Posts from May 2011

The Kitchen Sink Set

May 04 2011

Here’s a workout I sometimes do if I show up to the pool without a plan. It consists of 10 sets, each totaling, respectively: 1000, 900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100. You make up each set as you go along. Usually, I’ll do the first 1000 as warm-up, and tack on 5×100 cool-down at the end, for an even 6,000 yards/meters.

I call it the Kitchen Sink Set. Here’s one version I did this past weekend (SCY):

I like this workout for a couple reasons. The structure of descending distances keeps you motivated to push through to the end (important when training solo). It has a little bit of everything - aerobic, threshold, lactate, mix of strokes, drilling, kicking, pulling, SDK’s. And it’s different every time. If you have a training partner, you can divide creative responsibilities to make it even more interesting.

Must one be a Fast swimmer to be a Great swimmer?

May 10 2011

An excerpt from an interview with Kevin Murphy, King of the English Channel:

I don’t regard myself as a great swimmer. What I’ve got is an overwhelming ability to keep going, physically and mentally; I’ve got this obsessive willpower to keep going. As a swimmer, there are lots of people who are much better than me; there are a lot of swimmers who are a lot fitter than me. But the point about what we do is… I like to say that 50% of it is willpower; 25% swimming ability; and 25% fitness. The only thing about it is, the fitter you are and the better swimmer you are, the less it hurts psychologically.

Kevin was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2009. Among other feats, he’s completed 34 crossings of the English Channel.

And he is not a fast swimmer. (His fastest E-F crossing was 13 hours, 31 minutes).

This cuts to the heart of marathon swimming and is perhaps the most significant difference from pool swimming (in which athletes are judged only on the basis of time/speed). Marathon swimming is mostly about persistence and stubbornness, or as Murphy says, “willpower.” It’s nice to be fast, of course; but it’s a relatively minor detail. A luxury.

Kevin Murphy is not a fast swimmer. Yet he is undoubtedly a great swimmer.

On Recovery Drinks: a DIY recipe

May 21 2011

Recovery drinks are expensive. My go-to “branded” recovery drink - Recoverite** - retails for $50/tub. That works out to $1.56 per serving (2 level scoops of powder, mixed in 10 oz water), which might not seem like a lot, but multiplied by 5 workouts/week and 52 weeks/year adds up to $405.

Chocolate milk, of course, is a perfectly acceptable alternative. And at $2.99 per half-gallon, the cost per 10-oz serving goes down to $0.47 ($122/year, a 70% savings). My favorite supermarket-bought recovery drink, though, is Silk Soy chocolate milk - at $3.99/half-gal, still only $0.62 per 10 oz).

Two downsides to chocolate milk: refrigeration and expiration (and therefore, more frequent shopping trips). Powder-based drinks such as Recoverite travel better and, in my opinion, taste better at room temperature.

But powder-based recovery drinks don’t have to break the bank - even ones with approximately the same ingredients as a branded recovery drink. The main thing, according to nutrition scientists, is a carbs-to-protein ratio of somewhere around 3:1 or 4:1. The carbs restore muscle glycogen, the protein repairs and builds muscle tissue, and the two act synergistically to help you recover. Some recovery drinks (including Recoverite) are also fortified with electrolytes and extra amino acids.

Turns out, most of these ingredients can be bought separately and combined in the same proportions as “branded” drinks - for substantial cost savings. The main ingredients in Recoverite are maltodextrin (carbs), whey protein, L-glutamine amino acid, and a full-spectrum electrolyte mix. After those, it’s just flavoring, sweeteners, and a few extra amino acids in very small quantities.

And guess what? electrolytes are all readily (and cheaply) available at I found whey protein (Muscle Milk brand) for even cheaper ($28.99 / 6 pounds) at Costco.

And so it’s with that in mind that I present the Freshwater Swimmer Generic-but-still-Awesome Powdered Recovery Drink - nutritionally indistinguishable from Recoverite:

The recipe produces 6 servings - combine with 60 oz water in a half-gallon container, shake well, refrigerate, and voila! High-quality powdered recovery drink at $0.58 per serving.

How does it taste? Honestly, with no added flavoring - just the natural vanilla flavors included in the protein powder - it tastes even better than Recoverite.

Riding the Circle Line as a MIMS preview

May 29 2011

The Circle Line cruise is almost a rite of passage for first-time MIMS swimmers. A 3-hour circumnavigation of Manhattan island, the cruise boat traces the same path as the marathon swim – albeit starting from 42nd St on the Hudson instead of South Cove.

The Circle Line is a unique and worthwhile experience in itself. The Manhattan skyline is visually stunning and full of interesting history - and the city’s geography lends itself to being viewed by water. But for MIMS swimmers, it’s essential research. Unlike most other marathon swims, you always know “where you are” in MIMS (i.e., how far you’ve gone, how far you have left) - so long as you’re familiar with the landmarks. Actually, I can’t think of a single other marathon swim with as many visual stimuli as MIMS.

The lower Manhattan skyline, as seen from the entrance to the Hudson River on 27 May 2011. The building under construction at center-left is the Freedom Tower, which will eventually rise 1,776 feet above Ground Zero. Swimmers will pass this view just a few minutes after the start of MIMS.

As it happens, I was in New York City this weekend. On a whim, I booked a slot on a late-afternoon Circle Line cruise. Why not get an early preview of my big swim - less than 3 weeks away? For any future MIMS swimmers-slash-Circle Line customers, here are a few tips: