“I Lift Things Up and Put Them Down”

 

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Recently, I have received quite a few questions regarding the type of dry land training that I do.

My “out-of-water” training plan consists of five parts:

1. Prevention of injury- strengthening joints especially shoulders to prevent overuse injuries.

2. Functional weight lifting- i.e. dumbbells to gain strength but also range of motion.

3. Body weight suspension training- i.e. TRX which is used to leverage gravity and use my own body weight for strength, balance, flexibility and core stability, simultaneously.

4. Yoga and meditation- crucial!

5. Cardiovascular land endurance i.e. running.My dad joined me on one of my dry land sessions and documented some of my training…

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A Bit Too Chilly

After my mile run on the beach to warm up, I approached the water expecting the crisp and refreshing feel to hit my feet. Unfortunately, the immediate numbness seemed to be uncharacteristically frigid. I continued to do a couple hundred-yard buoy warm up with the thermometer strapped to my suit. It felt much colder than usual, and very uncomfortable with brain freeze-like symptoms occurring. Upon checking my thermometer I found that the water was only 54 degrees F, which falls in the “dangerous” temperature zone. Too much time elapsed in this temperature of water can lead to hypothermia. I decided that for my own personal safety I would only do a couple 30 sec, buoy-to-buoy swims, running out of the water in between each swim to keep the blood flow circulating. I did a few and decided I would get in the milage in the pool later in the day! Safety first!

I can rest assured that the next time I am in 60-degree water it will feel much better! Since the channel will be above 60, it is not necessary to train at temperatures this low, and I do not recommend doing more that 30 sec intervals in it.  Since we were unaware of the temperature of the water before we got to the beach, we decided to make the most of what we had available. 

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A History Lesson: Seven Sister Marathon Swimmers

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Commonly referred to as the women’s “Ivy League,” the “Seven Sister” colleges: Smith, Radcliffe, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Vassar have a tradition and legacy of greatness. Before the Ivy League colleges went co-ed, they were male-only institutions, with sister Ivy League schools for the women. Fortunately 6 of the 7 sisters still remain today (Harvard combined Radcliffe thus making it co-ed), with 5 of the 7 colleges still being elite all-women’s institutions (Vassar is co-ed).

Of the Seven Sisters, Smith and Wellesley have had students successfully complete the crossing of the English Channel.

Smith College was the first have two swimmers successfully complete the crossing- on August 18th, 1984: Margaret Broenimann ’85, Maura Fitzpatrick ’85, and has had a total of five successful crossings under the direction of Coach Kim Bierwert.

On August 26th, 1990: Maureen Travers (Smith ESS grad student) and on August 5th, 2011: Mackenzie Bradley ‘13 and Emma Riem ’13 completed the crossing, thus carrying on the Smith tradition.

Ika Kovackiova ‘14, a Wellesley swimmer, made a successful crossing on August 19th, 2013. Thus expanding the tradition to other Seven Sister schools.

Emma Riem and Mackenzie Bradley both overlapped on the Smith Swimming and Diving Team with me for two years, where they also served as team captains.

Although Emma was recovering from shoulder surgery during the season, she always led by example. Emma has such incredible intrinsic motivation, drive, and perseverance, which I really admire. In addition, she has some of the best and funniest stories! Emma is the type of person that I can tell anything to at anytime, and she also is incredibly loyal. She has given me lots of guidance regarding my Channel swim, and is so down to earth! I miss her regularly, but know she is doing amazing things in Oregon!

Mackenzie and I got to know each other very well, and very early on, as we were lane-mates, getting through all the distance workouts! From early mornings to late evenings during the school year, we could count on each other to give one another a run for their money in practice! I think Coach Kim enjoyed watching that… As I noted in a previous post, Mackenzie will be my support swimmer for my channel crossing, which I am looking forward to! Mackenzie is the human definition of dedication, and is such an inspiration to me as I move forward in my training.

