doing a "rehearsal swim" for a Channel swim - good idea?
I have a Channel slot September next year. I have an idea of doing a "rehearsal swim" February next year to see if I'm ready to swim the Channel before I embark on my travel plan.
The rehearsal swim, done not far from my home town (1 hour drive), will feature the following:
1. with significant portion in the open sea using motor support, using a boat as similar as possible to the pilot boat I've booked.
2. in tidal water that the swim is needed to time with the tide
3. start at night and finish in the day, as in most English Channel swims
4. with expected temperature 15 - 18°C, same as a Channel swim
5. using the same planned crew as in the Channel swim
6. with an observer who can write me a report to be submitted as an MSF documented swim, and I'll use the report to further refine my training and bring to the EC pilot for reference
7. about 22 - 25 km in length, about 2/3 - 3/4 of the Channel width
8. in case the temperature meets the qualification criteria, to be submitted as the qualification swim
Did anyone here do such "rehearsal swims" similar to the above description before travelling to the UK for your Channel swim, in order to see if you are ready to do a Channel swim? My friends mostly suggest me to do "training camps" to prepare for my channel swim, however there are no such things in my region, and I don't want to end up in the UK if I'm not ready yet. Therefore I come up with such idea. Is this idea good enough and is the length appropriate? Is February a good time to do this for a September attempt?
There are pro's and cons for such a swim. The main con for me would be, what would the mental effect be on you if it all went very badly? How would you handle that, and would it always be in the back of your mind as you do the real swim. Adressing some of your points:
1. the boat doesn't really matter to you, as long as you can see it. You won't be in it. It is good practice to swim along side a boat and practice feeding from the boat.
2. swimming in tide or not doesnt really matter to the swimmer, all you do is follow the boat. You pay the pilot to navigate, so let them do that. All you have to do is keep swimming. You won't be able to judge your speed
3. doing a few night swims is a good idea, you need to get used to being in the dark and bumping into things in the water.
4. I'd try and swim/train in slightly colder water. Then when you get to Dover the warm water will seem like a blessing.
5. having a trained crew is invaluable. They need to know you, what to do and you need to tell them what you want (beforehand). However, there are lots of experienced swimmers in the UK that can and do crew for visiting swimmers. It may be a cheaper option.
8. you only need a 6 hr qualifying swim, so no point in doing a longer one if your goal is to only qualify.
Training camps are a good thing, you get to swim lots and meet lots of other long distance swimmers. There's not many of us out there, so it's good to meet and be friends with them. Be a sponge and absorb as much as you can.
Personally, I wouldnt do a big swim in the months coming up to a channel attempt, you don't really know if you may end up injured after it and how long it will take you to recover, even if uninjured. I would be a fan of back to back swims, i.e. doing a 6 hr swim on saturday, and another one on sunday.
I did Catalina the year before my channel swim but didn't do a swim over 8 hours in the same year as my channel slot. This was mostly for the same mental reason mentioned above; I was confident in my training and didn't want to find an opportunity to doubt myself.
I did the same distance as EC, to test my feeding strategy and just generally to see if I could do it, but I did it the year before, in fresh water, so I didn't have to deal with anything other than swimming and feeding. I didn't have the same crew or the same boat and the water was a degree colder than my Channel swim. It did give me confidence, but I was glad I'd done it a year earlier so I could iron out anything which didn''t work.
In my Channel year, I did two consecutive weekends of 7hours/6 hours..... followed by distance camp. I played for the four weeks leading up to it, nothing more than 3-4 hours and barely anything in the 2 weeks before. You have to do what feels right for you, Michael. You'll get 100 different ways of preparing from 100 different people.
My goal is to know if I'm really ready or not. If it goes bad I will not go to the UK and swim the channel that year. I don't want my swimming career to end because of a channel swim which goes bad.
And due to geographical reason, 15 - 18°C is the coldest I can get without travelling, in February.
You were experienced enough by swimming Catalina. And you were lucky enough to have an established channel swim right next to your home town. I'll not have this thread if I live in Kent instead.
@miklcct I think it’s a great idea. It will help you know what you need to work on from first hand experience, rather than speculation. Also, it will be an epic swim in its own right. I saw your video from the Hong Kong swim you observed—so awesome. Doing a swim there is an opportunity to pioneer a new route, and a “first” is something you will always have. Other people will see what you’re doing and be inspired. You’ll be helping move the sport forward.
