Retch and Vomit

Dawn_TreaderDawn_Treader Member
edited December 2012 in Beginner Questions
As I pour over blogs and reports of EC crossings, accounts of vomiting keep "coming up". Puking is tough enough as it is, and I never did so without holding onto something. Thinking "Dear God, anything but this." How on earth do you manage this in the water- or worse choppy water or rolling waves? I can't imagine succeeding if I need to throw a pizza in the sea.

I'd like to know how you got through this if it happened to you. I know it sounds like a joke, but I think it would be the only thing that could really stop me besides the weather.


Sisu: a Finnish term meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.


  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    as per all bodily functions that may need to be employed in motion..... practice; practice; practice.
    i can pretty much hurl without breaking stroke. (an odd thing to be proud of, but stranger talents were certainly featured on the Ed Sullivan Show)

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    It's easier than it sounds. Just keep swimming and let it flow during your exhalation.
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    I barfed my heart out in the Mediterranean 10k a couple of months ago. Felt so weakened I had to get on the boat after 8k. It sucked, and the disappointment of not finishing made it worse.

    There's a thread about seasickness somewhere here, and several folks recommended powdered ginger.
  • ColmBreathnachColmBreathnach Charter Member
    A small bit of reflux following a burp that can be swallowed back down without breaking stroke, while uncomfortable and tastes yuck isn't a show stopper. I think we've all gone through this at some stage. A good decent hurl, or several hurls, spread over a period of the swim can be. I can only recount my experience with vomiting in the EC this summer.

    After hours of chop and an increasingly full bloated feeling, during my 5 hr feed, I just had to let it go. I couldn't swallow any more, so it just came up. 3 good heaves any under age drinker on a Saturday night would have been proud of. I just went on my back, curled up, crossed my arms over my stomach and let rip. I immediately felt better. I told the crew to give me just water as soon as they could and started swimming immediately. The water came within a minute. It stayed down and partly washed the vomit out of my mouth. I then asked for sugared water on the next feed at 5:30. It stayed down and tasted lovely by the way. I then asked for a maxim feed at 6 hours, it came straight back up. Again 3 good heaves that this time contained the food consumed per swim. So I had just vomited the 6 hours worth of feed and some pre swim nutrition too and was quite worried that I was on now running on empty and on the slippery slope to running out of steam which would end with me being pulled. I repeated the previous drink of plain water immediately followed by sugar water on the next feed. I then went on to maxim which stayed down and was fine for the remainder of the swim.

    During my training I never got sick so vomiting was a new experience for me. I don't know if there is any way to practice for this, certainly not one that any swimming pool would tolerate.

    So, no need to hold onto anything except your self, and you do feel great having gotten rid of the bloated feeling. For me the water plus sugared water worked as a means to get over it. Hope this helps.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Mem​ber
    I'm with Barra. The first time I vommed without breaking stroke I was as happy as a kid going potty by themselves the first time. :-) It won't always be such a discreet affair, but you certainly won't worry about it once it's happened the first time. It is generally easier than the type you experience with illness, where you lying on the bathroom floor, face pressed against the blessedly cool porcelain, as your eyeballs seek immediate ejection from your skull.

    Your kidneys and liver often can't process all the liquid carbs you are taking in, so emptying he stomach and restarting will usually make you fell better. You'll be uncomfortable for a while beforehand, maybe an hour or two, but fine afterwards.

    Word of warning: it can frighten unsuspecting crew!

  • I thought Retch and Vomit were two of Rupert's reindeer?
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    Your kidneys and liver often can't process all the liquid carbs you are taking in, so emptying he stomach and restarting will usually make you fell better.
    Better solution: less concentrated drink.
  • I did read the thread about nutrition and dumping it. But most of you addressed avoiding it, and not too much about getting through a bout. It helps to know that it is gentler than praying to the Porcelain God.I do know that artificial colors, and sweeteners line your stomach walls, also we bloat when we are low on electrolytes. I worked with ultra endurance athletes for 7 years and I helped them with their nutrition. But swimming is an entirely different matter. From your threads, and all the blogs I read like bed time stories, I think there is a combination of sea sickness, salt water, stomach shuts down etc. But I will keep the fake stuff out of my feeds, take electrolytes to help keep the organs going and cramps away. No nutrition is fool proof and I expect to face this at one point, and maybe I will be like Loneswimmer and feel proud if I just keep going. Thanks all for your feedback, and I wish you a merry Christmas from Switzerland.

    Sisu: a Finnish term meaning strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    I've not actually vomited during a swim (though I've definitely felt like it). I do have a friend who projectile vomited all the way across the English Channel. He had similar problems in training, so he was prepared for it. He also had cramps in his legs such that he was nearly swimming in the fetal position for a few hours. He made it to the other side, one stroke at a time. Another friend had an episode during his EC crossing where it was coming out BOTH ends. He made a nutrition change (he was lucky his boat captain had some Maxim on board) and he was fine after a while. I think it's just one of those things that you deal with as it comes. I was pretty sick to my stomach during my swim, and I just kept repeating that if I puked, I'd be fine, no big deal. Just keep re-hydrating.

    So, I just encourage you that, it happens, it's probably miserable, but it's conquerable, too. :-)
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    @ssthomas, your comment first sounded like your friend projectile vomited 22 miles across the EC!

