Bear Lake Training Update - November

A quick update on my Bear Lake training:

This month I swam 79,825 yards which is an average of just about 20,000 yards a week.  My typical workouts have ranged from 4,000 to 8,000 yards.  So far, I am feeling strong and have not had any issues with my collar bone / muscle pain (even when doing long pulling sets).  I think this is due to a combination of doing exercises that my physical therapist suggested (using a resistance band) and doing more backstroke.  I have been basing my training on a plan found in Steven Munatones' book "Open Water Swimming" (which I highly recommend).  I will need to work up to 35,000 + yards a week as I get closer to the swim so hopefully I can stay pain free and build up my distance tolerance.

Here are some of the workouts I have been doing lately:

2,000 warm up (alternate 200 free, 200 back)
2,000 pull
2,000 tempo trainer (start the tempo trainer at 1:10 and go down each 500 to 1:09, 1:08 and 1:07)
2,000 pull
8,000 yards

1,000 warm up
2 x 500 pull
5 x 200 (alternate 200 free, 200 IM)
10 x 100 (usually with a tempo trainer starting at 1:10 and decreasing each 100 to 1:01)
5 x 200 (alternate 200 free, 200 IM)
2 x 500 pull
6,000 yards

2,000 warm up (alternate 200 free, 200 back)
6 x 1,000 on 15:00 (For an added challenge I use my tempo trainer starting at 1:10 and decrease 0:01 on every 1,000)
8,000 yards

I have been swimming 3 to 4 days a week, but will likely have to start swimming 6 days a week later on to meet my weekly yardage goal (because I refuse to get up earlier than 5:00am).

Starting next month I will start experimenting with different nutrition options for feeds.  Most of my longer swims have been done with just watered-down Gatorade and watered-down energy gels.  A lot of channel swimmers and marathon swimmers swear by a drink called Maxim.  Apparently, it's not available in the US but there is a similar product called Hammer Perpetuem that is easily available.  I plan on getting some of this stuff to test out for feeds during my workouts to see how I react to it.  I may also experiment with some type of solid food and see how my body takes it.  I'm guessing after several hours in the water, energy drink is going to get pretty old.

I've also been thinking about where I can do some long distance open water training when it warms up without having to do a bunch of laps.  I'm liking the idea of swimming at Jordanelle reservoir form Rock Cliff to Ross Creek and back (about 12.6 miles).  The best option would probably be to do a double crossing of the width of Bear Lake (about 14 miles).

I'm still trying to figure out the best day for the swim.  I would like to go in August when the water is warmest, but it is going to be a busy month so we'll see.

Thanks to everyone who has offered their support and encouragement on my goal!


Pre-Thanksgiving Polar Bear Swim

Today's polar bear swimmers.  Left to Right: Jake, Josh, Goody and Gords

The weekly Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swim was moved up to this afternoon due to it being Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Today's swimmers were Gords, Goody, Jake and myself.

After meeting in the parking lot, we got out things together and headed down to the boat ramp.  As usual, we got mixed readings on the thermometers.  The temperature was somewhere between about 48 and 49 degrees.

Look at that snow!
Goody's wife and two girls were there to cheer him on and took some pictures of us before we got in the water.

Gords starting his swim. (I love this picture!)
Gords was the first one in with a goal of doing two laps (about 700 yards total).  With little hesitation, he got in and took off.  From my view on the dock, he looked strong the whole way.  He finished the swim in a little under 10 minutes and then stayed in a bit longer.

Goody warming up before starting his swim.
Goody got in the water as Gords was heading back to the ramp on his second lap.  He tried running in place again until he got his breathing under control and then swam out to the marina entrance and back.

Me coming into the boat ramp.
I was up next and wanted to see if I could do two laps too.  Although the water was cold, it didn't feel as bad as I expected.  I finished my first lap and felt pretty good so I headed out to the marina entrance again.  On my second lap I watched a sailboat come into the marina.  They must have thought we were nuts!  After watching the Winter Swimming documentary and seeing many of the swimmers doing breaststroke, I though I would give it a try.  Although slower, you face stays a lot warmer and you are able to breath a little easier.  I switched back to freestyle and finished the swim.  I tried to do a stroke of butterfly at the end and I'm sure it looked pretty pathetic.  My arms were tightening up and if felt like I barely got them out of the water.  My total time in the water was 10:45.

Jake finishing his longest cold water swim.
Jake was the last one in.  I'm impressed at how he pushes himself.  Of all of us, it must be hardest on him because he has metal plates in his head.  I can't imagine how much that must hurt!  He swam a combination of head's up free and breaststroke to keep his head out of the water.  He swam out to the marina entrance and back.

