Survey Of Open Water Swimmers

Survey Of Open Water Swimmers

52 Americans from 7 states, averaging 39 years old, participated in Jamie’s Swim Camp in northern California.

Their open water experience included the Lake Tahoe swims, English Channel solos and relays, Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, Catalina Channel solos and relays, swims throughout San Francisco Bay, Pennock Island Swim, swims in lakes in Switzerland, Utah, Minnesota, New York, Italy, Japan, Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim, Maui Channel solos and relays, Hawaii Ironman and other Ironman triathlons, ice swims, Farallon Islands relays, Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, Strait of Gibraltar, Swim Around Key West, Boston Light Swim, Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, Little Red Lighthouse Swim, Ederle Swim, 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, and numerous other shorter swims and events around the world.

They were asked a number of questions in an online survey. Below is a brief summary of their answers:

Q1. Have you ever been hypothermic?
A1. Of a number who had been hypothermic, only one was hospitalized although one had swum in water down to -1°C. Most quickly warmed up and one described the state of hypothermia as a temporary inconvenience. But they swim together in cold-water conditions and limit their time in water at or below 10°C.

Q2. Have you ever been hyperthemic?
A2. A vast majority had never experienced hyperthemia. Of those who have, cramping was the result and hydration is the means of prevention.

Q3. Do you believe pain is part of marathon swimming?
A3. Most agreed with this question with a wide range of answers included the following:
A small part but more achey, not pain.
How that pain is allowed to influence the swim depends on the person, and how it is managed.
I believe pain – good pain – is an important part of any endurance sport.
Most of it is mental pain you have to deal with too.
Pain from muscle soreness, yes. Pain that leads to injuries, no. If you are in that kind of pain, you probably were not properly prepared for the swim.
It seems that for lots of us, it is.
I think pain is different from fatigue, tiredness, soreness, and shouldn’t be a factor in a marathon swim with proper training. There are different goals when we are doing marathon swims whether it’s just completing the swim or trying to push ourselves with maximum effort to finish the swim. I think the only type of pain could be pain out of our control such as a (jellyfish) sting, cut (on rock), etc. Everything else, we have the ability to properly train and prepare for so we don’t have to experience pain.
Yes, to a degree. Soreness, cramps, jellyfish stings, cold, nausea, negative thoughts, etc are things we learn to overcome. Not anymore than pain is part of life.
Training is hard, particularly for older bodies.
The key for me is to have maintainable speed and to avoid tendonitis from training

Q4. How often does pain play a part of your training or marathon swims?
A4. Most agreed with this question, but the answers varied:
Every swim I do involves some sort of pain.
Right now, it’s fairly rare. But it used to be much more before I had surgery.
I am not normally in pain, but feeling uncomfortable is normal. I love the quote, Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Not very often.
Rarely. Never had a swimming injury. Just normal sore muscles.
I don’t think marathon swim training starts until 3 hours into a swim. Around 3 hours discomfort (pain) settles in. That is when you begin to train the mind to manage the pain.
I don’t think it has to be, but I’m often plagued with tendonitis and other low-grade pain. This past year I tore an ankle ligament (not in the water) and swimming was more painful than usual.
I push my body and heart rate in sets but not pain.
I think experiencing pain during training makes it easier to deal with it on the big day. I have been to this place before and I know what I need to do to get past it.
My strength has always been that I can endure a high level of discomfort for an extended period of time.
I have had shoulder pain on longer training swims and some mental struggles.
Good pain, the term I use to describe exercise discomfort (sore muscles, burning lungs, lactic acid buildup, etc.) is part of every training or marathon swim, and necessary for improvement. Bad pain, pain associated with injury (joint pain), still plays a significant role (15% of training swims and every marathon swim) for me since I have a shoulder injury, and needs to be monitored accordingly.
Almost always.
I try to keep training through illness and injury. My work is very physical. Bangs, bumps, bruises, muscle stains, and lacerations are common, but training must go on. It toughens me mentally, and forces me to solve problems. Sometimes adjustments to stroke technique have to be made.
If there is pain in training, I’m training too hard and need to cut the intensity. Or I have increased my weekly training distance too fast. In a long swim it is not pain, but tiredness. The only time I had pain was tendonitis from over-training.
All marathon swims and some training swims