To answer your question directly: I’ve not swum the EC, but did Catalina, Tahoe and a 26 miler just 12 miles from my house. Each swim I’ve done has basically been a rehearsal swim for the next. You learn so much by doing.
It’s so far in advance of your EC date that even if it messes with your head, you can get over it by September, or if it’s really bad you can choose to save your money and postpone until you are better prepared. Either way, you’ll have had an amazing swim in your local waters.
In a word..... yes.
It looks like this “practice” swim is designed to address as many variables as possible. I would add one more: if it’s safe to do so, spend time swimming both port and starboard.
...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
If I could add to that point a bit. This is also a good reason to practice your bilateral breathing. Being able to see your guide no matter which side they are on is pretty useful. Sometimes I drill just breathing on my "bad" side. When things aren't going your way, it's helpful to know that you can breathe without getting a mouthful of water just because the wind is blowing the wrong way.
Regarding a rehearsal swim. "As you practice, so shall you perform..."
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. But, I do agree with not doing things that too closely simulate the actual swim for mental reasons. Just make sure you are good to go with with the basics of the swim. You can't plan for the unknown, however. Be ready to adapt.
I agree with all.....
I look at rehearsal swims/events like this:
I try to find swims that will have high likelihood for the possible conditions for a channel swim. Those might be training events in the lake, fresh water events, or salt-water events. This year I had several events that were going to check off several items on my list, but............ COVID.
Sea water? partial check -- recreational swimming only, no extended time.
LOTS of sun? check.
Tide vs. current..... so far, one brief experience, so that one's still on my list.
Swimming on both sides of craft, and bilateral breathing..... check.
cold water + sunny day? check.
cold water + cloudy day? check.
dealing w/ chaffing? partial check (only minimal experience, so nothing concrete and nothing that I can count on)
desitin? check. (lesson learned: don't forget the face!)
Still on my list:
Swimming in the dark and accompanying "lit" aspects (light sticks, swimmer lights, etc.)
extended sea swimming
sea swimming in waves/strong conditions
Swimming off a large craft vs. kayak
extended cold water swim (previous longest cold swim = 90 min...... gradually extend this into multiple hours)
Then, once I have training opportunities with each of the major conditions.... I try to find an event that will likely put them all together, to see how everything operates as a group. It's not a perfect science, but so far, has worked for me.
How do you define "too close"? And what's wrong to do such a swim? I'm planning my rehearsal swim that, apart from the distance, to simulate the actual swim as much as possible.
In regard to bilateral breathing, I think I may be a bit faster on my unusual side but yet to confirm. However I haven't get used to sighting on my unusual side, so I currently only switch side in a pack swim in races.
If you read all the responses, it's the same as several of us have said, not just me. It COULD be a bad idea to do a swim that is exactly, or too similar to what you are training for if it is a big deal, first time swim. Part of the excitement is getting it done, and if you have already done it, or failed when trying to do it, it could have a negative psychological effect the day of the actual swim. Nobody said your training shouldn't be similar to what it is you are training for. In fact, the exact opposite. You tend to ask for advice and then be argumentative sometimes. All the best.
I will never do tthat swim!
All the thrill is gone!
My opinion and maybe....b.b king!)))
If i train good enought i will be ready fot adventure!
Will feel confident!
If i swim samthing 80% same.Why to go for the same!
I will looking for surprise.samthing hard and new!
Confident is personal feeling!
Ok i will save money.time power and mood for real big challenge! UNKNOWN!!!
repeat my opinion!
All the best!
As a bit of an update......
I had my first cold (57 degrees F) sea water swim experience this past week.
60 minutes. Indeed, the sea water "felt" about the same as my low 60s fresh water in the lake.
So, I've got another line of my "conditions in which to swim" list that I can cross off.
1. UNLIKE the lake, it's much yukkier to accidentally get bay water (Mobile Bay, in South Alabama, USA) in your mouth -- do NOT swallow bay water.
2. I have a reasonably accessible location to do an EC qualifying swim. The bay gets cold enough, yes, I have to wait until December, but it does.... that I could complete that swim there. And, I have a really good friend who will let me stay at her house!
Question about that, though...... Is there a time limit for when you must do the qualifying swim? If you have a summer slot, could you do your qualifying swim the previous winter if needed? Or, does it need to be closer to your targeted splash date?
Other than that, the experiment was pretty successful. My lungs never felt that burning sensation that they've gotten in the past just before I'm totally warmed up. My teeth didn't get too cold. I was able to get dressed on my own, and I didn't shiver once I was dressed. My paddler had the car REALLY warm for me to get in, and that helped me a ton as we drove home. Now, I can make a calendar for extending my swim time in cold sea water.