I think all of us set new personal records for distance and time in the water at this temperature!  Although I felt pretty good at the end of my swim, I have serious doubts about being able to join the IISA with a 1 mile swim in 41 degrees or below water.  After today, it seems incomprehensible.  I have a new found respect for swimmers like Lynne Cox, Lewis Pugh, Ram Barkai and Jack Bright.

Shirley wasn't able to be there to film us for her documentary, Evaporating Shorelines, which was a bummer.  I think I am going to take a shot at making a short documentary about our club myself.  I have pictures and video from almost all of our swim so far.  Look for it at the end of polar bear season!


Extreme Winter Swimming DVD

It seems like quite a while ago that Jack Bright, winter swimmer and director of the film Extreme Winter Swimming, was raising money through the website IndieGoGo to finish the film.  After watching the trailer and being completely amazed, I chipped in a little money to help get the film made (my name even shows up in the credits!).  Here is the trailer:

I got an email a week or so ago that said the film had been finished and that the DVD's would be shipping out soon.  Today I got my copy in the mail and I couldn't wait to watch it!

It is a short film, only 29 minutes long, but is very well made and I thought it was incredibly interesting.  It follows the history of winter swimming in the Czech Republic, including a modern day winter swimming club.  These guys are swimming in water that is 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and below.  They even have organized winter swimming races of up to 750 meters.
I was really impressed at how well organized the group is and how many people show up to participate in and watch their events.  There is even a cheer that they yell before the races and a christening ceremony at the start of each season.  I noticed a large percentage of swimmers swimming breaststroke, which I thought was interesting.  I have yet to get in water that cold and am curious to see how my body will react.

I highly recommend the film.  It would be fun to get the Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club to watch it together.  If anyone is interested it seeing it, let me know.


49 Degrees at the Great Salt Lake Marina


The color of my skin matches the color of the sunset on the water!
I met Goody and Gords at the GSL Marina late this afternoon for the weekly Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swim.  It's been a while since we have been out to the Great Salt Lake, so it was nice to be back.

The water temperature on the GSL Marina website was reported to be 42 degrees!  Everyone was excited to be getting in some pretty colder water.  However, when we measured the temperature near the boat ramp it was much higher.  Gords thermometer said about 47 and mine said 49.  I have still never been in water below 46 degrees and am excited for it to drop into the low 40's.

After watching a video about cold water survival, Goody wanted to have a safety plan in place.  His idea was to have one swimmer go at a time while the other two waited on shore in case of an emergency.  Gords was first and he got in without any hesitation.  He swam out to the marina entrance and back, about 350 yards.  I was up next and was planning on going about half that distance.  Once I stated going though, it didn't feel too bad so I kept going and turned around near the marina entrance (but not quite as far as Gords).  Goody was the last one to get in.  Rather than swim, he wanted to try running in place for a few minutes until he got over the cold water reflex (which according to the video above, lasts about 1 minute).

Gords at the end of his swim.
I've been waiting to get a picture with snow in it!
Goody after a few minutes in the water.
 When I was swimming back to the ramp I saw Goody and Gords talking with a couple people.  When I got out I was surprised to learn that it was Shirley Gorospe, who has been working on a documentary of the Great Salt Lake called Evaporating Shorelines.  We had been in contact a little through email earlier this year and she was going to come out and film the Inaugural Great Salt Lake Swim from the water, but ended up not being able to come.  She said that she wished she had her camera to get video of our polar bear swim and we all agreed to meet next week at 4:15pm so that she can get some video.  It would be really cool to get a whole bunch of people to show up next week when she has her camera.  If you've ever thought about taking a polar plunge with us, be sure to come next week!  Shirley also told us that she is screening a "rough draft" of the film on December 1 and invited Goody, Gords and I to attend.

I was telling Gords about the International Ice Swimming Association.  You can apply to be a member by completing an "ice swim" which is 1 mile in water that is 41 degrees or below.  They have all kinds of rules that you have to follow for your swim to count.  I don't know if I could, or would even want to, do a swim like that but I think Gords might be just crazy enough to try it.

In other cold water swimming news, the film Extreme Winter Swimming should be coming out soon.  Gords and I are both expecting copies when it is released and I thought it would be fun to get together to watch it.  More details when the film is released...


46 Degrees at Bountiful Lake

Tonight was the weekly cold water swim with the Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club.  By the time I pulled into the parking lot, it was already getting dark.  The rest of the crew showed up soon after.  Tonight we had Gords, Jake, Matt and myself.  Matt's wife Jen was also there to cheer us on.

This chart shows the weekly water temperature at Bountiful Lake.  We were hoping to "ease" into the colder temperatures, but that's obviously not going to happen.

