jellyfish has been unique...I was intrigued by swimming among the shoals of Lion's Mane Jellyfish in my 21 mile swim across the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland....I saw thousands and got stung every inch of my body.  I found the stings were minor and well worth the experience of seeing these creatures with their long flowing tentacles.  I was fortunate that I was not affected by severe pain and toxic reactions that many marathon swimmers have experienced.  During my first English Channel swim attempt, I was startled by a long slender toothless fish when it grabbed hold of my forearm during my hand entry in the water off the coast of France and didn't release until my arm recovery out of the water. No injury to fish or myself. My boat captain thought it was a sucker fish. It looked similar to an eel. I continued with my swim. Also, while swimming along the coast of the Atlantic ocean, I had a shark encounter. I immediately stopped my swim due to safety concerns.  But as I watched this majestic creature pass within 15 feet of me. I noticed that it was not interested in me. And this very large predator continued to swim quickly away from me. It never returned.  During my training season here in Maine, I have seen lobsters, crabs, blue fish, mackerel and sand sharks.....each time I was in awe to see them in their environment. I am looking forward to many more years of marine life encounters....no longer in fear of the unknown.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Swim advice from my 4 -year -old granddaughter

My swim training for the North Channel is going very well.   At the age of 64, I decided to make some minor adjustment on my freestyle stroke.  In my past marathon swims, my strength was all upper body and my legs went along for the ride.  It is evident in my swim videos that I have a very weak kick.  Even my four-year-old granddaughter asked me,"Why aren't you kicking?" when she viewed my Catalina swim video. Since I don't have a swim coach, I took her words to heart.  I started viewing many YouTube videos on freestyle kicks....there are thousands of videos to watch.  I particularly enjoy watching the Total Immersion swim videos by Terry Laughlin. Also, there are many great videos produced in Australia by Swim Smooth.  My focus during my freestyle is to use my legs and core to rotate during arm entry.  I immediately noticed that I had better balance in the water and I seemed to glide effortlessly.  Many thanks to my granddaughter for her insight.....my new coach :-) 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Peak season for swim training for the North Channel

Whenever I plan a marathon swim, I divide my training schedule into three segments.  I count backwards one year from the target swim date and divide it into three unequal segments.  Early  season is fairly light training, mid-season is longer workouts and cross training, and peak season is the the last five months before my target date (North Channel in July).  I have entered into my peak season of training.  I will train six days per week.  Three of those days will be long endurance swims.  Every two weeks I will add an hour to one of those days.  For example, I swam for three hours today. In two weeks, I will swim for four hours in one day (every week). The other two days of the three long endurance days will be three hour swims each day. The other remaining days of the week will be short swims of an hour and cross training. In four weeks, I will swim 5 hours in one day (each week) and the remainder of the three endurance swim days, I will swim for 3 hours each day and the remaining days of the week will be one hour swims.  As soon as the ocean temperature reaches mid-forties, I will start my transition from pool to ocean.  I will have split day training with long swim at the pool and short swim in the ocean.  With ocean temperature in the mid-forties I will swim no longer than an hour.  As the ocean temp increases, I plan to have longer ocean swims and shorter pool workouts.  During my peak season of training, I will lift weights (light weights) to build upper body strength.  On days that I work as a nurse (Yes, that's right I'm still working at the age of 64) and babysit my grandchildren after I get out of work (ages 6, 4, and 3), I plan to cross train on a stationary bike after I tuck my grandchildren in bed. My goal is to train six days per week in preparation for one the most challenging swims in world.  North Channel...here I come!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

North Channel swim training.....Plan "B"

In July I will attempt to swim the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland. This will be my second try at the 21 mile swim known as one of the most difficult channels in the world.  I've been preparing for this grueling swim for the past several months.  However, sometimes the best-laid plans can go wrong.  Part of marathon swim training is that a swimmer should always be prepared for the unexpected.  A few months ago, I was slammed by a large wave to the ground and landed on my right scapular on my back. Initially, I did not feel any discomfort from being thrown like a rag-doll.  But a few days later I started to develop tendonitis in that area. I felt no pain during my swims but afterwards I felt a dull ache in my scapular. After 18 years of open water swimming, this was my first injury.  I didn't want to jeopardize my swim career so I quickly decided to go to plan "B".  I went to a sports rehabilitation center for treatment. No swimming for three weeks to allow my tendons to heal. The recommended treatment was deep muscle massage and acupuncture. After three weeks of intense therapy, my scapular is pain free. I am very pleased with the outcome.  Taking a few weeks off from swim training helped in my recovery.  Lessons learned in life.....always have a back-up plan.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rest and Recovery during Marathon Swim Training

My last few postings on my blog have been about my swim training for July 2015 solo attempt of the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland.  As I previously mentioned, my training includes endurance swims, cold acclimation, and cross training ( weight lifting, rowing machine, speed walks, etc).  Today, I would like to focus on the importance of rest. In my early years of training, I would train 6 days a week and felt guilty when I took one day off.  But after 18 years of being an open water swimmer, I have come to realize that rest days are necessary for recovery from the necessary long and hard training days.  Sometimes I may take three days off in a row to let my body get "energized".  My best advice for an athlete is to listen to their body. A swimmer will not gain anything if they arrive at the start of a solo swim feeling exhausted and sore from over training. So, enjoy taking a few days off from training and you may find that you will feel stronger and more energized.   Enjoy your days off!