Q5. Can you describe the pain that you have felt?
A5. The range of answers were very descriptive:
The worst pain I’ve felt is from the wind outside while I’m waiting to get into the ocean.
It was at around 7 am in January, below freezing. We rode a slow Zodiac to the jump point. When I got into the water, it was warmer than my current temperature. It was so warm that my chest was hurting.
I started getting pain in my shoulder that felt grinding. The doctor informed me it was Calcified Bursitis. I had it surgically removed. Recovering from that surgery was just as painful, but it has gotten better. Now I get pain less frequently and intensely, but its manageable.
I have not felt bad pain. Good pain – the pain you feel once your shoulders are exhausted and your body is drained – is what I feel.
This question is like asking me to describe what milk taste like. Pain felt painful.
No pain. Just sore muscles.
Shoulders get tight and an overall achy feeling starting in the shoulders runs through my upper body.
The good thing about pain is that we forget how bad it feels. I try not to dwell on the pain or remember.
Chafing from my suit, sunburn cuts and side aches.
There is physical pain (muscular, digestive) but negative thoughts can be the hardest to get through: Can I do this? Am I good enough?
You swim through discomfort regardless of how bad it gets. You must mentally remove yourself from the physical discomfort.
However, pain is the result of an injury and should be dealt with properly.
Tenderness in my right shoulder.
Good pain is challenging to manage, but it’s the kind of pain you know will feel rewarding after the workout. This is typically burning or sore muscles or lungs on fire. Bad pain is more of a pinching or shearing sensation and it is much more difficult to bear.
Shoulder pain and jellyfish stings.
The night after a marathon swim is sleepless for me. I typically suffer with a low-grade fever for a couple of days, GI distress, soreness everywhere. If salt water, mouth and sinus burn lasts a few days as well.
Shoulder and core muscle soreness.
Tendonitis in shoulders.
Shoulder pain.
Mental, wrist, shoulders and lower back pain

Q6. Do you believe injuries are part of marathon swimming?
A6. Over 50% answered no. Those that answered yes are noted below:
If you overdue it, yes.
They are for me.
It is bound to happen to the best of us sooner or later. It can be a part of marathon swimming (especially shoulder issues) but we can do our best to learn what our bodies need by proper nutrition, gradual mileage build-up, stretching, etc.
Injuries are a part of all sports.
Yes, unfortunately, I believe they are for many marathon swimmers. However, there are those lucky ones who, either by way of incredibly smart training and/or excellent joint genetics, can come away from marathon swims unscathed.
For the most part, yes

Q7. What do you eat and drink during your marathon swims? How often?
A7. The answers were relatively varied, although some standard brands used in the endurance sports world were commonly used: Started out with hot chocolate in 1987, then Gatorade and Gu, then Cytomax, then E Gel, back to Gu and warm tea.
Gu Brew, Gu and warm water.
A blend of grape juice, pineapple juice, Hammer Strawberry/Vanilla Perpetuem, and water.
I eat gel packets.
Every 30 minutes I drink Cytomax. Every 45-60 minutes I take an energy gel. If I start to cramp a bit or my muscles start to get tight, I’ll drink every 20 minutes.
When I swam 10 miles, I had Gu and water.
I plan to use Generation UCANN every 20 min, supplementing every few hours with solid foods and adding electrolytes.
I eat mainly chocolate Gu, red Gatorade, warm tea with sugar and Maxim, and plain water. Sometimes I’ll have a chocolate balance bar, too.
Gels, PowerBars and Hammer products seem to work well.
Perpetuem/Heed every 30 minutes or 20 minutes warmed if my crew deems necessary.
Perpetuem and water every 20 minutes for first 6 hours and then 15 minutes thereafter. GU and Fig Newtons as needed.
About every 45 minutes.
I drink 6-8oz GU Brew or Roctane Drink every 30 minutes and one GU gel every hour.
Hammer Products (Perpetuem and Gels), Cliff Shot Blocks, Drip Drop Sport Beans, Angel Mints and Coke (when needed).
Mostly Gu, but I haven’t been consistent.
I am now using Hammer Perpetuem. In fresh water, I add Endurolytes to the mix. 20 minute warm feeds in cold water or 30 minutes cool feeds in warm water.
I drink a custom-blended, high carbohydrate drink made by Infinit Nutrition every 30 minutes.
Drink Maxim every hour following Freda Streeter’s plan.
Hi 5 every 30 minutes

