58 Degrees!

This afternoon's swim at Bountiful Lake was a really nice improvement from the past few weeks.  We were lucky to get a nice Spring day with air temperatures in the low 60's.  Surprisingly the water temperature had risen all the way to between 58 and 59 degrees!  Gords was just out there on Tuesday and the water was 48 degrees.  Just goes to show how much a change in the weather can affect water temperatures.

I met Gords, Goody and a new guy Ryan at the boat ramp and we got ready to go.  My plan was to just swim 1/2 mile around the first island, but once I got in the water I decided to go a little further and ended up going around the second island too (about 1200 yards total).

There was one spot near on the north side of the first island where Gords and I both noticed a dip in water temperature.  There were a couple new experiences this time around.  I noticed that my muscles started getting tight, not cramping, but tight and it was a little harder to swim.  I also started to get "claw hand" a little bit and it was hard to straighten out my fingers.  Other than that, the rest of the swim was pretty uneventful.  Harrison was waiting at the edge of the boat ramp with my towel.  He is such a good boy!  Now I just need to train him to paddle and I will be all set!

Goody and Ryan started at the east pier.  After making it to the boat ramp, Goody starting swimming around looking for Gords and I.  He was waiting for me at the boat ramp when I came in and I could tell that he was happy that he was able to keep his face in the water today!  Nice job Goody!

Gords ended up going all the way around the shoreline (about 1.1 miles) and looked strong when he came in.

This was the longest I have been in the water this year and I think it was the "breakthrough swim" I was looking for.  I started shaking a minute or so after getting out of the water, but it passed fairly quickly after I dried off and drank some hot cider.  It's weird how the cold really hits you after you get out of the water.

My Grandma will probably never read this blog, but I am thankful for her support and for volunteering to watch my boys while I swam.  She is the one who taught me to swim and has supported me in every other swimming related thing I have done throughout my life.  She was so worried about Jake and I when we told her we were going to do the Polar Plunge at Deer Creek that she said she would rather jump in than have something happen to us.

I also had a good safety and planning meeting with Jim Hubbard and Gords.  I'm really excited to be involved with the Deer Creek and Great Salt Lake swims and am lucky to be working with two great guys with lots of good ideas.


Open Water Swimming by Steven Munatones

Mr. Open Water, Steven Munatones, has written a comprehensive book about the sport of open water swimming that will be released this summer.  I can't wait to get my hands on it!  I just pre-ordered my copy from Human Kinetics.

The book has been endorsed by some heavy hitters in the swimming world.  Read more about it here.


This Guy Nailed It...

I stumbled onto this blog today written by Doug McConnell who is training for an English Channel swim this summer in an effort to raise money for the fight against ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

In his post, Convincing Your Brian of What Your Body Already Knows, he talks about the mental challenges of marathon swimming and preparing for the English Channel.  In particular, he talks about the mental challenge of swimming in cold water:
Even mildly cold water is unpleasant; very cold water can be dangerous.  Everyone has their threshold, but for me, it is below 55 degrees.  The first time I jumped in water that cold, it was a shock.  Your body responds to the cold in some surprising ways – first you panic because you can’t breathe, then you have this pins-and-needles feeling all over your body, particularly in your face.  It turns out that you can’t breathe because the cold causes a temporary paralysis in your diaphragm, like having the wind knocked out of you when you land hard on your back.  The pins-and-needles in the face are from the cold, and for some reason give way to an equally surprising hot sensation.

The first time this happens, it is terrifying.  But, you force yourself to swim through it.  I learned that things feel better if I can take 100 strokes, so I force my head down, and start swimming and counting.  I get to 100; I am breathing, I am warm, and my body has successfully taught my brain that I can cross that threshold.  The second time you force yourself into that cold water, you know what’s coming.  Just like before, you can’t breathe, you get the pins-and-needles, the whole bit.  That part doesn’t change.  But you’ve been here before, and now your brain knows.  There is no panic, because your brain knows that in 100 strokes and you’ll be warm.  Your body has taught your brain that it is something that will only hurt for a minute.
His description of what it feels like to be in cold water is spot on.  First it is a shock and you have trouble breathing.  Next you start feeling pins-and-needles all over your body (if you are not wearing a wetsuit) but especially on your face.  The pins-and-needles is followed by an oddly hot, or burning, feeling.

