How to Conquer a Swimathon

A coach once asked me: “Why don’t you jump in a swim marathon, and see if you can finish?” The suggestion was a bit shocking to me because I was then around 31 years old. Perhaps the fact that I was a relatively wealthy and privileged person dissuaded me from doing that.

There are many people out there who see swimming as the best thing since sliced bread for fitness and fun, they even go so far as installing a good sized pool in their backyard to practice in before they go for an event like this. If you just look up “pool companies near me” you will see what is available and the pool sizes you can have depending on what you require, but I digress. I did not have a swimming pool in my backyard to train in, but I still went for it nonetheless.

I prepare for the actual event way in advance, like doing breathing exercises while enjoying a session on a PayPal casino, to see if I can hold my breath longer than it takes for the deposited funds to be credited to my account.

I’ll let you do the maths. As a middle-class, trained professional swimming and coaching under the tutelage of a marathon coach, in summer 2013 I achieved my first real sub-3:20 marathon with a 3:20:09. Shortly thereafter, I completed my first 2.5km swim.

My jump into a swim marathon took place during a bike tour through the US, and in total I was completing nearly 500km. I’d been in the US for about eight days before I started the swim. I was under a lot of stress, because I had been sick for a couple of weeks prior to the swim. I had been in bed for two days, and then I was up for about a week, before I was allowed to swim.

I did the swim as a sprint swim, which means that I swam for about 30 minutes each hour, from 12 to 4pm, on a slow boat and to try and save my energy.

I swam in my black running shorts and black racing watch. It was a sweltering day. The boat took us about halfway to the start point, which was Dover. They dropped us off, and we jumped off the boat at 6:20am.

As soon as the swim was over, I was starving. I ran back to the boat and was just about to run back to my room, when a coach stopped me and said: “I need to show you something”.

I said: “What could you possibly be showing me?”

She said: “I’ll tell you when we get back to the hotel.”

Back in the hotel room, the coach took off my shirt, and I had what looked like two solid brown circles on both sides of my chest.

“You must have been kicking pretty hard when you were swimming in the channel,” she said. “You’re going to wear these bands.”

They were the most painful pins I have ever felt. I wrapped the bands around my chest, and the first hour and a half, I was covered in hundreds of pricks and scratches. But my coach said, “After three hours, they will begin to fall off.”

After about three hours, they were completely worn off.

They were under my skin, as if they were trying to eat me, and it was as if I was trying to swallow myself in my swim.

What did the swim teach you?

It taught me that it’s entirely unrealistic to undertake a marathon swim, especially if you are physically underprepared. Not only can it wear you down physically, but it can also stress you out and impact your mental well-being. The demanding nature of a marathon swim requires not just physical endurance but also mental resilience and strategic planning. Pushing yourself without adequate preparation can lead to exhaustion, heightened anxiety, and a sense of overwhelming pressure. It underscores the importance of setting realistic goals, prioritizing proper training, and understanding one’s limits to ensure a more positive and fulfilling experience in any challenging endeavor.

To train rigorously, it is wise to have a private pool, enabling you to focus on your training regimen without the distractions commonly found in public swimming areas. A private pool provides the advantage of a controlled environment, allowing tailored workouts and dedicated practice sessions. This ensures that every aspect of your training, from stroke refinement to endurance building, can be fine-tuned to meet the specific demands of a marathon swim.

However, when you do own a private pool, it is equally important to ensure that you are keeping it clean and maintaining it well. Otherwise, the benefits of having a private pool may be compromised, leading to potential health risks and hindering your training efforts. Neglecting proper pool maintenance can result in the accumulation of harmful bacteria, algae growth, and imbalances in water chemistry, creating an unsanitary environment.

You could enlist Pool cleaning by Pinnacle Pool Service or a similar firm in your area to ensure that your private pool remains in optimal condition. By entrusting the care of your private pool to experienced professionals, you not only save time and effort but also guarantee that your training environment remains safe and conducive to your rigorous workouts.

That being said, remember the key to succeeding at a swimathon is being disciplined and focused on consistent training, meticulous preparation, and maintaining a holistic approach to your overall well-being. If I could do things differently, I would prioritize a gradual and well-structured training plan from the outset. Reflecting on the challenges and lessons learned, I would approach my preparation with a heightened awareness of the importance of incremental progress. Instead of rushing into intense workouts, I would focus on building a strong foundation by gradually increasing distances and intensity, allowing my body to adapt and minimize the risk of overexertion.

Additionally, I would incorporate more cross-training activities to enhance overall fitness and reduce the strain on specific muscle groups. Diversifying the training regimen could contribute to better overall physical conditioning and improved performance during the swimathon.

In hindsight, I recognize the value of seeking guidance from experienced coaches or mentors who can provide personalized advice and help tailor a training plan that aligns with my individual capabilities and goals. Their expertise can be instrumental in avoiding pitfalls and optimizing the training process.

Ultimately, approaching the challenge with a mindset of continuous improvement and adaptability would be my focus, acknowledging that each step in the preparation is a crucial part of the journey toward a successful and fulfilling marathon swim.

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