Five Dimensions Of Expecting The Unexpected In The Open Water

Five Dimensions Of Expecting The Unexpected In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Swimmer Damián Blaum of Argentina has enjoyed and endured one of the most prolific careers on the professional marathon swimming circuit. Along the way, he created Jornadas de Formación en Aguas Abiertas with Damián Blaum, a 24-hour 8-week virtual educational curriculum of open water swimming.

In collaboration with Asociación Natatio Argentina, the Spanish-language online program is modeled and structured to improve the competitive capacities of the coaches, trainers, teachers, athletes and fans with new resources and tools to learn more about open water swimming.

Program Modules:
1. Open Water: What is it? Where do you compete? What are the distances and modalities? What skills are necessary? Elite and amateur levels and the history
2. Training methodology for long distances
3. Psychological preparation for open water and marathon swimming distance
4. Specific exercises for open water training
5. Transition from pool to open water
6. Nutrition and hydration
7. Altitude training; when and how?
8. Strength training for marathon swimming
9. How to organize a quality, safe open water event with Fernando Ciaramella
10. Training methods of the top world powers in open water swimming
11. Final day with a surprise guest

Blaum talked about many of his global adventures and professional races over his long career with International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame chairman Ned Denison on a May 2020 edition of WOWSA Live:

During this week’s Jornadas de Formación en Aguas Abiertas with Damián Blaum, he asked Steven Munatones to explain the open water swimming mantra, Expect the Unexpected. Munatones explained his perspective that the Unexpected comprises of five dimensions:

1. Water Conditions
2. Weather Conditions
3. Competitors or Crew
4. Physiological Phenomena
5. Psychological Phenomena

Expect the Unexpected can come in multiple dimensions, sometimes all at the same time. The water conditions such as the water temperature and currents can change for better or worse at any time. The water can get warmer or colder. The currents can become beneficial and push us in a favorable direction – or do the exact opposite.

The weather conditions can also get better and become more tranquil. Or winds can come up, whipping up the water to intolerable conditions – or lightning can strike and lead to a DNF. Cloud cover can make warm-water swims more tolerable – or rain can make the swim tougher. It all depends and swimmers have to be ready for all conditions.

In terms of a race, your competitors can be the catalyst of The Unexpected. Perhaps you get hit rounding a turn buoy or your competitor hits your feeding stick and your water bottle is lost around the feeding station? Or they can slow down the pace at precisely the right time for you – or pick up the pace precisely at the worse time for you. Similarly, in a solo crossing or in a relay, your escort crew can have a very positive – or negative – impact on your performance. A crew member can say precisely the right thing to make you feel better – or they can say the wrong thing and make you feel worse – or think twice about your swim.

Physiologically, anything can happen. Your shoulder can start hurting – or your back or hip. Or maybe you want to urinate, but you cannot. Or your feeding does not go as planned – or you get stung by jellyfish. All these things can make your swim start heading south. Of course, hypothermia and hyperthermia are things that can become a major problem. But sunburn, chafing, or swallowing water can also lead to other physical problems.

But, most importantly, the psychological phenomenon in a race can have the important impact on a swim. Once the human mind is made up and once you are convinced of your success – or failure – almost nothing can stop you. The water can be too cold or too warm, but your mind can literally overcome these obstacles (to a certain extent). I am always reminded how Petar Stoychev won the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai in 32°C water, but then he also swam an Ice Kilometer in water below 0°C in Antarctica. A jellyfish sting can hurt, but a positive mindset can elevate you to a different realm. I recall how Kimberley Chambers and Anne Marie Ward were both stung mercilessly in the North Channel by jellyfish, but they made the crossing. Or how Mányoki Attila overcame many things to complete the North Channel and Oceans Seven – or how Natalie du Toit and Maarten van der Weijden overcome obstacles to succeed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

There is nothing as powerful – or debilitating – as the made-up human mind. Believing is the first step in achieving.”

Copyright 2008 – 2021 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones