Long Distance Open Water
by Cheryl Wagner
Every New Year, looking forward to the
next open water season, I ask myself the same question: How
should I train? Ive tried a number of approaches but
decided to ask some fast swimmers who completed the Wye Island
Swim (14 statute miles) on May 22 last year how they trained,
what they ate and drank during the swim, and how they felt and
performed during the swim. Craig Dewing was the first solo
swimmer in a time of 4:53;Maureen Rohrs was third solo in 6:09;
and Nick Olmos-Lau was fourth solo (first non-wetsuit) in 6:49.
Here are their answers:
How did you train for the Wye Swim?
- Craig Dewing: My distance freestyle
training (open water) started on February 1 when I
started keeping a log of my workouts. I trained between
30,000 to 40,000 yards a week, Monday and Wednesday
evenings, Saturday and Sunday mornings, and doubles on
Tuesday and Thursday. Starting April 1 at UMBC (Maryland
Masters) I trained long course meters Tuesday, Thursday,
Saturday, and Sunday. Sunday was not coached, so I used
that as a day to work on long straight swims, usually
between 3,000 to 5,000 yards.
- Maureen Rohrs: I did 200,000 yards in
the February Fitness Challenge, then relaxed a bit in
March. After that I started doing 8,000 - 10,000 about
five days a week. I added in a couple of longer swims:
one 15,000 and two weeks later a 12,000. All of my swims
had to be split. I would do 3,000 in the morning and the
rest at lunch. The more you swim outside, the better you
become at open water. I think it helps with sighting.
- Nick Olmos-Lau: I had been training
since December and gradually increased my weekly total to
30-45,000 meters/week with four long swims a month. One
of those long swims I gradually increased to cover about
90 percent of the length of the race.
What did you eat and drink during the
- Craig Dewing: After the first hour I
alternated 8-10 ounces from a 20 ounce cup of citrus
Cytomax, with 1.5-2.0 servings of caffeinated Power Gel (strawberry
banana) every 15 minutes. I tested this mixture for about
a month to make sure it would not give me an upset
stomach. On average I was stopping for about a minute to
a minute and a half to feed, check the map, and the
status of the other swimmers. If there was one thing that
I could have improved on it would be the length of my
breaks. But I do think that I was able to recover during
the breaks. The time/benefit ratio may have actually
helped me by allowing me to maintain a consistent speed.
- Maureen Rohrs: I was stopped every 20
minutes, had water first, then Endurox. At the third stop,
I added a banana, and continued this way for two hours.
At two hours, I took some Motrin and continued all of the
above. At 2.5 hours, I felt sleepy, so I had some coke.
At 3 hours, I added in some GU at every other stop. At 5
hours, I had more Motrin.
- Nick Olmos-Lau: I forced myself to
stop every 15 minutes for Gatorade and fruit juices, some
water, some Gif bars, Cliff bar pieces, and candy (couldnt
How did you feel during the swim?
- Craig Dewing: The overall swim was
great. My kayaker was wonderful. He kept me on course and
motivated me during the swim.
- Maureen Rohrs: My hip hurt. This
always happens to me if I dont get enough open
water practice. The water was very cold this year so I
didnt get much.
- Nick Olmos-Lau: I was pushing harder
than any other training swim so I did experience more
fatigue than usual. I had outstanding crew support and
that made a world of difference. I did have food
poisoning so I had a lot of trouble tolerating food after
Any special notes?
1) Steve Tarpinian who gives
Swimpower Clinics, was a great refresher on how to swim
distance freestyle. His web site is http://www.swimpower.com and he can be emailed at Tttalk@aol.com.
- Craig Dewing: I would like to mention
a couple of great articles and resources that I have been
using for advice on open water swimming. (Please dont
hesitate to e-mail me: email@example.com.)
Swimmer, June/July 1997 issue, page 26, "Current
Commando" by Ken McAlpine. The article is about John
Flanagan and his ten points to remember about open water
swimming. HE IS THE MAN for open water swimming!
- Chuck Wiley, who was the 25K USS Open
Water Champion and USS Open Water web master. I have e-mailed
him several times about training for open water. He has
set up an Open Water Discussion Forum at http://www.usswim.org and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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