I like his trick about figuring out what his threshold is (100 strokes) and training his brain to know that his body is capable of crossing that threshold.   They say that 90% of marathon swimming is mental.  I think that 90% of cold water acclimation is also mental.  Sure, your body may make changes and get accustomed to the cold water to a certain degree, but I think the most benefit comes from training your brain to know what to expect and that you can survive it.

For me the hardest part about our weekly cold water swims is not the pins-and-needles or the numb face, but thinking about getting out of the water.  When I am in the water and swimming, I am fine after 100 yards or so.  It's getting out and dealing with the shaking that scares me.  I had mild to moderate hypothermia once after a swim at Red Fish Lake in Idaho.  It took me a couple hours in a sleeping bag with hot chocolate to stop shivering and to warm back up.  I was scared.  I think the memory of that swim is what has been keeping me from trying to go further at Bountiful Lake.

From Doug McConnell again:

"One of the most important lessons is that your own thoughts and doubts can be your biggest hurdles and, once the doubts are cleared, the confidence that you gain can be unbelievably liberating."

This is exactly what I need, a breakthrough cold water swim to boost my confidence.


Cold Water and "Open Water"

Yesterday was a great afternoon/evening of swimming.  I got in a cold water swim at Bountiful Lake and an "open water" swim at the American Fork Fitness Center.

I met Gordon and Goody at Bountiful Lake this afternoon.  I was surprised that the water temperature had dipped down to 46 degrees.  I remember how I felt a few weeks ago at that temperature, and decided I didn't want to risk being in the water too long.  Goody and I watched Gordon start his 1/2 mile swim from the boat ramp...that guy is amazing.  I can't imagine being in that water as long as he was.  As he rounded the first island, Goody jumped in and I followed.  I tried to get my breathing under control and swim long, smooth strokes.  At the end of the swim, I was shaking a lot more than normal, even for being in the water for just a few minutes.

Gordon made my day when he invited Sabrina and I to come along with him and Cathi for his English Channel swim next year.  I've secretly been wanting to go and support him, but didn't want to be a jerk and invite myself.  I'm really excited to help him in any way I can to have a successful swim.

After warming up, Sabrina, the boys and I drove down to American Fork for the "Open Water Pool Swim" that was sponsored by PowerTri.com.  I have heard about similar events, but never in Utah.  It was a lot of fun!  There were fewer people than I expected, but I don't think many people knew about it.  They took all of the lane lines out of the 50M pool and put in four buoys.  Swimmers could choose from 400M or 800M distances.

Will Reeves was there and watched him warm-up...that guy is fast and has a super smooth stroke!  I talked to him for a little while after the swim.  It's nice to know there are other people in the state that are passionate about open water swimming.  Will wants to put together a 24-hour pool swim...I will post details as they are available.

Start of the 800M "Open Water Pool Swim"
It was a "beach" start from the edge of the pool and we had to run through the shallow water until it was deep enough to start swimming.  Even though there were only about 10 swimmers in my heat, it was a pretty crowded start and I bumped into several people as we tried to find our positions.  The turns were also crowded for the first lap until we thinned out a little bit.  I was following David Warden from PowerTri and drafted off of him for most of the race, but on the last lap he picked up the pace and dropped me.
800M "Open Water Pool Swim" Finish
There was another 800M heat followed by two 400M heats (I think...we only stayed for one but it looked like they were going to do another one as we were leaving).  Sabrina swam 400M and had a good time.  She looked great on the turns and remembered some of the stuff that I tried to teach her last year.

Sabrina rounding one of the turn buoys.
Sabrina on her last lap of the 400M swim.
While I definitely prefer real open water swims, this is a fun way to prepare and practice for triathlons during the colder months.  For someone who has never participated in an open water event, this would be a great introduction and would let them get a feel for how different it is from pool swimming.  It would have been cool to incorporate a swimming clinic as part of the event since there were some very fast swimmers, triathletes and coaches in attendance.  I really hope there are more of these races in the future.


Open Water Pool Swim

Image of the Open Water Pool Swim course from PowerTri.com
PowerTri.com has posted some information about an "Open Water Pool Swim" on their website that looks like a lot of fun!  It is a simulated open water swimming race with 400 meter and 800 meter distances.  From the graphic they posted (shown above), it looks like the lane lines will be taken out and there will be four buoys to mark the course.  Swimmers will swim four or eight laps depending on the race they enter.

The event will be held at the American Fork Fitness Center this Thursday March 24th at 8:00pm.  It only costs $10 to register.  You can check out the details on PowerTri.com or click here for the registration page (click on "Swimming" and then "Open Water Heat Event").

Thursday is going to be a fun afternoon/evening of swimming with our weekly cold water swim at Bountiful Lake followed by this "open water" swim.


50 Degrees, 5 Swimmers and 2 New Toys

This afternoon we had a group of five swimmers at Bountiful Lake.  Despite the recent storms and cold weather, the water temperature had risen to an even 50 degrees (warmer than the air temperature).  In addition to getting my cold water fix for the week, I also got to test out a couple new swimming toys (more on that later).

The usual crew was there: Gordon, Jake, Goody and myself.  Goody had such a good time last week that he brought along his friend Alica.

Between the five swimmers, we swam various distances.  Gordon started things off with a 1/2 mile swim staring from the boat ramp, around the eastern island, and back to the boat ramp.  Even though the water was up to 50 degrees, I wasn't feeling up to being in the water that long.  Jake and I decided to swim the same course that Gordon swam last week by swimming from the southern fishing pier to the eastern pier and then to the boat ramp.  Goody and Alicia started at the eastern pier and finished at the boat ramp.

Jake and I got some really confused looks from the three guys fishing from the pier.  They kept looking at us as we got ready, trying to figure out what we were up to.  I'm sure that all the people who fish there think we are absolutely crazy.

My body was shocked, as usual, by the coldness of the water after jumping in.  I don't think that there is really any way that you can prepare for it.  No matter how much time you spend taking cold water showers and sitting in ice baths, it's still going to feel cold when you get in.  Instead of thinking about how cold it was, I decided to focus on getting my breathing under control and swimming at a steady pace.  I was able to keep my face in the water the whole time and just a little before the halfway point, my body started to "get used to" the cold water and I was able to focus on stretching out my stroke and enjoying the swim.

Swim Safety Device
This week I brought along my new Swim Safety Device (SSD).  If you have never seen one, it is basically a waterproof bag that inflates into a buoy that you attach to your waist.  I tucked my shoes, shorts and shirts into the SSD and sealed it up.  After inflating it and buckling the strap around my waist, I was ready to go.  My only complaint about the device is that I wish the strap connecting the SSD to the belt was a little longer, it kept hitting it with my legs and butt while I swam.  Other than that, it did an excellent job of keeping my stuff dry and I am confident that it would support me long enough to get to shore or get some help if I found myself in trouble.  (As a side note, we are giving away a SSD as part of the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim.  Register for the 1 mile race by 6pm (MST) on April 15 for a chance to win!)

My new favorite goggles: Blueseventy Element

I also tried out my new new pair of Blueseventy Element goggles that arrived at my house just hours before I left for the lake.  Jake and Sabrina tease me that I have too many goggles, but I needed this pair!  I have two pairs of goggles that I use regularly and both of them have tinted or mirrored lenses.  This is fine for when I'm swimming during the day when it is sunny, but I needed a pair with lighter lenses for when we start swimming early in the morning.  I've only worn these goggles once and they are already my favorite pair.  They are kind of a cross between the minimal pool goggles I love for comfort and the larger Blueseventy Vision open water goggles I also love for increased visibility.  It doesn't hurt that they look freaking awesome too!

Jake and Gordon have already mentioned this, but the "cold water high" we all felt early on is starting to wear off a little.  Don't get me wrong, it's still awesome to swim with a bunch of other crazy people in cold water and I'm not planning on stopping.  Today just felt different.

Gordon reminded me this evening what an awesome and supportive family I have.  My wife, two boys, dad, mom and grandma have all been out to watch our cold water swims at Bountiful Lake.  My family is always in attendance at all of the races I do and I want to let them know how much it means to me that they are there to support me and thank them for patiently listening to me explain all the reasons why I need another new pair of goggles.  It's been really fun to have Jake get so into cold water swimming and to swim with him every week.  He and I have a big swimming project planned for next year and I'm excited to be spending time swimming with him.  There was nothing better than getting out of the water this afternoon, my skin red and stinging, and having my 3-year old yell "I love to watch you swim!"



I've was recently invited to become a contributor for a new triathlon website based out of Ogden.  The website, Swim Bike Run Pro, is made by triathletes for triathletes with a culture that can be summed up in three words:  Prepare, Purchase and Perform.  Swim Bike Run Pro offers free articles from experts in various fields to help you Prepare.  You can Purchase triathlon related gear using their online store.  When you are ready to Perform, you can use the online event calendar to find your next race.

I will be writing at least eight articles a year that you can will be able to access under the "Train" tab.  I have chosen to focus my articles on open water swimming (surprise, surprise) and would like to get your input on what topics you would like me to address.  I've got some ideas already including: cold water swimming, sighting, swimming straight, safety, how to choose a pair of goggles, wetsuit selection, race strategy, etc.  Am I leaving something out that you would like to know about?


45 Degrees and 200 Yards at Bountiful Lake

We had so much fun at Bountiful Lake last week that we decided to get the crew together and do it again.  This time Gords decided to up the ante and swim from the eastern fishing pier to the boat ramp, a distance of just over 200 yards.

As I sat in my office this afternoon and saw the dark clouds rolling in and the rain, snow and hail start to fall, I started doubting whether or not I ought to attempt the 200 yard distance.  The furthest I have swam in water that cold was last week and it was maybe 50 yards.  Hypothermia is pretty scary stuff and I did not want to risk it.  Once I got to the lake however, it looked a lot shorter than I had imagined and I immediately changed my mind and decided I would give it a try.

After Gordon's son Jake took his first dip, Gords dove in and starting swimming.  He looked really strong and I followed him along the shore as he swam taking some video and photos.  This guy is a beast!  Watching him finish and get out of the water, you would never know that water was as cold as it was.  You can read about his experience and watch some video of his swim on his blog.
Gordon enjoying a "post swim" towel.

I stripped down to my suit and, without much hesitation, dove it.  My body was immediately shocked by the coldness of the water.  I'm not a very strong kicker when it comes, to swimming by my legs started going like crazy when I hit the water.  I was able to keep my face in the water for most of the swim, but swam a little "head's up" freestyle as well.  About halfway through, I started doubting myself and though about getting out.  Looking at the shore to my right, I decided it would take just as long to swim to the shore as it would to finish.  By this time I was "getting used to" the cold.  I felt less cold and more "pins and needles" like stinging pain.  I went out really fast at the start and you will notice in the video that I was going noticeably slower at the end.

After I dried off and got dressed, my brother Jake dove in and swam just under 100 yards out and back from the fishing pier.  He told me later he was mad that he didn't keep going.  In water this cold, you don't want to be pushing yourself too far and it's better to be safe and listen to your body than to meet a goal you have set for yourself.

Jake getting ready for his swim.
After we were all warmed up, we went to SDRC for some fun with the kids.  My toes were still a little numb when we got there, but they thawed out quickly in the "warm" pool water.  I'm a little worried at how CRAZY my son Cole is in the water...I hope he doesn't turn out like me!

The plan is to swim again next Thursday afternoon.  Anyone who wants to join us, even just to jump in and out, is welcome.  We meet at Bountiful Lake at 4:30pm.