The ups and downs of my first foray past 10k... stuff I learned... stuff I still need to learn
... and my biggest question: How the @#$% do you guys who swim 20 plus miles even DO THIS??
Okay, the ups:
--I was happy w/ my nutrition choices, which consisted of Trader Joe's vanilla protein shakes (very easy to digest and also helped w/ hydration), Glukos Energy powder (http://www.glukosenergy.com/products/glukos-energy-powder.html), combination of Glukos Energy gummies (http://www.glukosenergy.com/products/glukos-energy-gummies.html) and Clif shot blocks, and of course the all important water (which I livened with about a quarter tsp of ginger extract... though I find I need this more for salt water than fresh water, to help prevent seasickness--that was never an issue in this swim).
--Great organization and attention to safety--besides my kayaker, who was wonderful, there were always people from the race overseeing things and checking in on swimmers.
--Beautiful wooded course, easy to follow. Going got tough when wind picked up and countered the effect of the current assist going back, but that was Mother Nature's doing, not the race organizers.
--I found it helpful to forget worrying about distant landmarks--with houses and such on the river bank, I would use those as my motivation. "Get past this house... okay, done... next house..." which helped my mindset and kept me from getting discouraged about how far I had to go. This worked great in a river swim. In large open bodies of water, not as easy to do--my experience with the Great South Bay (not a marathon swim, but edging up to that distance), I knew from experience about where I was based on certain points in the course, such as shallow sections, islands, and such, but landmarks weren't as obvious.
--Longest swim so far--in my own small way, I've eked out a marathon swim.
--I was the straggler, but there was still food and beer left for me when I got in (I love these people!)
--Needed more distance training. While I managed 8500m the Sun. before the swim and about 7500 yards a week prior to that, my longest swim prior to the 7500 yards was the Great South Bay, 5 and a half miles, July 17. I wasn't as conscientious as I should have been keeping up w/ distance, so that needs attention.
--Arm trouble--I think this may be a technique issue. And it was brought out more as I kept going. But I also need more stretching, strength work, whatever--or maybe just more intestinal fortitude to set aside pain and keep going... I got to a point though where I couldn't lift the left arm out of the water for the recoveries, and I think if it had been overall soreness, I might have gone on, but when there's a possible injury, I don't want to chance it.
So the downs were my doing. To the swim organizers I credit almost all the up sides (happy w/ my nutrition choices and just keeping on keeping on as long as I could).
But here's the puzzle--a couple rest days, and then last night, I participated in the last of a half-mile race series put on by my coach, same river as the long swim... Heck, I'd paid for the whole series, so wasn't going to miss this race, especially w/ temps in the 90s! My arm was feeling better (still going to my sports doc Friday for some torture massage), and I took a couple tylenols to ward off any remaining pain--figured half mile, how hard can that be? Started in the back b/c I wasn't planning to swim too hard, just enjoy the race. But within a couple hundred yards, I passed a bunch of people, almost bumped into the turn-around buoy, and didn't have any problem w/ pain (actually, right arm was a little tight, maybe from having to do most of the work late in Friday's swim). In fact, my time was about three minutes faster than I'd done the previous swim (where I actually had some other issue--I think recovering from a cold, but still...) I even began to wonder if maybe I should ALWAYS precede these half mile swims with seven mile swims lol!
So the question that came to mind was--could I have kept swimming... was the pain just mental? Could I have pushed past it? I won't look back. I do need to ask myself, though, when the handwriting is REALLY on the wall, vs. when I could go further if I willed myself to. Not worried so much about what's already "water under the bridge" (ha--using an appropriate metaphor here). I figure I have the beginner's allowance to make mistakes and learn from them.
So, experts--how do you know when enough is enough? And how do you know when to soldier on? I know with running marathons (finished seven of the nine I attempted), when I stopped, it was due to injury, and in neither case did I have any regrets about stopping--I figured "live to run another day." I've had marathons that were real suffer-fests, but I completed them b/c there was no specific injury, just all-over soreness and I felt I could gut it out. So I suppose I could carry that into swimming but none of my marathons went longer than 5:07 so swimming something like 10-15 hours and more still seems very foreign to me.
I thought I'd never attempt another marathon swim--now I'm thinking there are still goals I want to achieve. They won't likely include the 10+ mile swims just yet. I want to inch my way up to maybe 8 miles now, and then we'll see about longer stuff. It's been a wonderful journey in its own crazy right. I don't see how I can stop just yet. So much to learn and experience!