TBMS 2012

The 15th annual Tampa Bay Marathon Swim is this Saturday! TBMS is – I think it’s fair to say – the toughest organized swim race in the United States.

tampa bay marathon swim
Five minutes before the start of TBMS 2011. Photo by Distance Matters

New this year, the race will have live GPS tracking. I’ve also agreed to provide some color commentary on the official TBMS Twitter account – follow @DistanceMatters if you’re interested.¬†For those following the GPS tracking, here are two paths from last year’s race: mine, and Bob Needham’s (1, 2, 3).

Current weather forecasts call for a 60% chance of rain (possible thunderstorms), with 10-15mph winds out of the SSW. That’s a favorable wind direction, but let’s hope the lightning stays away.

Best of luck to all the swimmers!

2 thoughts on “TBMS 2012”

  1. Evan,

    I followed your discussion with TL about stroke count in log distance swimming with a lot of interest. I am new to open water swimming, and rather slow, but I still find the discussion fascinating. I swim in Biscayne Bay in smooth water and choppy water. I will tell you from experience that a long stroke count in very choppy water is debilitating. I only wish that I had a quicker stroke count to better handle the chop.

    First, I used to swim in Santa Barbara with Jack Simon at the Los Banos Pool. I also swam with TL when I was a kid (I am 50 now) and with his old coach Bill Irwin. Second, I am a proponent of TI in the pool. Third, I have no dog in this fight.

    This past weekend was the Nike Swim Miami. The longer races were shortened to a mile because of inclement weather. The fastest overall time in the chop was Sergiy Fesenko. I am sure he is no stranger to you. Having read your postings from last year before this year’s Miami Mile, I paid close attention to his swimming, or what I could see of it. The only thing I could really tell you was that his stroke count was incredibly high.

    When I got home from the race (I swam the shortest distance because it was my 11 year old’s first open water swim and his mother wanted me to swim with him) I watched video after video of the tops in the world swimming, just to see what their stroke count was. Invariably, the guys who had the highest stroke count, especially during the last 400 of a race, were the top finishers. Here is a brief video shot during last year’s Crippen 10k in Fort Lauderdale: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qu92fvauYBs. Here is another one (awful awful music): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzJv-SZ41II. The guy that had the highest stroke count seemed to win the race. The guy that had the smoother, probably more efficient stroke, did not win and was outswum by the guy with the higher stroke count. Is this dispositive that a higher stroke count means a faster swim? Not necessarily, especially in the pool. Different things are at play in the open water than in the pool, so it is not really fair to compare the two. I do think you are onto something about the necessary differences between open water and pool stroke counts.

    TL has been a pioneer in swimming efficiency so he is to be applauded for his efforts to get people to swim more efficiently and better. I also think he is correct when he said that at his age he must be more efficient than someone years younger. It works for him, regardless of how fast he might or might not be.

    Anyway, keep up the excellent work.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Mikal; and thanks for reminding me of that discussion… hard to believe it’s already been a year!

      I disagree that TL is a “pioneer” in swimming efficiency. Rather, he figured out a way to “package” the insights of other coaches (Boomer, Touretski, etc.) and market it to novice adult swimmers and the triathlon community. And that’s cool, I guess – except when TL oversells the originality of his own thinking, which he often does.

      I agree that TL’s speed as a swimmer is irrelevant to judging the correctness of his teachings. I’d never mention it, except that TL himself never seems to miss an opportunity to brag about his “accomplishments” as a swimmer, which include winning masters national championships against one other person in his age group (he never mentions the latter part).

      It’s obvious to anyone who pays any attention to elite-level open water swimming that higher stroke rates and shoulder-driven stroke styles are conducive to success in OWS (as confirmed by your observations in Miami). David Davies and Thomas Lurz are elite swimmers in both pool and OW – yet they’re relatively better in OW. They also happen to be high-SR, shoulder-driven swimmers. Grant Hackett and Ous Mellouli are also elite in both pool and OW – yet are relatively better in the pool. And they happen to be low-SR, hip-driven swimmers. Coincidence? Nope.

      Of course, it can be tiresome to have an honest conversation with Terry about these issues, because he’s easily threatened and tends to dig in his heels and throw around words like “indisputably” and “unequivocally” a lot.

      Re: the Crippen 10K, when the smooth-stroking guy got beat by the high-SR guy. This reminds me of another TL-ism that drives me up the wall: The confusion of above-the-water “prettiness” with efficiency. High elbows and mail-slot entries are irrelevant. What matters is the stuff that happens underneath the water – which of course we rarely see in OW. Shinji might have a pretty looking stroke, but can he break 6:00 in the 500-yard free?

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