Support for LONG Training Swims?

KatieKatie Charlotte, NCMember

OK gang, benchmarking question here!
I have some big training swims (4, 6, 8 and 10-hour) on my calendar this summer in preparation for a Catalina attempt in August. Some of the swims I'll manage via OWS events locally, but for the 8hr one, I'm on my own to come up with how to best execute.
For your long training swims, how do you coordinate feed support- do you have a paddler with you the entire time? A boat escort? A combination of the two?
Inquiring swimming minds want to know! That, and my husband is wondering if he needs to start getting into rowing shape now....



  • abbygirlroseabbygirlrose Chicago, IL (Los Angeles, CA)Member

    My training partners and I mainly use 2 strategies for our long training swims. For the season leading up my first channel swim (Catalina) we mainly relied on hired and volunteer kayak support for our longest swims (5+ hour), partly because I needed practice kayak feeding and partly for safety and comfort. For swims shorter than 5 hours and also more recently when support isn't available, we usually set up out-and-back loops that take about and hour and just briefly exit the water to feed.

  • I bribed a friend who enjoyed kayaking to escort me.....bonus that she's my master's swim coach too, so she knew my strokes. She helped identify when the heat was getting to me, and adjusted my feed schedules accordingly. Her "going price" was lunch at Red Robin. :)

  • I always have a support vehicle with me any time I do an away from shore swim that is of any significant distance. I think it is just common sense for safety, and comfort and coordination with your pilot (feeding, sighting, hand signals, etc.). I am lucky to have several family members and a friend who are willing to do this with me. I just have to make sure not to go to the same person too often, before asking again. ;) Ideally, I would think that a support "boat" and kayaker should be used for anything over five or six hours, or taking you WELL away from land in case your kayaker has any physical issues, or in case there are any major turns in the weather. The last time I did Lake Geneva (Wisconsin, eight miles) it was foggy and drizzling and I was stubborn and did it anyway with only my daughter piloting for me in a kayak. Visibility got so bad that we lost all horizon completely, and we needed to rely solely on GPS to make it across. In hindsight, that was a BAD idea, and the next time I will make sure to have an actual boat alongside as well. When fun and competition becomes treacherous, I think it crosses a line.....personally.

  • Kate_AlexanderKate_Alexander Spring Lake, MichiganMember

    Kayak or boat support is great if you have it, but you can also do long swims without. I tied a floating drinks cooler (like this one - to a buoy just offshore, and loaded it with feeds. I swam loops of 2 to 5k and wore a SaferSwimmer H2O model (this one -!/SALE-SaferSwimmer™-H20/p/45294671/category=11660470) towing 2 bottles of feed and other gear I wanted, like mouth wash. Then reloaded the SaferSwimmer from the drinks cooler as needed. This worked well enough for a series of 15k training swims. Fortunately, the recreational swimmers and snorkelers didn’t bother the drinks cooler (CarboPro doesn’t appeal to everybody, I guess). Plus, towing the SaferSwimmer is great training!

  • MvGMvG Islamabad, PakistanCharter Member

    This may sound like heresy on this forum and is certainly boring, but why not do your 6, 8 or 10-hour swim in an outdoor pool? So much easier in term of logistics!

  • KatieKatie Charlotte, NCMember

    @MvG said:
    This may sound like heresy on this forum and is certainly boring, but why not do your 6, 8 or 10-hour swim in an outdoor pool? So much easier in term of logistics!

    Need the open water swim time given my weekday swims will be (in large part) in a pool.

  • KatieKatie Charlotte, NCMember

    Thanks for the advice everyone! I think my husband is facing the reality that I've asked him to be in a kayak for 8 or 10 hours and is concerned about his paddling capabilities, and thus ability to fully support the training swims. Totally understand his point of view given the longest he's paddled for me is a 10k. Sounds like I may have to start asking around my masters team to see who has, and is willing, to potentially boat alongside me or do paddling shifts.

    I like the looping idea because it gives a great way to check in and take breaks throughout the swim.

    And @MLamby, it's all about the safety regardless of how close or far away from shore we are. My closest open water access is technically a 'no swimming' zone, but us swimmers have worked out an agreement with the boaters to stay closer to shore if they promise not to run us over. Works most of the time, but every so often we get aggressive boaters that get a kick out of buzzing us. Keeps it interesting, I guess.

  • abbygirlroseabbygirlrose Chicago, IL (Los Angeles, CA)Member

    One other thing i forgot to add, one time when we did an 8 hour swim, we were able to recruit 2 paddlers; one for the first 4 hours and one for the last 4 hours. This works well in our area because we do laps.

  • KatieKatie Charlotte, NCMember

    @abbygirlrose, smart advice!!

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    I get to train in an artificial lake used for ski competitions. Have made friends with the skiers, and just leave a small pile of my stuff on one end of their dock. I self administer after every loop of 1.6k., so I am lucky to be able to train solo whenever is convenient. Part of marathon swimming, for me, is building the team around me that allows me to do what I love.

  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    we just did a support for a swimmer for 6 hours - she swam 1/2 hour loops in the ocean and i brought her feeds out to her. its low key, you don't need a lot of moving parts - its simple and works fine. If you want to come down to charleston i could help you out.

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