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Member
    @IronMike- He pretty much did! Every 2-3 hours!
  • ZoeSadlerZoeSadler Charter Member
    Hi, I swam the EC in July 2012 and had great fun decorating the Separation Zone and the French shipping lane. The only time I had been sick while training during 2012 was when I was doing my 6 hour qualifier in Gozo - that was pretty much non-stop vomiting. I then managed all the Dover training sessions without being ill and also number of races, so I thought I was over the sickness (having taken Stugeron religiously and invested in earplugs since Gozo).

    Anyway, on the big day in July, all was fine until the 6 hour feed when I was given an electrolyte feed, then I swallowed a wave and according to my crew I then projectile vomited a mini chocolate roll and everything else in my stomach about 6 feet into the air! Quite impressive apparently. The sickness carried on for quite a while - at least 10 more incidents but I felt much better each time after getting it out. @ssthomas I am afraid there were also 4 incidents from the other end too - my apologies to anyone who swam after 23rd July.

    My feed chart went completely out the window, I didn't want any of my "treats" and the only solid food I would touch was tinned peaches.

    Anyway, I do laugh about it now. I actually find the whole thing hilariously funny.

    @Dawn_Treader asked how you get through it. I can only speak from my own experience.
    - You do feel a lot better once you've got it out.
    - I kept reminding myself that I was not actually "ill" - just suffering from having too much Maxim and saltwater in my system.
    - My crew saved my swim by dumping my feed strategy of Maxim every 30 minutes and changed it to hideously strong tea with fruit sugar added, and small doses of weakened Maxim. Apparently my face was full of disgust when they handed the first strong tea to me.
    - I kept reminding myself of something I was told in Gozo "It's only one day in your life".
    - I remembered that the pilot, crew and observer had seen it all before. I even got a big cheer from my pilot at one point!
    - It's surprisingly easy to be sick when floating in the sea. I never managed to do it without breaking stroke, but will learn that for next year.

    Interestingly, when I swam Windermere 5 weeks later, all I wanted to do was eat. I never felt sick, just absolutely ravenous and exhausted all of my own supplies and ended up eating the crew's food! A huge difference between swimming in salt water and a lake.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Mem​ber
    The difference between marathon swimming and (almost) all the other sports, is the extended time in the prone position, which slows digestion. I met two guys (both medical Doctors) who crawled a marathon on their hands and knees and both had the same problem (apart from banjaxed knees).

    We are evolved to use gravity to help us digest, similar to the way chickens use pebbles.

    @evmo It's not (for me anyway) about concentration. Winds and choppy water (Force 5 in the Channresult in swallowing small amounts of salt water which wouldn't normally happen, this is a partial cause.

  • Loneswimmer sounds like he's onto something. Stomach emptying is aided a lot by gravity and the problems described above sound like one of the issues is bloating. How much have folks experimented with the lower limits of taking on bulk? In the marathons that I've run, I've found that within limits the less I take in the better as far as comfortable completion, though not for time. If completion rather than time is one's goal for long distance swim, what's the balance between retch and bonk?
  • MikeHMikeH Member
    From a digestion standpoint, open water swimming is a tricky proposition. There are generally accepted (well, mostly accepted) guidelines for how much an athlete can digest & process while on dry land and running, cycling, etc. but I think OWS is still in its infancy on this issue. And I personally believe that's due in part to the issue of salt water ingestion for sea swimming. There's a lot of knowledge in the community, definitely, but I have heard a ton of comments about toughing it out, how throwing up is expected, put your head down and power through it, etc. through the years. And, to make matters more complicated, many times the 'science' of sports nutrition doesn't work that well in OWS...there are lots of bad practices are used very successfully in OWS. I think the bottom line is to learn the science of nutrition, simple vs. complex sugars, electrolytes and water balance in the body, stomach processing limits...and then test it relentlessly until you can combine the science and your own body's reactions in a seamless way that works for you.
  • allanl16allanl16 Miami, FloridaMember

    evmo said:
    loneswimmer" said:Your kidneys and liver often can't process all the liquid carbs you are taking in, so emptying he stomach and restarting will usually make you fell better.

    Better solution: less concentrated drink.

    Sorry to bump this older post but this seems to be a huge factor for me. I was running late for my time trial last weekend and dumped a massive scoop into the bottle in between my handle bars. As soon as I took the first sip I knew I had messed up and on the last lap my attractive projectile vomit had drained my stomach clean. I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened hehe

  • Tracy_ClarkTracy_Clark Norwich, United Kingdom (from Auckland, New Zealand)Member

    I threw up from 3.5 hours on my English and Catalina Channel swims. Lost 7kgs in the EC and 5kgs in the CC. I can now swim and vomit at the same time....what a girl !! The best advice I can give us if you're constantly feeling nauseous...fill your head with positives. I say my sons names in beat with my stroke and this takes my mind off feeling sorry for myself. Have a back up feed plan. My go to is flat full sugar coke. It's the only time I drink it. In the Catalina Channel I turned it into a joke....yelling chum in the water each time I threw up...that's if I stopped to do it. Keep remembering if it does's not enough of a reason to give up on your goal....tomorrow you'll feel great!!! Good luck!!!

  • Tracy_ClarkTracy_Clark Norwich, United Kingdom (from Auckland, New Zealand)Member

    Just realised it's an older post...advice remains the same ha!!!

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