11 Things To Hate About Open Water Swimming (And What To Do About Them)

LoneSwimmer is mostly about covering the positive aspects about swimming, or at least, of my swimming life, and imparting what I’ve learned in the hope of spreading the knowledge. But every swimmer, every person involved in any sport has things about their sport that they dislike or … maybe even hate…

1. Extreme Cold Water

I hate water under 7 degrees Celsius. I don’t care what anyone else says, there’s little or in my case no pleasure in it. I’m not hugely keen on water between 7 and 9 degrees either in truth, though for some stupid reason I swim in it, treating such swimming like an insurance policy for warmer water. However if you think 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) is cold, then you need to be swimming at lesser temperatures to really appreciate that 10 degrees is the start of summer or the last gasp of autumn.

What You Can Do

Don’t swim in water under 8 degrees if you don’t want to. I simply don’t believe the people who say they enjoy it, and put that down to self-serving macho bullshit. Enjoying succeeding at a swim in this range is not the same as enjoying the swimming. Don’t feel pressured by the stupid Ice Mile nonsense, or by club mates or friends telling you colder is better, and very cold is the very best. That’s nonsense being pedalled by the ISSA as a vested interest and by a few people intent on standing on a platform wearing a blazer at the Winter Olympics, and by some people who have not or cannot achieve anything else in swimming. Freda Streeter, the world’s most successful English Channel swimming coach, doesn’t like her swimmers training regularly in water under…12 degrees (12ºC/54ºF!) Celsius.

2. Frauds

I hate marathon swim frauds. There are far too many of them. It’s beyond me how pretending you’ve done something garners any sense of satisfaction that can outweigh being a cheat. My own journey into and through the sport had stripped the rose-coloured glasses from my eyes and the behind the scenes truth I know about many subjects has quite disillusioned me over some aspects of the sport. There are more frauds, cheats and over-weening self-promoters than I ever dreamed of when I started out. Possibly or probably this says more about my naive immature expectations than anything else.

What You Can Do

Learn to recognise them. There are a list of tell-tale indicators that are woolly edged and which I’d classify as “it requires being a marathon swimmer to recognise a fraudulent one” but there is one certain incontrovertible way to recognise them. Offer to swim with them. They will refuse. The excuses will be multitudinous and diversionary, but they will be present. Whereas actual marathon swimmers will generally treat a request to swim with someone in the marathon community as a Royal Summons. And call the frauds out. So they will know that the experts are willing to speak out and the social cost of fraud becomes higher.

3. Over-priced Swims

I hate over-priced short swims. So many swim promoters seem to forget that we don’t want to do one swim. We want to do all the swims. One over-priced well-known swim is usually worth less than two lesser known swims, case in point Lee Swim, Sandycove swim, most especially my local Helvick swim. I have become oh so much more a lone swimmer by choice for the last couple of years.

What You Can Do

You don’t have to support those swims. Don’t be swayed by the exhortation of “it’s an excellent cause“. Most causes are excellent and we are not responsible for them. You know what’s also a great cause? Developing the sport of open water swimming. Over-priced swims will not accomplish that. Remember that if you love open water swimming, you can still swim in a spirit of freedom and adventure without having to subscribe to over-priced swims. Seeks out smaller lesser know swims. It’s a frequent correlation that the better-known a swim the more excessive the costs.

4. Wetsuits Are Not Equal to Skin

All open water swimmers hate wetsuit swimming and skin swimmers being treated as equal in races or organised swims. I train to be able to swim without a wetsuit. It took years. How are we equal? Not just protection from cold, a wetsuit also confers a speed advantage. I can’t buy my moderate ability, I train it. But because I am not getting faster doesn’t mean my answer is to buy an external aid that will make me faster. This idea of buying advantage is one of my two biggest problems with triathlon swimming (the other being the substitution of equipment for experience and training and safety). I prefer to see wetsuits as gateway drug, that allow new people to participate in our cold water sport, and progress while learning skills and experience, until they shed the body condom. I am possibly open to accusations of being an elitist on this as I do not think of exclusively wetsuit swimmers as being complete open water swimmers. You’ll find the form to send me your hate mail on the About page. If you want to accuse me of being an elitist, to do so you better take off your body condom and come join me or better the pensioners who swim daily year round and don’t even wear a swim cap,

What You Can Do

Again, don’t enter swims where skins and wetsuit are “equal“. At the least explain the difference with to the organisers. A wetsuit confers a speed advantage of up to four seconds per hundred metres! Neoprene? – Just Say No-prene!

