Summer marathon swims, in pictures

What’s a marathon swim? Distance is how it’s typically defined – any swim 10K or longer. Another indicator? If you need high-level satellite imagery to view the course map.

Saturday, April 9, 2011 – Nike Swim Miami – Miami, FL – 10K

Saturday, April 23 – Tampa Bay Marathon Swim – Tampa, FL – 24 miles

Saturday, June 18 – Manhattan Island Marathon Swim – New York, NY – 28.5 miles

Saturday, July 9 – Kingdom Swim – Newport, VT – 10 miles

Saturday, August 13 – Boston Light Swim – Boston, MA – 8 miles

2011 Race Schedule (tentative)

Here in Chicago, the trees are gradually defoliating, and the Parks Department finally removed the buoys from our beloved cove south of Promontory Point… which can only mean one thing: Time to start filling in the 2011 Open Water Calendar! In 2010 I attended 12 events (some with multiple races) over 6 months. Eight of these involved air travel. That’s a race (at least) every other week on average. It was super fun, but not so conducive to peak performance. My ‘A’ races – supposedly, the Noblesville 10K and the Big Shoulders 5K – turned into ‘B+’ races because of the near-constant disruption of training.

As for next year, let there be no doubt: MIMS is the ‘A’ race – the main course. Everything else is either aperitif or digestif.

The season will begin April 9 at the Nike Swim Miami. This is a fairly standard 4-loop 10K in a protected nook of the Biscayne Bay. After a long winter of pool training in Chicago, it will be a useful fitness test and good opportunity to de-ice my open-water chops.

Then it’s back to Florida on April 23 for the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim. This is a 24-mile point-to-point traversing nearly the full length of Tampa Bay – from the base of the Sunshine Skyway in St. Petersburg to Rocky Point in Tampa. Given the big tidal assist at MIMS, this will be effectively my longest race of the year.

May will consist of a final training ramp-up into my taper for the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim on June 18.

July 9 I will meet up with friends-of-the-blog Sully and Rob D. in northern Vermont for the Kingdom Swim. The 10-mile course (there are also 6, 3, and 1-mile courses) in beautiful and memorably-named Lake Memphremagog will take us to the edge of the Canadian border – so in a sense, we can say we “swam to Canada and back.”

In mid-July, my wife and I may be traveling to Stockholm, Sweden for a conference. I have the vague sense there’s a decent open-water scene in Stockholm during the summer… perhaps Mike T. will have some ideas?

Assuming I’m not completely out of shape when I return to the States, I have my eye on the Boston Light Swim, an 8-mile point-to-point through the cold waters of Boston Harbor, on August 13. (Update March 2011: Nope, not this year!)

I’m considering two other August swims, but only because they’re short, and drivable from Chicago. They are:

  • the Point to LaPointe Swim – 2 miles in Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin (August 6);
  • the 2.4-mile USMS national championship race in Madison, Wisconsin (August 20). (Update March 2011: Nope – I’ll be in California, getting ready for Catalina.)

I’m leaving September and October open for the moment, in case I make a date with the Catalina Channel. (Update March 2011: My Catalina attempt is set for late August.) Depending on what happens with that, other late-season swims may include:

So, I’m looking at one swim a month – Miami in April, Tampa Bay in late April (call it May), MIMS in June, Kingdom in July, Boston Light Catalina in August, and Catalina Ederle in September October. The travel schedule will (I hope) be less disruptive, though, as Sully pointed out in a recent comment, I’ll exceed my 2010 racing mileage (57.4 miles) in just the first three swims of 2011.

And to think – only 16 months ago I could hardly finish the Fat Rabbit 3K in Columbus!

MIMS field selection update

By my unofficial observations, the online applications for MIMS were closed a little over an hour after they opened. 46 swimmers threw their hats into the ring during that time, including:

  • 14 women and 32 men
  • 6 Australians, 4 Britons, 2 Irish, 4 Mexicans, 1 Italian, 1 Portuguese, 2 Spaniards, and 26 Americans
  • 20 English Channel crossers, 6 Catalina Channel crossers, and 8 MIMS finishers

The early favorites would have to include:

  • John Van Wisse – MIMS winner in 2000, 2008, and 2009, and 2-way English Channel crosser in 2010.
  • Erica Rose – former USA open-water national team member, 5K world champion, and more recently, 6th overall finisher in this year’s Big Shoulders 5K.

