I split what was originally a single list, because well, if you are writing every week for over four and half years, you need to make your ideas count. Also, I found that the original draft just kept growing and likely will continue to so do, so this will easily allow me to add another part at some point in the future. (Which is already started).
No food in the world tastes as good as [Dooley's fish n' chips in Tramore] after a marathon swim. This works for your preferred location and fast food.
The water is always rougher than it looks and the wind is always higher.
But it was better yesterday.
Chocolate, coffee and porridge is practically a balanced diet.
Nothing is better than porridge, (even if you hate it).
Every marathon swimmer should crew at least once in their life to appreciate how essential the role of crew is to our swimming.
It’s not the length of the war swim, but the depth of the foxhole pain of the training and who you share it with that counts.
Marathon swimming is exactly like childbirth. You don’t know exactly when it’ll start, how long it’s going to go on for, or how much pain will be involved. You may also beg for drugs and try to punch someone. And it’s all forgotten mere minutes after the event is over. I make this comparison with absolute male certainty.
You have never farted like you have farted after six hours or more of liquid maltodextrin feeds.
The patch of warm water that embraces you, punishes you worse when you leave it. So it’s not entirely unlike divorce.
The way a marathon swimmer looks after six hours in sub-ten or eleven degree water is good evidence of the evolutionary link between humans and apes.
The way a marathon swimmer looks after 14 hours or more in salt water is good evidence of the close link between humans and whales.
All Carb/maltodextrin costs twice as much as you think after you have thrown out all the prepared but unused feeds.
When forced to poop while in the sea, make sure the wind and tide are going in the opposite direction you are and that there’s no-one behind you.
No swim ever goes 100% to plan. Ever.
The people who ask “why” will never understand your answer. The people who understand, will never ask.
There’s a discussion thread on the marathonswimmers.org forum called Tips and Tricks and I’ve been writing my How To articles for a few years. But here’s a list of brief random items I’ve learned that I threw together, which individually are too short for articles (right now anyway, who knows what’ll be possible mid-winter when I’m out of ideas). I’m pretty certain every other swimmer would have their own additions. More to come in the next article.
Never eat a curry the night before a marathon swim. No details are necessary.
It’s always all about the weather.
And the waiting. Never forget the waiting.
You can always pick a marathon swimmer out of a crowd based purely on their facial tan.
Never eat a banana on a boat in rough weather.
Seagulls are evil bastards. Their mimic all the things of most importance to marathon swimmers, such as other swimmers, boats, kayakers, dolphins and lighthouses, just to piss you off. If this is insufficient, some of them will try to vomit or crap directly on you.
Nothing is predictable in open water and marathon swimming.
You never feel as physically dirty as you do after a marathon swim. You never enjoy any shower as much as the subsequent cleansing.
When in doubt, add more food.
A bad or tough swim is more personally rewarding than a good or fast swim.
While in the long-term sleep is essential, in the short-term it’s less vital that you’d imagine.
There are people I’ve spent many hours with, whom I wouldn’t recognise without a swim cap and goggles. And visa versa.
Don’t believe that all the ones who do the most marathon swims are necessarily better. They sometimes just have more money. Like everything else in life.
Never go out on a boat without foul weather gear, regardless of forecast.
Just because you are paying someone two and a half grand for a day’s work, doesn’t mean they will treat you with respect.
No pilot is God, nor are pilots all of equal ability.
There’s more than one way of feeding, and more than one type of food.
(This is a repost and update, due to a resurgence in interest in this post. As it’s a few years since the original post, I’ve played with other variations of ingredients since.)
Swimming generally and open water swimming especially is a sport of high energy demand. Many swimmers struggle to keep weight stable let alone increase it. The demands of cold water training are extraordinary and can project an average person’s appetite into the realms normally associated with power lifters and Olympian swimmers.
A favourite of endurance athletes of all disciplines for its slow release of energy, porridge (oats) is the quintessential breakfast to fuel any high energy effort.
Though I dislike it, I can force myself to eat it. I think the only time I’ve ever enjoyed it was in the middle of the night of the 24 hour swim.
One solution was a homemade Oat, honey or syrup & peanut butter bar, which is very useful for a travelling breakfast or high carb snack, and has some real advantages, high carbs since it’s also made from oats and protein. With honey as a binder.
I played around some more and hit on the Swimming Smoothie. I’ve actually been eating this for about two years, and completely forgot to mention it.
This makes a really quick and tasty meal, whether breakfast or otherwise. It contains plenty of slow release calories from oats, but also has quicker release carbs from berries and juice, with protein for better carbohydrate metabolisation.
Apple juice or milk* (grape juice may need to be avoided**)
Low fat natural yoghurt
Small banana or pineapple (optional)
Berries including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries (frozen berries work fine and have the advantage of cooling the smoothie).
Half mug of uncooked porridge flakes (oats). (That’s about the amount you’d use to make a bowl of porridge. You won’t even taste them in the smoothie).
Depending on mood, requirement and what’s in the fridge, I might add pineapple, creme fraiche or even full cream if I have it.
*Apple juice is chosen because it has lower G.I, (slower release and thus effect on insulin) and higher fibre BUT it has higher fructose than glucose and tastes sweet. Orange juice also works of course is less sweet than apple but any fructose has a lower G.I. than sucrose. Milk works well as a liquid alternative to juice, and for lactose intolerant people soya or almond milk would also work well.
**For swimmers in very heavy training who are concerned about becoming anemic, they can easily add an iron-rich water like Spatone. When taking any iron supplementation though, it’s important to avoid grapes or grape juice as this binds iron and stops absorption.