5. Handicapping

I am not a fast enough swimmer that I expect to win. But I do like to think that every so often a combination of circumstances might put me in contention for a top three or five or ten place, and such has occasionally transpired. US Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines said, “we race in water, not on paper“. Because the very nature of sport is the unpredictable occurrence. Though in theory it shouldn’t, application of handicapping often aids faster swimmers because it reduces the random chance of racing. And subsequent virtual punishment of someone who has a random out of form result by increasing their handicap disproportionally is a related problem.

What You Can Do

This is less a don’t support the swim issue (though I have never participated in Leinster swims because of the notoriously unfair to outsiders handicapping system). This is more about talking with organisers and understanding the criteria and hopefully improving their handicap system over time. It’s not a quick or easy fix.

6. Swim Product Price Inflation

The aforementioned influence of triathletes buying anything and everything that might gain them 1/100th of a second faster on their Saturday morning local club league has had a negative effects on the price and range of swimming products and most affects open water swimmers. No-where is this seen more clearly than in the introduction and pricing of many mediocre so-called open water goggles, which cost more, perform worse and fail sooner than well-tested established goggles, as companies chase the high valued triathlon market. As I outlined in my comparison of the different types of swimming  goggles, rather than understand the different types, application and suitability of goggles, the current situation seems to be to just introduce a short-lived high-priced funkily-coloured gasket-type goggle, and hope the triathletes will keep buying them. This plan? Seems to be working. By getting multiple seasons from a pair of goggles, swimsuit and cap, I must be doing something wrong.

What You Can Do

Don’t buy €75 Speedo goggles or their equivalent. Don’t buy electronic goggles that show you the way. Don’t ask the triathlon shop assistant for advice. Open water swimming isn’t about technology. Throw off the GPS watch and remember the freedom of finding your own way and setting your own time in the water.

7. Not Swimming In The Pool

I hate that some open water swimmers adopt a certain reverse superiority to the pool. I like the chlorine and concrete box and endless black lines jibes as much as the next open water swimmer, but unless you live in one of those incredibly rare locations (where are they?) where you can swim open water every day of the year, then pool training is essential. I see the pool as the tool that confers the ability to explore and enjoy the untrammeled freedom of open water.

What You Can Do

Swim regularly in the pool. It’s the best place to develop and improve technique and speed. By adopting a consistent year-long pool training regime, you put yourself in the position where you can then swim open water without worrying about being insufficiently trained or fit. By interval training in the pool you can will work and set a consistent stroke rate that is the fundamental building block of a confident and capable open water swimmer.

8. Fat

There is a conflation of increased weight with open water success and even the assumption that extra weight is necessary. The oft-repeated question of and by marathon swimmers is fit or fast? I have often repeated the comment that open water swimmers are one group of sports people who are usually better seen with their clothes on. But it is a sad truth that the general public and even many swimmers see extra, even excess weight as a prerequisite for the sport, especially in the very cold water waters of Ireland and the UK. I have myself had people surprised that I’d swum the Channel since “I thought you’d need to be much heavier“. I’ve been asked more than a couple of times if I’ve lost a significant amount of weight since. I find this sad or even disturbing. Like many people I’ve sometimes struggled with weight, but that struggle is within a reasonable full range of about three and a half kilograms (less than 8 pounds). At the upper end I consider myself overweight and try to adjust my diet accordingly. Decades of experience and just listening to the science means I frankly do not subscribe in general to the Internet concept called HAES (Health At Any Size), which is a mere online construct, laudable as it was in its early incarnation, now seems to have deviated into an excuse for being overweight. Are there open water swimmers who are very successful while being very overweight? Of course, and some of them are friends. Those few people swim train many hours a week. And they could and should still be lighter, and know this themselves. I think the oft-repeated positive and accepting communal nature of the open water swimming community means this is rarely discussed, but no-where is the problem more obvious than with Ice Mile swimming, where many people seem to dismiss the extremely obvious links between weight and extreme cold water ability. Note, I am not against fat. Some of it is essential for most open water swimming. Fat is a physiological and dietary necessity. But I am against wilfully ignoring the central importance of fat for good or ill in open water swimming.  Again, I know I am stepping into an area that many are loath to enter, and point you to the comments section or the form on the About page to send your particularly lengthy hate mail on this topic.

