That is by far the most frequent question people have when they learn that I’m planning to swim 27km in the ocean this June.
Short answer: no, I’m not crazy. Or at least not more so than anyone who has done an Ironman for no good reason other than to say they did it. In the end, a 27km swim is about nine hours, about same as a good Ironman.
This is another very frequent question. No short answer – there are multiple reasons. First, I do it to bring attention to my fundraiser for the Red Cross (see more at I Swim – You Donate fundraiser or in my post from May 22 2017). Of course, going out for a regular swim does not catch people’s attention or gets them to part with their money even if it is for a good cause such as Red Cross’ Emergency Relief projects… but 10, 15! 27km? In the ocean!? Yes, that is more impressive, and I am grateful to have raised almost 1,500 EUR to date (all of it goes directly to the Red Cross).
As a bonus, training for these long distance events keeps me fit. My regular training throughout the year involves 25km weekly (4km daily and a bit extra on weekends). This distance is the right balance between maintaining a good base, and time commitment (ca. 15 hours per week, incl. biking to the pool). However, this is not enough preparation for the very long events. As a rule of thumb, the week prior to the week of the event, I’ll aim to swim 2.5 to 3 times the distance of the event, with one of the days peaking at ca. 80% the event distance. For example, the week before I swim the 27km event on June 16, I’ll need to swim at least 67km between June 4 and June 10, and ca. 20km on Saturday June 9. This translates into an overall time commitment of ca. 24 hours (17 hours in the water)…. I might need vacation just for training and resting 🙂
Another benefit: I can eat whatever I want, as much as I want, without gaining weight. Not only is swimming an excellent cardiovascular exercise, it also burns through calories like you would not believe. I’ve found that swimming continuously for one hour before breakfast gets rid of fat fast. The ‘before breakfast’ part is important: swimming before breakfast, say from 7:00 to 8:00 am, means that your body does not yet have any carbohydrate reserves (that toast with marmalade and coffee with sugar) to burn through, so it burns through the fuel it has in storage, i.e. fat, instead.
One of the best benefits for me however, is that swimming acts as an antidote for nicotine. I’m not sure why or how this happens – I suspect it has to do with the dopamine levels after a good work out. I just know that it worked for me. I quit cold turkey the same day I started swimming after a decade-long hiatus. Yes, I used to smoke almost one pack per day for about a decade. Then one day, I went swimming, and four months later I swum a 14km event in Lake Orta, near Lake Cuomo. At the time, that was my longest non-stop swim ever (I had swam more than that on a daily basis while competing in university, but that included morning and afternoon sessions). Then, in October last year, I beat that distance with a 17.5km island-to-island swim (5 hours 18 minutes) between Lanzatore and Fuerteventura.
The many benefits of swimming can be summarized as: it’s good for you, and, through a Red Cross fundraising project, it’s also good for the victims of natural or human-caused disasters, who benefit from the Red Cross Emergency Relief projects. That’s a win-win if I ever saw one.
Quick Update: although I have not been writing much lately, I have continued to swim in preparation for this season’s planned events. The first one is happening this Sunday, April 15: Travesía Santa Faz, a 9km swim in Alicante, Spain – finishing at San Juan beach.
Quick Reminder: I do this for the Red Cross Energency Relief projects. Please remember to check out my fundraising page on the Better Place platform (I Swim – You Donate fundraiser) or follow me on Facebook (@apmarathonswims). While there, please consider making a small contribution.