Saturday, 17 July 2010

Interview with George Brunstad

Thanks to Karen Reeder for kindly allowing this interview to be re printed here..

75-year old George Brunstad recently competed in the USMS 6K National Championships in Windsor, Colorado, finishing in 2:29:23.7. USOWSC had a chance to talk with George, who, in 2004, became the oldest swimmer to successfully cross the English Channel with a time of 15 hours, 59 minutes.

As you look back upon your English Channel Swim, what parts were the most difficult and the most memorable?
Several areas stand out as challenging. Water temperature acclimatization was one. I spent some time in Long Island Sound in the fall and spring when the ocean temperatures were around 58-62 F and took cold showers after workouts at the Wilton CT YMCA. Taking the lead of Marcia Cleveland, I rented a cottage on Harpswell Neck near Brunswick ME forthree weeks making escorted swims in Casco Bay of 3-6 hours in 55-60 F water. Another, one not anticipated, was feeding. I had it down pat in training with a malodextrin and soy mix but had not tested it beyond 6 hours. After six hours in the Channel swim the mix began to back up undigested in my stomach. Mike Oram simply had me skip a feeding to empty the stomach and then switched to strait moltodextrin and it was smooth sailing thereafter. Another was to craft the proper amount and intensity of training considering my age. The window is smaller for the proper amount - it had to be not too much or too little. I had no one my age to consult but managed to train with enough intensity to accomplish the task without breaking down.

Most memorable was the finish under a full moon with Allison Streeter and MarcyMcDonald flankingme for the last 300 meters and the three of us striding up on the beach under acouple of spotlights, my arms raised in victory.

Do you have any advice for people who are going to swim the English Channel?
Training building in intensity as the time approaches, cross training (land as well as the other strokes), one long swim each week, cold water adaptation, feeding practice, a short taper, crew coordination, proper diet, adequate rest, a goal and purpose for the swim, and in my case, faith in my Lord and Creator, prayers by many.

As they age, some swimmers tend to have more difficulty adjusting to cold water temperatures. Have you noticed this and do you have any advice for older swimmers?
I have noticed that it is more difficult for me at 75 than 70. My advice would be to follow the program I have mentioned above. The cold water camp was crucial for me.

How often do you swim every week now and approximately how much yardage are you swimming on a weekly basis?
I am not swimming as much as in the past because I was incapacitated by Poly Myalgia Rhumatica last summer (Immune system attacks theskeletal muscles). I am now asymptomatic but my speed has not returned. I am working back into a routine of three days Monday-Wednesday-Fridayin the pool and the fitnessroom plus swims in the lake on Tuesday and Thursday. For my Channel year in 2004 at age 70, I did mixed swims (intervals, IM, etc) on Monday and Wednesday with fitness cross-training on Tuesday and Thursday, and then increasingly longer freestyle swims on Friday. Saturday and Sundays were recovery. Note that I swam only three days a week for my Channel year. This was in deference to my age.

Is there anywhere in particular where you train in open water? Do you have a favorite place to swim in open water?
Now it is Lakes Winnipesaukee and Winnesquam NH.

What other swimming races are you planning to compete in this summer?
Possibly the 22 mile Lake Winnipesaukee swim for charity in August.

What has been your swimming experience through your life?
I started swimming at age 3 inWashington State. I was a varsity swimmer at Washington State with no accomplishments to speak of. But I swam nothing more than 200 yards. I had no idea that I am in reality a pure endurance athlete. It took a while in Masters swimming to realize this as well after I started in 1973. At first I swam short races but did not find success until I started swimming the longer distances (1500 M free, 400 MIM, 200 M fly, etc.) but found my real place when I started open water competition in 1992.

What are 3 main things you think are most important for new open water swimmers to learn?
1) Efficiency of stroke and this means bilateral breathing. I firmly believe in being able to breathe equally well to either side, and devoting equal time to both sides during training and when racing. I have always considered swimming as a lifetime commitment and am convinced of the merits of a balanced and symmetrical stroke on the overall harmony of stresses and strains on the spine, shoulders, joints, tendons and muscles. It is difficult to get symmetrical action from a stroke that always twists and pulls to only one side. There is invariably a difference in the way the two arms and shoulders work for one-side breathers and it must certainly not be good for the neck and spine over many years to twist the neck tens of thousands of times one way and never to the other. How can the muscles and tendons develop equally under this scenario? I taught hundreds of young kids to swim in the largest swim program in New England at the Wilton YMCA in Connecticut. NONE of them left my teaching class without being able to breathe equally well to either side.

2) I do a lot of distance free with limited breathing. I do not race this way but it has built my wind and endurance. 3) Cross training on dry land, freestyle intervals with practice in the other strokes as well.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Ellerton Eeeek

Yesterday (July 14th) I returned to Ellerton Lake with Chris Pearson and three Tri girls , they were all clad in rubber and thought it highly amusing that I should be swimming near naked, despite the lake being 67 degrees F. We had an excellent interval session, again I managed to talk them into shedding the rubber for the final five minutes. Much to their amazement they enjoyed the freedom . I told them if they swim me then that is a condition to which they must sign up!! If you want a giggle click on the link above.
We were only in the water 70 minutes but the quality was good, we experienced a thunder storm at one point which was strange though the lake itself remained glassy flat.

Today I returned to the Lake with Charlie in his new wetsuit, he was terrified but I am delighted that he eventually summoned the courage to jump from the jetty (twice) and joined me in the water, its a great start so I just hope he fancies returning some time soon.
A very relieved Charlie..a little cold, a little scared and not impressed. Well done Charlie,believe in yourself x

Dover and The Dump

Last Friday the 9th July KGB and I travelled back to Dover, our first visit since 2008, the 350 drive was more or less uneventful, the usual delays on the M25 but nothing too severe.With some availability problems I had arranged our accommodation earlier in the week, we arrived slightly earlier than anticipated and hoped for a nice place to rest our heads. To say we were disappointed at the state of the place which will remain unnamed is an understatement, it was a smelly dump.

No other accommodation could be located, so we disappeared into town, initially we drove to the marina were Cliff Golding (two time Channel Swimmer) had just returned from what was hoped to be his third crossing, sadly it wasn't to be today, he was in good spirits which was nice to see despite his disappointment.

After brief hellos and goodbyes to Cliff and his crew, it was time to feed and have a beer before running the gauntlet back to the dump. KGB was shattered from a very recent trip to Greece as a result of which she did eventually fall to sleep. I, on the other hand had a sleepless night listening to the drunken anti social behaviour, rowing and fighting outside as well as the other residents in neighbouring rooms via paper thin walls. I had decided before daybreak that I would sooner sleep in the car than spend another night here.

Saturday morning I checked out first thing just as soon as I heard signs of life from the owner, I declined breakfast, preferring to head into town. We parked on the sea front and went for breakfast, on our return I noticed that Freda Streeter (The Channel General) had already arrived we crept up and surprised her, as always we were greeted with smiles, kisses and hugs. It was really great to see her, we immediately felt the weekend was getting better.  We soon caught up with Barrie the Shingle stomper and were made to feel completely at home.
As we stood on the promenade overlooking the pebbles, watching the solo swimmers prepare themselves for a full days training,  I noticed Frank Chalmers of 'Crossing Hells Mouth' fame readying himself for a seven hour swim. I had spoken with Frank some time ago via email, and was very keen to meet him in person. I rushed across with KGB and introduced myself to a man who turns out to be one one the nicest, sincere and most modest men I have ever met, a true gent who restores my faith in humanity.
Moments later we were approached by the ever smiley Sarah Tunniclifffe who swam a Channel Relay only days earlier, we had hoped/planned to meet up with her having first met at the River Nene swim, she is a great laugh and fantastic for morale the sort of person I would want as support crew, hence the reason I asked her to come with us to Winderemere in August / September. I also managed to say hello to Sally Goble at long last too, I have been trying to do so for the best part of three years so it was long over due! She was in fact the first person I spoke to when the Channel became a serious intention back in 2007.
This is turning into a ramble!.....The fog was now rolling in but the whole day remained very warm, I did get into the water!! it was at the same time as the relay swimmers just before 10am as the mist descended, they had been assigned 90 minutes, I swam for 2hours 10 minutes, returning to the beach once I noticed the solo swimmers had completed their second feed. The water temperature was 63F by my watch (60F on the Sandettie buoy). The first hour dragged a little but then I was back in familiar territory, swimming laps of the harbour, the water was OK both in terms of temperature and conditions, I was day dreaming as usual, with thoughts of 2008 and much longer swims. All in all it was good to be back once the first hour was out of the way. It was in fact my longest salt water session this year, without a feed too which is pleasing.

 Having approached the shore KGB and a number of other thought it would be fun to throw pebbles in my general direction for old times sake, pretending to tell me that I was not allowed out. We all laughed, it was nice to get out under no pressure having done exactly what I had planned.
The rest of the day was spent socialising with old friends on the beach, helping out with the 6 hour feed and relaxing in the sunshine, we were sad to miss Emma France who was away sunning herself on a swim trek holiday, and also Jane and Kevin Murphy both of whom were out observing swims.

The plan had been to stay two nights however, what with the previous night and some domestic issues, we  found ourselves driving North after a lovely day, another whirlwind trip but hey, whats new.

This year has been very steady progress, with a slow methodical build up, Sandycove 2 miles, Epic Series 3.8km, River Nene 5km, BLDSA Wykeham Lake 5km, Dover approx. 7km... next stop is Derwent Water 5 miles on 31st July.