9. Insufficient Experience Requirements For Organised Swims

I hate not being asked for prior experience before entering a swim. Sure this might seem like it makes your life easier. Maybe it does. Maybe you want to enter your first 5 or 7 k swim and being asked for your previous experience in the 3 to 5 k range is a problem if you don’t have any. But if you are like me and know what you are doing, wouldn’t you want to know that others in the same swim also know what they are doing? I also wonder about the organisers of such swims if they fail to implement the single most useful safety precaution of pre-vetting the swimmers for appropriate swim experience.

What You Can Do

Don’t enter those swims. Develop your experience. Want to enter a 7k but you’ve never trained or swum further than 3K? Then enter a 4k. If you develop your own skills and experience incrementally, then you will find yourself in the enviable position of having confidence going into swims instead of just hoping to “make it through“, or “giving it a lash“. Because insufficient checking of experience puts everyone at risk. It risks the people who might have to help in a fraught situation and it risks the sport when it is poorly organised.

What we do or don’t do defines us, as does what we think. I want to be positive on this blog, but I have found over the years that we can as a sport ignore certain aspects. For example when I wrote about open water swimming being a dangerous sport, I remember one criticism that I wasn’t positive enough. Deluded false “positivity” does not have a place in my world or in the sea. You won’t gain real swimming experience by reading this blog. It’s only a signpost, and that signpost leads to the water.

Education, reflection and experience are more beneficial than transparently self-serving and fake motivational/inspirational exhortations.

10. Not Developing Open Water Skills And Experience

Maybe it’s the years of swimming by myself. But I find that many open water swimmers don’t develop their ancillary open water skills sufficiently. Do you know what wind strength and direction it is by looking at the water? What’s the local tidal range? Just how well do you understand your current cold swimming tolerance? What does that white water or that water surface mean? Etc. These take time, knowledge and practice.

What You Can Do

You’re already doing it right now. Read LoneSwimmer.com. And then get yourself to the water!

11. Forgetting What Open Water Swimming Is About. AKA Organisational Self-Importance

Open water swimming, a sport of the quintessence of freedom and enjoyment of the open air and outdoors is becoming one of required sponsorship, of charities (however worthy), and tallying of swims, of organisations where the bureaucratic DNA of organisations has become more important than the water, the swims and swimmers they represent, where the politics of some organisations have lost touch with the swimmers, where people forget the simple message of having unconstrained fun and adventure.

My message? (Irony intended). Forget the power plays. Ignore the insecure swimming politicians, the idle vacuous so-called Inspirational speakers, the abuse, the lies, misdirection and manipulation, the people hoping to be standing on the podium at the next winter Olympics or some Conference or AGM, or the ones who sell you their fake swimming credentials and place on some committee in the hope of bolstering their own egos. and selling you the idea that they are some kind of guru.

What You Can Do

Forget them all. Just go swimming. Seek freedom. Have fun. Learn, Improve. I’ll meet you down at the coast. TITW at 10am.

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46 thoughts on “11 Things To Hate About Open Water Swimming (And What To Do About Them)

  1. Hi. You wrote a good article here but regarding handicapping you say “….though I have never participated in Leinster swims because of the notoriously unfair to outsiders handicapping system…..”. I do take issue with such a statement. It is not an exact science, nor is it a perfect system, but it does try to be fair ! The greatest misconception is when a new swimmer turns up and can’t understand why they didn’t get close to winning. It simply doesn’t work that way. If someone joins a handicap system for the first time, they must declare how quick they swim (for example providing a rough time for 400m in the pool). This can then be use to gauge how quick the swimmer is and give them an appropriate handicap. One of the issues was that quick swimmers would declare a slow time and just turn up and win. This was rightly deemed unfair to the other competitors who are swimming all the races. So, when a new person joins, new people are given a conservative handicap which subsequently gets reduced as they do more swims, and usually after about 4 or 5 swims they are placed more or less where they should be. Another thing to note is that not every race is equal – for instance, it could be choppy or calm, there may be current to contend with, the course layout will vary. It is actually all these variables outside the control of the handicapping system that makes the sport more exciting and unpredictable, but they do change everything. A strong current assisting the swimmers might mean that the whole race takes less time and the faster swimmers don’t have enough race time to catch the slower front swimmers, similarly a rough or choppy sea might slow the race down allowing the faster back swimmers to come through and contest the victory. Handicapped sea swim racing is an exciting and addictive sport, but you need to understand that you will certainly not have a chance to win every race, such handicapping would be impossible as you would have to take the sea conditions and course into account on the day. It is not a sport for a one off swim, you need to do quite a few races to get the benefit.

