Friday, February 24, 2012

This time tomorrow...

...most of you will be across on Rottnest Island, or there or thereabouts! Wahoo!!

The weather conditions look like they have stabilised a touch, but it will pick-up to a SW wind ~11am, so please be prepared for this (not scared, just prepared - and you are, all of you!).

Given the likely conditions and what I'd promised to send out with respect to suitable change-over times for DUO and TEAM swimmers, if it proves to be a bit tricky to get in / out of the boat, my suggestion would be to lengthen the time you spend in the water so that this process doesn't become so fatiguing midway through the swim when you need it most.

As a DUO (of which I have now done three crossings all in about 5h30 with three different partners), we've always done this as me off the beach (first km), my partner will then take the first 12-15 mins whilst I recoup and get my bearings off the beach and then we'd immediately jump down to rotations of 8-10 mins for the first couple of hours before bringing this down to 6-8 mins in the next 2-3 hours and even down to 3-4 mins in the 'final' hour (sometimes given the conditions this might become slightly longer than an hour!). I would say that you'd want to factor on about this +2-3 mins per cycle depending on how rough it gets (i.e. the rougher it is the longer each swimmer should stay in because of the hassle of swapping over). Still though, the max I'd recommend staying in for would be 10-12 mins after that first rotation as swim speed will invariably drop-off somewhat and with the prospect of worsening weather at ~11am, faster (sustainable) paces will be advantageous at the start.

I've never competed in a TEAM event (one year maybe!) but you might like to sway your rotations towards the stronger swimmers in the team (i.e. 6-10 mins for the stronger swimmers and 4-7 mins for the less strong) in order to gain the advantage of an easier day all round if you cover more ground before ~11am. Again, you'd typically start off with longer rotations and reduce these as you got closer to Rottnest and your speed starts to decline all round.

Obviously for SOLOS you don't have to factor such rotations, but I would still stick with your fuelling stop plan as suggested earlier in the week (i.e. 15 to 25 mins). Ensure that your paddler is protecting you from the elements as best as possible and also trying to shelter you when you're feeding as a mouth full of seawater is not nice and will not aid your digestion! Let your skipper set your course and let the paddler follow the boat and be your guide. Tell your paddlers not to deviate from the course even if you (as the swimmer) are mistakenly nudging them off course. Have faith in their judgement and just you get on with your swimming.

OK, so very best of luck everyone. It looks like it will be a tough day at the office, so let's not beat around the bush and get our heads set squarely on. With this in mind I'd like to leave you with these three points / quotes before I see you in the morning on the beach:

  1. whether you think you can, or you think you can't, either way you are right!
  2. the darkest hour still only has sixty minutes in it!
  3. enjoy the challenge - no-one is forcing you to do this or holding a gun to your are doing this because you want to and what the challenge of training for such an event has brought to your life. Now all you can do is just do your best and keep a smile on your face knowing that you are undertaking a challenge which very few people are fortunate enough to be in the position to do so. 

My final point is to do with times and expectations of yourself - if I can be brutally honest for a moment, in 2009 I completed my first solo swim - I finished 6th in the men's event and 9th overall (way higher than I had ever believed possible, beating many swimmers who I thought would smash me). I had a goal throughout my whole training program of going sub-5 hrs. I crossed the line in 5h24m. Despite finishing as high up in the field as I did and with the winner 'only' doing 4h48m that year due to strong currents around the island, the first recollection I have of the finish was one of total disappointment for not having cracked 5 hours. I didn't know then where I had finished, only my seemingly disappointing time. Michelle still recalls how sad and grumpy I looked when in fact I should have been overjoyed by making it. The achievement of completing my first ever Rottnest Solo Swim ranks as one of my best ever sporting accomplishments, and yet that initial wave of disappointment and grumpiness will always rank as one of my deepest regrets. Please don't let this happen to yourself. 

In September 2011 I completed the English Channel Swim (again in a much slower time than I had envisaged even given the brutal conditions). The last words that I had still ringing in my ears before I started was "forget about the times, just make it across" after speaking with an English Channel veteran and former British record holder. He knew that the conditions weren't conducive to good times and knew that anyone who chased quick times would be either sorely disappointed or would not even make it to France. Without a doubt this was the very best bit of advice I could have had knowing that I was setting out in less than ideal conditions. This savvy advice might just prove to be what you need to have ringing in your ears before you set off tomorrow!

Best of luck everyone - you can do it if you believe you can!


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