Is it okay to do a race like END-WET as a beginner? How do I deal with training complications?

jasmith831jasmith831 United StatesNew Member

Hello there, I am a beginner when it comes to open water swimming (I did some open water swimming when I was much more serious about competitive swimming, but I had no clue what I was doing) and I was sort of curious as to how crazy it would be to have your first long swim be the END-WET challenge in North Dakota. The race is held in June and it is 37 miles river assisted.

My swimming experience: I am currently 24 and I coach high school swimming in my local area. I swam for a Division II program for 3 years and my best race was the 1650 and 1500 (16:36 and 17:12 respectively). However, I understand that open water is significantly different. I swam a 5k when I was a competitive swimmer (with a tech suit and everything) and I think I remember going about a 1:12, maybe give or take a minute or two. All I remember of that experience was just an unfamiliarity with open water swimming. I didn't train for open water at all, my coach basically said, 'you are okay at distance swimming, lets make the distance longer'. I remember not being comfortable with no visibility and moving sideways a bunch.

I was out of the water for 2021 and 2022, I have been back in for 2023. I am in good shape now but not quite up to the standards I set in 2018-21. I swim about 10-15k a week currently in SCY pools as Fargo has no LCM pools in the winter. My plan would be to bring this up to about 30k.

Sorry for the long intro, but this leads me to a set of questions:

  1. In April/May, the Fargo LCM pool opens and I would immediately start using that. However, I will only get approximately a month of actual open water training as the water is usually too cold in ND/MN until mid-late May. Is six months of training where 60% of it is SCY, 30% is LCM, and 10% is open water enough?
  2. In your personal experience, is it feasible for someone with lots of swimming experience and little open water experience to train for a race of this magnitude?
  3. Would I buy the same kind of tech suit that I would buy for the 1650 when I swam? I had one that I liked that brought my hips right up to the surface, but I don't know if the suit would react differently to a different environment.

I am trying my best to not be an arrogant ex-swimmer thinking that they can take on open water like the snap of a finger, I understand it will be a challenge.



  • abbygirlroseabbygirlrose Los Angeles and Palo Alto, CASenior Member

    I will let others comment on the rest but I would personally hate wearing a techsuit for 8-16 hours (endwet took me 15). I know some people do but for me the (tiny) benefit would not outweigh the discomfort!

  • Openh2oOpenh2o Member
    edited December 2023

    Wish health and happy new year!

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    @jasmith831 Since nobody seems to want to answer this, I'll take a stab at it. From your times and experience, I'd say you are a pretty good swimmer in general. As you are aware, competitive pool swimming and open water swimming are two different animals. And as you also pointed out, in order to train for open water swimming in colder areas, you kind of have to do a lot of pool training. So those are all realities that you recognize.

    In my opinion, there are two areas that you will have to work on to be able to swim an event like this. First is conditioning and second is open water skills and acclimation. So let's look at each area.

    As a former competitive swimmer, you already know about how to work out and how to improve your conditioning. I'd definitely look over this site for conditioning tips and training regimens for longer distances. The biggest flag I see is your intent to work up to 30K yards in a week. In all honesty, that's not a whole lot of yardage for a 37 mile swim even if it's river assisted. You are looking at swimming a really full day, so you are going to need to pile on some yardage and time in water. It's a general rule of thumb that you can swim in a day what you can swim in a week. So realistically, you are going to want to double your weekly yardage goal.

    Doubling your yardage is not inconceivable. You can do solid workouts during the week and then do a couple long swims on the weekend. Big time commitment, but you are going to want to make sure you can paddle along for 10 hours or so. It's a long time. Going from knocking off 5K yards in a pool workout to 10 or more hours in a river is a pretty big jump, so you are going to need to diminish that jump to have any chance of success.