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  2. Controlling and channelling internal fears – of deep water, cold water, water with “thingys” in, rough water, water with untoward currents, etc. – has been my source of stubbornness to go some distances in open water marathon swimming. Even now, at 87 years old, I am still scared and draw on these instilled fears to swim, not as far, not as often,not as fast or in as cold water as i did 1/2 century ago. Swimming is a good way to prepare one for the inevitability of death…and seems to extend it somewhat…so far…. heh heh

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    • An interesting perspective Ted! It would never have occurred to me that you were ever afraid of anything, but isn’t that our way, that we mythologize and forget there’s a real person behind the legend that is Ted Erikson? Kevin Murphy told me he was scared before every one of his Channel swims, though in retrospect that may because he was attempting to calm my nerves, that single sentence has stayed with me.

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  3. Love your article! I was not aware that there were so many folk out there whose thoughts resonate with mine – in this era of self aggrandisement …… I became extremely unpopular in certain circles last year when I pointed out to the media that several folk who claimed that they had ‘ swum Robben Island’ in the Freedom Swim had done so in a suit…….

    My story re the ‘ice mile’ : I was in the 1st group of Ice milers at Fraserburg with Ram , Ryan and that gang in 2010. I am glad that I did it as I realised , looking at my son’s horrified face when I had finished and then the recovery , that it probably ranked – with my swim down the Liesbeek River in flood in 1978 in CT , as the stupidest and most dangerous thing I have ever done. Happy focussing on Robben Island and EC……

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    • Thanks Theodore. The article has had an unusually and unexpectedly positive response from swimmers. The only negative I’ve received directly was from a member of the IISA’s new international committee who in 5 years has never had one positive thing to say about the blog anyway, so nothing new there.

      I think my colours are firmly nailed to the mast by now about Ice Miles and I’m maybe the IISA’s least favourite person. But honestly, I think it behoves more of us (because we are not alone) to speak out about some of these issues.

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  4. Really enjoyed the article a lot of points I think but don’t say out loud due to the backlash they get. As an Irishman living in Chicago only got back into the OW swimming in past 3 years I really appreciate the comment on gradually building up, I am working towards my first 10 mile event in Oct and have gradually increased event distances but have competed is some where people have barely gone outdoors and then think they can jump right in to a 5km OW and the results and drop outs should not be surprising.

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  5. Absolutely and totally correct. Well almost I find anything under 12C is not enjoyable but accept that the Irish are made of sterner stuff than Aussies.

    Keep up the fight Donal, the world of True Open Water Swimmers are right with you !

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  6. Reading this makes me feel a little awkward and tad embarrassed —  I am a Triathlete who’s only done wetsuit swims — so far.
    I did my first short 400M OW swim in a triathlon in 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed. I am now hooked — heading to the nearby lake as often as I can ever since. Funny really as I was convinced I would never really enjoy, but would just have to endure, the swim part of a tri.
    And yet last year I did the Henley Mile
    I think you are spot on with the gateway drug idea — this year I’m going back but also doing the Suits vs Skins challenge. You swim the Mile course in a wetsuit in the morning then do it again without in the afternoon.
    I am apprehensive of doing the distance without the ‘security’ of the wetsuit though the times I have done shorter swims at the lake in just swimsuit it did feel so much more natural.

    Have to admit I can’t ever see myself heading into to the water when the temp is in single digits!