19 applications (including my own) were accepted the same afternoon, on the basis of the “first-come, first-served, first-completed” policy (i.e., no missing medical forms, etc.). That leaves 6 spots for the remaining 27 applicants. The selection committee will likely meet over the next couple of days, at which point the final field of 25 solo swimmers will be announced.

Worldwide tribute to Fran Crippen

On October 30, swimmers and friends-of-swimming around the world visited lakes, oceans, bays, rivers, and man-made pools, and offered a tribute to a great swimmer and (by all accounts) remarkable human being, who passed too soon.

Images from all corners of the globe are collected in these two Facebook albums. The second one is viewable by non-Facebook members, but the first one is somewhat better.

Both are beautiful beyond words.

11/1/2010

The MIMS application went online at 1pm Eastern today, as scheduled. I was no later than the 8th solo swimmer to submit a complete application, so I should be in good shape to make the 25-person field. By 2pm Eastern, 40 solo swimmers had applied.

I now await word from the committee who reviews the applications. It could be a few days. Did I dot all my I’s and cross all my T’s? Let’s hope so.

Post-race blues and Where do we go from here?

Racing is fun, but it can exact a toll – physically but also psychologically.

The combination of long distance and high intensity in open water races can deplete one’s glycogen stores dramatically, and the result can be temporary lethargy in the water. In my experience this summer, while I wasn’t noticeably affected by races up to 5K, the four 10K’s I did (not including the current-assisted Little Red Lighthouse “10K”) all messed me up for a while. It was typically about a week before I felt back at full strength in practice.

While the body needs time to recover from a long, intense race, I also found that the mind may need time, too. It’s not often discussed, but for me the “post-race blues” are very real. The longer the race, the longer it takes. The more important the race, the longer it takes. The symptoms: Basically, a lack of desire to swim. And if I do drag myself to the pool – a lack of joy in swimming, and a lack of motivation to work hard.

In any case, it’s not surprising that in the aftermath of last weekend’s event, I discovered new depths of exhaustion, both physically and psychologically. 9 days later, I’m still not there.

—–

It’s OK, though – it was the last race of the year. Fall is traditionally a time of resetting and renewal in the swimming world. The summer championships are over, and most teams have taken at least 2 weeks off. Lots of drilling, lots of long, slow stuff.

And the same will be true for me – though the “new year” is beginning in late October rather than the typical mid-September. I’m looking forward to dusting off my strokes, and perhaps making another run at 4:30 in my 400 IM. I’m looking forward to focusing on speed again, and finding my way back to a sub-5:00 500 Free. (When you start doing 10K’s with any frequency, you come to see the 500 as a sprint.)

My most important focus for the next couple of months, though? Technique. It’s been 16 months since I began training consistently again, and as I ramped up my racing distance the top priority was fitness. At this point, I’m comfortable with my fitness. And though there will be some further fitness ramping a few months down the line, the highest-leverage area for improvement for me right now is technique.

—–

But then what? I can’t say I haven’t given some thought to Open Water Tour 2011. In fact I’ve given it quite a lot of thought. The only solid conclusion from these thoughts? That there won’t be one – at least not anything like the 2010 version.

I will probably swim the 2.4-mile race in Madison in August, because it’s an easy drive. That will likely be the only USMS national championship race I’ll attend. And I’ll be at Big Shoulders in September, of course.

The only 2011 race I’m currently registered & paid for is the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in northern Vermont on July 9. There will be some other ultra-distance type stuff that I’ll eventually add to the calendar. I’ll announce it when I do.

—–

Programming note: I’m discontinuing my regular “Week in Review” feature. I may occasionally post sets, but I’ll no longer report my weekly yardage. There’s less accountability this way, but hey, if I can’t hold myself accountable internally, I probably shouldn’t be a marathon swimmer.