    Now, on to the open water skill portion of our lecture. Open water is so different than pool swimming that really the only similarity is that you are in water and it's wet. You have to have navigation skills. You have to feel and understand water movement. Heck, even wind affects your swimming environment. The temperature is going to be whatever it is, wherever it is. The terrain and changes in depth and breadth affect how and where you swim. Training in a pool is training in a controlled environment. The only unknown factor in pool swimming is the dope who jumps in your lane without warning and swims erratic breast stroke in the fast lane. But I digress. Point being, that you have to get some open water training going as soon as possible. Maybe even get a wetsuit so you can start your open water season early. You've got to get used to that environment.

    In conclusion. I'd say, at this point that it probably isn't the best idea to attempt this swim, based on what you have stated. But I also see no reason that you couldn't or shouldn't attempt it after you have stepped up your learning and training. That's the whole point of taking on challenges. They are hard to do and you get a great sense of accomplishment after the achievement. You are definitely biting off more than you can chew right now, but don't let that discourage you. Just figure out what you need to do and work your butt of to do it.

    Good luck and I hope we can read about your successful swim sometime in the future.

  • endracingendracing Grand Forks, NDMember

    Hi jasmith831, Beek from ENDracing here.

    I'm not a swimmer myself but have been around this race since the first one. I've seen a whole range of people finish this race, and although they all had some amount of swimming experience, more than a few had never done a shorter OWS before. Particularly in the early years, we had a number of locals who were just good multisport athletes and still made it through. I'm talking "load up some random food from the grocery store, throw it in the canoe, and swim 27 miles" type of nutrition, too.

    This isn't to discount the immense amount of planning and training that people go through for marathon swims! But depending on your abilities and determination (and the flow conditions, so some degree), you'll probably make it farther than you think you can. It will help if you can find a good friend who you can whine to and swear at to support paddle.

    So that's all to say: we'd be happy to have you up to race!

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    I was a dedicated pool guy and still did 90% of my training in the pool. The purpose of training in the open is to get the feeling of an uncontrolled environment along with longer stretches without stopping or being on the wall. It’s also a change for you to swim next to a kayaker and practice feeds. OW training will also let you try out your nutrition options and schedule.

    I drank an electrolyte mix every 12 minutes with a high carb one at the top of every hour. Training lets you weed out what works or doesn’t work for you.

    I traded my regular workouts geared to the 500-1000-1650 for time and distance. 6x1500, 10x1000, 5x2000 etc. Intervals were meaningless.

    Get your fitness from the pool and the feel by being in the open.

    I wore a LZR for a long race once and the zipper dug a hole in my neck. I went with a Speedo Legskin after that. Some guys like the full-tech experience. Me; not so much.

    Kick ass.


  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    @swimmer25k said:

    I traded my regular workouts geared to the 500-1000-1650 for time and distance. 6x1500, 10x1000, 5x2000 etc. Intervals were meaningless.

    I'd like to add one concept to the above training advice. When you do those long sets, it's kind of a neat idea to blast a 50 or even a 100 every so often. Two reasons for this. One, it's a really easy way to keep count of your yardage. Two, this is a great way to do an 20/80 HIIT/Active rest workout.

    There is actual theory behind doing a quick high effort followed by a longer active rest. Think, for example a 50 sprint followed by 200 all-day pace, repeated constantly for your 2000 swim. There's a whole lot of literature on this 80/20 concept and I'm no expert. (google 80/20 VO2 max and you will be buried with info.) Over the years I have incorporated some of these ideas into my workouts.

  • swimswam77swimswam77 USANew Member

    If you up your distance enough to 30-40 miles per week for a couple weeks and with your experience I think you would be fine swimming the END WET. @jasmith831

  • KagemushaKagemusha Honolulu Member
    1. Sure. OWS is great if its available for you, but you can succeed without it. End-Wet is about going steady not going fast. When you do your interval sets, pick a slower pace then your normal training zone and try to keep in that range. E.g. hold 1:22-1:25 for 50 100’s on 1:30. Try not to go any faster or slower than the 3-4 second sweet spot. I do agree with the above comment that intervals are largely meaningless, but we tend to use them for framework. If you really want to get mindless just get in the pool, note the time of day and then start swimming without counting laps or actively tracking the time. When you stop, note the time.
    2. Yes. It happens all the time.
    3. Wear your regular jammers or speedo.
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