The Hot And Cold Of Olympic Marathon Swimming

The Hot And Cold Of Olympic Marathon Swimming

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Leading up to the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, world-class athletes prepared themselves to perform well in very warm water and to face the possibility of hyperthermia. With the water in Beijing above 27°C (82°F) and the air temperature even warmer, swimming fast for two hours under these conditions was difficult at best.

That was the Beijing Olympic quadrennial (2005-2008).

Now, world-class marathon swimmers are in the midst of the London Olympic quadrennial (2009-2012) where the nearly opposite conditions exist.

The 2010 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships will be held in Quebec, Canada in a cold-water lake about 5 hours north of Montreal. The 2012 London Olympics will hold its Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park in central London. The water in both locations are expected to be under or around 20°C (68°C).

At the upcoming USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships in Long Beach, California, the water is expected to be even cooler, perhaps as low as 16°C (60.8°F), but more likely in the 16.6-17.7°C (62-64°F range).

So what does fast Eva Fabian of New Hampshire do given these expected water conditions?

She trains in the cold-water recovery tank at the US Olympic Training Center – swimming on a tethered rope in 11.6°C (53°F) water.

Elite athletes take ice-water baths (12-15°C) for 5-10 minutes in order to recover faster and reduce muscle pain and soreness after intense training sessions.

But Fabian’s application is certainly one of the most innovative uses of an ice-water bath and shows how far marathon swimmers will go to prepare themselves for any and all kinds of conditions.

She had the idea and ran it by Gerry Rodrigues,” explained Jack Fabian, her coach and father. “She did it 15 minutes a day for the first few days and is now adding 5-10 minutes a day. It is impressive.”

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones