BIG THANKYOU to Ned for this and his continuing support.
BEFORE you go and book an English Channel Solo Swim - get in a 6 mile open water swim
Too many swimmers are trying to jump from a 1 or 2 mile open water swim to the Mount Everest of open water swim - the 21 mile English Channel.
Set your goal at a 6 mile distance in the late summer of 2011 - it is VERY DIFFERENT from a 2 miler. Your nutrition and hydration needs become much more important to meet and stay ahead of. These together with stroke rate are important factors in staying warm. The mental processes (or lack thereof!) and disorientation in the open water becomes a bigger issue with longer distances.
1. Plan now to do a 4 mile open water swim early in the summer. Do it safely with a support boat etc. It doesn’t have to be an event. It can be just you and your trusty kayaker (near shore) or Rib and crew further out.
2. Start now to find a carbo drink that you can stomach. Over 6 miles you will need to drink about one litre of liquid before the swim and about 2 litres during the swim. These volumes can double or halve depending on the swimmer and the day. This can simply be something like Lucozade...or a carbo powder that you mix with water (many marathon swimmers in the UK use Maxim). We had a swimmer do a 12.5 mile channel, drinking orange juice and eating mashed potatoes out of a plastic cup - SO it is really only important that you get the liquid and same carbs (electrolytes and protein are advanced topics - worry about them for swims over 6 miles). By March - EVERY swimming workout you do should include drinking at least 500ml of the stuff afterwards or during the workout.
It's really important to get in quality calories that taste good and are easy to digest. You have four options for calories: drinks, gels, beans, bars. It's really important to be happy with your food. "Fueling" with something that you like makes you keep going from feeding to feeding. It will make it mentally and physically possible to keep swimming longer and longer. If you don't like the taste of your fuel and/or it upsets your stomach, you'll stop eating, and that would be really, really bad! Other things people seem to enjoy as fuel on swims: fig bars, bananas, Jaffa cakes, etc. It's amazing the things you'll come up with to try. Only thing – avoid drinks with caffeine during the swim.
If you really want to keep it simple - but drink your carbo drink. "Eating" involves more treading water, more chews and a longed idle period in which to get cold!
3. Figure out how often you need to "fuel" to stay ahead of your fuel and hydration needs. People seem to “fuel” at a wide range of intervals, from one hour to every 15 minutes. You can start with every 30 minutes and see how that feels. If you start to feel low or go through a struggling phase, feed every 20 minutes and then alter that according to how you are feeling. If you wait until you’re hungry or thirsty to fuel, it’s too late!! You have to fuel before you actually want it. (have you crew implement the agreed timing) Many of you will not want to stop to fuel during the swim. Wait until you are much more experienced before you try a 6 mile swim without fuel - trust me fuel for the 6 miler!
Also consider how high your metabolism is. If it's high, you'll definitely need to refuel often. If your metabolism is lower you'll get away with eating less. If you struggle to stay warm in cooler water, you'll also want to feed more often, or take in more calories at each feed. The most important part of this exercise is to come up with a schedule for longer distances and then stick with it, adjusting it only as you discover exactly what your individual needs are over time.
4. Learn to tread water and drink in deep water (you can master this in the deep end of the pool). Do a few marathon pool swims to allow you to begin figure out your ideal feeding intervals sooner rather than later. You can then translate that into your 4 mile training swim in early summer in preparation for the 6 miler.
5. Work up steadily your weekly swimming yardage:
Minimum 8,000 meters per week by March
Minimum 10,000 meters per week by May
These are MINIMUMS....do more. If you are below these numbers - seriously reconsider
6. Do longer pool sessions over the winter. Two hour sessions are much better than 45 minute sessions
7. Plan out your weekly yardage goals and follow your training progress. You can’t fool a daily pencil recording your distance on each day you swim. There are no fudge factors with simple addition.
8. Take a minimum of 1 day/week rest day. This could be as much as a full week every few weeks depending on age and condition. The key is to stay fresh mentally and not get injured. But don’t get lazy, either. The little gnomes are everywhere with their nasty voices of REST and QUIT or THAT’S ENOUGH FOR ONE DAY. Shout them down if you have to. Yep, right there in the pool. You’ve got a plan. You know your rest days. Keep it moving forward.
9. Interval training is important to building / maintaining speed and for being able to maintain a steady pace over long distances. Example - swim 20 times 100 meters each on a 2 minute interval (or faster or slower). Hint 100 times is about the 6 mile distance!
10. Train your brain. You should think about the upcoming swim every day now. Every time you are in the pool – imagine the start, imagine fueling and how it will feel walking (running) out to the beach. This MUST be one of your bigger plans for the year. Make it an important part in your life.
Dream - Prepare - Succeed