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    • Hey Mark,
      Never say never! I’d be the first to acknowledge, that wetsuits have their essential place. And it’s fair that triathlete who may have a lower body fat will need them. But to demonstrate the problem, if I entered almost any triathlon in Ireland (which ain’t going to happen as I have zero interest since a back injury caused me to stop running) I’d have to wear a wetsuit, as temps will rarely by under 65f, despite that I’ve swum ~ 19 hours without a wetsuit in lower temperatures. Swimming & tri are two very different sports whose apparent similarities cause too many people to be confused that they understand open water swimming.

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  7. I mentioned points 4 and 9 to an event organizer just the day before you published this! I’m feeling more and more ambivalent about the wetsuits … well, I still really don’t like wearing them, unnecessarily tight and restricting, having different effects on different swimmers, expensive, etc … but I just bought one in order to be able to compete in a couple of races I really wanted to be a part of: an aquathlon on a tiny island in the Gothenburg archipelago and one of the new swimrun events. I’m trying to preach about how fun it is to swim in bioprene, but I find that it doesn’t help with my integration…

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    • Sylle, do you think there’s an even stronger pro-wetsuit culture or requirement in Scandinavia than Ireland & UK? It would be understandable if people expect the water to be colder than it really is, (based on the winter weather).

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      • Definitely! Well, at least there’s almost no Channel swimming culture that I can see, very few compete only in open-water, it’s mostly seen as the first part of a triathlon or the tough part of swim-runs. I will try my first swimrun next week. Wetsuits are mandatory, no exception. It looks like fun but let’s see how not being able to breathe properly with affect the fun!

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      • There aren’t many open water swims in Oslo where I am. The only one I know of is this one, which will be in 3 weeks: http://www.osloopenwater.no/
        As you can see from the photos from last year, almost everyone wore a wetsuit, despite the temperature being about 19C. I didn’t wear one last year, but I will this year. They have doubled the distance to 2k this year, and this summer the temperature is only 17C in the fjord, and it will probably be down a few degrees more by race day. I think most of the swimmers are triathlon swimmers. Masters swimming isn’t anywhere as big here as it is in the US or Australia. The culture of this race is more about just the fellowship of the race, which is a trait that pervades most everything in Norway.

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        • Interesting Martin. Masters is pretty limited here also. Does that mean fellowship must be of some culturally acceptable or pre-determined format, or am I reading too much into that?

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          • I might have given it too much emphasis. There are certainly highly competitive swimmers in the race, and they use the latest tech to record times automatically, but I think most of the swimmers, like me, are in the race for the joy of the open water swim.

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  8. Hi !
    Good and useful information. But in a way I can not agree with everything. Wetsuits are not only comfort and security. Sometimes it is a necessity. I used to (hehe, long time ago), I could swim in water temperatures of about 8-11 degrees Celsius for an hour or more. But then I was young and healthy, and in those days was not known artificial leather (wet suits). Now I’m old and ailing, after chemotherapy. Despite my efforts to toughen up and get pleasure from swimming in open waters, the temperature is critical and at the same time determinant, who warns me before entering the water without a wet suit. Yes attempt to swim without the suit in water temperatures above 18 degrees Celsius, ends by saying, oh! nothing happened I live is fun. Full delight. But if the water is 16 degrees or less, then my body suddenly dies, starting from the head and lungs. Lack of opportunities to catch breath causes muscle hypoxia and then only momentary stillness and rest allows me to survive in such water. An example? In 2013 I took off in Lee Swim (tog). After the start into the water for the first 15 seconds only adrenaline kept me on the surface. Every few seconds later I had to stop every now and then, to get used to the cold (water was then up to 16-17). Great wonder that swam with time 32 minutes. Do you know what I did the next day? I went to The Edge and bought a wetsuit. Therefore, for me, the choice tog or a wetsuit is a choice between security and bravado. Not everyone is in the same way predisposed to swim in cold water. If the water is 10-12 degrees, I’m in it can even swim in a wetsuit and 40 minutes. But how much it cost me suffering and pain that nobody knows, just knows my body. I had the pleasure last year in Fermoy, when Owen and Carol raced to the finish and finished satisfied and warmed to red until the water beneath them cooked. Although was swimming in a wetsuit with a cold bursting my head, lungs did not function hardly,my hands and feet with cold weighed just me. I admire people who swim in cold water and after swimming are functioning normally. In general I admire all tog chose whether or wetsuit. Apparently some people have different reasons, and not necessarily to be facilitation. At the end let all those swimmers who criticize the latter (worse) who swim in a wetsuit, will be aware that there really after that that wetsuit protects you from the cold, does not facilitate swimming. The proof? Please. Many great swimmers tried to swim in wetsuits and what whether improved their best results? Too cramped wetsuit reduces the movements and tired muscles. Too loose too has its disadvantages. Sleeves acquire water, feel the strange resistance. Position swimmer in the water is changed (unnatural), you also need to learn to swim in a wetsuit. Swimmer in a wetsuit looks like a floating ballast freely floating on the water. But the more rises the more force has to put to swim. I wish you all to derive pleasure from any kind of bath (swimming) and those who are racing and those who swimming because they like. And let us remember that we are all different.