You can do it within the year (up to 2 weeks) before yout channel swim. That's my plan is well. I also have to wait until February as well. It gets cold enough (15°C - 16°C) in some years. In colder years there may be half a month when I can do it, but in warmer month there may be none.
The qualifying swim should not be treated as a one-and-done situation but rather a benchmark to revisit periodically in any channel training season.
...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
I didn't fully understand. @david_barra , could you please elaborate? Do you mean repeat within the season, or repeat every season in similar conditions for comparison?
It was really a general statement suggesting that the qualifying swim guidelines shouldn’t be viewed exclusively as obligatory but rather embraced as a good training recommendation.
...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
How would you interpret this for someone who's living in an environment where doing qualifying swims as a periodic benchmark is not possible? For example, someone living in a climate where the temperature only reaches the qualification criteria on average 2 days per year, or worse, someone living in Singapore where it is hot year round and requires overseas travel to do the qualification?
I agree..... it's a great "seasonal benchmark" in my opinion that can be used as an annual training event, possibly as a substitute event (like I had to do this year due to COVID cancellations).
For those of us who don't live near consistently cold water, it's a great way to also be a "bridge event" to get through the winter season of a lack of formal events, as well.
I was excited to see that it's possible for me to do it without having to purchase a plane ticket!
Now, I can plan on it happening more regularly, and get practice with the logistics of it to knock off the jitters of that aspect of longer swims.
I can now choose between fresh/salt water for cold swims..... yay! Granted, only a few weeks a year, but that's better than nothin'! And, I can make the rest of the year work.
(On the other hand, I also get GREAT practice at warm water acclimation, as well. I frame that as "being prepared for whatever conditions an event/race day throws at me.)
I don’t believe a 6 hour swim at temperature in January is sufficient preparation for a 12+++ hour swim in August.
...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
@Sara_Wolf I did my 6 hour on Christmas day the December before my August channel swim because we could not be sure of finding sub 60 water in SoCal in the summer. I did however train consistently in 60-65 water that whole summer.
I also did my qualifier in the middle of my college season, but without much acclimatization because I had to fit it in during winter vacation.
Let's say the channel qualification is 16°C. Do you think that a 10-hour swim at the qualification temperature, in addition to a bunch of 6-8 hour swim at about 18-20°C are sufficient preparation for a channel swim in August which may take me 15+ hours? Will doing those 6-8 hour swims at 18-20°C in early winter prepare me well for doing a 10-hour "rehearsal swim" in February when it reaches 16°C?
No one can tell you exactly what will work for you. My concern about your plan is that I am not sure how you will maintain the cold acclimatization/training if your only cold swimming is in dec/jan/feb and then your swim is in august.
I did my qualifier in december, didn't swim any open water til late may but from may until august I swam in water ranging 60-68.
Yeah....... The trouble with training in cold water for me through the spring and summer is that we just don't have it close to where I live. I'm much more likely to get heat acclimated. BUT, that means that I can consistently swim all year round.... because the water does get cold, but never freezes, in the winter. As long as I can keep my paddlers warm, they're willing to go with me all year round, too. They are troopers, for sure!
So, I'd likely need to establish the cold acclimation in the winter, maybe wrap up the winter with a looong cold swim, then work to keep acclimation through travelling to events in the spring/summer. It's not ideal, but it's what I have. Then, I'd plan on getting across the pond for a good deal of time, to reestablish some comfort once I'm there and getting time-oriented as well.
I will say that getting acclimated this year took less time than it did last year (my first). So, hopefully, each year will be a smoother process.
@Sara_Wolf you do what you can. Another thing that really helped me was arriving in Dover 2 weeks early to acclimatize there.
I think this is an important part of any training regimen. Each time you do a startup and head into your season, you are building on the previous efforts. You start to know what to expect. You know how things feel. You know what is going to be happening. So it gets easier.
It's like when you drive to some place you've never been before, it always seems like it is a long way. The next time you drive there it seems shorter because now you know some of the land marks. Eventually you get there without even thinking about it and you wonder how you got there so quick.
For EC few days befor ( for acclimatiz) are enaught!
The most important is place.not swim!)
If i have someday luck swim around Bora bora or LP in Rio i will planing 2 or3 weeks for acclimatiz and one week after swim...party!)))
All the best to all and health!