14 February 2012

What does one take on a 20km swim?

I think it will surprise many the amount of 'stuff' needed to complete a 20km swim.  I often get asked the question..'Do you eat..and how?' and 'You wear a wetsuit..right?'...  Let me break it down for you here...

What do I eat?

1. Food.  Ocean races often start very early.  Rotto starts at 5.45am so I'll probably wake about 4am and throw something back like a mashed banana on wholemeal bread with a dribble of honey!  Throughout the swim I'll be using gels as my main source of energy.  Energy gels are essentially concentrated drinks of about 100 calories each, and nearly all need to be taken with water so that they digest properly. I'll consume these every 45 minutes or so depending how my energy levels feel.  I also enjoy a chocolate bar or two when I'm swimming in the sea!  There's something about eating chocolate with a bit of salty sea water!  Try it some day.

2. Fluids.  Plenty of them!  I'll have an hi-carbohydrate drink already made up beside my bed so when I wake I'll reach down and start drinking! Throughout the swim I'll likely alternate between a hi-carb fluid and an electrolyte mix.  Maintaining the level of electrolytes in my body is vital as a decrease can cause things like cramp and de-hydration.  In ocean swimming it's often the case that the sea water you consume along the way has enough salt in it to replace your electrolytes, but they're so important it's a risk to not take an additional supplement!

What do I wear?
I'll be wearing a standard swimsuit, one swim-hat, goggles and ear plugs. There are regulations around what you can wear.  This is the last year that swimmers will have the option to wear a swim skin which is handy in protecting your body from the stingers, keeping the sun off and also keeping you warm if you're prone to getting cold after a few hours swimming.  I've decided not to wear one of these suits.  I enjoy feeling the water against my skin and being at one with it so if that means suffering numerous stingers and getting some interesting tan marks, then so be it! 

What protection do I use?
Strange question you may be thinking..!  Once you enter the water you're on your own!  That means that no one else can touch you and you can't get back on the boat to sort something out.  Everything needs to be done before you dip that toe in!  Two important items of protection for me are:

1. Vaseline.  I cover myself in it!  I don't hold back, I literally get hands full of the stuff and smother every inch of my body.  It reduces any kind of chaffing and also provides some tiny barrier from the stingers!  

2. Sunscreen.  I start applying this from the moment I wake up so my body absorbs as much of the stuff as possible.  7-8 hours in the Perth sun without the ability to re-apply sunscreen is definitely going to give me some interesting tan lines but I can reduce the burning effect by lathering on as much of the stuff as possible.

What other useful items do I take?
  • Panadol.  Helps relieve tension headaches or painful shoulders!
  • Sea-Sickness tablets.  Yes!  I get sea sick when I'm swimming  Sounds bizarre but it's a huge reality for me.  During my English Channel swim I was throwing up for 6 hours.  Apart from the risk of de-hydrating, it's actually very unpleasant.  I managed to pull a few stomach muscles by constantly being sick and so I'm hoping that I'll be less vulnerable to it this time round. 
  • Antihistamine.  Great to use if you react to stingers..and I do!
  • Stingose.  Again..great to relieve those stingers!
  • Ventoline inhaler.  I have asthma and so it's vitally important I have one of these close by, although I've never experienced any kind of breathing problems with swimming.  It's actually said that swimming is the best sport for asthmatics..looks like I chose well!
  • Warm clothes for the finish.  A warm hat and clothes are important.  Although it's likely to be 30+ degrees in Perth, after 7-8 hours in the sea, the body temperature may have dropped very slightly.  The body can also continue to lose heat quite quickly after a swim, so keeping the head and chest warm are important steps to a full recovery.
What does my crew take?
The all important crew!  I couldn't do it without them..and so..it's VERY important to keep them happy! Sitting on a small boat for up to 8 hours is no easy feat. They'll have a big bag full of food and plenty of water. They'll also have a whiteboard in case they fancy writing me a message or two!

Any other questions please fire them at me @roselevien or email roselevien@gmail.com.

11 days to go!

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