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  9. I can’t reply on your blog for some reason so sending via email…

    Excellent post!! I agree with all, love the not swimming in less than 8 degrees comment. I agree with the wetsuit/ non west suit…. Though I am a confirmed wetsuit swimmer, I tried doing the non wetsuit swim thing and could never get past 2 hrs albeit in 12degree water. I enjoy long swims in a wetsuit, short swims without… I will honestly say, wetsuit swimming is in no way equal to skins….and I confess to liking my comforts and loving my wetsuit! Huge respect for those who fought the battle and can swim non wetsuit. I just want to enjoy my swimming, love the open water…….

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  10. Agree with some of this – my particular wetsuit gripe is that a number of swims are designated “wetsuit only” for no apparent reason, other than to appease insurers. I’m more than happy for those who want to, to swim in wetsuits, and many of my swimming friends do use them – but I feel slightly resentful to be excluded from swims (or to be required to submit to special conditions) because I neither want nor need a wetsuit – in fact, in my experience, “skin” swimmers are often safer swimmers because they’ve learned through experience what they can and cannot cope with and to listen to their body, as opposed to novice swimmers who think they can do anything because they are wearing a wetsuit.

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    • Naoimi, I completely agree with you about the over-estimation of skill due to using rubber as a substitute and that swim organisers foster this opinion by in some cases forcing the more experienced open water skin swimmers to wear wetsuits if they want to swim a particular event.

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  11. Interesting article and comments. I agree with most of what you say although even the name “Lone Swimmer” suggests that you are not much in the social aspect of Open Water Swimming that I find so important. I organise a swim in Ballyheigue every year “Slip to Shore” and we do charge a tenner which goes to the local sea rescue but for the tenner you get a swim hat, and tea and sandwiches afterward. We also have prizes for the no-prene hardies who I greatly admire. I must have thin blood and would nearly wear a suit in the pool.

    Anyway, keep up the good blog. Incidentally our swim is on next Thursday if anyone is around. Check http://www.ballyheigue.ie for details.
    Mick

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    • Thanks Mick. Lone Swimmer as a term came about because when I started swimming, there was no-one else locally doing any distance swimming. Now, except for a small number of trusted swimming friends, I’ve come to mostly prefer swimming by myself.The social aspect remains alive and well for me at one of Ireland’s best open water swimming locations, Waterford’s Newtown & Guillamene swimming club.

      Best of luck with your swim, well done on the pricing!

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  12. Interesting yes, a little…elitist I would also say…and…maybe a little on his own high horse…but interesting none the less.

    >

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    • Are you mixing up elitist with “don’t like”? I wrote that the accusation would be made, because I’ve seen it made without any justification over the years whenever a skin swimmer mentions wetsuits in any negative way, despite for example constantly stating their importance. But I’ve never seen a valid reason why people make the accusations, except for suddenly they are being told that it takes less training and experience to swim with a wetsuit in cold water than without one and their feelings are hurt.

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  13. Great work as always LoneSwimmer – one question from a relative newbie (who is still doing the hard work to become a marathon swimmer)…on point 2. What makes one a marathon swimmer? What’s the bar in your book?

    I have always described myself as an aspiring marathon swimmer, but felt that I might be nudging entry to the club when I did my 6-hr qualifier for the EC earlier in the year…but are you only a marathon swimmer once you have completed a solo channel swim?