Q8. If you could start your career over again, what age would you start marathon swimming?
A8. The answers provided a glimpse of the priorities of life from various perspectives:
No take backs, it’s been perfect.
As early as possible.
I started at the right time in my life, around 37. Family obligations would have been taken priority anyway before that time.
Now that my kids are older and more independent, its a little easier to be able to train appropriately.
I would not have changed anything. I started swimming in the open water at age 9 and continued through age 15. It brought me so much confidence and respect for the ocean. It transformed who I am as a swimmer – both in the pool and definitely in the ocean.
13. I wouldn’t have wasted so much time working on insignificant workouts that don’t have much relevance to what I’m doing now.
Wouldn’t start over. Happy with the way things went.
I like my progression into the sport of swimming. It’s not something I think of as how I could be faster, rather how can I survive the next goal. I don’t think this type of swimming helps speed in anyway. I could be wrong, but I spent my youth trying to go fast and now I can still enjoy swimming by trying to go long. The competitiveness has taken new form and become more internal than external. Marathon swimming began when I swam Catalina at 45. Age has helped me appreciate the subtle lessons I learn about myself swimming long.
I’ve been swimming distances in open water since I was a kid, so wouldn’t change much about my open water swimming. I wish I had swum in the pool throughout high school and college, that would probably have made a really positive impact on my speed, but I’m pretty happy with where I am as a swimmer.
I think my pool career to open water was a smooth transition. It would have been nice to do more in my teenage years but I am happy with the way things have gone! No regrets.
I started at 57 and would have liked to start at 30.
Early 20’s at least.
I would have started at 14, in high school for 10Ks. For longer swims over 25K, 18.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
18, though if I’m honest, I probably didn’t have the discipline required at that age.
A couple of years out of college swimming, so 25.
In my 20s instead of my 40s and 50s.
Around 18

Q9. What is the most difficult swim you would LIKE to do? What is the most difficult swim you think you COULD do?
A9. The swim between Ireland and Scotland seems to fascinate several Americans as does the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and the English Channel:
Manhattan Island Marathon Swim because you need speed. I think I could do Bering Strait.
I believe I can do any swim, but I would like to give a Farallon Islands solo attempt a try.
My dream is to one day to do a 6-day 90-mile stage swim across the length of the Great Salt Lake. I would also like to complete the Triple Crown.
I have broken down the barriers of what I thought I could do with swimming and I like to continually challenge myself. My biggest goal so far has been the 6-mile swim in July. I am very excited to do that, and my next thought is to possibly train for a 10-mile swim.
North Channel and the North Channel.
‘d like to test my limits more and hope to be able to afford to train for and complete some longer swims. I’d really like to do Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the English Channel, and the North Channel.
I think I am capable of doing longer marathon swims, but just need to choose and go for it. I do not want to do anything longer than 35 km or about 10 hours. I think ultra marathons are a completely different category than I want to be involved in. I need my sleep too.
English Channel and the Cook Strait, The cost and complexity of travel of those makes them just about out of reach.
English Channel is the hardest I’d like to do. I have no idea what would be the the most difficult swim I could do. I would have to at least attempted it to determine if I couldn’t do it. What swim do I have no interest in doing? North Channel.
For me, both of those are the Catalina Channel.
North Channel and North Channel.
There are many swims that I would like to do, and they all seem to be difficult in different ways. I know that I could attempt to swim anything I wanted to with proper training and the BELIEF in myself – no limits.
10-day stage swim of the New Jersey coastline and any Triple Crown swim.
I’m intrigued by the cold ones: North Cahnnel, Farallon Islands, Monterey Bay. I also love the idea of stage swims.
North Channel and North Channel.
English channel a month before my 57th birthday will be difficult enough. I think it is very doable for me.
North Channel and Cook Strait.
North Channel and North Channel

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones