Marathon Swimming Nutrition – Index of Articles

I’ve written a variety of posts over the last few years on nutritional considerations in marathon swimming. Here they are in one place for your reference.

Series: The Art & Science of Marathon Swimming Nutrition

On Recovery Drinks – includes a DIY powdered recovery drink recipe

On Maltodextrin – Maxim vs. Carbo Pro

Series: On Nutritional Science in Marathon Swimming

On Peter Attia’s nutrition webinar

Marathon swimming and low-carbohydrate diets

Index of Swim Reports, 2010-2013

There’s an interesting story in this list, though I’m reluctant to impose a narrative on it just yet.

Major swims are indicated in bold – or at least, what I considered to be major swims at the time.

Going forward this list will be accessible on this page, accessible via the top menu (About –> My Swims), and updated as necessary.





2 years, 200 posts: An overview and history of Freshwater Swimmer

The WordPress admin dashboard informs me this is – hell’s bells! – post #200 here at Freshwater Swimmer. Sometime in the next month, three additional milestones will be reached:

  • My 2-year blogoversary! (Remember this post?)
  • 50,000 page views (not including RSS). Just a couple months behind Donal.
  • Best of all: 1,000 comments! That’s an average of 5 comments for every post (recently it’s been more like 10 per post — granted, some of those are my own!). I could be wrong, but I think this statistic might be unmatched in the universe of open-water swimming blogs. So, to my commenters, especially the frequent ones – Katie, Mike, Amanda, Adam, David, Donal, Rob, and Sully – thank you! And keep ’em coming. I appreciate the engagement, and am gratified that you find my stuff worth reading.

Regular visitors may have noticed a few changes afoot – some new fonts, an updated theme, and alas – a new header image. Much as I loved that spectacular view of the Chicago lakefront, it no longer reflects my reality. The new header is less eye-catching, but I prefer it for a couple reasons: First, it actually shows someone swimming. Second, that swimmer happens to be me. The photo was taken as I warmed up before the USMS 10K National Championship in Noblesville, Indiana.

freshwater swimmer

Finally, a brief word on this site’s title, “Freshwater Swimmer.”

A few people have asked me (and others have probably wondered) how I can be a “freshwater swimmer” when I now live in California, and almost all my recent swims have been in saltwater. That’s a reasonable question.

I settled on Freshwater Swimmer for a few reasons:

  • At the time (obviously), I lived in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
  • Given that most American marathon swimmers live on the coasts, it seemed like one way to distinctively “brand” myself.
  • Less obviously, it was also a winking nod to the famous “freshwater vs. saltwater” debate in macroeconomics. I lived in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago – the best-known “freshwater school” – so it seemed especially appropriate.

Now, of course, the title makes considerably less sense. But I decided to keep it anyway. Regardless of where I live – now and in the future – the Midwest is where I discovered the joys of open-water swimming. I became an open-water swimmer in freshwater. I became a marathon swimmer in freshwater. I learned to swim in cold water… in freshwater. I learned to swim in rough water… in freshwater.

So Freshwater Swimmer it is – and will remain!

An Open Water Swimming Pace Table

When you book a channel crossing, most experienced pilots will want to know how fast of a swimmer you are. Can you repeat 20-minute miles, 25-minute miles, or 30-minute miles? A pilot will often want to start a faster swimmer at a different time of day (and in some cases, a different location) than a slower swimmer.

But what if you train mostly in a pool? Do you give the pilot your best 1,650 time?

The problem with trying to estimate speed in the open water from pool times is…well, lots of things. But one of the big ones is turns. If you gain 1 second every time you push of the wall in the pool, that’s 2 seconds per 100 long-course and 4 seconds per 100 short-course, compared to the equivalent distance in open water.

So, if you use a straight conversion of distance-to-distance, you’ll probably over-estimate your open water speed (unless you have really slow turns). Here, then, is an open water pace table that factors in time gained from turns. It assumes 1 second gained per wall – some people gain more and some people gain less, but I think it’s a reasonable approximation.