    My personal gripe are people who have done a relay channel swim – as I have – describing themselves as channel swimmers. That’s just crazy talk..2/3 hours of swimming does not a Channel swimmer make.

    Keep up the great work.

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    • Thanks Crispin. I’m not sure. There’s the easy technical answer of a completed 10k swim. I had done plenty of those before I swam the Channel. Mark Robson of markswims.com makes an interesting point that having completed one of the “big ones” kind of makes you a marathon swimmer for life, whereas by completing something like a 10 to 15k requires repetition of such distances to retain the claim.

      I agree on your last point, I wrote about it briefly some years ago, and in fact my local pool has someone who has done two hours on a one way EC relay who tells everyone that they are a Channel swimmer, when they never even swim open water except that one time! I tend to categorise them now as a minor infringement in the fraud category, as it always comes to light and they just look like fools.

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  14. Oh! I might add to your list ‘feeling that you have to do a long swim to raise money for a charity’. People always ask ‘are you raising money?’. No. I’m just swimming because of the challenge. Not everything has to be associated with a charity cause.

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    • Yes, that’s a great bugbear of many of us, but this I kind of put it into the over priced swim part. I swim for myself. When someone mentions swimming for a cause, my response is usually, “great idea” and then move on, depending on my mood.

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  15. Good article. Agree with almost all of it – especially the ice mile macho stuff. Don’t get it, as you probably know. Not sure about handicapping though I’ve never done a long race with it – only fun ones with South London Swimming Club at Tooting Bec. The ONLY races I’ve ever won – and in fact the races I’ve often swum the hardest at as I have known that there has been a chance of winning one. That can’t be a bad thing for us lower tier swimmers can it?
    Open water swimmers are a funny bunch – but there are a myriad of us with different opinions and that’s all good. Just that some of our opinions are righter than some others. Ha ha.

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  16. Excellent comment on fat. I was talking to Scott Lautman a couple of years ago. Both of us did the Channel 15+ years ago. We both gained 40+ pounds for the swim (we are both about 5’10” and were both around 245 lbs. We both feel that we would have been faster with much less weight. Fat helps, but there’s a limit. It has to be “healthy fat” if there is a such thing and muscle weight. The only way to gain this good weight is swimming in cold water. BTW–I have insulin resistance now–probably has a lot to do with how I was eating before the channel (and after, too).

    I’m training for a North Channel attempt next summer (probably 5 degrees colder than the channel was). I’m at the same weight as I was when I was married (200), and I’m not planning on gaining any weight. I’m not skinny at 200, but when I’m fit, not fat either. I am going to be trying the theory that fitness has a bigger impact than fat. So far, in my training, I haven’t been cold at any point (except a 48 degree 1:25 minute swim). I’m hoping to go longer at 48 between now and then, but my real target temp is 53, and I will be trying to do it at 200 lbs.

    ..Steve

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    • I’m glad you picked up on that Steve, I’ve been meaning to raise the issue for a while, and will likely return to it again. And yes, when I wrote about the difference between white & brown fat back in 2010, I hadn’t read of or heard it mentioned anywhere in swimming literature, whereas now it’s far more widely known.

      MaKe sure you Let me know when you come to Ireland next year btw, I think you previously promised a visit down south.

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  17. as always, i get strength and personal encouragement from these posts. today i almost copy/pasted some of the lines for inspiration to my small ow crew in NM, USA. But there were just too many!

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  18. Excellent as always. Slight twinge of guilt reading it, as I am coming from the triathlon perspective (albeit an amateur one). On the plus side, I shop in Lidl for all my sporting goods where possible, so maybe I’m not the worst stooge.

    “It’s only a signpost, and that signpost leads to the water”. I sense a T shirt! Copyright that one…

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    • As I just responded to another comment, being told something you have written is quotable is the highest compliment Declan. Thank you. And living between an ALDI and LIDL, I have great respect for what they do to curb inflation. My Channel bag is an ALDI drybag, and many of the items within are from one or the other, as is most of my hiking gear.

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  19. All so bloody true love the idea of pool swimming and that suits and skins are two different kinds of swimming keep kicking

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    • Thanks Champ! Hope you are well. Actually I should get an endorsement quote from you for the blog. The First Person To Ever Complete the Ocean’s 7 says “Donal is full of shite”. See you over the summer. 🙂

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