Variables

Over the past few years, the first proper long pool swim of the winter usually turns out to be tougher than expected, and almost always with some discovery or other, though I’ve long been of the opinion that every single long swim teaches you something, even if that is only a re-affirmation of the difficulty, or your own strengths and weaknesses.

I did a 5+ hour swim over the weekend in the Watershed in Kilkenny, my favourite pool (for the size, lane control, low-chlorine and low temperature and not least the professionalism of its staff and management).

Watershed-resized

On last year’s first (and a couple of subsequent) long swim I discovered a muscle issue, never previously present, that only manifested once I was swimming longer than three hours. That took about four or five massage sessions to fix and it has returned this autumn when I’m walking and standing around.  So for the part week I’ve been spending ten minutes a day lying on a tennis ball to get at it. And that seemed to work because it never flared up during the session nor required a painkiller to alleviate like last year. Variable. Lesson learnt.

Alan Clack shipped a rather surprising amount of feedstuffs over for his English Channel;s wim. Some was used, some was left in Varne Ridge for this year’s Malaysian swimmers. And some remained in my house , amongst which is a tub of Maxim Electrolyte (not Maxim CarboLoader). I thought I’d give it a go for the long pool session, that’s the best place to do a new feed test. It is a Lemon and Lime flavour, which I usually like in most things, with only 100 Calories per 750ml. I took three pre-mixed bottles and I really didn’t like the taste. I finished two bottles and couldn’t face the third swapping back to water. At three and a half hours, I started to feel nauseous and it continued until the end, and during the second half of the session, I’d been borderline cramping a few times. (You swimmers will know the feeling of feeling those muscles in your feet or calves just about to cramp, but not quite). I can’t be sure the nausea and the Maxim Electrolyte are related but I think that’s the end of the road with maxim Electrolyte and I, and I’ll revert to Zyn zero-carb electrolyte. Variable. Potential lesson learned.

When you are testing a simple system for improvement or decline, the easiest way is to change one parameter at a time. For complex systems this may not be possible, as the variable parameters may be interacting with each other non-linearly. So for measurable complex systems mathematical models like Four-Corner Testing have been devised. But a human has too many analogue variables even for this. You can’t be certain what the cause of most things is beyond reasonable doubt. Correlation does not equal causation, as it is said.

Three weeks ago I changed my diet for a while for the start of winter weight drop. I removed all gluten and starch (essentially eliminating grains and potatoes) and confectionery and dropped almost four kilos in that time. So I’ve been on a lighter G.I. diet going into the swim, except for a bowl of porridge in the morning. Could the diet also have been contributory to the nausea with the Maxim Electrolyte? Variable. Unknown.

What I did discover, is that my usual slump between three and four hours as I transitioned to ketosis never arose. I drank half a bottle of Hammer Carbo Pro, the very last of Alan’s Hammer from 2011 distance Camp. And the two 650 ml bottles of Maxim Electrolyte, for a total of about 350 calories. And… my swim times seemed to stay ok. Though to be completely honest I was never pushing myself, and took it easy in the first hour. Actual weight loss, first time I ever measured it pre- and post a pool swim was 600 grams. That lack of a perceived slump though, that’s interesting. There has previously been discussion of low-carbohydrate diet on dailynewsofopenwaterswimming.com. While the science was interesting, my problem with it is trying to use where the water is always cold and bioprene is required. I can drop some weight during winter training  but should I continue the dietary change I would lose all the requisite fat that I need to protect me from cold, as acclimatization by itself is not sufficient. Variable. Unknown.

So another long pool swim, more things to ponder, maybe even something learnt.

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3 thoughts on “Variables”

  1. Very interesting post, Donal. I must admit that I started on High5 (as it was what Ned suggested) and it seemed to work first time, so I stuck to that. I might start experimenting with less volume and higher frequency and breaking it up with some electrolytes. The pool in Kilkenny looks great! I will definitely join you for a session there some day soon…

  2. Nice post… I have 2 questions here… 1)I would be interested to see how you broke the 5 hour swim down. Did you do set’s or was it one long swim? 2)On the low-carb and feeding. Have you heard of/tried Ucan Superstarch? I heard about it while doing research on the low carb side of things and it has become quite popular with endurance runners. I haven’t tried it as they don’t have a UK supplier yet, but I’m sure they would send you a sample…

    1. HI David. Thanks. I broke it down into sets:
      3 x 1000 swim, 20 x 200 paddles/pull{as 5x power,5x finger,10x normal}, 2 x 1500 swim, 20 x 100 swim,3 x 500 kick fins 1: R/S,L/S – 2: Back – 3: R/S, L/S, Back, Belly, 2x 500 f/c, b/c

      Did a 5 hour 2 nights ago though and did 100s up to about 12 k , then switched to 200s and 1k pyramid. I never do straight swims in the pool above about 5k (though I will do repeat 1000s, all for time, sometimes)

      I’ve also read about UCan, but as you say, haven’t come across it.

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