This pace table converts between pool pace times (100 short-course yards or 100 long-course meters) and open water swims of various distances. The conversion assumes 1 second gained per wall in a pool (4 per 100 SCY and 2 per 100 LCM).

100 SCY 1K 1M 10K 10M
01:40.0 18:57 30:30 3:09:33 5:05:04
01:37.5 18:30 29:46 3:05:00 4:57:44
01:35.0 18:02 29:02 3:00:26 4:50:24
01:32.5 17:35 28:18 2:55:53 4:43:04
01:30.0 17:07 27:34 2:51:19 4:35:44
01:27.5 16:40 26:50 2:46:46 4:28:24
01:25.0 16:13 26:06 2:42:13 4:21:04
01:22.5 15:45 25:22 2:37:39 4:13:44
01:20.0 15:18 24:38 2:33:06 4:06:24
01:17.5 14:51 23:54 2:28:32 3:59:04
01:15.0 14:23 23:10 2:23:59 3:51:44
01:12.5 13:56 22:26 2:19:26 3:44:24
01:10.0 13:29 21:42 2:14:52 3:37:04
01:07.5 13:01 20:58 2:10:19 3:29:44
01:05.0 12:34 20:14 2:05:45 3:22:24
01:02.5 12:07 19:30 2:01:12 3:15:04
01:00.0 11:39 18:46 1:56:39 3:07:44
100 LCM 1K 1M 10K 10M
01:50.0 18:40 30:02 3:06:40 5:00:24
01:47.5 18:15 29:22 3:02:30 4:53:42
01:45.0 17:50 28:41 2:58:20 4:46:59
01:42.5 17:25 28:01 2:54:10 4:40:17
01:40.0 17:00 27:21 2:50:00 4:33:35
01:37.5 16:35 26:41 2:45:50 4:26:52
01:35.0 16:10 26:01 2:41:40 4:20:10
01:32.5 15:45 25:20 2:37:30 4:13:28
01:30.0 15:20 24:40 2:33:20 4:06:45
01:27.5 14:55 24:00 2:29:10 4:00:03
01:25.0 14:30 23:20 2:25:00 3:53:21
01:22.5 14:05 22:39 2:20:50 3:46:38
01:20.0 13:40 21:59 2:16:40 3:39:56
01:17.5 13:15 21:19 2:12:30 3:33:14
01:15.0 12:50 20:39 2:08:20 3:26:31
01:12.5 12:25 19:58 2:04:10 3:19:49
01:10.0 12:00 19:18 2:00:00 3:13:07

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!

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.

A blog about swimming

This is a blog about swimming.

I started swimming competitively when I was 7 and continued through my first two years of college.

But then I drifted away from the sport – as many do who make it to the collegiate level. I swam Masters off-and-on through most of my 20s; but I felt no joy in doing so. Burnout leaves scars that can take years to heal.

Something changed last year: I discovered open water. It was a new challenge, and an interesting one. While I might never approach my times in the pool from my youth, the open water offers a blank slate.

Last fall I tried my first 5K – the famous Big Shoulders swim in Chicago. I had a good swim – but more important, I felt a thrill of challenge and purpose that I hadn’t for a long time. I was, in a word, motivated.

It’s early February now, and here in Columbus we’re still shoveling snow. Soon it will be spring, and the local swimming holes will thaw. In the meantime, I have a lot to look forward to this summer, and to motivate my laps:

  • In late May, the USMS Short-Course Nationals in Atlanta.
  • In mid-July, the USMS 10K Championship in Noblesville, Indiana – my first attempt at that distance, the “marathon” of open-water swimming.
  • In mid-September, the Big Shoulders 5K, in what will then be my new hometown of Chicago.

I’m not sure what this blog will turn in to, and I’m not sure it matters. We shall see.

That is all.