Martyn Webster Talks About His Barraesque Year

Martyn Webster Talks About His Barraesque Year

Courtesy of WOWSA, Lake Zurich, Switzerland.

Martyn Webster enjoyed and experienced a Barraesque year last year in 2018.

The 51-year-old British, one of the World’s Top 50 Most Adventurous Swimmers, received the 2019 Barra Award for Most Outstanding Year of Marathon Swimming (all considered) from the Marathon Swimmers Federation.

* On April 14th, he completed a 14.4 km crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain to Morocco in 3 hours 51 minutes
* On May 27th, he completed a 26.4 km crossing of Lake Zurich in Switzerland in 8 hours 16 minutes
* On July 9th, he completed a 38.1 km crossing of Loch Awe in Scotland in 13 hours 30 minutes, the fourth in history
* On 5 August 5th, he finished 8th in the 26.4 km Lake Zurich Marathon Swim in Switzerland in 8 hours 51 minutes
* On August 28th, he completed a 33.8 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France in 12 hours 57 minutes
* On September 17th, he completed a 34.8 km crossing of Loch Lomond in Scotland in 12 hours 4 minutes
* He completed a crossing of the Walensee in Switzerland

The Yorkshireman who is originally from Leeds in the UK, is a brewer by training. “It is probably the best job in the world where I responsible for craft and speciality beers within the Carlsberg Group,” says Webster who explains about his training and open water swimming decisions below:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: It appears that you really did not get into marathon and channel swimming until your late 40’s. What prompted you to start swimming for such long distances?

Martyn Webster: I swam as a kid and up my late teens for the City of Leeds team and represented England and Great Britain at age-group level. But back in the late 1980s, I didn’t feel I could really make the school/sport combination work and stopped swimming completely when I went to university. I didn’t swim for 25 years in any sporting way while I focused on work and bringing up a family together with my wife. We also moved around a lot, living in many different countries, so for a long time, swimming was something consigned to the past.

Work took me back to the UK in 2007 and a friend suggested that I come down and train with the local masters group, Ilkley Swimming Club. I was shocked at how unfit I had become, but I liked the training, the camaraderie and being part of a club. I think it was 2011 that I tried my first open water swimming 1500m race, having never swum open water before. I just enjoyed it so much that I just looked for more opportunities to do open water swimming events. The UK is blessed with open water swimming events with many over the summer months. Between 2011 and 2014, I did lots of small swims and gradually increased the distances up to 10 km. The longer the distance, the more comfortable I felt.

Long distance marathon swimming became an idea when I started commuting to Switzerland for work in 2012. I decided to enter thinking it would be a good challenge for the year, but not knowing at the time it would take me three attempts/years to get a place – everyone’s been there!

I finally got a spot in 2015. I enjoyed the Rapperswil to Zurich swim so much it prompted me to think about the English Channel.

Each marathon swim since the first Zurich swim has just been a progression to the next level and preparing for and swimming the English Channel in 2016 gave me the confidence that I can swim most swims on a good day.

I didn’t even know there was this world of long distance swimming out there really until I started training for English Channel in 2016 so most of the swims I have done have been a result of someone I have met along the journey, who has said, “We have a great swim here, you should come and do it!”

The Catalina Channel and 20 Bridges in New York City were exactly like that.

But having now been part of this community for a few years now, I am just in awe and inspired by what people are doing. Meeting other swimmers and supporters and seeing and hearing about the fantastic things they are doing is the inspiration to do more.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Where do you train?

Martyn Webster: Mostly in Lake Zurich and the two local open pools in Rapperswil or Ruti or the Olympic Pool in Uster. All between Rapperswil and Zurich.

I train alone most of the time. But at weekends with the Lake, Cake and Coffee Club. A small band of open water swimmers who swim in Lake Zurich year round. Something. In the summer, we alternate swims mainly around the Lake Zurich areas and swim in Enge, Uttoquai, Meilen or Rapperswil and then when the official swim season finishes mid September, swim mainly Enge in Zurich or Meilen.

I also start of each OWS season with a SwimTrek camp in Mallorca in spring. I learned so much from the guides there. Now I go back because its an integral part of the preparation I do for long swims and I just like to be around people with similar goals and mindset.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How (long) do you train each day or week?

Martyn Webster: I have a routine where I work on monthly targets. Traveling with work most weeks means I have to vary my daily and weekly plans quite a lot so I try and fit in sessions where possible.

From November to January, I only swim 40-50 km a month while focused on drills and stroke work with 3-4 km maximum per session. Most sessions last an hour.

From February to April, I start to ramp up with more pace and interval work with long swims thrown in every 2 weeks. I aim to hit 100 km in April. When the temperature hits 12°C, then I move the distance work to the lake.

From May to September, I am holding 100-110 km a month including events that I am doing mostly in the lake with the occasional interval or pace session in the pool.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are some of your favorite workouts?

Martyn Webster: In the pool, I like 200m or 400m interval sets in the pool holding pace.

In the lake, the 10 km swim from Schmerikon to Rapperswil on the Obersee, I do this 3 or 4 times in the season. Both are good yardsticks to measure how on track I am to my targets for the year.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Of all your swims last year, what was your most difficult swim, your easiest swim, your most memorable swim?

Martyn Webster: Loch Lomond was the most difficult: 35 km and 12 hours at 13°C was a big ask physically and mentally, especially after all the other swims this year. Everything cramped at some point during that swim.

The easiest and most memorable swim was the Strait of Gibraltar. I swam with a friend of mine, Dave Owen. We waited 6 days to swim this and thought we were going home without a swim. We got a window of 4 hours and nailed it. Swim with someone else is so enjoyable.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Have you ever thought about quitting during a swim? If so, what do you do to get over that thought?

Martyn Webster: Sure! My strategy is denial. I’m not really going to swim 38 km. I’m always swimming to the next feed. Also having swum a few long swims now, I know I am going to him bad batches and I know I can swim through and get a second or third wind and keep going.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What do you like drinking or eating during a swim?

Martyn Webster: Probably the same as most. Maltodextrin drink hourly to 4 hours and then half hourly. 6 – 7 hours in, I switch to starch-based carb drink and solids like bananas, tinned peaches the odd chocolate roll or jelly babies.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: If you had unlimited time and an unlimited budget, where would you swim in any given year?

Martyn Webster: The list is long. My wife might divorce me if I put my plans on paper, but I think over the years I would like to swim most of the Swiss lakes.

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Steven Munatones