Gords' thermometer read 43.5 degrees!  To be honest, it kind of freaked me out.  My thermometer showed 46 degrees, but that didn't make me feel much better.  By the time we got to the dock, it was pretty dark.  I was also a "single dad" tonight and had to keep an eye on my boys.  Because of all of that, I decided to just jump in instead of swim the usual 200 yards to the boat ramp.  It was Matt's first time and he decided to do the same.  Jake decided to jump in too.  Only Gords had the guts to swim.

I jumped in and the water took my breath away.  It actually didn't feel as cold as I thought it was, which leads me to believe that the temperature was really around 46 degrees.  After jumping in, I regretted my decision to not swim the 200 yards.  I stayed in the water while Matt jumped in.  Being his first time, I think he was surprised at just how cold it was.  I got out after Matt and then watched Jake jump in.

Gordon is a machine!  It was really dark by the time he dove in, but he swam the whole 200 yards back to the ramp.

After everyone left, I wanted to double check the water temperature so I put my thermometer back in and it came up 46.  Next week we are going to have to get started earlier, like 4:30, so that we can actually see.  It's been over a month since we were at the Great Salt Lake and I'd like to go back next week and see how things have changed.

This weekend in the South Davis Masters Meet.  Gords is running the show this year and has asked me to man an open water booth and demonstrate how to use the Safe Swimmer.  If you are going to the meet, stop by and say "hi" and you might even win a prize.


More Thoughts on Bear Lake

Since posting some of my initial thoughts on swimming across Bear Lake, I have received a lot of support and advice from my family, fellow swimmers and friends.

Since that post, Gords and Goody have both been in touch to tell me how excited they are and to offer their support.  They both have busy schedules this summer (Gords is swimming the English Channel!), but I am going to try to pick a date when they can both be there.

I also got a couple emails from the current Bear Lake record holder, James Jonsson, who I really look up to.  He HIGHLY recommended that I find a support boat in addition to kayaks.  I totally agree and have been thinking about who I knew that had a boat.  Just last night I was telling my uncle about the swim and he immediately offered to bring his boat down for support!  I didn't even know he had one!

James also gave me some advice on training including the general rule of thumb that I should be able to swim my target distance (about 20 miles) in weekly yardage and be able to hold that yardage for 8 to 10 weeks.  This fits pretty well with the training plan from Steven Munatones' book.  He also gave me some ideas on what I should be doing at my workouts.  He suggested that I start out doing sets of 1000's on 15 minutes with 30 seconds of rest in between.  Earlier this week I did 5 x 1000.  I was able to make each one on about 14:30 without too much trouble.  Although these sets can get a little boring, I can see how they will help me train physically and mentally for the Bear Lake swim.

Another thing I've been thinking about is whether or not I should do the swim for a charity.  My brother Jake and I were planning on doing a fundraiser for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah next year, but it's looking like it's not going to happen.  I might contact the Kidney Foundation and run the Bear Lake swim by them to see what they say.

I've been really surprised by all the support and encouragement I've been given over the last week or so.  Thanks everyone!  I'll keep posting updates about my training and plans as the next 12 months progress.


Thinking About Bear Lake

The thought of swimming across the 19 mile length of Bear Lake has been in the back of my mind ever since I first started hearing about other swimmers who had done it.  This year when I was tagging along on Gords' crossing, the thought came back and has not gone away.  Seeing Gords tackle the swim firsthand was an incredibly inspiring experience for me.

Recently, I have been thinking a little more seriously about it.  Specifically what type of training plan I would need to follow, what time of year I would make my attempt, what kind of support I would want, etc.  I've also been wrestling a little with some doubts.

Regarding the training plan, I found a 12-month plan in Steven Munatones' new book "Open Water Swimming" for a 25K swim.  While 25K is a little short of my target distance, it gets me pretty close and gives me a good idea of how many yards I ought to be swimming each month and what specific skills I should be working on at each stage of training.  For the month of November, I should be at about 15,000 yards a week.

This summer is shaping up to be a busy one.  As of right now the best times for me to try the Bear Lake swim would be the end of July or the end of August.  Depending on the weather and water temp, I might even be able to push it to the first of September.  I will need to research typical water temperatures during those times and take another look at my calendar later next year.

As for support, I think two kayaks worked well when I was part of Gords' support team.  I might also look into getting a boat because I think at least some of my family might like to come along as spectators.  I will definitely want pace swimmers to help motivate me during the swim.  Gords and Goody would be my top picks for pace swimmers.  If Jake is up to it, I'd also like to have him come along.

This swim will be quite a bit longer than any other open water swim I have done, and I'm not sure how I will handle it mentally.  I think having a support crew and pace swimmers will help a lot mentally.  The physical training doesn't have me too worried, it's just a matter of sticking to the plan and getting in the yardage I need to.

Another doubt that keeps creeping in is the muscle pain in my right collor bone area.  It seems to be getting better and I only really start feeling it if I swim very hard.  I'm not planning on setting any records on this swim, so hopefully by swimming my normal, steady pace, I can avoid the pain and finish the swim.