Ika Kovacikova has been such a great friend to me as I prepare for my crossing. When I first talked to Ika, she was in the same position I am currently in, training to attempt a solo channel crossing. Talking to someone who hadn’t completed a crossing yet, but was planning to, provided me with a lot of insight and simulated the mental conditions I would be facing. Ika was so open and friendly, and being able to watch her GPS (and cheer like crazy) as she swam the channel was incredibly motivational! Ika and I have gotten the pleasure to race multiple times in our mid-distance specialties throughout the past swim season, and I will really miss her cheerful demeanor on the Wellesley pool deck this coming season (she graduated this past spring)! I will be sure to pass down the Seven Sister Marathon Swimmer quilt that she hand made to any other future channel attempters (after I embroider on all the names of successful Seven Sister Channel Swimmers)! Thank you for your wisdom, guidance, and all around awesomeness, dudette!

I am so proud to be a part of and represent a community with such rich tradition and legacy (dating back to the 1800s)! I hope I can continue to build on the foundation of excellence that so many have prepared before me.

Smith College Channel History

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Once one decides to embark on a Channel swim at Smith College, it customary that they memorize the names, dates and times, of the Channel swimmers before them. Luckily, we have this plaque on the Dalton Pool wall which I would ritually read and tap before every swim.

This past May, I also got the chance to meet “the legend,” Mr. Broenniman, father of one of the first channel duo swimmers Margaret Broenniman ’85. Mr. Broenniman told me stories, which he could recall in such sharp detail, from Margaret and Maura’s swim. These stories were from the unique perspective of a parent on the escort boat, and were ones that I had never heard before.  It was such a pleasure to meet him and I look forward to keeping in touch in the future! After hearing about my heroes Margaret and Maura, it was surreal to meet someone who could recall intimate details of their crossings, and give insight into their personalities and training philosophies. Thank you Mr. Broenniman!

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“Allzeit beret” Always be prepared!

While the English Channel swim is only a two-step process: 1.swim and 2. don’t stop until you get to France, there are many behind-the-scenes details that we have been preparing for over the past weeks. Two especially at the forefront these days are swimwear/visibility and feedings.

Swimwear/visibility is a broad category but it covers everything from goggles to suit.

As for goggles, one can imagine that 12-15 hours of constant pressure on the eye socket could be unpleasant. Thus, I am looking into more specialized brands of goggles such as Barracuda, who make their goggles with the anatomy of the eye in mind. No, they are not the sleek pair I am used to wearing when racing, however functionality prevails over fashion in these extreme circumstances.
In terms of suit, the rules state that it must be above the knee, and no further then the shoulder (i.e. no arm coverage). Although many individuals swimming the Channel wear normal hip cut suits, I am currently looking into full back, knee length fast skins, which could help reduce sunburn and jellyfish sting surface area. I plan to order it in my practice suit size, unlike the super-human, cat woman-esque, tight styles worn at championship meets.

Since I will be swimming in the dark at either the start of the swim or at the end of the swim (depending on if we start mid day or at 2-4am), I will need glow sticks or LED lights to wear so I can be constantly monitored. Something waterproof and preferably green is what we are looking for, in addition to something that can be easily attached to my suit and goggles.

Finally, to reduce chaffing of my neck and below my arms, and to reduce adhesion of jellyfish stingners, I plan to lather up in a thick coat of vaseline and sunscreen. However, this will likely wash off overtime.

In terms of feedings, I know I will be sticking with my Infinit Custom Blended Solutions mix. However, we are in the works of devising a container system which will most likely consist of a long line with 2 carbine clips attached, so it can be thrown overboard to me (as touching the boat will disqualify me). The drinking of my mix (6-8oz) must be quick (30 sec-1 min, every 30 minutes of swimming). It is crucial that I can be as efficient as possible. We are planning on using a colored poster board system that will be held up by a support crew member to indicate feeding time. In addition, we are looking for water bottles with straws and covers so I don’t have to tip my head back while treading water to drink (very difficult- tend to swallow air). Finally we are determining the optimal temperature to serve the drink mix at. Something warm is ideal, and unlike the 6-hour qualifying swim where the drinks were way too hot (burning my mouth), we need something that will be toasty enough to give me warmth, yet cool enough to take in quickly.

While these are just a select few details that we are currently focusing on, there are many others such as: dealing with salt water in my mouth 12-15 hours, support swimmers, swimmer-captain relationship, first aid etc. This illustrates necessity of preparation and complexity of such a swim.

As the Boy Scouts motto states: “Allzeit beret,“ Always be prepared!