A nutritionist make suggest other substitutes, but I’m all for convenient and easy. And I know this works after using it for many years.
The fruit chosen should have the fructose balanced with glucose, meaning ripe bananas, berries, pineapple, kiwi, orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, plum.
Remember this started as, and still is primarily, a morning meal, specifically to fuel long swims, and I’ve been happy with the use and results over years.
You could add whey and/or Maxim also, I’ve never felt the need.
A half litre (about a pint) of this Smoothie will give plenty of energy to last for hours. I’ve often made it for lunch on the go, and it works great to have as breakfast in the car. It’s flexible both in making and consumption.
A smoothie doesn’t stay fresh for long. It’ll start to ferment within a few hours because of the fructose, so if you make it the night before for the morning, you’ll obviously have to keep it refrigerated.
I’ve gone through a new blender about every two years. Last year my sister gave me a gift of a Kenwood Smoothie2Go which makes the smoothie directly inside a large plastic smoothie cup. It comes with two cups and lids and is a great improvement over a larger blender, with less waste, quieter, quicker and it’s easier to clean. Recommended.
Dover’s best known swimming Bed & Breakfast accommodation is Hubert House, but the B&Bs in Cork are better, (naturally, says a chorus of Corkonians). I know, I’ve stayed in both, and unlike Hubert House, Gabriel House on Summerhill in Cork is owned and run by an English Channel Soloist, Liam Maher, the tallest of The Magnificent Seven, and wife Kaye and it’s home-from-home for many of us when staying in Cork for swim-related events, (specifically parties). Apart from being a Channel swimmer, Liam and myself are the two recipients of the new-ish Sandycove Island Swim Club Hardship Hat Trophy, of which more below.
Liam is rarely noticed around the house, it’s day-to-day operation is by a small staff, but if you see a man who looks like he’s had half of another man stuck on top, that almost’s certainly Liam.
The Bed and Breakfast is a noble part of the Irish accommodation vista and none are finer than Gabriel House. With the first annual Sandycove Island pre-season party (because we really needed another reason to have a party) at the weekend, a large group swam at Sandycove in the afternoon, kicking off “the season”, even though we’ve all been swimming through the winter.
I love staying at Gabriel House. It’s a lovely building high on Summerhill overlooking the city and above the Port of Cork. It has a large garden outside where Liam also keeps a flock of fowl (hens, geese, and turkeys) for the breakfast eggs, and grows fruit and vegetables as well as having a patio for guests to sit out.
You know the way everyone has some places that they only associate with sunshine and good weather (even in wet and windy Ireland)? Both Sandycove and Gabriel House are like this for me. I know I’ve been at both places when it was wet and cold, but I only ever remember both with the sun shining and a blue sky. One of the things about Gabriel House, is when I’m there, there’s often other swimmers staying there, because hey, it’s where we stay in Cork. At this stage it falls into that tiny category of places, where as soon as I arrive I feel like I am home. I’ve made breakfast for myself here in the kitchen at 5.30 am before a big swim, eaten last in the kitchen after a long a swim, slept almost half a day, and once partied all night when Liam shut the place down to the public, to celebrate the Channel swims of The Magnificent Seven of 2010.
The house is big, bright and spotlessly comfortable.
And then, there’s the Gabriel House breakfast. Anyone who’s travelled through B&Bs in Ireland know the breakfast is important and also knows it doesn’t always meet the requirements of Irish people. The breakfast in Gabriel House is the best. Ever. Their Full Irish is a thing of beauty, glorious to behold with free range eggs from outside, and the best of sausages, rashers, and even more rare, black and white pudding, instead of the cheap supermarket version many B&Bs serve up. We Irish people love our full Irish, (even though it scares many others, all that protein).
But if you are too scared for the glory of the full Irish, Gabriel House’s most popular item is porridge. Yes, humble porridge, but elevated to gourmet quality, the Gabriel House speciality is the Porridge cooked with Bailey’s Irish Cream. It should be on Masterchef. It should have its own Sunday Supplement article.
Gabriel House is, according my extensive research, 4 minutes walk from MacCurtain Street and the Shelbourne bar, scene of many a swimming piss-up, down in the city, but is above any noise or traffic (Cork is a city of hills, pubs and churches). It’s 35 minutes drive from Sandycove for anyone who prefers to be city based than out in Kinsale.
Is this article an ad? No, because Liam or Kaye didn’t know I was going to do it and have had no input into it, I sneakily took the photos and I wrote it because I love Gabriel House like a Cork home, like Varne Ridge is my Dover home.
If I could change only one thing about Gabriel House? I’d put a large chart of Liam’s English Channel swim map in the hall!
Next time you are visiting Cork, make Gabriel House your home from home.
The Sandycove Hardship Hat Trophy, to date, the only two recipients are Yours Truly and Liam.
Ok, this is thanks to the Hive Mind – food for breakfast, endurance sport or the Channel. I’m going to use this on our next long swim.
One cup of porridge oats (not pinhead)
2 tablespoons each of honey and peanut butter
You can also add sultanas or raisins
Mix the peanut butter and honey to a paste
Add the oats and mix
Leave in the bowl or use greaseproof paper to make a bar
Place in freezer for 5 minutes (just to firm up)
It’s god-dammed delicious, even if like me you find honey too sweet. It’s also about 560 calories! Yes I guess it’s essentially a kind of flapjack. (Hopefully the dog who has been clearing my porridge bowls can lose a bit of weight now).