Triathletes Are From Mars, Open Water Swimmers Are From Venus
A popular American book called Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by relationship counselor John Gray identified fundamental differences between the genders.
Just as Gray figuratively describes that men and women are from different planets and that each gender is comfortable with its distinct society and customs, but not those of the other that result in a variety of misunderstandings, conflict and confusion.
The singular topic of the availability of a feeding station at the 10km Swim Across America event in Long Beach last week similarly reminded us of the fundamental differences between triathletes and open water swimmers. “A feeding station is available on the course,” was described on the pre-race information.
For triathletes, this meant a manned feeding station would provided a variety of sponsored hydration solutions from Gatorade to water to Hammer Nutrition. It meant that wide-eyed, happy volunteers would be freely passing out food to the swimmers who swam passed the feeding station, from bananas to cookies to gels. The feeding station, a necessary requisite and safety measure in the form of a floating pontoon on the course, would take the characteristics of an aid station in a triathlon.
At least from the triathlete’s experience and perspective, the availability of a feeding station was something easy enough to understand. The volunteers and race organization would take care of their feeding needs. There was no need to prepare anything for the 6.2-mile race.
But this was not the perspective of an open water swimmer who seemed to come from a different planet. “A feeding station is available on the course” subsequently led to a variety of questions:
1. Can our own coach board the floating pontoon?
2. When will our coach have to be onshore in order to be taken to the feeding station?
3. Can I bring my own escort?
4. How many kayakers can I have?
5. Where is the feeding station relative to the straight line tangent between the turn buoys?
6. Can I leave my own hydration and feeds on the pontoon if I do not have a coach?
7. Will there be officials on the pontoon?
8. How many times will we pass the pontoon during the race?
9. How high is the pontoon from the surface of the water?
10. Who will collect our bottles after the race is over?
At least from the open water swimmer’s experience and perspective, the availability of a feeding station was something that led to many different questions. They would have to prepare themselves and their coaches to take care of their feeding needs. There was much to prepare in order to successfully complete the 6.2-mile race to the best of their abilities.
The organizers learned and next time, the triathletes and open water swimmers will be well taken care of…on both planets.
Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Southern California native, born 1962, is the creator of the WOWSA Awards, Oceans Seven, Openwaterpedia, Citrus Corps, World Open Water Swimming Association, Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Global Open Water Swimming Conference. He is Chief Executive Officer of KAATSU Global and KAATSU Research Institute. Inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Honor Swimmer, Class of 2001) and Ice Swimming Hall of Fame (Honor Contributor – Media, Class of 2019), recipient of the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Poseidon Award (2016), International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award (2010), USA Swimming’s Glen S. Hummer Award (2007, 2010) and Harvard University’s John B. Imrie Award (1984). Served on the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and as Technical Delegate with the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, and 9-time USA Swimming coaching staff.