There are still a lot of things I need to work out, and a lot will depend on how my training goes, but as of right now I'm planning on going for it!


Review of the "Magic Tarp-It" by Poler

 A while ago my friend Rachel introduced me to her family's company, Poler, and I have been a fan ever since.  Poler makes what they call "camping stuff" as well as shirts, hoodies and hats.  Of particular interest to me was a product called the "Magic Tarp-It" (great name!).

The Magic Tarp-It

Basically, the Magic Tarp-It it is a tarp lined with Mylar (the same material as those shiny silver emergency blankets) that also had a hood and a place to put your hands.  Since we are now into cold water swimming season, I had to order one to try out!

Hand "pouches"

"The World's Highest Standard of Stuff"

All folded up.
 I took my Magic Tarp-It out to Bountiful Lake for our weekly Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swim.  The water was 48.5 degrees and, with the incoming storm, it was windy outside.  I tucked the Tarp-It under my towel at the exit point and headed to the dock where we jumped in.  After 200 yards of chilling swimming, I got our and wrapped myself in my towel and then the Magic Tarp-It.

Warming up with the Magic Tarp-It after a 48.5 degree swim.
I was thankful for the hood and the hand "pouches".  The hood kept my head protected from the wind and the hand "pouches" made it easy to keep it wrapped around my body.  One thing that I was really impressed with was the Tarp-It's ability to block the wind.  We all know about the "wind chill factor" and just being able to block the wind kept me warmer.  The Tarp-It does not provide insulation from the cold like a blanket does, but the Mylar lining reflects nearly all heat back to the body.  After a while, I was feeling pretty good and didn't start shaking until after I took the Tarp-It off and put my hoodie on.

The Magic Tarp-It only set me back $20 from Poler's website, which also included free shipping.  Sure you could get a regular "space blanket" for just a couple bucks, but they are no where near as heavy duty as the Tarp-It and don't have the hood or place to put your hands either.  I think it's a great deal for $20 and am sure that it will become an essential piece of cold water swimming, and camping, gear.


48.5 Degrees at Bountiful Lake

Three of the Wasatch Front Polar Bears (Gords, Goody and Josh)
Tonight was our weekly Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swim at Bountiful Lake.  When my family and I got there a little after 5:30, Gords, Goody and Cathi were already in the parking lot.  Last Saturday the water temperature was 51 degrees and I thought it might be about the same today.  Oh, was I wrong!  Gords measured the water temp at 48.5 degrees!  That's getting close to the same temperature that we started swimming in at the start of the year.

Goody and I stripped off some layers of clothes and headed to the dock.  I got my official WFPBC hoodie tonight and it was cool to see the three of us in our "uniforms".  We had decided to swim from the dock back to the boat ramp.  At the dock, we stripped off the rest of our clothes and, without warning, Gords jumped in and started swimming.  The more I think about the water and how cold it's going to feel, the more I psych myself out, so I jumped in after Gords.  I wanted to swim hard to the boat ramp, partly because I knew it was going to be cold, but also because it was only 200 yards.  I took off after hitting the water and was so focused on going fast and getting my breathing under control that I didn't sight.  When I finally took a peek at where I was I noticed I was way off course and I could hear Goody yelling at me.  I corrected my course and finished the swim.  I was able to keep my face in the water pretty much the whole time.  As I got near the boat ramp, the "burning" cold was just starting to wear off and I was thinking that I could have stayed in a little longer.

My new piece of cold water swimming gear: The Poler Magic Tarp-It
My friend Rachel's family has started a cool company called Poler.  They make camping stuff and apparel.  I really like the look of their products, you should check them out!  I was especially excited to find a product they call the "Magic Tarp-It" and ordered one as soon as they were back in stock.  Basically the Magic Tarp-It is a tarp lined with Mylar (same material as emergency blankets) with a hood and a place to put your hands.  I've been excited to put it to the test ever since it arrived earlier this week.  After I got out of the water, Cathi helped me wrap up in my towel and Sabrina helped me get the Magic Tarp-It on.  My experience with Mylar blankets is that you don't immediately warm up with them.  They are excellent at reflecting body heat back at your body, but after swimming in 48.5 degree water, my body wasn't very warm when I put it on.  After wearing it for a while, I did feel warmer.  The one thing it did really well was block the wind.  This alone helped me to warm up faster.  I will post a better review with some more pictures later.

I had a lot of fun with my friends tonight and wished that Jake could have been there too.  I can't wait to see how much colder the water is next week!  I invite anyone to come and join us.  Even if all you want to do it "plunge" (jump in and right back out).  It is an experience that you won't forget (and you can also brag to your friends about it).  Check the Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club Facebook page for details on the next swim.