Swimming against currents and fluid consumption

dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
edited August 2017 in Beginner Questions

First, the thanks. ... I've found this forum an incredibly good resource for working my way up in distance. Last September, I reached 8 miles, so far my longest distance. My goal is double digits, although I've taken things a little slower b/c of some shoulder PT in the spring. However, I'm pleased to report that so far (touch wood!), I'm progressing fine with training and just completed my 5th Great South Bay Swim (5.3ish miles, so not full marathon distance, but a favorite of mine b/c I love the organizers). Further, although my time was much slower than in past years, I give myself credit b/c conditions were a lot harder. It was raining, windy, choppy (luckily still w a current assis and comfortable water temp (mid 70s). There was talk of cancelation but b/c there was no thunder/lightning, they went ahead w the swim. My kayaker and I were of the same mind: if the swim was on, so were we. I tapped into the mindfulness that I'd practiced in my yoga classes. Since I couldn't change the weather, I resolved to enjoy it, even enjoy the ride provided by the waves, enjoy the rain, etc. (although as we neared the finish, I got into ARE WE THERE YET thinking). :)

My next swim will be a 5k+1 mile swim on 8/5 (2 events same day), then the same 8 miler I did last year (again, RD is a great guy...and my coach).

2 questions:

  1. Currents. ISO strategy for handling /preparing for swimming against currents. I participate in a series if half mile river races, out and back course. During one of them, it took me so long to reach the halfway point due to an unusually fast current, that I was told to turn around early. Obviously, I was disppointed in myself, b/c having done much longer swims, I thought surely I should be able to make a half mile! This past Wednesday, there was also a strong current, but I was able to finish despite having done the GSB swim the Friday before the shorter swim. (Who kniws, maybe the longer swim helped me!) Still, it was my slowest ever finish. And typically, facing currents pretty much quash my speed. Granted, one will go slower against a curgent than with, but if it's running faster in the 8 miler, I want to still improve on last year's swim.

So I'm thinking more upper body work, but any suggestions for in water training /technique would also help.

  1. Fluid consumption. After the bay swim, where I was eating /drinking every 20-30 minutes, alternating water, sports drink, and protein shakes from Trader Joe's (they've become a favorite go to), I noticed that the water bottle was still almost full. I always thought I was taking plenty of whatever my chosen drink was, so I was surprised there was so much water left. I felt pretty good most of the way, although as it became considerably choppier in the last half mile or so, the going felt harder. But I was still feeling pretty determined to finish.

My coach keeps telling me I need to drink more during long swims, but when I do, I feel too full, and bloated. I think I need to get more precise abut the amount of fluid I take in. Typically, I'll drink several sips and give the bottle back to the kayaker. At one point, a few years ago, my coach accompanied me on a practice swim. When I gavI'm back the bottle, he would return it to me and tell me to drink more. But if the kayaker doesn't insist, I'm just as glad. Is there an optimal amout of water a person should drink during a long swim? Am I perhaps just part camel? :) I come from a running background, so I'm used to grabbing a few sips at water stations and moving on, so that mind set is likely still at work w swimming, although w swimming, the water stops are not as frequent, and I would think the energy expended much greater.

Okay, I've rambled on enough. Grateful for any feedback and thanks for reading this far!


  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    For a strong current I liked to get as close to shore/bank as possible (if possible). The current isn't as strong there.

    I drank about 8 oz every 12 minutes (for most races). The key is that you need to be peeing (sorry for the crudeness). That lets you know that you're hydrated. Especially important if you're in hot water. Dehydration was my Kryptonite. I knew I was in deep trouble if I wasn't "going". I fed every 15 minutes in the English Channel and felt like I was going the entire time. At USMS 25K Nationals in 2008 in Indiana, the water was over 80 degrees. I fed every 12 minutes and didn't go until the next day. I was in trouble and probably should have visited the ambulance after the swim.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Thanks, helpful info! Based on what you said, I was well hydrated for the 8 miler last year. My coach was pushing every 15 minutes, which felt like more often than I wanted to feed. I'm slow as it is, and it takes time to get into a rhythm. But the more frequent feeds might help me maintain energy over a longer time.

    Will keep in mind your suggestion about staying more to the side. Interestingly, in my last upriver swim, it seemed as if I would move faster when I focused more on body rotation. But I had to work on keeping that focus.

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    One more thing about feeds. I'm a fan of early and often. You can always adjust your feeds and have them further apart if your hydration and "dehydration" are working well together. No one says that you need to take the feed or drink it all.

    If your not peeing on your schedule it's already too late. Shortening the spacing of feeds may not help.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Yes, peeing is a good thing and shows you're hydrated, although silly as it sounds, I find I have to stop swimming to start peeing, yet another interruption--once I start, I can continue swimming....another skill to work on along with hand entry! :)

    As for swimming against currents, I'm betting it'll be more of a challenge this year. There's been a lot of rain this summer, and I've already experienced what that does to the river. There's an upstream section 4 miles long. Fortunately, we start downstream 2 miles before turning upstream, and then the last 2 miles are downstream. Momentum is a beautiful thing! :)

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    I'm signed up for the same 8 miler as last year, which I finished quite slowly w a lot slower currents than we've been getting this year. Must admit, concerning. But a chance to learn too. My coach says "consider it another challenge." Oooookaaaay. ....

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